The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is complacent in awarding pheasant shooting a glowing report card (“Managing pheasants benefits all wildlife” (Friends of The Scotsman, 3 June) .
The history of human releases of non-native species to the environment is a litany of species loss and ecosystem damage.
Yet inspection of the trust’s own National Gamebag Census reveals that the UK leaves the rest of the world trailing in terms of the sheer scale of release of non-native gamebirds.
By 2011, releases topped 50 million annually (around 42 million pheasants and almost 9 million red-legged partridges), with the rate of increase showing no sign of slowing, and largely unfettered by assessment or regulation of the environmental impacts.
The GWCT invites questions about pheasant management at the forthcoming Game Fair.
By far the most important is simply this: “What are the eco-system impacts of the annual release of 50 million non-native gamebirds into the UK environment?” It is urgent that this question reaches the top of the trust’s research agenda, and remains there until answered comprehensively.
In the meantime, sweeping claims for universal benefits of pheasant management are not justified and reflect poorly on an organisation claiming to base its policies and advice on sound evidence.
(Prof) Jeremy Wilson
RSPB Centre for Conservation Science