Ecological illiteracy from BASC

An article in this week’s The ENDS Report highlights the ecological illiteracy of the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC).

The ENDS Report article is based around the contents of a BASC blog attributed to BASC’s new Head of Environmental Research, Dr Marnie Lovejoy. It’s apparent from the blog that BASC is pushing for a review of the Habitats Regulations to allow more shooting on protected sites.

The ENDS Report highlights a section of the BASC blog as follows, and then goes on to include Wild Justice’s response to it:

Lovejoy gives the example of curlews being in decline in large part because of increased pressures from generalist predators, such as corvids, writing that “the regulator prefers that precious curlew eggs are being devoured by a rook [rather] than allowing landowners the legal ability to prevent attacks before they happen or to act immediately to shoot or trap rooks as problems arise”.

However, BASC’s position has been slammed by Wild Justice, a campaign group founded by TV presenter Chris Packham, and environmentalists Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay. A spokesperson for the group told ENDS that BASC was “confusing rooks with carrion crows”, adding that “with gross errors like this, BASC show themselves to be ecologically illiterate”.

Continuing, the spokesperson said: “Brexit was the preferred option for many who wanted environmental protection to be weakened. Single issue pressure groups like BASC want conservation to be shot to pieces. You won’t find a real nature conservation organisation in the UK who wants the protection of the Birds and Habitats directives to be dismantled in the way that shooters, grouse moor owners, and some farmers do.”

While rooks do predate curlew eggs in small numbers, they are considered by regulatory bodies and conservation groups to be a significantly smaller threat than carrion crows. 

To read the full article in the ENDS Report click here (but beware, it sits behind a paywall so you’ll need to subscribe to read it).

Here are more comments we made that didn’t make it into the published ENDS Report article. The journalist asked us:

In what exact sense are they confusing rooks and carrion crows – do rooks not eat curlew eggs/predate curlews at all, or just not to the same extent as crows?‘ 

Our response:

‘Hardly at all. The RSPB kills zero Rooks a year to protect waders, they kill scores of Carrion Crows. The Wildlife Trusts kill zero Rooks a year to protect wildlife, they kill some Carrion Crows.

DEFRA does not list Rook on its conservation licence (species that can be killed for conservation purposes)

Natural Resources Wales does not list the Rook on its general conservation licence

NatureScot took Rook off its general licence in 2020

Is it likely that real conservation organisations and the statutory nature conservation agencies for England, Wales and Scotland are wrong whilst BASC is right? With gross errors like this, BASC show themselves to be ecologically illiterate’.