Letter to my MP – response from Defra 1

Back in January I wrote to my (excellent) MP, Andy Sawford, and asked him to write to Defra on my behalf on the subject of Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges.  I’ve recently received a reply from Defra via Andy Sawford.

My first question to Defra was: ‘What research has been done that addresses the range of ecological costs and benefits of rearing and releasing Pheasants for shooting? Does native wildlife benefit or is it harmed by Pheasant shooting? Does Defra have plans to do any such research?

Defra’s answer: ‘Defra has not assessed the impact of releasing pheasants or red-legged partridges on biodiversity and is not currently planning any research in this area due to other biodiversity research priorities.‘  The response continues (see below) but I just want to deal with this first.

That’s interesting isn’t it? It’s fair enough that Defra says, here, that it doesn’t know and doesn’t really care about this issue but in Defra’s awful response to John Armitage’s e-petition they state that ‘The overall environmental and economic impact of game bird shooting is therefore a positive one…’.  Hang on! Here Defra states that they have not assessed the impact of releasing pheasants and red-legged partridges on biodiversity.  So the previous statement was based on…? Blind prejudice perhaps?  Maybe wishful thinking?  Maybe both, but it appears not, as far as we can tell, to be based on any data at all.  This is very poor.

This is not science-based policy -making; it’s not even policy-based science; it’s relying on myth, hearsay and prejudice.

It’s also pretty poor that Defra civil servants can’t spot the fact that their Ministers have made contradictory statements in the same week. What is happening inside Defra these days?

The response goes on: ‘It is estimated that pheasants have been present in the UK for at least 400 years, and possibly as long as 1000 years, following introduction by humans for the purposes of sport and sustenance.  Management of game birds and the habitats they occupy can create benefits for farmland birds and other wildlife through the provision of food, shelter and nesting sites. Woodlands used for gamebird rearing also tend to have a more open aspect, which can benefit other woodland species such as ground flora, birds and invertebrates. It has been estimated by the industry that £250 million per year is spent on management activities that provide benefits for conservation.

Research carried out for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) in 2006 shows that the management of land for the purposes of shooting increases biodiversity. Two key findings were that ‘shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area‘. and ‘two million hectares are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting‘. This same report estimated that the game shooting industry contributes approximately £1.6 billion to the UK economy. BASC is currently involved in updating this research with new data.

Certain species of animals and birds may have declined in the last 50 years, but there are many reasons for this including changes to farming practices, weather and habitat loss, which in most cases are likely to be greater factors then the impacts caused by the release of a single species such as the pheasant. The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s document Guidelines for sustainable gamebird releasing has been published to inform game keepers of good practice to ensure any potential impacts on local biodiversity are minimised.’

Animals and birds – duhhh!? May have declined – duhhh!?

It appears that the game industry is the main source of information for Defra’s pronouncements these days.  That tells us a lot. What is the Defra Chief Scientist doing to ensure that Defra talks some sense on ecological matters – not enough it seems?  It’s probably quite a hard job, I must admit.

‘Research carried out by BASC’ is being ‘updated’ – we’ll come back to that too. And we haven’t even got to questions 2-4 in my original letter yet.

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33 Comments

  1. @_Polinard says:

    Staggeringly complacent incompetence & nonsense from DEFRA.

    Likes(12)Dislikes(5)
  2. Keith Cowieson says:

    There is of course an RSPB Research Report (No 40) on the subject, by Bicknell et al - presumably commissioned by someone, sometime in the mid-late noughties, see here - http://tinyurl.com/qx648nd

    Not sure if this a peer-reviewed piece of work, or whether it is an internal report only.

    Likes(13)Dislikes(5)
    • Keith, I don't believe RSPB Research Report 40 was ever peer-reviewed.

      There are some 140 GWCT peer-reviewed scientific papers relating to pheasants here:
      http://www.gwct.org.uk/research/scientific-publications/?page=3&qty=40&keywords=pheasants

      Likes(10)Dislikes(2)
      • Mark says:

        Andrew - and do any of those 140 answer the question asked?

        I don't believe a Research Report would be peer reviewed - almost by definition, I would say.

        Likes(3)Dislikes(9)
        • Yes, these are peer-reviewed conservation science papers published by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust on pheasants.

          Thanks for clarifying that RSPB Research Reports are not peer-reviewed. Keith and others are sometimes led to believe that they are.

