Monday, 11 October 2010

Watch out, Avery's aiming at pheasants

It pays to keep an eye on the blog of RSPB conservation director Mark Avery. When he innocently muses about some aspect of shooting, it probably means "Oo, I've just thought of another way to attack shooters."

Back in July 2009 he blogged about his rising concern about lead residues in game meat. By October that year, he was stirring up seven shades of you-know-what by writing to Defra, with a particularly weaselly letter - resulting in the formation of the Lead Ammunition Group.

Now he's running a new one up the flagpole: pheasants as a 'non-native' species. "I wonder how much the increase in some predator numbers is fuelled by this meat bonanza?" he asks disingenuously, taking a swipe at "big-shoot days where huge numbers of pheasants are released" while he's at it. (Actually the GWCT already has the answers to most of his questions).

I find the whole native/non-native species argument a ridiculous nonsense anyway. Who's to say which species 'deserve' to be here in the UK, based on whose assessment of which politically-correct moment in history we had the 'perfect' balance of wildlife? And how can this possibly be relevant to a landscape shaped by man since history began? Far too often the definition of 'native' or 'non-native' seems designed to support one organisation's point of view - the latest row over eagle owls is a case in point.

But leaving all that aside, what really bothers me is what devious new attack on shooting Avery is cooking up.


alan tilmouth said...

Not sure that your assessment of native/non-native is portraying an accurate picture. Given that even the most stringent criteria for 'native' encompasses the last 10,000years. The disagreement in relation to Eagle Owls is specifically because the fossil records are poor and therefore in the opinion of some inconclusive.
The issue on non-native species isn't about 'deserving' to be here it is about the damage that can be done to native species and it is a much wider issue than Eagle Owls. I live 1 mile from some of the last populations of a particular species of Crayfish that has been decimated by the introduction of Signal Crayfish into our rivers. Look at what Mink did after been released by idiots who didn't think about the consequences of their action when releasing them from Mink Farms.
Grey Squirrel/Red Squirrel?
Japanese Knotweed?
The list goes on, there are some serious problems as a result of non native species introductions, surely it is right that we recognise that and do what we can to correct it (having said that Pheasants aren't an issue in my view).
I think MA has been reading a certain debate we were having in relation to Buzzards and the comments made there in relation to Pheasant releases fuelling bigger clutch sizes for Common Buzzard.

James Marchington said...

Hi Alan,

I know, I'm being a grumpy old wotsit. Not sure about "correcting" it, though. We'd have to decide what was "right" first, and then we couldn't afford the bill.

I expect MA has bigger things on his mind than reading comments on this blog. I do hope so, I'd hate to think I'd been putting ideas in his head!

Lazywell said...

I too am strangely addicted to Mark's blog.

In this post I think he's following his Scottish Head of Species and Land Management, Duncan Orr-Ewing, who raised the point at the hearing of the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee on 7 September. (See Col 3002 - 3003).

I suspect you're right and that what Mark floats in his blog may well develop more formally in due course.