Wild Justice launches first case

Wild Justice has launched its first case – a challenge of the legality of the General Licences.

Our legal advice is that the way that Natural England/Defra authorise the killing of Carrion Crows, Woodpigeons, Jackdaws and a list of other species is unlawful. Our lawyers wrote to Natural England on 13 February but they only replied on Wednesday (after four weeks) and their response was confused and evasive. We’re not sure whether NE are admitting that they are presiding over an illegal licensing system or not!

It may be that they are playing the Theresa May game of kicking the can down the road and hoping that something like a miracle happens but it’s terribly difficult to be sure.

And the clock is ticking as we must file our arguments with the court in the next two weeks to be within time. In fact, it will be around my birthday, Brexit Day (perhaps) on 29 March that the legal case has to be filed.

For me, this is a question of why the agency whose job it is to protect wildlife and uphold wildlife law, and its parent government department which has similar responsibilities, have allowed millions of birds to be killed unlawfully (according to our legal advice) for nearly four decades.

Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust figures estimate (no-one really knows) that the following numbers are killed each year:

SpeciesNumber killed
Woodpigeon3,600,000
Rook130,000
Carrion Crow100,000
Jackdaw75,000
Jay10,000

I don’t have a big problem, personally, with birds being killed as a last resort, for very good reasons, as the law allows. But the situation we have is not that at all. The General Licence system adds up to state facilitation of the casual killing of wildlife. Wildlife killing is largely unregulated in the UK – this is a good example of that general problem.

Wild Justice needs to raise £36,000 to take this case all the way through the courts. I hope you can help us to use the courts to get justice for wildlife. Please donate here.

A Jay – ten thousand are killed in UK under the ‘authorisation’ of the General Licences each year according to the GWCT. Photo: Andy Rouse.

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6 Replies to “Wild Justice launches first case”

  1. Tony Juniper takes over as NE chairman next month. Surely a bit ungracious of Wild Justice to land him with this legal grenade to mark his arrival. Maybe he would have backed a change of policy anyway. Now it looks like two sets of lawyers are going to feast lavishly on a case that is being brought prematurely. NE does a lot of good work on limited resources, but now its funds will depleted further by legal fees.

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    1. James - thanks for your first comment here. Tosh though it is! You appear not to know how Judicial Reviews work nor how NE works. If NE wish to save the public money they should concede. We have to raise our funds not be given them by government. If we are right (and we believe we are) then it will be NE who impose a cost on taxpayer. Shall we wait and see what they do - 'cos it's not clear what they think so far...

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  2. One response to this could be to move species from the GLs to the list of quarry species that can be shot for sport. Certainly that could be done for Woodpigeon and might even lead to an increase in the numbers killed, especially if there was a year round season. The danger with some of the other species is that a reduction in the use of GLs spawns a vast, resource intensive, system of individual licences, though if that leads to a reduction in the number of birds killed (because some people can't be bothered to apply or their applications are refused) that could be seen as a good thing. Hopefully some species will just come off the GLs with few individual licences issued because they would be hard to justify - Jay and Lesser Black-backed Gull would be top of my list for that approach. Perhaps a bigger issue than the GLs (though harder to challenge legally) is the vast numbers of quarry species killed with little regulation. There is a good paper in British Birds this month with statistics for hunted species in Europe, and the UK highlighted as one of the few countries for which there is no data, because the numbers of birds killed are not recorded.

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  3. I must admit that I was surprised at the 'cheek' of your first case. I don't have a clue about the legalities of the case, but I hope that you are on sound ground.
    I thought my petition in Scotland, and the matters it has revealed, was such a push that I decided that I needed to obtain independent legal advice, and it looks as if I will have to do so again, just to allow video evidence, where I believe that it has been obtained legally, to be presented in court. I'm trying to change the law, but the changes needed are surprisingly extensive, so it is a bit different. Legal advice and cases do not come cheap, do they?

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  4. I agree with Ian, this could open a can of worms, and have unforseen consequences.
    The generalised shooting of Jays, "to protect the little birds", doesn't sit well with me either, although
    they had the Spotted Flycatchers off my house when I was on holiday.
    I would welcome change in this respect, but what would the fly- fishermen do?.

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  5. Best of luck to you and the rest of the team.

    I don't have issues with lethal control as a conservation measure, so long as it is, as Mark says, a last resort. Sadly though for the bulk of General licence users, it does seem to be very much the option of 1st resort.

    Trouble is, as I see it, illegal persecution is, well illegal, but it still happens. How can we be sure that those general licence holders who this will affect the most won't just legally kill what they can, and continue to target the remainder illegally?

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