          Likes(2)Dislikes(1)
          • Mark says:

            Andrew - that is a slightly mischievous comment I fear, but I'm interested that Keith (Songbird Survival - commenting in a personal capacity) and you (GWCT - commenting in a personal capacity) are so keen to move from Defra's rubbish response to talking about RSPB science.

            A Research Report is, almost by definition, a piece of work that is not peer-reviewed, certainly in the same sense that a journal article would be. That's what Research Reports are for - putting in the public domain results that aren't important enough, conclusive enough, finished enough, to be submitted to a journal but are worthy of note!

            when it comes to the RSPB's science, I only point this out again because you, from GWCT, bring it up, then there is an analysis of the relative contribution of RSPB (and BTO) science compared with GWCT science back in the annals of this very blog. GWCT science isn't bad, but it isn't as productive nor, as measurted by 'h' (a standard measure of these things), as influential as BTO science or RSPB science. You can remind yourself of that here https://markavery.info/2012/11/15/science-counts/

            Likes(2)Dislikes(4)
          • Nothing mischievous on my part Mark. Simply answering Keith's question.

            Also, thanks for clarifying that whilst the RSPB publishes lots of great papers; RSPB Research Reports themselves are not important, conclusive or finished enough for publication.

            Likes(2)Dislikes(2)
          • Mark says:

            Andrew - if GWCT's science describes reality as poorly as your comments here then it is pretty ropey.

            Likes(0)Dislikes(2)
          • Mark says:

            Andrew - if GWCT's science describes reality as poorly as your comments here then it is pretty ropey.

            Likes(0)Dislikes(1)
          • Keith Cowieson says:

            Strewth Mark,

            Nothing mischievous here, I was simply pointing out to your readers, in answer to your... ‘What research has been done that addresses the range of ecological costs and benefits of rearing and releasing Pheasants for shooting? Does native wildlife benefit or is it harmed by Pheasant shooting?'.... that some research had been done / exists, and that they could read it at the link.

            The reason I, as a layman, was unsure whether it was peer-reviewed or otherwise is that it is very hard to find the report on the RSPB’s webpage, but I knew I had seen it somewhere – posted by Rob Yorke as it happens.

            Through Google, the only RSPB reference I could find to it was in the 'Conservation Science 2011-12' document where it is listed under 'Reports, theses and other publications' as opposed to 'Publications in scientific journals, proceedings and books' - hence my uncertainty over its status. I normally like to ensure that I only link peer-reviewed scientific documents to my Comments here and elsewhere.

            Don't think I'll bother in future!

            Likes(2)Dislikes(2)
  3. Roderick Leslie says:

    Looking at this and the response to the Armitage petition, its worth bearing in mind that the harder the resistance to change the bigger it can be when it comes: I remember similar bland, complacent statements about upland forestry just before the Flow Country in the 1980s (read all about it in my book 'Forest Vision - transforming the Forestry Commission, coming out in June - I'll send it to you to review, Mark) - then the roof fell in - the Forestry commission escaped by the skin of its teeth, but upland conifer forestry stopped dead in its tracks.

    With both farming & shooting I think the advocates of current practise are running the same risks. They think they are so big, so influential that nothing can change but I wonder if their power isn't rather more vulnerable than they realise - the rural is a tiny proportion of national life and the urban view will always win in the end. The opportunity is to get alongside that urban view and work with, not against, the majority of one's fellow citizens - which is exactly what forestry did after 1988, leading to the rather unpleasant surprise of the forest sales fiasco - a surprise for exactly the people who today believe their position on shooting and farming is unassailable.

    Likes(14)Dislikes(13)
    • Dave Dick says:

      Roderick - I hope you are right, you certainly have a positive outlokk on this but I would pull you up on one very common and oft repeated assumption - that conservation views are either urban or rural. As someone who grew up in a rural environment in the 1950s [Renfrewshire/Ayrshire border], who worked in many rural areas until 2007 and who has now retired to rural Dumfriesshire - I have met many people and indeed whole communities, who do not share any of the values, hobbies, practices or prejudices of the shooting community [or indeed the fox hunting community]. Unfortunately, the spokespersons for our rural communities seem to be the same old landowner/shooting advocates. ..This actually reinforces your point about "the majority of ones fellow citizens"...and it has always been thus [or at least since the 19th century]. Perhaps the south of Engtland is different..but I dont get that impression. Its high time more villagers and environmentally aware farmers and estate workers stood up for themselves.

