Wild Justice’s legal challenge – what happens now?
NE say they are going to consult on the General Licences. In the meantime, NE has decided that anyone wanting to kill any of the species listed on the three General Licences which will be revoked on Thursday 25 April will need to apply for an individual licence giving grounds and evidence, as the law requires, for why lethal means are necessary because alternative options are not available.
This will not affect lethal control of mammals such as Foxes and Stoats.
It should not affect air safety as airports are perfectly familiar with applying for individual licences under such measures for control of other species of bird.
It will affect gamekeeping where killing of Crows etc will rarely be authorisable to protect livestock as free-flying gamebirds are not livestock and will rarely if ever be authorisable to protect songbirds as the science does not support any role of species such as Magpie or Carrion Crow (let alone Jay or Jackdaw) in songbird declines. There is a big question mark over the legality of gamekeeping as currently practised and NE will be under the spotlight on this subject.
Some conservation organisations currently carry out predator control under the General Licences – they will need to apply for licences if they wish to continue.
In the longer term, by the end of 2019, NE says it will consult on options. Wild Justice will be keen to play a positive part in that consultation. We would have been content for that to take place with the 2019 licences still in place – it was NE which decided to terminate them early.
Wild Justice says ‘We are delighted to have won this legal case. What sort of world is it where the statutory body with responsibility for wildlife protection is operating a bird-killing licensing scheme that is unlawful? Millions of birds are killed each year under the terms of the General Licences and many of these deaths will not be justified. We are grateful to over 1100 individuals who funded this legal challenge and allowed us to take it with the means to progress it through the courts. NE could have, and in our view should have, conceded the correctness of our case many weeks ago. This would have reduced the financial costs to the public and allowed farmers and land managers more time to adjust to the news that their bird-killing actions may have been illegal for several decades. This is a mess of Natural England’s making – they have operated an unlawful licensing system and they have dillied and dallied over admitting it’.
Wild Justice – Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Ruth Tingay