It’s a position that might not go down rapturously with the British field sports community at large but I must admit I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for the RSPB.

On Saturday, while I was out shooting snipe over a frosty bog in Dumfries and Galloway, Kevin Cox, the Chair of the Charity’s Council, announced that the charity is set to review its policy on game bird shooting. 

For the past 130 years, the Society has remained neutral when it comes to the sport, but that all looks set to change. 

Almost everybody in the know accepts that the birds the RSPB purport to cherish, like black grouse, curlew and lapwing, depend on land management practices that shooting estates carry out. Frighteningly, however, it has promised its new stance will be informed "by the views of members".


So why do I feel sorry for them? Over the years I have met quite a number of RSPB top brass who behind closed doors, are open-minded thinking people. Last year in Kent, I had a conversation with the former Chair of the Charity’s Council, Professor Ian Newton, about what a terrific sport goose shooting is. 

Some months prior to that, I went for a cup of tea with Mark Thomson, the Head of Investigations at the RSPB. He said to me that regrettably, when he engages with shooting, it is because somebody has done something wrong, often relating to raptor persecution and that he doesn't see the sides of shooting I do. 

In fact, come to think of it, I have never met an RSPB employee who has truly been anti-shooting and I can think of various conservation projects where the charity is working with the shooting community to protect endangered species. 

Some weeks ago, on a soggy autumnal day, I caught the tube to Piccadilly Circus and wandered down to Trafalgar Square to join the Extinction Rebellion. In my pocket, I had a picture of a nightingale, a lapwing and a curlew. Over the course of the afternoon, I asked 101 crusties if they could identify the picture of the nightingale. Just one of them got it right and nine suggested, with stark confidence, that it was a robin redbreast.

It might not be immediately obvious to the man in the pub or the crusty on the wet pavement that shooting is vital for conservation but it’s not all that complicated. The sad truth, however, is that the RSPB are simply too weak to encourage their membership to see the light – after all, think how many direct debits are at stake. 

Perhaps I’m just being sensitive but there’s something pitiful about all those luminaries in RSPB towers who truly know better but are having their bums held over the stove by cat owners from Watford who’ve overdosed on Springwatch. 

Written by Patrick Galbraith - The Telegraph

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