RE "Birds of prey at risk from gamekeepers'" (Echo, Apr 22). The exploitation of birds of prey for fundraising purposes by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) plumbs new depths.

Recently, it sent a direct mail cash appeal to members, using the supposed plight of these glamorous species as the hook.

It also distributed press releases, embargoed to ensure publication coincided with the direct mail for maximum marketing effect.

This press material, not subject to the same strictures as advertising, contained emotive phrases which The Northern Echo regurgitated.

The facts are: of the UK's 15 species of bird of prey, the populations of 14 are stable or increasing, with most (including the hen harrier) at or near their highest levels in living memory.

Only the abundant kestrel shows signs of decline. The science suggests this is due to changes in lowland agriculture.

Many other species are in serious trouble. Some, including lapwing, curlew and golden plover, are now found nesting in their greatest numbers on grouse moors managed by gamekeepers.

Ponder this - while gamekeepers play a major role in conserving declining species, the RSPB is smearing them with scare stories about birds of prey to fill its coffers.

Alasdair Mitchell, on behalf of the National Gamekeepers' Organisation, Barnard Castle, Co Durham.