The plan was to spend £375,000 (US $586,000) on capturing Buzzards and destroying their nests to see whether this reduces their consumption of young Pheasants (or Poults), which are reared in their millions to be shot on game estates.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) had described the plan as “totally unacceptable” and many saw it as using taxpayer funds to support an aristocratic pursuit.
Richard Benyon, the Wildlife Minister, said today:
In the light of the public concerns expressed in recent days, I have decided to look at developing new research proposals on buzzards.
The plan had been attacked for being based on hearsay evidence put forward by lobbyists for shooting. Said Benyon:
The success of conservation measures has seen large increases in the numbers of buzzards and other birds of prey over the last two decades. At the same time it is right that we make decisions on the basis of sound evidence and we do need to understand better the whole relationship between raptors, game birds and other livestock.
I will collaborate with all the organisations that have an interest in this issue and will bring forward new proposals.
A Ministry official told the Guardian that new research would aim to establish the impact of birds of prey on pheasants first, before considering control measures.
The RSPB said:
The recovery of the buzzard is being celebrated by the public after many decades of persecution. It is clear that they don’t want their taxes spent on removing buzzards and the government has to ensure that no bird of prey will be killed in the name of sport.
One of the lobbyists for the plan to ‘control’ buzzards, the Countryside Alliance, told the BBC:
That the government has chosen to ignore rural people in favour of a large and vocal special interest group shows ministers are now willing to give in to whoever shouts the loudest.
Benyon is also being asked to explain what influence he had on a decision to drop landmark legal proceedings against a shooting estate for the game bird grouse that was burning peatland in a conservation area.
The case, which was being pursued by the government’s environment adviser, would have had major implications for moor owners, who burn heather to encourage new shoots, which are eaten by grouse, thus increasing their numbers. The burning has impacts on other wildlife, water quality and also global warming.
Professor Joseph Holden, an expert in peat bogs from the University of Leeds, told The Guardian:
In the UK we have 13% of the world’s blanket bogs. Globally, peatlands are more important than tropical rainforest in terms of taking carbon out of the atmosphere.
Picture by ahisgett