2008-01-14 08:49:36 UTC
The RSPB has brushed off criticism for allowing wildfowlers to shoot
birds on a nature reserve.
The bird conservation organisation issues licenses to hunters who are
allowed to shoot up the 10 birds per day.
Critics say the RSPB, which has 1m members, shouldn't allow hunting on
its reserve at Langstone Harbour near Portsmouth in Hants where
thousands of migrating Arctic birds, including ducks and geese, spend
Barry Hugill, from the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "I find it
exceedingly distasteful. It's a wildlife sanctuary.
"How on earth can it be a sanctuary if someone is going to come and
kill the birds that are resident there simply because they enjoy
"I think it's scandalous and I do hope the RSPB will reconsider their
Keen birdwatcher and conservationist Robert Hill, was horrified when
he discovered a dead widgeon covered in pellet wounds at Langstone.
Mr Hill, 43, of Waterlooville, Hants, said: "I don't think it's
acceptable. It's a blood sport.
"I can't see any justification for it. It's a macho, egotistical, self
gratifying act and I think it's disgusting. No-one owns wildlife.
These poor animals come in for sanctuary and end up getting blown out
of the air."
Local wildfowling group, the Langstone & District Wildfowlers &
Conservation Association, has had shooting rights on the land since
1979 and wildfowling has taken place in the harbour since the 1600s.
They are allowed to shoot between September and January on two of five
islands in Langstone Harbour, which can be reached by walking across
the mudflats, and on saltmarshes at the northeast of Farlington
At the end of each month they have to report every bird shot to the
RSPB so bird levels can be monitored.
They must not shoot more than 10 birds each in one day, but in reality
the club's members say they have only killed a handful of birds
between them since September.
Chris Cockburn, RSPB warden for Langstone harbour, said: "If
wildfowling was banned the only way we could make it work would be by
"The reality is that would be very difficult whereas by licensing it
we are effectively controlling the amount of shooting that can occur.
"At the moment the controls in place are pretty stringent. The
alternative to the situation we have is grim. Poaching would be
disastrous for the harbour. It would be disastrous for the bird
He said one of the rules is that wildfowlers must always have a dog
with them, which would usually collect up any dead birds.
He added: "The RSPB does not have any axe to grind against any sport
unless it affects the conservation issues and then we would be very
much against it."
Nick Horten, from the wildfowlers association, said the group carries
out huge amounts of conservation work in the area and is extremely
careful about the types of birds they shoot.
All members are vetted by the police and must train for a year before
they are allowed to shoot alone.
He said: "We have been a tenant of the RSPB which is the foremost bird
conservation group for 30 years and if they had the slightest concern
about the way we conduct ourselves they would have thrown us off years