The scientific data does not support Mark Glover’s assertion that the release of gamebirds results in “environmental devastation” (Slaughter of UK-imported gamebirds carries a hefty price, 22 July).
In support of his argument that the release of pheasants is causing an increase in the fox population, he cites Stephen Harris’ paper for the Labour Animal Welfare Society. Records, however, indicate that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, when releasing was at a low level, the number of foxes climbed tenfold.
Since then, release rates have increased while fox populations have decreased over the same time period, according to data from the British Trust for Ornithology’s mammal monitoring program.
Mr. Glover continues to bemoan the quantity of wheat left out for gamebirds, yet research has shown that songbirds utilize gamebird feeders extensively and depend on them for food over the winter.
One study found that songbirds made about 25% of all animal visits to pheasant feeders, while another found that winter feeding gamebirds can boost nesting numbers of songbirds the following spring.
The abundance of songbirds in crops raised for gamebirds is 100 times greater than that in conventional crops, according to additional research. At the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s demonstration farm in Leicestershire, game management has successfully increased farmland bird abundance to pre-1960s levels while maintaining a profitable conventional farming system.
The impact on UK biodiversity of restricting sustainable gamebird releasing and management would, paradoxically, be much more akin to “environmental carnage” at a time when there is little food or habitat for wildlife in the cultivated environment.
This article by Roger Draycott was first published by The Guardian on 27 July 2022. Lead Image: ‘One study showed that a quarter of all wildlife visits to pheasant feeders were by songbirds.’ Photograph: Neil Walker/Alamy.
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