Abernethy is a good example of predator control

From Mr Martin Harper.

Sir, Max Hastings has had an impressive career as a journalist and author, so it was disappointing that his column “Giving badgers the bullet is ‘a very bold course, minister’ ” (July 30) was so poorly researched.

In his article, which begins with a discussion of badger culling, before moving on to cormorants, cats and birds of prey, he asserts that “society should demand ... a respect for science and objective evidence”. I agree with this, but think it’s a pity that Sir Max does not practise what he preaches.

He says that Songbird Survival’s campaign to limit predation is “offering scientific evidence of its impact to which the RSPB has no credible answers”. On the contrary, there is very little evidence to show an impact of predation on songbirds. Even Songbird Survival’s own study last year, carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology and one of the largest ever conducted, concluded as much. And I am curious about his claim that we have no credible answers when, as far as I’m aware, he hasn’t asked us to provide any. Doubly curious, when you consider that he had ample opportunity to do so at last weekend’s CLA Game Fair.

He also argues that we are driven by “members’ whims rather than by science”. He cites the Capercaillie conservation programme at our Abernethy reserve as an example by way of an unattributed and paraphrased comment from a former director regarding our predator control policy there. To be clear, we do sometimes control predators on our reserves, where conservation objectives require it and where other methods are known to be ineffective. Contrary to Sir Max’s suggestion, Abernethy is a good example of a reserve where predator control is carried out – precisely because the scientific evidence supports it.

Martin Harper,

Conservation Director,

RSPB,

Sandy, Beds, UK

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