After two months, during which time more than 4,000 comments were received, Defra has today issued three new pest control licences – allowing the shooting of species deemed to be a real hazard to rural life.
The move, which will be seen by many as a U-turn on initial action taken by Natural England back in April, comes after a ‘call for evidence’ when Defra asked for peoples’ views on the revocation of licences GL04, 05 and 06. That initial revocation followed a legal challenge, made by BBC presenter Chris Packham’s campaign group Wild Justice and subsequent legal advice, which concluded that the three licences were unlawful.
The call for evidence, which finished in mid-May, saw individuals and groups report crow attacks on lambs and ewes during lambing, the risk of predation for eggs and fledglings of birds of conservation concern, and public health issues caused by pigeons in urban areas.
As a result, these new licences will allow users to control certain species of wild birds in order to:
General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve wild birds and flora or fauna (GL34) Species covered: Carrion Crow, jackdaw, jay, magpie, rook, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, monk parakeet, ring-necked parakeet, sacred ibis and Indian house-crow;
General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety (GL35) Species covered: Carrion crow, jackdaw, magpie, feral pigeon, rook, Canada goose and monk parakeet;
General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters (GL36) Species covered: Carrion crow, jackdaw, magpie, feral pigeon, rook, woodpigeon, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, monk parakeet and ring-necked parakeet.
Having also sought the views of user groups on the usability of different potential licensing options, the three new general licences seek to protect wild birds whilst recognising the legitimate needs of people and other wildlife, say Defra. At this stage, they are valid until February 29 next year, but do not apply to European protected sites.
Defra further pledges the launch of public consultation by the end of this summer, to look at long-term measures, working with Natural England to do so.
Clearly there is a real balance to be struck here. While no-one wishes to see wildlife being destroyed without good reason, there is clearly a need to protect the rural economy and it must be hoped that, with a longer and more detailed consultation, that the relevant parties can reach a solution that satisfies all.
The full Defra document can be read at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/three-new-general-licences-announced
If you are still unsure of your position in applying for these licences, or for advice on any aspect of this issue, please do not hesitate to contact Gino Ballestracci on 01472 265997. He is a Regulatory Executive within our Public & Regulatory department.