Thursday, June 27, 2013

Letter to Craig Whittaker

Below is a copy of a letter sent recently to our local MP by Steve Downing, if anyone wishes to add weight to this Mr Whittaker's (and other MPs) contact details can be found at

Dear Mr Whittaker,

The Calderdale Raptor Study Group is a member of the Northern England Raptor Forum [NERF]. The Forum, consisting of ten Raptor Study Groups who collectively monitor birds of prey from Derbyshire to the Scottish border, is a member of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime [PAW].

NERF is also a member of the Defra led Buzzard Stakeholder Group. This Stakeholder Group was charged with assessing the impact that Buzzards, a species fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the UK, have on the commercial pheasant shooting industry. I represent both the Calderdale Raptor Study Group and NERF on the BSG. Throughout the process NERF has always been prepared to accept the outcome of a valid decision making procedure based on scientific evidence and consistent with EU guidance principles for any possible derogation from the full protection of wild birds. In 2012 the Buzzard Stakeholder Group was suspended.

On 30 May 2012 Minister Richard Benyon said "In the light of the public concerns expressed in recent days, I have decided to look at developing new research proposals on buzzards. The success of conservation measures has seen large increases in the numbers of buzzards and other birds of prey over the last two decades. At the same time it is right that we make decisions on the basis of sound evidence and we do need to understand better the whole relationship between raptors, game birds and other livestock. I will collaborate with all the organisations that have an interest in this issue and will bring forward new proposals."

Following an Environmental Information Request [EIR] by the RSPB our members were understandably outraged to learn that Defra had issued licences to destroy buzzard nests and to take buzzards from the wild into captivity. Prior to this decision being taken the Stakeholder Group was not consulted and the assurances given by Mr Benyon in May 2012 were not fulfilled. If the RSPB had not made the EIR our members would have not have been made aware of this irresponsible shift in policy.

On my behalf I would like you to ask Minister Benyon for answers to the following questions:
• why did he allowed these licences to be issued in contradiction of his assurances of 30 May 2012?
• why was the Buzzard Stakeholder Group not re-called and the issues discussed prior to the licences being issued?
• what scientific research was undertaken prior to the decision to issue the licences?
• what legal advice did he, Minister Owen Patterson, and the Defra officials receive prior to issuing these licences?

Furthermore I am seeking assurances from the Minister that he and his Junior Ministers will ensure that Defra Officials will not issue further licences to destroy Buzzards or any other bird of prey prior to undertaking the necessary research that he promised in May 2012.

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