Environmentalists are stepping up efforts to outlaw the hunting of endangered and declining birds in Britain.
Tens of thousands of wading birds are legally killed every year in the name of sport – despite the numbers of some species being in freefall.
TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham has created a petition with the aim of springing a parliamentary debate on the subject.
He has been backed by major charities and it is part of a wider campaign to bring the hunting of these animals to an end.
Shooting of the birds is having a serious impact on their population – which is already under pressure due to factors such as habitat loss.
Birds regularly killed in large numbers include woodcock, golden plover and snipe.
British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB data shows a 76% decline in woodcock in the last 25 years.
Although the wintering population is increased by migrants, studies of shot birds report that 17% are from the UK breeding population.
In the same period snipe have declined by a huge 89% and between 1993 and 2013, golden plover decreased by 17% in England and 25% in Scotland.
Packham said: “Continuing to harvest species in such steep decline is perilous and counterproductive to conservation practices.”
His petition calls for a moratorium on shooting so that further scientific studies can be carried out on the population impact of hunting.
The current Tory UK government has shown little appetite for taking action.
Responding to the petition’s launch, a spokesperson said: “It is unlikely that hunting has had a significant impact on recent population trends for woodcock, snipe and golden plover; trends are likely to be influenced more by the quality and extent of habitat.”
However, a parliamentary debate – which will happen if 100,000 people sign the petition - will help keep the debate over the issue in the public eye.
Packham has previously provoked the ire of the hunting industry with his high profile role in the campaign against driven grouse shooting.