Green MEP joins TV naturalist to raise alarm over bird population decline

Keith Taylor, MEP for the South East and the Green Party’s Animals Spokesperson, joined TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham at an event in the European Parliament on Thursday, 22 March to voice alarm over the “catastrophic” collapse of bird populations across Europe.

The event, hosted by BirdLife Malta, came just a day after the results of a French study revealed intensive farming and pesticides were responsible for bird populations in the country falling by a third in just fifteen years.

In the UK, there has been a 55% decline in farmland bird populations since the 1970s, according to the latest available figures. One of the worst affected birds, the Turtle Dove, has seen population numbers drop by a staggering 93% since 1994.

At the event, which also focused on the campaign for the Maltese government to outlaw the spring hunt on the small Mediterranean island which targets migrating bird species such as the critically endangered Turtle Dove, Keith Taylor MEP, Vice President of the European Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup, said:

“Birds are the pulse of the natural world, that their populations are flatlining is a national and international crisis. It is a disgrace that numbers continue to decline, more than 60 years after the crisis started, and more than 25 years after political leaders became aware of it.”

“Hunting birds that are already critically endangered is abhorrent and ecologically illiterate; Malta must put an end to this senseless slaughter. I’m delighted to join Chris Packham at the forefront of the campaign calling on the EU to ensure the Maltese government does just that. For too long has the Commission granted the country exemptions from the EU’s vital birds and habitats laws.”

“Ultimately, though, hunting, as repulsive as it most definitely is, isn’t the only or even the major threat to fragile bird populations. The decimation of foodchains and habitats owing to intensive farming and the ever increasing use of toxic pesticides will continue to push more and more species into a catastrophic tailspin. The latest study may have focused on France, but the problem is widespread.”

“In Britain, intensive farming and pesticide use has been the main driver of a 55% collapse in farmland bird populations since the 1970s. At the same time, 8% of all of Britain’s 234 regularly occurring birds are ‘critically endangered’.”

“Britain must urgently rethink, reduce, and, ultimately, eliminate the use of biodiversity-destructive pesticides and completely overhaul a farming industry that prioritises giant agribusinesses and intensive farming over small-scale sustainable and organic farming practices.”