Saving threatened habitats worldwide

World Land Trust and Chris Packham host successful Controversial Conservation debate on persecution and shooting of protected birds

10 September, 2014 - 15:02 -- World Land Trust
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Chris Packham stands behind a lectern during Controversial Conservation.

September 2014: Rarely seen together at a public event, representatives of two often polarised sectors – the game lobby and the conservation lobby - met at the Royal Society on 2 September in a debate organised by international conservation charity World Land Trust (WLT).

The event provided a forum to discuss the impact shooting birds has on wildlife and conservation, with a particular focus on the persecution of birds from protected species in the UK and killing birds on migration, as well as the social and environmental implications of hunting.

Promoting the conservation side of the argument were TV presenter and WLT Patron, Chris Packham, and Mark Avery, former Conservation Director of the RSPB. The two panellists condemned the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers by gamekeepers whose job it is to protect Red Grouse chicks from predation during the breeding season. Legally protected in Britain, the species is in decline, with currently just four successfully breeding pairs in England, where there is habitat for more than 300 pairs.

Speaking in favour of the conservation value of land managed for Red Grouse shooting was Andrew Gilruth, Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), who confirmed that GWCT is keen to see Hen Harrier numbers recover.

The debate highlighted several key and important issues, with both sides of the panel agreeing that the illegal killing of Hen Harriers was a crime and that policing needed to play a key role in tackling wildlife crime. After much discussion, there was a general consensus that a target of 40 pairs of breeding Hen Harriers in England within 10 years was an achievable target.

TV Presenter and Conservationist Bill Oddie, also a WLT Council Member, discussed the controversial topic of shooting migratory birds including robins, cuckoos and golden oriole, calling for a ban on the spring hunting of these birds heading to the UK for the summer from Mediterranean countries, such as Malta.

A referendum is likely to take place on spring hunting in Malta during 2015, however in the meantime Chris urged members of the audience to take action by making their feelings known about the killing of migratory birds to their MP, MEP and the new European Commissioner for the Environment who will take up post in early 2015.

Chris also called on the shooting fraternity in Britain to join with conservationists to condemn the shooting of migratory birds in Mediterranean countries.

Other speakers at the event included John Burton, Chief Executive of World Land Trust, and Garry Marvin, social anthropologist and Professor of Human-Animal Studies at the University of Roehampton. John reflected on the impact of hunting on WLT’s overseas conservation programmes and Garry discussed the different types of hunters in three broad categories including utilitarian (meat hunters), nihilistic (sport hungers) and nature hunters for whom the process of tracking quarry and the ethics of the chase are as or more important than the killing of the prey.

The debate was chaired by Alistair Gammell, a WLT Council Member and formerly RSPB’s Director of International Issues.

More information

Full press release: PDF

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