Wild Justice wins its first legal challenge

Wild Justice was set up by Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay and myself and was launched on 13 February this year. Our first legal challenge was against the General Licences issued by Natural England on 1 January this year.

Late this afternoon Wild Justice heard that we had won our first legal challenge. We could only take this case with the generous support of over 1100 donors.  Thank you all!

We’ll be talking to our lawyers about this and what it means in the long term.

Here is the link to the announcement on the Westminster Government website – click here.

Thank you to everyone who supported this successful challenge against casual killing of some birds.  We will post more information after discussions between ourselves and with our lawyers.

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57 Replies to “Wild Justice wins its first legal challenge”

  1. That's impressive! I had my doubts about the project, but this is a notable success. Congratulations to all involved. If the change in regulations is respected (and enforced), it should end the practice of casual bird-killing.

    What's next in the Wild Justice pipeline?

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    1. How about all of the casual bird killing being carried out by the owners of windmills? They seem to get away with it with no comebacks.

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      1. "incidental result of an otherwise lawful operation" like hitting another pheasant on the road.

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  2. Well done! What a great first success. Hopefully the first of many such successful challenges. Having achieved this success for general licences in England will this have implications for the issuing of general licences in other parts of the United Kingdom? Will you be contacting/challenging Scottish Natural Heritage about the issuing of General Licences in Scotland?

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    1. That's winkled them out from under their stones, to parade their ignorance/dishonesty for all to see. 🙂

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  3. Great stuff! Well done. No doubt SNH will be doing a bit of head scratching for the next few days.

    Which will be a good thing.

    Plenty still to keep an eye on...definition of 'serious damage' or 'conservation of wild birds' or even 'conservation'

    Anyway it was well time this was challenged and again, well done!

    Here's to the next one.

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  4. Congratulations Mark and Wild Justice. Maybe, just maybe the TJ effect has had a part to play here? As in a sign that decisions by the statutory nature conservation agency might now and henceforth begin to be steered back towards having some root in science, conservation logic and common sense? Starting with not fighting the unjustifiable. One can live in hope...

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  5. From the Red & Amber species & myself congratulations and thanks very much!...
    Just remind RSPB to move the traps by Thursday!....

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  6. The song birds are indecline with the magpie and Jay population getting bigger i believe this is could be desastrous for the decline of many birds with the magpie and Jay taking the eggs and young of other birds

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    1. jeffrey - thank you for your comment. It's interesting that you believe that because the science doesn't support any causal connection. I doubt you will even find the GWCT saying that there is a link...

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  7. Didn't you get any formal response to your legal challenge. It would be interesting to find out what specifically was the legal weakness Be felt it was unable to defend.

    Very well done. You are truly inspiring people. Thank you.

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  8. Ah well, I guess we can wave goodbye to the curlew as it joins the dodo then? Or will the RSPB be granted licences superquick to continue culling of corvids?

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    1. Mr Curlew - hi! I'm guessing that isn't your real name for your first comment here. I don't think Ring-necked Parakeets eat many Curlew chicks. But anyone with a legal reason for killing these species will presumably get a licence3 - probably not to protect Curlew from parakeets, or Jays, or Canada Geese though. Mammals are unaffected by this case.

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  9. I just have a feeling the law of unintended consequences will come into play somewhere along the line. And perhaps this legal challenge was more to do with animal rights than conservation?

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    1. Bob W - you are speculating both about the future and our motives, wehich is fine, but why not focus on the fact that the statutory wildlife agency in England has been running an unlawful wildlife-killing licensing system?

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      1. Thanks Mark. Because I'm a pragmatist and I believe it's outcomes that are important. The system may have been technically illegal but the real conservation problem is the illegal killing that will continue whatever the law says.

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        1. Bob W - there is no such thing as technically illegal - it's either legal or not. If NE thought that the licensing system they were running was legal then they would have taken this case through the courts and thrashed us with their arguments. They have caved in.

          You appear to be pragmatically happy to see tens of millions of birds killed illegally into the future and pragmatically happy that the statutory wildlife body would allow that to happen. Interesting.

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          1. Thanks Mark. I knew you wouldn't like "technically illegal" but I couldn't think of a better way to put it.

            Yesterday, on my way home from a house where last year's nestling Spotted Flycatchers were predated, almost certainly by a Jay, I called in on a local flood meadow. It supports a lot of breeding waders with excellent productivity last year. It's part of a sporting estate and its success, in conservation terms, is down to careful management and predator control; I have no problem with that.

            I'm sure a "totally legal" way will be found to allow much of the current general licence killing that takes place to continue. I just hope that there will be no unwanted side effects for conservation.

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  10. The problem is this has led to a backlash from farmers and pest control people as they are affected. Was this to stop shooting altogether as this is what the general consensus of shooters is. Or as his to tighten the laws regarding shooting of pest birds such as crows and magpies and pigeons.

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    1. Rob p - thank you for your first cvomment here. The answer to your question is that the current method of 'authorising' lethal control of these so-called pest species is unlawful. NE have admitted that - so they'll have to find a lawful way if such killing is to continue. That is going to present some difficulties with some of these species.

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    2. I thought we were trying to be more careful about language.

      There are no 'pest birds', just birds considered by some humans to be in the way of their own interests.

      Well done, Mark and Wild Justice.

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  11. Superb Mark! Hope you're feeling very chuffed this evening along with Ruth and Chris. You were clearly all very clever cookies to take this approach and I'm sure there will be some very nervous people wondering what you'll do next. I'm looking into something at the moment which indicates legislation relating to wildlife in the UK is badly drawn up, poorly understood and enforcement is a joke. The very large number of dislikes indicates a lot of unhappy people involved in slaughtering our wildlife doing what pathetic little they can to try and spoil the party. That too makes me very happy.

