The RSPB has launched a confidential ‘Raptor Crime Hotline’, specifically linking grouse shooting to raptor crimes in doing so.
Aiming to help whistle-blowers within the countryside sports industries to come forward with information about illegal raptor killing, the organisation has launched its phone service reminiscent of the much-maligned Crimestoppers line for firearms offences, dubbed the ‘shop a shooter’ hotline before being shelved.
The RPSB’s senior investigations officer, Guy Shorrock said: “Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to enjoy watching birds of prey but has serious consequences for their populations. We are sure there are people within rural communities who know who is committing these crimes but are cautious about speaking out. This 24-hour hotline provides a completely safe and confidential way to pass on that information – calls are not recorded and are treated in the utmost confidence.”
And he specifically namechecked the shooting industry, saying he had spoken to gamekeepers who were required to carry out illegal killings as part of their job and asking shooting organisations to put the hotline number on their websites and encourage members to come forward with tips.
This is the latest development in an turbulent relationship between the shooting industry and the RSPB, which withdrew from the multi-party six-point plan for hen harrier conservation over a dispute over brood management.
Shooting organisations have repeatedly expressed their frustrations that the RSPB chooses to “focus almost entirely on allegations against gamekeepers” in its campaigning, and called for more recognition of the conservation work carried out by shooters.
The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner said: “The recent Birdlife International report into the illegal killing of birds, to which the RSPB was a contributor, showed the UK to have some of the lowest levels of bird crime in Europe.
“We are living through the death of an old rural culture, amongst farmers, gamekeepers and others, that saw killing birds of prey as normal. We must not allow a narrative to develop which suggests that this cultural shift has been driven by anything other than long term change in our own community.”