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Wild Justice legal challenge in Shooting Times

Wild Justice’s fully-funded legal challenge of the General Licences features on pages 6 and 7 of this week’s Shooting Times.

The piece isn’t too bad (although it does contain errors) but notably, as in a piece in Farmers Weekly, neither team of journalists (!) has managed to get a quote from Natural England or Defra on the subject – perhaps because they don’t know what they are going to do?

We are yet to see ‘Wild Justice is wrong and we are going to fight them all the way in the courts’ nor have we yet seen Natural England say ‘It’s a fair cop, we hoped no-one would notice but now they have I guess we’ll have to do our jobs properly’.

Shooting Times though is full of evidence, which indeed may end up in court as evidence, of the way the General Licences ‘work’ in practice and how they are mis interpreted by the shooting community.

See that the cover of ST talks about catching magpies and saving songbirds although there is no decent evidence that Magpies have a population level impact on the numbers of any songbird (I could quote the references). This is casual and unscientific killing.

The above, at the bottom right hand corner of page 7 appears to bear little relation to the terms and conditions of the General Licences in encouraging what appears to be widespread killing of a couple of bird species for no particular reason…

The Shooting Times‘s editor Patrick Galbraith tells a tale of heading off to Essex for a spot of pigeon shooting – he doesn’t seem to have shot many but he had a nice Bakewell tart. He was using decoys to entice the pigeons into range but he doesn’t mention the serious agricultural damage that I assume he was hoping to reduce.

On page 42 the GWCT’s Dr Mike Swan tells us all how to operate a Larsen trap (and to sign up for a GWCT course if we’d like more information) and, maybe because of Wild Justice’s legal challenge, refers us all to the conditions of the General Licences without saying what they are. The article refers to gamekeepers as people who use Larsen traps but doesn’t mention why gamekeepers use them. Funny that. Is it to increase songbird numbers (if so, the GWCT know there is little evidence for success in that regard) or is it to protect non-native Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges? The closest the article comes to coming clean on this is ‘When run properly, they [Larsen traps] remove an annual ‘harvest’ of crows and magpies, allowing our game – and a range of other birds from curlews to song thrushes – to be more productive‘. [Note the absence of any claim about population levels].

Then there is a piece about shooting pigeons or ‘the Wessex hedge grouse’ to provide a sumptuous meal. I like the occasional pigeon myself but I’m not sure where the law states that you can shoot pigeons for fun or food at the moment and so far no-one has enlightened me.

And there is an article, quite interesting I thought, about shooting pigeons in Lincolnshire although it does read like an article about the fun of shooting rather than the need for shooting. Bird scarers are conspicuously missing from the photographs.

It’s almost as if the General Licences exist to provide copy for the Shooting Times in the closed season for those species deemed, or should that be doomed (?), as quarry species.

I noticed this strange note in Shooting Times too – apparently it is the official weekly journal of BASC and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association. Well, I didn’t know that. And I don’t know what it means either. I’ll have to ask.

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