A Disgraceful Decision by Natural England

This week, in an incomprehensible show of ignorance, Natural England granted a licence for a Northumbrian gamekeeper to lethally control “up to 10 Buzzards” to protect non-native pheasant poults.  This appalling announcement comes less than a year after the High Court ruled that Natural England was “wrong” to deny keeper Richard McMorn a license to kill Buzzards, which they have now on five separate occasions. The decision has, rightfully, angered many, if the social media storm that proceeded the announcement is anything to go by, but was surely welcomed by Mr McMorn, who has repeated claimed that Buzzards are rendering his business “unviable” through repeated predation of young pheasants.

According to Natural England, the licenses issued are time-restricted and strictly controlled. They also stipulate that the license is to be used in unison with non-lethal measures and that only Buzzards in the direct vicinity of pheasant pens may be controlled. Presumably through shooting? Does this matter? No, of course not. And all of this has come as little consolation to nature lovers who feel that by allowing such actions, that Natural England are making a mockery of the protective legislation that safeguards our raptors. Buzzards themselves, despite being reasonable common at present, still only consolidating their expansion following their near extinction mere decades before. You guessed it, as a result of persecution.

The RSPB have voiced their disapproval at the decision (see Martin Harper’s Blog) stating plainly that “the killing of a recovering British bird of prey to protect an introduced gamebird for the benefit of commercial interest is wrong“, while elsewhere the move has been heavily condemned by Chris Packham, Domonic Dyer and other notable commentators. Each of whom appears as staggered as I am at NE’s breathtaking disregard for the buzzards protected status, opting to effectively legalise the persecution of a recovering raptor to protect a non-native and damaging species. Forty-five million of which are released each year in to the UK to the detriment of reptile and amphibian populations. And possibly, to a host of other, under-researched side effects.

Personally, I feel that this decision makes a mockery of Natural Englands’s claim that they are working towards “securing a healthy natural environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England’s landscapes are safeguarded for future generations“. It shows a monumental disregard for the hard work of conservationists and the laws that were able to reverse the buzzards fortunes and sets a VERY dangerous precedent for how we deal with predatory species in the future. Will they grant licenses for the control of Ospreys to protect fish stocks when their population reaches a “problematic” (or natural) level.. Will they sanction the death of Hen Harriers to protect grouse shooting interests? I do hope not and sincerely hope they take heed of the current outcry and reverse their decision. As they have done in the past. And may well do again, if we act, now…

Some people will say that in writing this, I am confirming my status as an “anti”, though this is not the case. I have engaged positively with gamekeepers in the past and have worked alongside a number of them, and as such, try my best not to generalise. This said, McMorn’s persistent war on buzzards is nothing short of infuriating when you take into consideration that the pheasants in question are kept in open-air pens. Without a roof – a relatively cheap alternative to slaughter that would meet commercial needs, and protect said raptors. Would it not make sense to at least attempt to take “good care” of your birds – if you feel that good care involves raising them to be shot – before pointing the finger at predators. Natural England have claimed that “all alternatives” have been explored prior to their decision  though I cannot help but feel disillusioned at this. Shooting should never be the go-to option and common sense dictates that there must be another way to protect your stock.

Right now a million questions relating to the subject are floating around in my head, the most persistent of which being “what does a few buzzard-related fatalities matter in the grand scheme of things. Especially as many of your pheasants will be killed by traffic anyways”. I am going to try to do something a little proactive with my frustration in this instance and write to both Natural England and Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom. If only to vent and express my complete and utter disgust at the matter. If you wish to do the same, here are the relevant email addresses:

  wildlife@naturalengland.org.uk                                 andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk




  1. lesley says:

    This has to be one of the most sickening….disgusting….barbaric….saddest things I think ive ever seen.

    1. Mason jones says:

      You obviously haven’t walked through a pheasant pen after a buzzard has wreaked havoc,they are worse than a fox in terms of indiscriminate killing ,this is absolutely the correct decision from ne

      1. Rob Hields says:

        The birds you cultivate to shoot are not natives of the U.K. They are also stupid. I suggest that you take a good look at yourself in reflection of your comments.

      2. Pete says:

        So by your logic anyone who has a commercial problem should use lethal force to fix it. If your business isn’t viable, then like any other business, it’s time to get a new job.

  2. This reinforces the belief of many in this country that bloodsport supporters have massive influence and organisations such as ‘ Natural? England’ support the barbarity. It’s like having hunters such as the Royal’s as spokespersons for the RSPCA or the WWF.Ooops! They have!

