There is now little difference between the RSPB and the League Against Cruel Sports
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
The picture above was taken in 2015, and what it shows is fairly obvious. The man on the left is Joe Duckworth, then-CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports. The man on the right is Martin Harper, the Global Conservation Director of the RSPB.
But perhaps more than what the picture shows, the question ought to be: what does this picture mean? In the last couple of years, the RSPB’s stance has become increasingly anti-shooting, and more in accordance with the League Against Cruel Sports and the kind of people who spend their time disrupting shoots and moorland management in the uplands.
People like Luke Steele, the convicted criminal, who we have met many times before in these pages; and who the RSPB’s Jeff Knott is happy to associate with, and be photographed alongside.
Earlier this month, the RSPB released their review of their policy on gamebird shooting – and the outcome came as little to surprise to "anyone who had been watching the Society being manipulated by a clique of anti-shooting activists within its membership over recent years", as the Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner put it.
So what do the RSPB actually stand for? They appear to take glee in publishing reports of raptor crime, rather than working together with organisations such as the GWCT, BASC and moorland-specific organisations to tackle problems such as these – despite there having been a big change in attitude amongst keepers and moorland managers towards birds of prey. They are far more likely to be celebrated and photographed than thought of as pests.
The RSPB have pushed for licensing of grouse moors, and now state that they will push for grouse shooting to be banned unless what they claim to be ‘damaging’ moorland management activities are stopped. This is despite the fact that the science does not agree with the RSPB’s views in the slightest.
That’s not all they want. They are also demanding a decrease in the number of game birds released, which they would like to happen within the next 18 months.
All of this, despite the fact that the RSPB’s royal charter describes game bird shooting as a “legitimate sport”, and they have historically claimed to be neutral on shooting. Of course, this alleged neutrality has been questioned before, such as when RPSB employee Jeff Knott joined Mark Avery in the committee room during the debate on banning grouse shooting – a debate triggered by a petition started by Avery, himself a former RSPB employee.
That was in 2016. Since then, the RSPB’s attitude to shooting has seemingly descended into a hatred, more commonly displayed by the likes of the LACS or Wild Justice. In fact, the organisations are increasingly indistinguishable. Now, they seem to walk hand in hand. It’s no longer surprising to see RSPB top bods allying themselves with animals rights extremists.
The sad thing is that the RSPB – or at least most of their members and employees – want to do the right thing. Many of them understand that moorland management creates a unique environment which provides homes for red and amber listed birds. That the work done to preserve and protect upland areas needs the huge economic boost provided by shooting estates and their owners. That the practice of shooting some birds can be beneficial for others – and, indeed, that eating game birds is more ethical than most chicken in the supermarket.
But the RSPB has been hijacked. Many of its former supporters have turned their back on the charity, saddened by its changing views, and its attitude to the countryside in general. Photographs such as the one above are, sadly, no longer a surprising sight. There is no longer any difference between the RSPB and LACS.