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The very worst kind of conservation

15/02/2011 08:43:34

Why not distribute free cats to everyone in Britain in the hope that they stamp on the menace that is songbirds?

Kill crows to save songbirds? Ridiculous. By Powell Ettinger

February 2011. A charity called Songbird Survival (SS) has launched an appeal for £88,000 that will ‘examine the impact of corvid removal on farmland songbird productivity.' In other words, they apparently want to kill as many corvids as possible in the hope that this will boost songbird numbers.

SS claim that a healthy increase in corvid numbers in the last 40 years may be responsible for the drop in farmland songbird numbers. No matter that these corvids are native species that were heavily prosecuted by gamekeepers until WWII. Once that prosecution eased, their numbers started to grow again, and so the stats show that they have increased in number in the last 40 years. Native species will find their natural balance naturally given the chance; the clue is in the wording.

Should we cull songbirds to save our hard-pressed

How is this wildlife conservation?
It must be noted that this disgusting research project (On a par with Japanese ‘research into whale populations'.) will be carried out by the ‘Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust' who seem to be following the American model, where ‘Wildlife Service' seems to mean that they encourage as much killing of wildlife as possible. There is a clue in the ‘research flyer' put out by SS that states ‘predation has already been proved to have a serious effect on upland ground nesting birds', or grouse as many of us would call them.

SS trustees

The list of SS trustees makes interesting reading, they mostly seem to be large landowners and several have shooting interests. They do seem an unlikely group to be spearheading conservation of songbirds.

  • Lord Coke - Of Norfolk's famous Holkham Estate whose website states - The Estate employs a team of nine gamekeepers and a deerkeeper dedicated to wild game, conservation and countryside management. A predator control programme is exercised within the law, which gives all ground nesting birds and mammals, such as hares and water voles, a better chance of survival.
  • Mr Clive Patrick Sherwood, 
  • Mr Fred Valentine Ingrams, 
  • Mr John Richard Pugh,
  • Lord Michael Richard Hope - 5th Baron Rankeillour
  • Mr Robert John Middleditch, 
  • Mr David Griffith, 
  • Mr Nick Forde - Brother of Lady Leicester, whose husband owns Holkham Estate
  • Lord John Haddington, - Scottish landowner
  • Mr Hugh Van Cutsem - According to the BBC - Hugh van Cutsem is a farmer, conservationist and pro-hunt campaigner from Hilborough, Norfolk.
  • Mr Colin Strang Steel - Scottish landowner
Read more about the SS links to the shooting industry here

£88,000 waste - Then what?
In these austere times, it beggars belief that a so called conservation charity is happy to spend this amount of money on such a project. And why is SS asking the public to provide this cash? It has roughly that amount in savings according to its last published results, and a quick look at SS trustees (see below) suggests that they are not scratching around for a few bob themselves.

And what if, disgracefully, SS does manage to raise the money and show that by removing corvids, songbird numbers increase? Are they then going to ask for millions to eradicate corvids? Where does this research lead whatever the conclusion that it comes to? Is there no better use in this world for £88,000 than to kill a few magpies? And once the crows have been killed, how long before they will come back? Will SS find money every year to keep the ravens away? What a ridiculous and frightening waste - They should have their charitable status withdrawn.

Butterfly Conservation
If you follow the same logic, British butterfly numbers have dropped markedly in the last 50 years, we should be culling all those nasty songbirds that eat the poor little caterpillars. 

Corvid Survival
Let's start a new conservation charity, called Corvid Survival. We can use the same figures to show that as songbird numbers decline, corvid numbers increase, so we shall distribute free cats to everyone in Britain in the hope that they stamp on the menace that is songbirds - It would save butterflies too.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Crazy corvid cull

This is so wrong. The simple fact that corvids are doing well from our wasteful society does not mean that they can be made scapegoats for a decline in songbirds. It is clear to anyone with half a brain that it is the decline in habitat, the ridicules population density of urban cats with irresponsible owners and introduced species such as rats that are mostly to blame.

Posted by: George | 02 Jul 2012 20:18:47

The decimation of songbirds.

I was told by a man that when he was a boy in the Lake district just before the first world war, his dad took him to the end of his village to show him a bird that he had not seen before, it was a Magpie.The Magpie and Carrion Crow is not a great environmental success it is a disaster that only humans can do anything about.

Posted by: Gerald Wright | 10 Feb 2012 20:08:23

sympathy for what?

its reassuring that some of my species (homo sapiens) are conservation minded and see a need to help protect the more vulnerable occupants of our global environs,nature is as diverse and savage as man is conceited,a kingfisher is awesome,,unless your a minnow,bats are brilliant ,but not to a moth,evry living thing is either predatory or lives in symbiosis,evolution ,survival and reproduction are powerful forces of nature ,and if you look close enough ,long enough you can see a bit of velociraptor in the behaviour of the most unlikely creatures ,you try jumping the queue at macdonalds ,,though personally i wouldn`t kill for a junkburger ,i wonder what cows and sheep and chickens see us humans like ,a bunch of zombie flesh eating hypocrites ,,???or saviours of the planet.

Posted by: william hill | 28 Aug 2011 23:08:57

They geniration of conservationist ( hunters) here to play.

They geniration of conservationist ( hunters) here to play. Thats what it sounds to me. more and more killing advocates are using the term " conservation" as way to kill animals for their pleasures. Its like the article says its similar to the jap whale population reserch". How did all this start?

Posted by: Ali | 12 Jul 2011 11:08:31

hedge cutting

I have heard comments from a couple of farmers who feel there may be a link with the switch to three- year hedge cutting - the long growth opens up the hedge and allows access and easier predation from corvids. They feel the annual hedge cut kept the hedges tighter, but this reduces winter food, so perhaps 2 years is best? Or on a rotation.

