The RSPB's 'bird crime' report tells a story which bears little resemblance to the truth
Today, like previous years, the RSPB launch their annual ‘bird crime’ report. It will come as no surprise that this once respected charity yet again attempts to portray persecution as being rampant across the gamekeeping community with headlines such as: ‘Spate of attacks on birds of prey’ appearing as a result.
But it does not require much analysis of the details to see that the reality is very different to what the RSPB are suggesting. In the whole of 2021 the RSPB claim there were 80 confirmed incidents of persecution, across all walks of life. It should also be noted that 'confirmed incidents of persecution' is an RSPB term, which has no independent verification to it.
Of the 80 'confirmed incidents', only five of those crimes deemed worthy of a prosecution related to gamekeepers. That’s right. To put it more starkly, out of the 10,000 or so professional gamekeepers working in England, only 0.05% have been responsible for persecution.
Yet despite this tiny fraction of people, the RSPB have found it appropriate to produce an extensive report which effectively condemns the entire gamekeeping community. Mark Thomas, the RSPB head of investigations, claims that: “The figures once more show the horrors of raptor persecution, in connection with gamebird shooting".
This could not happen in any other industry or sector.
Can you imagine a road traffic campaigner attempting to ban the public from driving because every driver is viewed as a drunk driver? Or every teenager in the country deemed responsible for knife crime, because some teenagers were involved in the 11,122 stabbings committed in London last year?
The RSPB imply that persecution is a huge problem. It is abundantly clear it is not, particularly when the impact of bird flu on birds of prey is considered.
So what is really going on here? Why are the RSPB launching an annual attack on the gamekeeping community?
The RSPB is a huge organisation that is heavily dependent on fundraising through grants and public appeals. Clearly the charity believes that if they tell stories that ‘there are bad people out there doing bad things like bird of prey persecution, and only the RSPB can stop them’, that will be a more an effective fundraising technique. Bad news sells.
They are therefore unlikely to point out details like the fact that there are more endangered species thriving on land used for shooting than many of the RSPB reserves. What is more, this private management doesn’t cost the public anything to achieve that. Nor does it depend on inciting hostility across whole communities as a consequence.