This morning Chris Packham appeared on national television to explain more about his legal action against General Licences, describing the outcry from the farming community as ‘entirely fake news’. Towards the end of the interview, Mr Packham was asked whether the control of species such as magpies or carrion crows could actually be part of the solution, rather than a problem. His answer was a simple one:
“I can’t even tell you how many of these birds they kill and therefore I can’t tell you whether they’re having any negative or positive impact on conservation and until we have those figures generated then we can’t make informed decisions. This is part and parcel of our problem.”
Only that’s not really the case. The National Gamebag Census, run by the GWCT, has collected bag records for carrion crow, magpie, jackdaw and other species controlled under General Licence since 1961. Like the surveys monitoring migratory birds, these data are reliant on the hard work and dedication of those submitting records and only show part of the picture, but this provides an important insight. Just last year we published estimates on the bags for these species for all to see in our Review of 2017. If Mr Packham were a GWCT member, he would have received a copy through his letterbox. He can read it online here.
He went on to say “I can tell you how many ducks arrive here because birdwatchers count them. I can’t tell you, because no bag records are kept in the UK, how many of those birds are shot. How can we work together to conserve them if we don’t even know what the impact of shooting is?”
The fact remains that these data do exist, largely thanks to those who are undertaking the control in the first place. It is many of these individuals - farmers, land managers, gamekeepers – who are doing just what he says, working together to conserve our rare birds. As a passionate conservationist and RSPB vice-president, I’m sure Chris is aware of our work. If he’d like to come in and discuss it further, my door is always open.
Director of Marketing and Membership Communications