Page last updated at 00:25 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

EU rule change 'threat to birds'

Hen harrier
Landowners lose EU cash if they poison birds such as hen harriers

A key weapon in the fight against wildlife crime could be lost because of changes to European agricultural policy, the RSPB has warned.

Landowners and farmers currently lose EU cash if they use "non-selective" methods of bird population control, such as poisoning.

However, the EU wants to break the link between Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments and wildlife laws.

The RSPB said a change in the rules would be a blow to Scottish wildlife.

The multi-millionaire owner of the Glenogil estate in Angus, John Dodd, recently had a record 107,650 in CAP payments withheld by the Scottish Government after police found poisoned baits and illegal pesticides on the estate in 2006.

Given the importance of our wildlife tourism, the removal of this effective deterrent would be of particular importance in Scotland
Mandy Gloyer
RSPB Scotland
However, the RSPB claimed EU member states are trying to streamline the CAP, pruning parts of the policy thought to be unnecessary or irrelevant, in a so-called "health check".

Cross-compliance - the name given to the links between CAP payments and environmental laws - is under close scrutiny and the European Commission has recommended the link with Article 8 of the Birds Directive, which bans the use of non-selective methods of capture or killing of birds, should be one of those dropped.

The Council of Ministers is to consider the matter this week.

RSPB Scotland called on the Scottish and UK Governments to fight for the link to be retained.

'Illegal pesticides'

Bob Elliot, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: "The loss of this option from cross-compliance would be a blow for wildlife protection in the UK. It is a major deterrent in the armoury of the authorities.

"Deliberate poisoning is a major threat to birds of prey. We had 37 reports confirmed by the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency of raptors being poisoned last year. In Scotland a mixture of illegal pesticides killed a white-tailed eagle found on a Scottish estate this May."

Mandy Gloyer, head of land use policy at RSPB Scotland, said: "All land managers receiving public money must be required to ensure legal requirements are met on their land.

"Over half a billion pounds of taxpayers' money is paid to Scottish land managers every year, and it seems reasonable to ask them to meet their obligations to conservation and obey laws on wildlife crime in return.

"Given the importance of our wildlife tourism, the removal of this effective deterrent would be of particular importance in Scotland."

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