Sir, – Mike Luti (The Scottish Farmer's letters age, June 8 edition) touches on two linked subjects which are becoming ever more pressing for a resolution – they are protectionism and predation.

Some farmers have already experienced the devastating effect that protected sea eagles can have on their lamb crop, despite having tried to make their voice heard for more than 20 years. With the recent protection order for beavers, it will probably not be too long before we read of similar unwelcome stories of damage to productive farmland.

Badgers, which are also protected have increased from around 50,000 in 1980 to well over 500,000 in the UK now. These are just some of the protected mammals in the UK. The list for protected birds of prey is even longer.

As Victor Clements pointed out in his letter in the June 1 issue, protection is totally counter-productive. The growing concern that protected birds and mammals are in some cases driving farmland and songbirds to the point of extinction, should surely serve as a wake up call to conservation groups and governments on both sides of the Border to review the protected status of certain animals and birds. Especially in the light of the damage they are inflicting on other vulnerable species.

When the words 'control', 'cull' or 'kill' are mentioned in this debate, they are usually glossed over or ignored altogether. Nobody is advocating wholesale slaughter of any species, but a return to an acceptable balance and a level playing field can only be achieved through the reduction of some species in favour of others which are heading fast for the exit door.

The Soil Association had a day at my farm, Threepwood, last week, to look at integrating wading bird conservation into farming. Waders have been in serious decline for more than 20 years, with curlews down by 60%, lapwings by 50%, and oyster catchers by 40%.

A large part of the reason for this decline is attributed to predation of nests and fledglings. While strenuous efforts are being made by farmers and at last also by some conservation bodies to stem this downward spiral, it can only begin to succeed if predator control plays an acknowledged and accepted part in the conservation of dwindling species.

The fact that this subject is generating so much attention and correspondence in The Scottish Farmer, as well as other publications, must reflect the widespread concern felt for our declining wildlife populations – while their enemies continue to multiply and thrive.

Colin Strang Steel

Trustee SongBird Survival,