28 May 1999

End of BSTban would hit bird numbers hard, claims RSPCA

LIFTING the EU ban on the milk-boosting hormone bovine somatotrophin could lead to a further decline in the numbers of farmland birds, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds believes.

According to the society, the introduction of BST in the UK would accelerate the trend to larger, more intensively managed dairy units. That could be bad news for birds such as skylarks, lapwings and curlews, which depended on traditional livestock farming to provide the right feeding and nesting conditions.

The EU ban on BST expires on Dec 31 this year. Farm ministers are due to begin discussions in the summer about whether it should be extended. But the RSPB points out that no studies have been done to assess the potential impact on wildlife and the environment of any BST-associated change in farm management practice.

Vicki Swales, RSPB agriculture policy officer, said: "Low intensity dairy farms are good for birds. But if they go out of business and are replaced by intensive agriculture we will see more and more wildlife being marginalised."

She said the introduction of BST could lead to a reduction in rough grazing, more fertiliser being applied to grassland and greater emphasis on silage rather than hay, all of which could spell trouble for birds.

Until there had been a full environmental assessment, the banshould remain, she said. &#42