      Likes(4)Dislikes(5)
    • David Hodd says:

      Roderick - picking up your point about Forestry Tax ruses trashing the Flow Country:

      ....and Owen Patterson's uncle wreaked revenge by dismantling the NCC (at a time when devolution was firmly off the agenda).

      Actually, I am all for a some upheaval to the status quo here - though weather it should be this issue or the scandal of CAP payments is a moot point. CAP of course is largely a money laundered tax handout for landowners (directly or through increased rents). No one else gets cash for not breaking the law.

      But I think yours a miss a key point. If DEFRA ministers had any interest in evidence based policy, they would not have gone along with the Badger cull, nor cut climate resilience prorgrammes etc, etc. Rather like Liddell-Grainger and Pickles, they think their Tory instincts are always better than those carefully evaluating the evidence.

      We need to keep carefully evaluating the evidence, and calling them every time they lie or contradict, and give this ammunition to those that can use it. It will take time, but as Galileo said "Eppur si muove".

      Likes(4)Dislikes(4)
  4. Rob Seago says:

    I would like proper research as to how reptiles are affected by scores of pheasants.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark says:

      Rob - me too! That seems to be a priority.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
    • Keith Cowieson says:

      And I would also like to see lots more research on how reptiles (and birds and mammals) are affected by millions of free-roaming, domestic and feral cats.

      Likes(13)Dislikes(5)
      • David Hodd says:

        ...and how many badgers get infected with TB from Cats!

        Likes(5)Dislikes(1)
      • John Stone says:

        Two wrongs do not make a right Keith. I have no doubt its easier to sort out any Pheasant problem than any Cat problem.

        Likes(3)Dislikes(4)
        • Keith Cowieson says:

          John,

          It may be potentially easier, but I am sure that non-native, free-roaming cats and their feral counterparts cause far more damage to native wildlife - in this instance reptiles - than pheasants.

          There is evidence of their baleful effects on other species too. Therefore, I would prioritise action and effort to protect native biodiversity in that direction. The fact that it is not easy doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

          "We choose to do something to reverse the adverse effect of non-native, free-roaming domestic and feral cats on native biodiversity, not because it is easy, but because it is difficult...." with apologies to JFK's speech writer(s).

          That's not to say that the potential adverse effects of the over-release of pheasants shouldn't be researched too - it should.

          Likes(3)Dislikes(3)
  5. Diapensia says:

    We have not come far as a civilised society when we are still killing wildlife.

    Likes(8)Dislikes(0)
  6. Circus maxima says:

    Why let facts get in the way of a good story....
    Seems like the shooters are out to fabricate themselves a new set of statistics which will self-confirm there own importance.....
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SCSTGShootingSports2014
    Only those involved are allowed, after being instructed to "Take time to help protect your sport", to take part in the survey. Hardly likely to produce unbiased results.
    Shocked that it seems to have the support of SNH!

    Likes(9)Dislikes(7)
  7. Emma Price says:

    DEFRA is clearly in the pockets of the shooting industry - sad but hardly surprising given the government's constant capitulation to environmentally destructive 'business' interests.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(8)
  8. Dennis Ames says:

    Farming inevitably gets dragged into every problem.
    Every time a conservationist wants to have a go at something,two conservationists have a chat or some conservationist wants to write a article or even some wildlife journalist wants to write a article then modern farming gets a airing.
    What I do not understand all those aforementioned never seem to say that a equel part of the problem is modern living with all the pollution and all the new estates that have sprung up in the last 50 years.
    Modern farming is here to stay just like everything else as evolved and I see no reason to carp on about it being the ruination lots make it out to be.
    Get farmers to co-operate and put a small acreage aside for wildlife mixtures but that will not happen whatever the money put into wildlife schemes while this constant carping goes on,force will not work either.
    The two sides have to get better relations for wildlife to benefit and it is not all the NFUs fault.