    1. Matt says:

      Of course they do. Because they’re the only ones paying to be in the country side, and have done for centuries. All other activities are expected to be free of charge. I’m a hiker and climber, and grumble at paying a.few quid for parking, where as some pay hundreds or thousands a day to be outside with a gun over there arm. Money talks.

  3. Mac McQuinn says:

    OI..Natural England…What planet are you on???? You are destroying Buzzards to protect FOREIGN pheasants. You are an absolute disgrace. You are no better than these hunters that kill harmless animals for fun. YOU MAKE ME SICK. Natural England?? YOU are all off your trolleys. You wanted to breed buzzards…now you licence farmers to KILL them. Avaunt! and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee! Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold.

  4. No more support from me for Natural England .

    1. Peter M says:

      They do not have a choice – their political masters have removed all trace of independence and sacked huge numbers of the experts (800 jobs went, out of about 30000 in the Osborne cuts five years ago).

  5. Eddie Blake says:

    Can’t imagine writing to Leadsome will get you anywhere, she’s pro-fox hunting isn’t she? How she landed that job I’ll never know.

  6. Keefyboy says:

    Typical, we must support the rich in their persute of pleasure. We kill native animals so these scum can make a profit. Shame on you ‘natural’ England.

  7. If young pheasants are classed as livestock & should be reared in enclosures with netting over the top to prevent aerial predation, then why the need to kill buzzards?
    If adult pheasants, when released from the rearing enclosures, are classed as wildlife, then why kill buzzards for predating wildlife?
    Something smells a bit fishy here!

    1. James Common says:

      Couldn’t agree more Steve! Would not be overly difficult for the man to protect his “livestock” with a mesh roof. Seems like that was not even considered!

  8. Alexa Hollis says:

    This is terrible!!

  9. Louise Pollard says:

    Disgusting behaviour by sick individuals. I hope karma exists for them. Pure and utter ignorant, uneducated scumbags!

  10. Bernard says:

    The High Court have in effect told Natural England they cannot refuse the licence support Natural England to change the law

  11. Mark Piddington says:

    Once again, the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable!

  12. Andrew Roberts says:

    what a bastard sick joke by people who should be acting as custodians of our precious wildlife.

  13. ljaynature says:

    looks like this is the same game keeper as last time were the courts ruled in his favour. What a sicko!

  14. Kiters says:

    This a bad move by Natural England, they should be ashamed
    sea gulls next?

  15. Peter M says:

    “in an incomprehensible show of ignorance, Natural England granted a licence ” It is in no way incomprehensible: Natural England was formed to be the independent advisor to the government on ecology, landscape and some elements of the historic environment. As soon as the Tories came to power the organisation was told, in no uncertain terms, that they were there to do as they were told, if DEFRA wanted their advice they would ask for it, and the staff was cut by 800 (equating to the equivalent of several thousand years of cumulative experience in the areas of interest). This is political, pure and simple, the Tories are on the side of the wealthy, the landowning classes and the people who will pay huge sums to go out and shoot grouse, pheasants and other game.

  16. Thanks for writing this post about this awful decision.

  17. Maurean hoyle says:

    Nature balances itself without Mans interference. Stop pesticides etc as well as guns and give nature a chance?

  18. Mary Ball says:

    An appalling outcome. Should not be allowed to happen. Totally unjustifiable to anyone with a clear head.

  19. Nick Smith says:

    What a uncaring, unfeeling decision.
    Natural England should hang its head in shame.

  20. smittyknits says:

    A horrible decision, which reinforces the belief that those with money are protected by our present government, come on Theresa May put a stop to this now, how can it be right to kill our wildlife to protect the profits of those who care so little for our countryside and are happy to see our animals destroyed.

  21. Helen Reid says:

    I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in any politician……. Most haven’t a clue about anything. Bunch of arse lickers who haven’t the guts to stand up against those clowns who only look out for themselves and as a result in this case wildlife will suffer….

  22. Joe Heritage says:

    I wonder if their is some connection between NE and the farmer? Does he have some dirt on somebody or is he having an affair with one of them? NE need to change their name to Naturally We Support The Persecution Of Native Raptors of England, particularly if we are funded by wealthy farmers.

  23. Joe Fogey says:

    It looks as if the High Court may have left NE with little choice. There is an on-line petition:


    which doesn’t seem to be getting enough support.

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