Norfolk gamekeeper Steven Musk CREDIT: Jason Bye for The Telegraph
While there is no doubt the impact of gamebird releasing on the spread of avian flu must be carefully assessed and monitoring ongoing (Gamekeepers facing ruin over avian flu rules, 28 June), it must be weighed against the considerable risk of withdrawing the General Licence.
At the GWCT’s research and demonstration farm, the Allerton Project, a scientific study showed that when the “three-legged-stool” of game management: habitat and predation management combined with overwinter supplementary feeding, is removed, it reduces our farmland birds by around 50%.
Furthermore, scientific research on several Special Protected Areas has highlighted that breeding success of waders including lapwing and curlew is much higher in areas where control of foxes and crows is undertaken by gamekeepers. Therefore, DEFRA’s last-minute change in policy risks being counterproductive, especially given the lack of evidence that gamebird releasing contributes to the spread of avian flu.
Closing shoots not only causes economic, social and mental hardship for keepers and their families in a cost of living crisis, it also removes these Working Conservationists from the countryside, which could create a bigger problem than avian flu for our threatened songbird population.
Mrs Teresa Dent CBE
Chief Executive, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust