Birds and the
Agriculture Industry

Unlike the shooting industry, intensive farming doesn’t specifically target birds but the enormous land use changes that have taken place since the 1950s have caused many bird populations to crash. The UK has lost an estimated 19 million breeding pairs since widespread monitoring began in the late 1960s, and many of those vanished birds would have previously nested in open countryside – much of which is now intensively farmed and drenched in herbicides and insecticides.

In 2020 the British government reported that 71% of the UK land total was farmed. While woodland species have also been hit by changing land use (and, as many feed on invertebrates, by enormous insect loss too), the British Trust for Ornithology reports that there has been massive loss of open country /farmland specialists: the Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove and Tree Sparrow have all declined by at least 90% since 1970.

Northern Lapwing

The drainage of grasslands and a trend towards spring cutting to make silage (fodder for cattle) which can destroy nests and young chicks has decimated ground-nesting species like the Lapwing (one of the most strongly declining bird species in Europe) and Eurasian Curlew (which has showed a 48% decline across the UK between 1995-2015 with this figure exceeding 50% in Wales and Scotland).

Ironically, some generalists (species that are not specialists and occupy a wide range of habitats) like the Wood Pigeon have taken advantage of year-round food availability on farmland and their populations have increased significantly, leading to ever-louder calls from landowners to be allowed to ‘manage’ (ie kill) them in ever-greater numbers. In fact, the Wood Pigeon is barely protected at all in the UK and can be shot all year round.

How will we end the shooting industry?