Of Buzzards and Sharks and Other Things

Trish Marchant says: Our continuous need to satisfy unusual tastes and hobbies takes its toll on the planets resources, from fuel hungry sports to the constant need to upgrade our electronic devices. However there are other stresses and strains that go largely unreported.

Take the recent report that, following lobbying by the pheasant shooting industry, DEFRA plans to allow the destruction of buzzard nests and for buzzards to be taken into captivity to remove them from shooting estates.

David Davison, our spokesperson for animal welfare, thinks it’s outrageous that, with such actions illegal under current wildlife laws, DEFRA are putting at risk the recovery of buzzards across the UK when it has proven such a is a conservation success story. Furthermore, pheasants are not native to the UK and the impacts of releasing around 40 million birds every year for shooting are not well documented.

It is true , given the opportunity, buzzards will take young pheasants from rearing pens but the RSPB believes the issue can be managed without destroying buzzard nests or moving buzzards. For example, providing more cover for young pheasants in release pens, visual deterrents to discourage birds of prey, and providing alternative food sources.

Defra says a survey by the National Gamekeepers Organisation found that three quarters of gamekeepers believed buzzards had a harmful effect on pheasant shoots. Defra are planning to spend £400,000 researching ways to stop buzzards targeting captive-reared pheasants, proposing that nests could be destroyed to stop the birds breeding.

From nosing about the internet it appears from anecdotal evidence suggest that one of the reasons we’ve got so many buzzards is there are so many poorly managed pheasant shoots producing large numbers of birds that can barely fly. It is recognized that buzzards will take young pheasants from rearing pens, given the opportunity, but the RSPB believes the issue can be managed without destroying buzzard nests or moving buzzards.

DEFRA have stated that any plans may include removal of empty nests and relocating buzzards. The RSPB believe that this is unlikely to reduce predation levels, as another buzzard will quickly take its place and as there is no evidence they are a significant cause of loss of pheasants. The plan to spend £400,000 in this way is a waste of public money.

On the same lines is the worrying decline in shark numbers across the worlds oceans. While there are tragic incidents of swimmers being killed in shark attacks (the sad story of Ian and Gemma Redmond last August) numbers annually average 5 or 6 deaths. In contrast around 40 million sharks are killed by people.  As a result numbers have dropped dramatically, and that’s against records which have only been kept since 1999. Shark fin soup has contributed greatly to this problem. Did you know that the fin is cut off while the shark is alive and then the shark is thrown back to suffer a slow death? Its a cruel, unnecessary practice and I would urge you to boycott any restaurant which has it in their menu. In the UK publicity about how it is produced has already encouraged most businesses to drop it from their menu but bear in mind that this is not the situation in other parts of the world. Even in China the more enlightened hotel chains have followed suit.

Accidental catches is also a huge problem, with sharks being caught in nets and dying of suffocation.

Sharks are the top of their food chain and research is tending to show that a drop in numbers of top prey animals has a detrimental effect on the balance of the ecosystems on land and at sea. Number of seals and dolphins, a prey animal for the shark, may increase but that then leads to decrease in their prey animals further down the chain.

The evidence around reducing shark numbers is young but if action isn’t taken soon it may be too late for some species to recover.  http://www.shark.ch/index.html

3 Responses to “Of Buzzards and Sharks and Other Things”

  1. Re the penultimate paragraph, Yale Environment 360 published an article, “The Crucial Role of Predators: A New Perspective on Ecology”, in September 2011 about the importance of lions, wolves, sharks, and other creatures at the top of the food chain:

    David M. Davison

  2. On 30th May, Animal Aid reported that the “government has today scrapped its plans to allow buzzards’ nests to be destroyed and adult birds taken into captivity”:

    David M. Davison


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