    Likes(9)Dislikes(14)
  9. […] Following this morning’s blog… […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  10. Dennis Ames says:

    With both farming & shooting I think the advocates of current practise are running the same risks. They think they are so big, so influential that nothing can change but I wonder if their power isn't rather more vulnerable than they realise - the rural is a tiny proportion of national life and the urban view will always win in the end. The opportunity is to get alongside that urban view and work with, not against, the majority of one's fellow citizens - which is exactly what forestry did after 1988, leading to the rather unpleasant surprise of the forest sales fiasco - a surprise for exactly the people who today believe their position on shooting and farming is unassailable.(part of a comment)
    Regards Mark.I seemed to also noticed you and friend ref H O S discussed modern farming but did not seem to mention that you discussed the other equal problems that face wildlife.It may actually be that the % of farmers trying to help is greater than % of the rest of population.Is there a reason that everything connected with modern living is not criticised by anyone as a large part of the problem.(just may be that everyone hates blaming themselves).
    I do recognise the problems modern farming has brought to wildlife but I think farmers would respond better if the approach was sincere.

    Likes(7)Dislikes(11)
    • Mark says:

      Dennis - well I was with a landowner so it wasn't surprising that we mentioned land management. I think he brought it up. might you be a bit too sensitive, perhaps?

      Likes(4)Dislikes(6)
  11. Julian says:

    I’m loving this ! Honestly it’s hard to keep up if you’re a poor rustic yokel these days. First it was the deer and now the badgers, and now the pheasants. Times was when being a deer was great, Walt Disney and Bambie were a godsend until Watership Down and the Badgers came along. Now if you’re a deer you’re chips, destroying the woodland and breeding willy nilly all over the place. The fact that you’re a mammal with four legs, just the same as a Badger doesn’t count for toffee these days. Most unfair really and now it seems that if you’re a pheasant not only do you risk being shot out of the sky, run over by a Vespa or whatever, you’re now damaging the environment. It wasn’t this way when the Romans loved them; se la vie as they say !
    p.s I had a chat with a beaver the other day and they are seriously thinking about getting some good PR on board with that tree thing that they’re doing all the time.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(2)
    • John Stone says:

      I don't think the Romans were releasing 8m birds a year, Julian. It beggars belief that people are expected to believe that a scale of Pheasant releases that seems to be ever on the up has no ecological downside. No sir!

      Likes(5)Dislikes(3)
  12. Stella says:

    Reading the late Michael Shrubs last book - about the most depressing book I have ever read [sorry Mike]... in the section about shooting his research seems to indicate that up until the time shooting birds for fun became a national pastime, Pheasants were most often kept in the same way chickens are kept. They certainly didn't appear to be hunted - MS describes in great detail all the various methods devised for capturing target species before shooting was widespread and I don't recall Pheasants being mentioned.
    As a result I have realised that the oft quoted phrase that Pheasants have been a part of our avian fauna since at least Roman times is yet another myth!

    Likes(4)Dislikes(5)
  13. Barry Mann says:

    Why is it so surprising that DEFRA isn't interested in wildlife and conservation as much as how much money can be generated for the already super rich? They are afterall their (DEFRA's) real masters.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(3)
  14. Dennis Ames says:

    Mark,absolutely correct always own up to that.Do so wish conservationists would do their share of owning up that they hardly ever,in fact can never remember any of them even saying anything about apportioning the blame on the other things I mentioned.
    If they did of course I would not have to bring this constant carping against modern farming up.
    It is on my opinion holding back the benefits farmers could bring to farmland birds,constant unfair proportioning of blame is detrimental to improvement.
    Surely clever conservationists(obviously most really are and I am not being facetious)must think that everything associated with modern urban living is at least guilty of the decline as modern farming,for goodness sake lets move on from the blame game and put that effort into approaching farmers with proposals to improve things.
    When I started farming the help received from established farmers was fantastic and I do believe lots would do things for birds if talked to by reasonable people.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(7)
  15. […] not a surprise, but it is a very clear indication of how tribal these issues are. Defra told me that they have carried out no study of the overall benefit of pheasant shooting on biodiversity and […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

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  1. @_Polinard says:

    Staggeringly complacent incompetence & nonsense from DEFRA.

    Likes(12)Dislikes(5)
  2. Keith Cowieson says:

    There is of course an RSPB Research Report (No 40) on the subject, by Bicknell et al - presumably commissioned by someone, sometime in the mid-late noughties, see here - http://tinyurl.com/qx648nd

    Not sure if this a peer-reviewed piece of work, or whether it is an internal report only.

