Britain Going Backwards on Raptor Protection?

If you’ve seen any of many classic British movies featuring the Upper Class, you’ll have seen the tradition established by the Victorians of blasting birds out of the sky.

In Britain, the birds are usually Pheasants and the government has just funded a study which will destroy the nests of Buzzards, a Raptor, on the basis that they’re eating young Pheasants. Only there is no evidence they’re any problem and critics are charging that the Minister, Richard Benyon, who has approved this has a conflict of interest as a landowner, stately home owner and decidedly a member of the Upper Class.

The trial has been agreed to and funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on the basis of entirely anecdotal evidence from the National Gamekeepers Organisation.

Britain’s native Buzzards have spent decades recovering from a severe population decline and range retraction — at huge cost in conservation pounds. Their decline was largely due to persecution.

Pheasant is an introduced species, and more than 40 million are released annually for the purposes of commercial shooting, though many now survive ferally at an unknown cost to native gamebirds such as Grey Partridge. The competition and the spread of disease between these two species is unstudied.

Buzzards have been gradually spreading into former haunts, despite illegal persecution — they’re a protected species — still persisting in many parts of the country, many on shooting estates.

Those shooting estates are experiencing a boom in demand, funded by the rich financiers of the City of London.

Writing for The Guardian, George Monbiot accuses Minister Benyon of demonstrating “a spectacular ignorance of the natural world he is charged with protecting.”

He is using his department’s budget to subsidise the class and culture to which he belongs, at the expense of both taxpayers and birds of prey.

Monbiot worked on one of these estates as a teenager and recalls vast flocks of birds being driven into gun range so “you could scarcely fail to hit one.” Not only were many just winged and then limped off into the woods, but any other bird unlucky enough to get in the way was also blasted out of the sky.

Benyon’s department is about 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). Supposedly a quarter of Poults are being lost, but no one knows how many are, for example, being run over on the roads.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is quoted by Monbiot saying that according to one study:

On average, 1-2% of pheasant poults released were taken by birds of prey. It found 45% of poults released were shot, with the remainder dying as a result of other factors, such as road collision and disease, or surviving to join the feral population.

The RSPB said the idea of taking wild Buzzards into captivity or destroying their nests was “totally unacceptable.”

Says Monbiot:

This is state-sponsored persecution of a protected species to please some of the richest people in the country, pursuing a cruel, destructive and pointless activity. It is state spending for the 1% – or the 0.01% which everyone else must pay for. It looks to me as if Richard Benyon is using public money to provide services for his aristocratic friends.

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Picture by JSBrownbill


John W.
.3 years ago

Shocking. Why can't they go clay pigeon shooting instead!

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Greywolf Beanland
Lydia Beanland5 years ago

Isn't it time that a bill was passed allowing an 'open season' on all politicians and hunters then lets see how they like to be hunted and persecuted. The raptors were here long before the humanrace and like all wild things are being hunted out of fear and ignorance.
I am ashamed to admit that I am British, never mind that I am human.
Richard Benyon needs to live in the real world, to see the beauty in all living things. At least when my Grandchildren ask why there are no more raptors and other wild animals I will know who to point the finger to and be able to say 'ask him, he helped kill them'

Dianne Lane
Dianne Lane5 years ago


Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths5 years ago

Oh, I see. Kill the raptor because they are killing the pheasants! Not so, it is the human hunters who are killing the pheasants. I agree, this is all about Richard Benyon using public money to provide services for his aristocratic friends.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch5 years ago

Have we not learned from our mistakes? When you kill one species, another will fill the void left by that species.

Sad, really sad.....

Glenda L.
Glenda L5 years ago

Maybe these people could find a more productive way of using their leisure time, like perhaps volunteering to help others?

Sarah L.
Sarah L.5 years ago

reading this makes me ashamed to say i live in the UK

David V.
David V5 years ago

Killing is never an acceptable is just the easy way out for people who will use any excuse to shoot their guns.

Isabel A.
Isabel Araujo5 years ago

Shooting animals is not a sport! Thank you.