The statement reads (my bold) "The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust considers that an informed and coherent debate on the possible role of licencing in achieving the recovery of some species of wildlife in exceptional circumstances is needed. We pledge our commitment to maintaining this debate in a spirit of rational and evidence-based dialogue.
We have conducted an extensive amount of own work with black grouse, grey partridge, a range of upland waders and water voles amongst many other species. This work provides clear, peer-reviewed scientific evidence that the effective, and legal control of some generalist predators in some circumstances is essential to the recovery of some species under threat. On rare occasions, the control of predators may be required provided this strict conditions required by licences are met."
Which is all well and good. They then go on to highlight the details of the licences
"Our assessment of these is that some mis-reporting has contributed to the confusion surrounding these licences. Some press releases have been unclear or have omitted small but significant facts. The details, as far as GWCT understands, are as follows;
Licence A – WLM/2013/0571 – issued to a pheasant shoot – given permission to remove 4 nests and eggs containedLicense B – WLM/2011/1801 – issued to a poultry farm – given permission for 5 birds to be trapped and removed"
Notice anything? GWCT using their peer-reviewed science and conservation arguments in support of licences that have nothing at all to do with conservation. Predator control for conservation may or may not be the right thing to do in certain circumstances but those liceneces, issued by Natural England had nothing at all to do with conservation and GWCT clearly seem to be trying to link the two. In fact in the case of these licences that there was no conservation value in their issue is above debate.
GWCT then go on to talk about The Buzzard Stakeholder Group, that was the group that came up with the 'research proposals' cancelled after huge public protest last year. Their statement reads:
The recent controversy has implications for the work of and possibly even the future role of the Buzzard Stakeholder Group (BSG). We consider that had the BSG been allowed to function as intended, the licences might not have been requested on the basis that they would have pre-empted the research planned by the group. The fact that research was on-going could not have been used, in itself to refuse a licence, but the applicants might have thought it wise to have benefited from the research before proceeding with licence applications.
Last year the BSG was working towards agreement of research. The original proposals had three significant parts:
- what could be done to divert attacks
- discovering why some release pens suffered predation by buzzards and others not
- investigating the effectiveness and necessity of egg removal and buzzard capture
It has been interesting in recent weeks that Andrew Gilruth, GWCT Director of Membership and Marketing has been extremley active on Twitter in a very dogmatic fashion. Highly critical of the RSPB and attacking vocal critics of illegal persecution for 'negative campaigning'. Apparently we all have our heels dug in and need to compromise, and 'need to listen to the needs of gamekeepers' as they hold the solution to resolving issues such as the lack of Hen Harriers (you don't say!).
Given his public calls for compromise it stands as somewhat disappointing then that GWCT were unable to compromise on the Buzzard Management proposals and remove the third element involving egg removal and buzzard capture from the 'research'. Without these 'lethal and capture' options the research framed above would have been productive and useful for Pheasant shoots and provided some useful indicators of how to manage their release pens without the need to remove or illegally persecute the local Buzzard population.Seems to me Andrew Gilruth and GWCT need to swallow some of their own prescriptive medicine and learn a little about compromise.