    Likes(13)Dislikes(5)
    • Keith, I don't believe RSPB Research Report 40 was ever peer-reviewed.

      There are some 140 GWCT peer-reviewed scientific papers relating to pheasants here:
      http://www.gwct.org.uk/research/scientific-publications/?page=3&qty=40&keywords=pheasants

      Likes(10)Dislikes(2)
      • Mark says:

        Andrew - and do any of those 140 answer the question asked?

        I don't believe a Research Report would be peer reviewed - almost by definition, I would say.

        Likes(3)Dislikes(9)
        • Yes, these are peer-reviewed conservation science papers published by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust on pheasants.

          Thanks for clarifying that RSPB Research Reports are not peer-reviewed. Keith and others are sometimes led to believe that they are.

          Likes(2)Dislikes(1)
          • Mark says:

            Andrew - that is a slightly mischievous comment I fear, but I'm interested that Keith (Songbird Survival - commenting in a personal capacity) and you (GWCT - commenting in a personal capacity) are so keen to move from Defra's rubbish response to talking about RSPB science.

            A Research Report is, almost by definition, a piece of work that is not peer-reviewed, certainly in the same sense that a journal article would be. That's what Research Reports are for - putting in the public domain results that aren't important enough, conclusive enough, finished enough, to be submitted to a journal but are worthy of note!

            when it comes to the RSPB's science, I only point this out again because you, from GWCT, bring it up, then there is an analysis of the relative contribution of RSPB (and BTO) science compared with GWCT science back in the annals of this very blog. GWCT science isn't bad, but it isn't as productive nor, as measurted by 'h' (a standard measure of these things), as influential as BTO science or RSPB science. You can remind yourself of that here https://markavery.info/2012/11/15/science-counts/

            Likes(2)Dislikes(4)
          • Nothing mischievous on my part Mark. Simply answering Keith's question.

            Also, thanks for clarifying that whilst the RSPB publishes lots of great papers; RSPB Research Reports themselves are not important, conclusive or finished enough for publication.

            Likes(2)Dislikes(2)
          • Mark says:

            Andrew - if GWCT's science describes reality as poorly as your comments here then it is pretty ropey.

            Likes(0)Dislikes(2)
          • Mark says:

            Andrew - if GWCT's science describes reality as poorly as your comments here then it is pretty ropey.

            Likes(0)Dislikes(1)
          • Keith Cowieson says:

            Strewth Mark,

            Nothing mischievous here, I was simply pointing out to your readers, in answer to your... ‘What research has been done that addresses the range of ecological costs and benefits of rearing and releasing Pheasants for shooting? Does native wildlife benefit or is it harmed by Pheasant shooting?'.... that some research had been done / exists, and that they could read it at the link.

            The reason I, as a layman, was unsure whether it was peer-reviewed or otherwise is that it is very hard to find the report on the RSPB’s webpage, but I knew I had seen it somewhere – posted by Rob Yorke as it happens.

            Through Google, the only RSPB reference I could find to it was in the 'Conservation Science 2011-12' document where it is listed under 'Reports, theses and other publications' as opposed to 'Publications in scientific journals, proceedings and books' - hence my uncertainty over its status. I normally like to ensure that I only link peer-reviewed scientific documents to my Comments here and elsewhere.

            Don't think I'll bother in future!

            Likes(2)Dislikes(2)
  3. Roderick Leslie says:

    Looking at this and the response to the Armitage petition, its worth bearing in mind that the harder the resistance to change the bigger it can be when it comes: I remember similar bland, complacent statements about upland forestry just before the Flow Country in the 1980s (read all about it in my book 'Forest Vision - transforming the Forestry Commission, coming out in June - I'll send it to you to review, Mark) - then the roof fell in - the Forestry commission escaped by the skin of its teeth, but upland conifer forestry stopped dead in its tracks.

    With both farming & shooting I think the advocates of current practise are running the same risks. They think they are so big, so influential that nothing can change but I wonder if their power isn't rather more vulnerable than they realise - the rural is a tiny proportion of national life and the urban view will always win in the end. The opportunity is to get alongside that urban view and work with, not against, the majority of one's fellow citizens - which is exactly what forestry did after 1988, leading to the rather unpleasant surprise of the forest sales fiasco - a surprise for exactly the people who today believe their position on shooting and farming is unassailable.

