On 28 July 2006 the SongBird Survival Trust issued a press release claiming:
The grey squirrel is having a devastating impact on our songbird population. It ranks alongside the domestic and feral cat as the top predator of farmland birds. This is just one of the findings of Professor Roy Brown of Birkbeck, University of London, in a new review carried out for the wildlife charity SongBird Survival.
Many factors have been blamed for the decline in our songbirds in recent years. The debate about raptors has raised the issue of predation but mammal predation had largely been overlooked,” says Professor Brown. The review shows that the true impact of this predation is much worse than expected.
Needless to say the report was lapped up by the pro-killing brigade and the press. On the 7 November 2006 Lord Rotherwick took up the case in the House of Lords asking, “What is their (UK government) response to the finding in the report by the Songbird Survival trust that grey squirrels are one of the main predators of songbirds.”
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): “My Lords, it is not all the fault of squirrels; I would think that pesticides have something to do with this issue. We note the report that the Songbird Survival trust has produced and are grateful for its contribution to the debate. We would encourage the trust to share any unpublished evidence and research with the scientific community. Of the 15 species covered in the report by the trust, only three species were identified as being affected by grey squirrel predation: blackbirds, robins and whitethroats. These results are not consistent with the findings of the repeat woodland bird survey of 2005.”
So much for ‘devastating impact’!