Taking a zero tolerance stance on raptor persecution

Caroline Bedell

Caroline Bedell

Caroline Bedell is BASC's executive director of conservation. She joined BASC in 2018 and prior that she was regional director at the CLA.

Most shooters are passionate about wildlife on the areas they shoot over and manage. However, there are the few exceptions who continue to believe that killing raptors is acceptable and it is these people who give the shooting community a bad name.

That’s why BASC has today joined other organisations who represent shooters, gamekeepers and land owners in issuing a joint statement that sends out a clear message on the illegal killing of birds of prey.

As well as roundly condemning raptor persecution, the statement also lays out clear steps the organisations will take in pursuing our ambition to eradicate raptor persecution. We also ask the wider shooting community, police, wildlife agencies and government to throw their weight behind this initiative.

Our statement is clear: All incidents of raptor persecution are extremely harmful to the reputation of shooting and we must all have a zero tolerance approach to behaviour that risks undoing all the other good work that takes place.

Raptor persecution vs shooting community

Raptor persecution represents an existential threat to the shooting community as a whole. It leads to increased pressure for restrictions and adds weight to arguments calling for a ban on certain strands of shooting.

Scrutiny of this type, backed with evidence, endangers the future of shooting. Rightly or wrongly, all shooters risk getting tarred with the same brush by a public that does not understand that shooting is a diverse activity and that the vast majority of its participants care passionately about the countryside and the wildlife that lives there.

This is why the shooting community needs to address raptor crime.

How we tackle raptor crime

BASC has released a joint statement condemning all forms of raptor persecution with Countryside Alliance (CA), Moorland Association (MA) and National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The declaration recommends that all shooting leases, contracts and other documents include clauses affirming the laws against the persecution of raptors. It also outlines the launch of training initiatives and a sector-wide awareness campaign.

Increasing training opportunities with young people entering the sport is vital. BASC does lots of good work in this area and ensuring that new shooters develop an interest in all aspects of the countryside not just quarry species is important. Equally, we need to ensure that students on gamekeeping courses are fully trained in the law, understand the importance of wildlife and how their work can contribute to conservation outcomes.

Take responsibility

Shoot owners and managers need to take responsibility for ensuring that raptor crime is not happening on their land and shoots. Raptor persecution prevention should be treated similarly to standards such as health and safety, COSHH assessments etc.

Landowners should ensure that people working on their land are trained in the law, fully briefed on the risks and understand that raptor persecution will not be tolerated. 

Owners and managers need to check what is happening on their land and take responsibility to ensure that raptor crime is not being carried out in their name. Anyone with knowledge of offences of this type should report them to the police.

Putting an end to raptor persecution

The pressure to end raptor crime needs to come from within the community. Bad practice needs to be stamped out and treated for what it is – an illegal activity which is a threat to all shooting activity.

If we don’t all work together on tackling this issue, there will be increasing demands for restriction and legislation to reign in shooters.

The shooting community rightly prides itself on all the good work it does which helps wildlife generally; it is widely recognised that shooting as a sport can contribute to positive conservation outcomes. But, without real progress on tackling raptor crime these positive stories we strive to promote will be lost and shooters will become the subject of criticism and future calls for restrictions.