Yesterday’s two blog posts on the decision of Natural England to license the taking of a very small number of Peregrine chicks for captive breeding by falconers caused quite a storm (see here and here).
Here are my thoughts:
- Many thanks to Gary Wall for writing a blog and for responding to all of the comments in a measured way, despite some of the comments being quite aggressive towards him. Whether I agree with him or not he scored points from me in responding so much and in such good humour (on the whole).
- I think my views (which might change because I am interested in everybody else’s take on this) are quite in line with Paul Irving’s: I’m not a huge supporter of falconry or indeed captive breeding, or indeed keeping animals in captivity, even as pets, but that’s a long way from being totally opposed to them. What Natural England has licensed will have no conservation impact on Peregrine populations in the UK, and I’m glad to see that NE has excluded upland counties of England from the licence (presumably because of the well-documented high levels of illegal perecution on grouse moors).
- I wonder whether this licence is indeed legal but I wouldn’t be recommending a legal challenge of it to my colleagues in Wild Justice because I believe we have bigger issues to fight and, for me, this does not displace any of our next-planned cases in the queue. But Ruth and Chris may feel differently though I guess they don’t. I’m sure the RSPB will be having a close look at it though.
- I’m unconvinced, very unconvinced, of the conservation value of what is planned here. If I understand it right, then there are two proposed conservation benefits. First, the more British stock are used in falconry the less of a problem any falconers’ escaped birds would be. This seems to me to be a fair point, but a pretty small point. The second is that if the collapse in the Peregrine population is repeated again then it would be good to have British stock for a reintroduction project – this also seems to me to be a fair point but a minor point. So the conservation benefit, to me, seems tiny. But the conservation downside, to me, seems tiny too.
- I smiled a wry smile at some of the comments having a go at Gary – only because I’ve faced similar comments from others about my campaigning work. Some of them, as he pointed out, were from people who don’t know him apparently claiming to know all about his motivation.
- Falconers often claim that they love birds of prey and are great conservationists. From the conversation I had with Gary by phone yesterday and an exchange of emails then I have no reason to doubt his sincerity on that point. But generally, falconers and falconry seem to have allied themselves with other fieldsports and not with nature conservation. I have not seen an outcry from falconers over the widespread and systematic killing of falcons (and other birds of prey) on grouse moors despite this being a high-profile issue of late. Falconry seems to be much more in bed with the apologists for raptor persecution than with those who are fighting it. I don’t include Gary Wall in that, it’s not a personal comment, it’s a general observation. I’d like to be proved wrong in future and I for one would welcome falconers into the debate over the future of driven grouse shooting (if they chose the right side!).
That’s where I am at the moment.