    Likes(14)Dislikes(13)
    • Dave Dick says:

      Roderick - I hope you are right, you certainly have a positive outlokk on this but I would pull you up on one very common and oft repeated assumption - that conservation views are either urban or rural. As someone who grew up in a rural environment in the 1950s [Renfrewshire/Ayrshire border], who worked in many rural areas until 2007 and who has now retired to rural Dumfriesshire - I have met many people and indeed whole communities, who do not share any of the values, hobbies, practices or prejudices of the shooting community [or indeed the fox hunting community]. Unfortunately, the spokespersons for our rural communities seem to be the same old landowner/shooting advocates. ..This actually reinforces your point about "the majority of ones fellow citizens"...and it has always been thus [or at least since the 19th century]. Perhaps the south of Engtland is different..but I dont get that impression. Its high time more villagers and environmentally aware farmers and estate workers stood up for themselves.

      Likes(4)Dislikes(5)
    • David Hodd says:

      Roderick - picking up your point about Forestry Tax ruses trashing the Flow Country:

      ....and Owen Patterson's uncle wreaked revenge by dismantling the NCC (at a time when devolution was firmly off the agenda).

      Actually, I am all for a some upheaval to the status quo here - though weather it should be this issue or the scandal of CAP payments is a moot point. CAP of course is largely a money laundered tax handout for landowners (directly or through increased rents). No one else gets cash for not breaking the law.

      But I think yours a miss a key point. If DEFRA ministers had any interest in evidence based policy, they would not have gone along with the Badger cull, nor cut climate resilience prorgrammes etc, etc. Rather like Liddell-Grainger and Pickles, they think their Tory instincts are always better than those carefully evaluating the evidence.

      We need to keep carefully evaluating the evidence, and calling them every time they lie or contradict, and give this ammunition to those that can use it. It will take time, but as Galileo said "Eppur si muove".

      Likes(4)Dislikes(4)
  4. Rob Seago says:

    I would like proper research as to how reptiles are affected by scores of pheasants.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark says:

      Rob - me too! That seems to be a priority.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
    • Keith Cowieson says:

      And I would also like to see lots more research on how reptiles (and birds and mammals) are affected by millions of free-roaming, domestic and feral cats.

      Likes(13)Dislikes(5)
      • David Hodd says:

        ...and how many badgers get infected with TB from Cats!

        Likes(5)Dislikes(1)
      • John Stone says:

        Two wrongs do not make a right Keith. I have no doubt its easier to sort out any Pheasant problem than any Cat problem.

        Likes(3)Dislikes(4)
        • Keith Cowieson says:

          John,

          It may be potentially easier, but I am sure that non-native, free-roaming cats and their feral counterparts cause far more damage to native wildlife - in this instance reptiles - than pheasants.

          There is evidence of their baleful effects on other species too. Therefore, I would prioritise action and effort to protect native biodiversity in that direction. The fact that it is not easy doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

          "We choose to do something to reverse the adverse effect of non-native, free-roaming domestic and feral cats on native biodiversity, not because it is easy, but because it is difficult...." with apologies to JFK's speech writer(s).

          That's not to say that the potential adverse effects of the over-release of pheasants shouldn't be researched too - it should.

          Likes(3)Dislikes(3)
  5. Diapensia says:

    We have not come far as a civilised society when we are still killing wildlife.

    Likes(8)Dislikes(0)
  6. Circus maxima says:

    Why let facts get in the way of a good story....
    Seems like the shooters are out to fabricate themselves a new set of statistics which will self-confirm there own importance.....
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SCSTGShootingSports2014
    Only those involved are allowed, after being instructed to "Take time to help protect your sport", to take part in the survey. Hardly likely to produce unbiased results.
    Shocked that it seems to have the support of SNH!

    Likes(9)Dislikes(7)
  7. Emma Price says:

    DEFRA is clearly in the pockets of the shooting industry - sad but hardly surprising given the government's constant capitulation to environmentally destructive 'business' interests.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(8)
  8. Dennis Ames says:

    Farming inevitably gets dragged into every problem.
    Every time a conservationist wants to have a go at something,two conservationists have a chat or some conservationist wants to write a article or even some wildlife journalist wants to write a article then modern farming gets a airing.
    What I do not understand all those aforementioned never seem to say that a equel part of the problem is modern living with all the pollution and all the new estates that have sprung up in the last 50 years.
    Modern farming is here to stay just like everything else as evolved and I see no reason to carp on about it being the ruination lots make it out to be.
    Get farmers to co-operate and put a small acreage aside for wildlife mixtures but that will not happen whatever the money put into wildlife schemes while this constant carping goes on,force will not work either.
    The two sides have to get better relations for wildlife to benefit and it is not all the NFUs fault.

