Scottish Countryside Alliance has been condemned for forwarding an e-mail which urges people to shoot birds of prey.

Tony Andrews sent out a spoof e-mail in the guise of an RSPB leaflet, urging the recipients to kill sparrowhawks, which are a protected species.

He said he received the email from Songbird Survival, but the group has denied any knowledge of it.

The RSPB accused the SCA of condoning a “serious criminal act”.

The e-mail shows a picture of a robin and suggests that to help protect garden birds, sparrowhawks should be shot.

Former alliance member Tom Chalmers, 47, from Paisley, was among those who received it.

Mr Chalmers, who runs a pro-hunting website, said: “I was horrified when I saw it. It was totally out of order and inappropriate, especially as they were using the RSPB logo and putting it across like it was an official document.

“I was also deeply offended. It’s just not funny when someone condones committing a criminal offence, especially as birds of prey are being persecuted in Scotland.

“I go shooting myself, but I am also a conservationist. I’m a supporter of the RSPB and believe the SCA should be working in co-operation with them.”

After contacting the SCA to complain about the e-mail, Mr Chalmers received a response from Mr Andrews.

‘Amusing side’

The e-mail said: “I am surprised you cannot see the amusing side of the e-mail which I sent you, as I did to other people.

“Clearly, if you take offence at such a light-hearted approach to RSPB single species protection policies, you cannot also support the concept of balance in wildlife management, which every country sports organisation in Scotland regards as key to good rural management.”

Mr Andrews added that the control of raptors, including sparrowhawks, was the only way forward to have species diversity in Scotland.

Andy Myles, spokesman for RSPB Scotland, said: “The Scottish Countryside Alliance have always publicly protested that they are opposed to wildlife crime.

“Passing this sad attempt at humour around the internet has all the appearances of condoning a serious criminal act and has a strong whiff of hypocrisy.

“Birds of prey face terrible threats from persecution and the Scottish Parliament have just recently tightened all of the law in this area.”

He added that everyone in Scotland should have the right to see sparrowhawks and other birds of prey as an important part of wildlife.

“There has been a vast amount of coverage of wildlife crime in recent years and the public have been horrified that their wildlife is being slaughtered by self-appointed guarantors of balance in the countryside,” he said.

Mr Andrews told the BBC Scotland news website he received the e-mail from a contact at Songbird Survival Trust.

“It was a spoof e-mail,” he said. “I would never have created such an e-mail myself but thought it was amusing so I sent it out to a number of contacts.”