POLL: Should shooting clubs be allowed to shoot endangered birds?

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Welsh populations of have declined by 80% in 30 years yet the British Association for Shooting and Conservation has them in its sights.

Tide ebbs from Traeth Bach. The estuary gathers light, resolves into a pattern of interlocking curves, gleaming channels, draining sand.

I walked this place daily years ago, far out by shifting submarine sandbars. In winter it teemed with huge flocks, thousands-strong, of , teal, . Scurrying animated the tideline.

European Golden Plover, Pluvialis apricaria – photo by Pétur Bjarni Gíslason

Wheeling clouds of curlews descanted above; there were golden plovers in their winter retreat; great crested grebes, great northern and red-throated divers. I came across the corpse of a red-throat once, cast aside on the saltings by Abergafren, its throat blown away by some wildfowler. That winter I’d often been within feet of this gorgeous bird. Its death felt like a bereavement.

Red-throated divers Gavia stellata. Photograph: Iain Lowson Wildlife/Alamy

In this present twilight? A couple of , a dozen curlew, a single . The sense of desertion, of emptiness was overpowering. Around the time of the red-throat’s killing, a local shooting club secured leases from the crown estate to this foreshore. These were later extended right round Morfa Harlech national nature reserve. (Birds, I take it, are not aware of human territorial distinctions.) Notices advertise the availability of day-shooting permits.

My subjective impression of declining bird numbers at Traeth Bach since organised shooting began is supported by statistical evidence. Mick Green of Ecology Matters notes that Welsh populations of golden plover – one of our most beautiful hill and coastal birds – have declined by more than 80% in 30 years. They are on the red list for in . Yet countrywide the British Association for Shooting and Conservation in alliance with local shooting clubs is seeking further foreshore leases with these birds on their quarry-lists. There’s a disturbing lack of transparency in the granting of leases. The secretary to the body that advises the crown estate is a paid officer of the BASC.

The BASC lease applications list target species – golden plover among them – that are red-list-endangered in Wales. The crown estate website insists on preservation of refuge areas to which these species may fly to escape the shooters. When shooters are active at Traeth Bach, birds fly across the sands to Aberdwyfor – where a BASC lease-application is currently under consideration. Will the crown estate deprive them of this place of safety? Surely it’s time for a moratorium on all shooting of red- and amber-list species in the UK? As I muse on that at dusk by Traeth Bach a pair of little egrets – once shot to extinction in Britain, now coming back – drift past like a glimmer of purity in the gloom.

We invite you to vote whether shooting clubs in the UK should be allowed to shoot endangered birds? Even if you’re not from the UK, please vote and also leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should shooting clubs be allowed to shoot endangered birds?

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This article was written by Jim Perrin for the Guardian.

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Neil Baker

the level of indifference in these people is simply scary, it should be against the law FULL STOP.

Leigh Lofgren

horrific and another practice that must be stopped. What is wrong with you people who allow this?

Colin Kollin
Colin Kollin

These birds bring enjoyment to people and should be able to live undisturbed from thugs with guns who inflict untold misery upon these innocent animals.


More control freak politics…Nigel Farage for PM.

John Whitby

What is it about the human race, that some people do all they can to protect our beautiful wildlife, whilst others take great pleasure in blasting it to bits. I'm not a vegetarian, but I have no desire to eat the wildfowl that enhance the beauty of Britain's waterways and foreshores, and especially those endangered species that many of us will rarely or even never get to see. As for shooting, well if it's sport you want, go clay shooting, or target shooting where you just have one bullet to get as close to the 'bull' as possible, rather than… Read more »

Valerie Annette Powell
Valerie Annette Powell

Truly terrible. This has shocked me,

Timothy Barksdale
Timothy Barksdale

Actually quite appalling. I'm really shocked that Scotland is killing Golden Eagles and Peregrines, whilst Wales is shooting European Golden Plovers. I'd really thought of England as a peaceful place. No guns. Turns out it is not much better than TEXAS North.
I hope to be at Wildscreen this October and will discuss this with wildlife film-making colleagues. What does Sir David think about all this?

Iain Gibson

As birdwatchers we're encouraged to follow the Birdwatchers' Code of Conduct, which includes the principle that the welfare of the bird is paramount, yet thugs of both educated and uneducated varieties can go out with their weaponry and blast away to their hearts' content! The disturbance alone caused by this activity can be enormous, especially when shorebirds are struggling to exist in winter. The RSPB has never been opposed to shooting in principle (their Royal Charter prevents them from expressing an opinion), but at least in my younger days there was an understanding that education should encourage peaceful study and… Read more »

Ken Billington

Incredible at may seem but this is really happening in the UK! Shooting clubs can apply for and are often granted licenses to shoot such birds on private estates. e.g. The Crown Estate belonging to the Royal Family! Do you think this should be allowed to happen in the 21st century?

Minna Lindroth
Minna Lindroth

Fancy having to pose this question in the first place…