    Likes(9)Dislikes(14)
  9. […] Following this morning’s blog… […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  10. Dennis Ames says:

    With both farming & shooting I think the advocates of current practise are running the same risks. They think they are so big, so influential that nothing can change but I wonder if their power isn't rather more vulnerable than they realise - the rural is a tiny proportion of national life and the urban view will always win in the end. The opportunity is to get alongside that urban view and work with, not against, the majority of one's fellow citizens - which is exactly what forestry did after 1988, leading to the rather unpleasant surprise of the forest sales fiasco - a surprise for exactly the people who today believe their position on shooting and farming is unassailable.(part of a comment)
    Regards Mark.I seemed to also noticed you and friend ref H O S discussed modern farming but did not seem to mention that you discussed the other equal problems that face wildlife.It may actually be that the % of farmers trying to help is greater than % of the rest of population.Is there a reason that everything connected with modern living is not criticised by anyone as a large part of the problem.(just may be that everyone hates blaming themselves).
    I do recognise the problems modern farming has brought to wildlife but I think farmers would respond better if the approach was sincere.

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    • Mark says:

      Dennis - well I was with a landowner so it wasn't surprising that we mentioned land management. I think he brought it up. might you be a bit too sensitive, perhaps?

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  11. Julian says:

    I’m loving this ! Honestly it’s hard to keep up if you’re a poor rustic yokel these days. First it was the deer and now the badgers, and now the pheasants. Times was when being a deer was great, Walt Disney and Bambie were a godsend until Watership Down and the Badgers came along. Now if you’re a deer you’re chips, destroying the woodland and breeding willy nilly all over the place. The fact that you’re a mammal with four legs, just the same as a Badger doesn’t count for toffee these days. Most unfair really and now it seems that if you’re a pheasant not only do you risk being shot out of the sky, run over by a Vespa or whatever, you’re now damaging the environment. It wasn’t this way when the Romans loved them; se la vie as they say !
    p.s I had a chat with a beaver the other day and they are seriously thinking about getting some good PR on board with that tree thing that they’re doing all the time.

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    • John Stone says:

      I don't think the Romans were releasing 8m birds a year, Julian. It beggars belief that people are expected to believe that a scale of Pheasant releases that seems to be ever on the up has no ecological downside. No sir!

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  12. Stella says:

    Reading the late Michael Shrubs last book - about the most depressing book I have ever read [sorry Mike]... in the section about shooting his research seems to indicate that up until the time shooting birds for fun became a national pastime, Pheasants were most often kept in the same way chickens are kept. They certainly didn't appear to be hunted - MS describes in great detail all the various methods devised for capturing target species before shooting was widespread and I don't recall Pheasants being mentioned.
    As a result I have realised that the oft quoted phrase that Pheasants have been a part of our avian fauna since at least Roman times is yet another myth!

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  13. Barry Mann says:

    Why is it so surprising that DEFRA isn't interested in wildlife and conservation as much as how much money can be generated for the already super rich? They are afterall their (DEFRA's) real masters.

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  14. Dennis Ames says:

    Mark,absolutely correct always own up to that.Do so wish conservationists would do their share of owning up that they hardly ever,in fact can never remember any of them even saying anything about apportioning the blame on the other things I mentioned.
    If they did of course I would not have to bring this constant carping against modern farming up.
    It is on my opinion holding back the benefits farmers could bring to farmland birds,constant unfair proportioning of blame is detrimental to improvement.
    Surely clever conservationists(obviously most really are and I am not being facetious)must think that everything associated with modern urban living is at least guilty of the decline as modern farming,for goodness sake lets move on from the blame game and put that effort into approaching farmers with proposals to improve things.
    When I started farming the help received from established farmers was fantastic and I do believe lots would do things for birds if talked to by reasonable people.

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  15. […] not a surprise, but it is a very clear indication of how tribal these issues are. Defra told me that they have carried out no study of the overall benefit of pheasant shooting on biodiversity and […]

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