To appreciate corvids, it's worth watching Betty the crow, not just using tools, but adapting them.

Posted by: Alison Walling | 24 May 2011 09:21:19

Song Bird Survival trustee's head gamekeeper charged


So much for concern about wildlife.

Posted by: John Showers | 20 May 2011 12:47:22


have read the bit about the trustees. sick old bunch aren't they.

Posted by: robert piller | 27 Mar 2011 10:27:51

song bird killings.

the initials SS. brings on some shudders for a good many.

Posted by: robert piller | 27 Mar 2011 10:21:50

Corvids not to blame

If you really want to see a boost to the songbird numbers in the UK, try stopping the Maltese, Cypriots and Italians instead of the corvids. The EU really needs to address the slaughter of millions of birds by these gun-toting southern Europeans on the twice yearly migrations.

Posted by: | 27 Feb 2011 07:00:08

Predator Control

Taken to its ultimate conclusion, this would lead to "culling" (a polite term to mean destroying) the SS itself (now where have I seen those initials before?) as the ultimate predator. What about all those that have destroyed huge lengths of hedgerows in the name of efficient agriculture, hedgerows in which used to nest songbirds, safe from the 'murderous corvids'. What right have we humans (some more than others) to decide which parts of nature are more deserving than others to live?

Posted by: | 27 Feb 2011 07:00:51

Birds of Prey

A few years ago I saw a car sticker on a car in my works car park. It said SOS with save our song birds underneath. Thinking this was a credible organisation I searched for them on line, I was shocked to find their policy to save songbirds was to reduce numbers of birds of prey. Naturally I was confused about their credentials towards conservation and did further research. It did not take me long to find that the charity only had the shooting fraternities best interests at heart and it was obvious they were looking to eradicate birds of prey in order to run their shoots. Sadly they have reared their ugly heads again, thank goodness there are enough decent people around to see straight through their barbaric policies.

Posted by: Martin Dewhirst | 18 Feb 2011 17:35:21

once again small minded thinking "song bird in decline, I know lets kill corvids that will increase the songbird numbers" without looking at the bigger picture I:E habitat destruction the
widespread use of insecticides. predator and prey relationships are always in balance. if prey numbers plumit so do the numbers of predators that feed on them and vise versa, so I dont understand how these so called conservationists waste £88.000 on such a ludicrous project while other more worthwhile projects are crying out for money

Posted by: david williams | 18 Feb 2011 16:04:25

Posted by: Derek Moore | 18 Feb 2011 14:15:22

Songbird Survival Dishonesty

It's the dishonesty I cannot stand. These dreadful people purport to be conservationists protecting "songbirds" when their true objective is killing corvids without scientific evidence in their favour and will not stop until our precious birds of prey have their protection removed.

Their interest in life is shooting and they greedily want every released pheasant etc for their own without competition.

They recently paid for research with the BTO to prove that predators reduced the number of smaller birds. When the research did not give them the answers they wanted they ignored that research.

As you can see from the Trustees these are people used to getting their way and something like facts will not get in their way.

I am glad that at last someone is outing these idiots.

Posted by: Derek Moore | 18 Feb 2011 14:15:06


The B.T.O distributes leaflets to inform on ways to reduce the impact of Cat and Sparrow hawk predation on garden birds. According to the same B.T.O information this amounts to 275 million animals of which 55 million are birds.

Indeed cats being our pets, we all tend to close an eye or probably both when faced with a problem we all know is real and most ignore any preventative measures that could lessen the likelihood of a kill.

However several seem to condemn who seems more realistic in proposing means to effectively control what in all reality is a threat to our breeding birds.

Proposing the control of corvid numbers can only have a beneficial effect on breeding birds. It is only die hard fools that see no further then the tip of their nose that would oppose such measures. Such fools and other purists that believe everything is born or cultivated in plastic bags seem to know no better other then to blabber the usual nonsense.

Considering we would do all we can to rid ourselves of rats, mice, midges, fleas, flies and other nuisances what makes us any different from those that want to control corvid numbers?

Posted by: MARKMB | 18 Feb 2011 14:02:01


Yes, the culling mania is widespread and growing. It does seem to be, unfortunately, especially prevalent among bird lovers (I am one) some of whom want to eliminate cats and other efficient predators, even while they increase song-bird populations above their natural carrying capacities by feeding them in cities and suburbs. Mad and sad.

Posted by: Sidney Holt | 18 Feb 2011 13:16:48

Peter McCarthy

Unfortunately it's all part of a 'culling' trend which seems to be growing in the UK, of which stories like the buzzard killing red squirrels are designed to make it more acceptable. On the issue of Songbird Survival, Animal Aid's research into their trustees has been published recently <a href=" target="_blank"></a> If anyone has not seen the video of Roddle Little and Nick Forde of Songbird Survival it's well worth the £1 to see it on the Sunday Times website.

Posted by: | 16 Feb 2011 08:43:31

kill the crows.

they're perfectly good native species, they, along with wood pigeons, another species they love to gun down, have every right to be here. i personally feed them in my garden every morning; i think they're great characters.

Posted by: robert piller | 15 Feb 2011 17:21:05


Thank you for exposing this dangerous nonsense.

Take this related story, Buzzards are eating Isle of Wight’s red squirrels, which could be quite alarming for the prospect of the nations squirrel nutkins until you see that the story is on the ShootingUK website

As always, the subtext is about threats to the game shooting industry for wild nature. Predator control programs are a DESPICABLE blight made worse by the complicit support from the conservation industry. They all have blood on their hands.

Posted by: Mark Fisher | 15 Feb 2011 09:36:38

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