By Sir Jim Paice, GWCT Chairman of Trustees
Anyone in a position to make decisions really wants to see both sides of an argument and make their own judgement. A genuinely neutral position but with evidence pointing one way is far more constructive than an entrenched position.
The last thing I wanted as a Minister in DEFRA was to simply think 'well they would say that wouldn't they'. Anyone with an axe to grind is easily dismissed. So, for those seeking to change opinion they should present all the evidence in a balanced way and let the facts speak. The final decision will be respected far more.
Those involved in game shooting were probably as surprised as me to hear the RSPB speaking on BBC Radio 4's More or Less here, focusing almost entirely on the negative views of pheasant releasing – despite explicitly stating that it’s ‘rigorously neutral’ on the matter here.
I doubt many in the sporting world were left feeling their side was fairly represented. There was certainly no doubt about which side this spokesman was on. A balanced answer would have explained that pheasant releasing is intrinsically linked with associated activities like planting and managing woodlands and providing wildlife habitat on farmland such as wild bird covers.
As with most land uses, pheasant releasing can have both positive and negative impacts on the countryside. Much of that evidence stems from scientific research conducted by the GWCT. Are we expecting too much to hope that it will be represented in a balanced way?
As you would expect, we use this work to produce guidelines that aim to maximise the benefits and minimise the negatives. They have been incorporated into the Code of Good Shooting Practice and adopted by a range of conservation organisations – because of the benefits to wildlife that stem from good game management.
Indeed, many current agri-environment scheme options including late winter supplementary feeding, wild bird cover and beetle banks have their roots in game management.
It’s hard to comprehend how the RSPB’s stated position of neutrality squares with what its staff are saying on the BBC.