The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the shooting industry is up in arms because the slaughter of wildfowl has been banned on one of the most important wetland sites in the UK – the Humber Estuary, Britain’s second largest coastal plain estuary. Thanks, it seems, to those pesky folk over at Wild Justice who threatened the government with legal action over shooting licences, which in turn has led Natural England to suspend consents in coastal areas and Special Areas of Conservation. And the Humber Estuary (which will be very familiar to birders who’ve ever visited Spurn Bird Observatory) is a very special area indeed: it’s not only designated as a Special Area of Conservation but a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Habitats Regulations and is also considered an internationally important wetland under the Ramsar Convention. Still, how very dare they! Protect wildlife in areas specifically designated to protect wildlife? What is the world coming too…splutters no-one but a ‘wildfowler’ (aka someone who kills waterfowl for fun).
Wildfowling (ie killing wildfowl) has always seemed like one of the more egregious assaults on wildlife. Birds that are already being widely impacted by climate change on their breeding and staging areas, that have seen huge losses of both estuarine and freshwater habitat, are harried by Europe’s so-called ‘hunters’ lining up to shoot them almost every time they land outside a nature reserve. After long migrations they are greeted with volleys of lead shot by people who you can almost hear fondling themselves as they recount their heroic tales of – er, getting up early and getting a bit cold before taking the lives of birds that just seconds before were fantastically alive and dazzlingly beautiful (like the Common Teal in the header image). Trophy hunting is perhaps even more self-congratulatory and indefensible, but the gunning down of wildfowl as you spout off about how much you love the countryside and its wild places while shooting holes in its wildest denizens surely has to run it a close second.
Anyway, back to The Telegraph and the bit you can see without having to subscribe…
Two shoots on the birthplace of wildfowling in Britain have been banned by Natural England.
The Humber Estuary is known as the place where wildfowling first began, and is maintained by gamekeepers who argue the time and money they spend in the area contributes to its upkeep and the survival of endangered wading birds.
Gamekeepers, shooters say, rid the area of nuisance predators which eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds including plovers and curlews, and have historically maintained the estuary to keep its status as a special area for wildlife.
Now, it has become one of the first estates in the country to be refused a consent for shooting due to what shooters call “Natural England red tape”.Daily Telegraph 20 June 2020
While The Telegraph will probably never hold views on huntin’ and shootin’ that anyone here at The War on Wildlife Project would support, we do have to note the enthusiasm with which they’ve managed to cram so many shooting/gamekeeping cliches into so few paragraphs. Killing wildlife supports its conservation? Check. Tradition strangled by red tape? Check. Curlews? Check. Beyond the paywall they even back up their outrage with a quote from someone who warns in presumably doomsday tones of something that most of would gladly see the back of: this could mean the end of wildfowling itself! Wow, ending the massacre of wild ducks and geese – that wouldn’t do at all…
The so-called ‘shooting community’ – which let’s face it is simply a grouping of people who enjoy killing wildlife and who make money from killing wildlife – have said they’ll fight back. Of course they will. You do have to wonder just how many rearguard actions they can fight though: sustained attacks on everything from their use of snares and the General Licences to industrial-level releases of pheasants is taking up an awful lot of their time. And what they are trying to defend is exactly what ever-increasing numbers of people are finding indefensible. Things like killing wildlife for ‘sport’ in protected areas and habitats for instance…
[EDIT 27 June 2020: We received – as expected – a torrent of email abuse from duck killers for this post. While none of them denied that they did indeed kill wildfowl (which would have been hard to do of course) some suggested that we – er, ‘didn’t know what we were talking about’ (we’re paraphrasing) about the use of lead shot as it was ‘banned’ here in the UK. What we wrote is that lead shot is widely used across Europe, which is absolutely correct as this urgent tweet from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust clearly and unequivocally proves:
The tweet links to this page (dated 26 June 2020): Lead shot ban on knife edge]