Banning sustainable gamebird releasing and management in the UK would harm biodiversity, says Roger Draycott
Mark Glover’s view that gamebird releasing causes “environmental carnage” (Slaughter of UK’s imported gamebirds carries a heavy price, 22 July) is not supported by the scientific evidence. He cites Stephen Harris’s report for the Labour Animal Welfare Society as proof that the release of pheasants is fuelling an increase in the fox population. However, records suggest the number of foxes increased threefold during the 1970s and 1980s, when releasing was at a low level. Since then, releasing has maintained an upward trajectory, whereas over the same period, according to the British Trust for Ornithology’s mammal monitoring records, foxes have declined.
Mr Glover goes on to complain about the amount of wheat put out for gamebirds, but scientific studies show that songbirds make significant use of gamebird feeders, helping to sustain them through the winter months. One study showed that a quarter of all wildlife visits to pheasant feeders were by songbirds and another showed that winter feeding gamebirds can increase songbird breeding densities the following spring. Further research has shown that 100 times more songbirds are found in crops grown for gamebirds than in conventional crops, and at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s demonstration farm in Leicestershire, game management has restored farmland bird abundance to pre-1960s levels alongside a profitable conventional farming system.