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    1. "legislation relating to wildlife in the UK is badly drawn up, poorly understood and enforcement is a joke"

      Possibly the understatement of the year!

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  12. What a result! You three have really started something amazing. There perhaps will now be a lot more eyes on Wild Justice to see what is going to be next now. I think more of us are sensing the change in the air.

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  13. Absaloutly shocking result there goes my pigeon pie ...no thought at all to the end result it will create more damage in the long run...small minded..what are you going to do when the beautifull little song birds start getting pillaged, shout boo I don't think so..

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  14. Mark I've had blackbirds nesting in my garden hedge for 10yrs but not one chick has ever been reared the magpie's have taken every egg or chick to i think the GWCT are not doing proper research has i use to get song and mistle thrushes out my back every winter but i haven't seen one in 6 years

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  15. Well done all. Look at all these wonderful dislikes. Feathers ruffled and cages rattled.
    Excellent. What a wonderful way to spend money, stopping unlawful killing of our wildlife. Compensation for all the past years please?

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  16. Are you a vegan? Do you understand how the countryside works? (I assume not), do you care for songbirds? Will you be lobbying to ban mackerel fishing? What is your main problem with someone taking meat eating ethics into their own hand and killing an animal that has lived a wild and free life, processing the meat themselves and eating all possible cuts of the animal? Minute carbon footprint... at a guess you enjoy a pork pie, or 4, that fits with your ethics? Yet another hypocritical, Ill-informed do gooder.

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    1. Teabagger: Songbirds seem to have managed perfectly well for thousands of years without our killing magpies and crows. You seem very concerned about looking after your own enjoyment. Perhaps time to take a look in the mirror although you might not like what you see.

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  17. So am I right in thinking that tomorrow, it’s ok to go and shoot 200 pigeons over a crop of rapeseed to protect the crops still , but if a feral pigeon goes into an commercial kitchen or a warehouse i have to leave it their to starve to death if it can’t find it’s own way back out ?
    the current applications for individual licenses can take up to 10 weeks to be approved, a streamlined proposal will now be flooded with multiple requests so won’t be an instant response and the new general licenses will be released throughout the year .
    Personally I think this might create more suffering to birds than it fixes , if only you had approached NE to rework the current system rather than jumping in with all guns blazing ( excuse the pun )

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  18. Many congratulations Mark, I think you, Chris and Ruth have really started something with Wild Justice. It is so good to now know that this wretched Government in the guise of NE don’t have “carte Blanche” to do what ever they like without now having to look over their shoulder.

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  19. The laws surrounding wildlife management in UK are an inherited mess and a reflection of our British sentimentality rather than science. Recently I had to shoot a ewe because she was cast trying to lamb and the crows had pecked out her eyes, ripped her udder and torn out the tongue of the half-born lamb. Yesterday I rescued a slow-worm (minus tail) from a domestic cat. British cats are allowed outside in clear contravention of Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, they have virtually destroyed the Scottish Wild Cat through genetic introgression and they are killing and maiming, not thousands, but millions of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in UK. If you tie the hands of wildlife managers with red tape - whether they are culling nuisance species or restoring endangered species such as the beaver - with laws that are unenforceable in the countryside, you create disrespect for the laws and the end result is counter-productive. Will your next target be the cats issue, or is Wild Justice more about politics?

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  20. I would like to see something done to change the law on cutting hedgerows.
    Every year about the end of August and the beginning of September all the farmers are out smashing the life out of the hedgerows. Birds are often still nesting and all of the fruits and berries are removed long before they can be consumed by our wildlife.
    Its very depressing to see this devastation across the entire country year after year.

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  21. Congratulations to the three of you - a wonderful result!
    Coming late to the party (as I usually do - must stay in more!), it's really interesting to read the comments here. Those who enjoy the right to kill pretty much whatever they want, whenever they feel like it, are thrashing around spouting all manner of self-serving rubbish.
    I think the key word here which, to his credit, Mark has used consistently throughout, is 'casual'. If there is a strong, rational, evidence-based case for taking action against a particular species, that can be considered. What is long overdue is a change in the attitude that farmers and shooters have the right to kill wildlife without giving it a thought. Let's hope this stops them encouraging their 4-year old children down the same path!

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  22. Mort - unfortunately I am very well placed to cast judgement on this, though I do not shoot myself I understand the delicate balance of our wonderful eco system. i suggest you stick to the town and city life and leave those of us who are qualified to manage wild spaces do so. I trust you are a self sustained vegan too?

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  23. Mort - just had a look in the mirror, it was perfect. I suggest you take a long hard look although not to hard as you’d be pretty sick of the self righteousness of you’re kind. Been to an RSPB reserve once in your life, watch packham and his I’ll informed terrorist gang and believe you are an expert on wildlife and conservation. You fail to see the bigger picture and depth of understanding. I take it you believe Disney and that all nature will live in harmony and eat grass together. Anyway as I was saying don’t look to hard in the mirror, the realisation of how ridiculous you are may end up in a sorry way.

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  24. I doubt that the regular readers of this blog have witnessed such a dazzling display of stupidity and pretentiousness for a long, long time. Well done to all the fake, self-styled "countrymen", for giving us such a huge giggle with their unmitigated nincompoopery!

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  25. Great to see the Elma Fudds so rattled, if only they had been so vociferous in the condemnation of the illegal activities of the criminal majority vandalising the uplands I can't help thinking it would never have come to this. Wildlife managers. Don't make me laugh, you shoot anything that attacks game birds. Song birds have managed perfectly well for millennia without you idiots

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  26. Merlin, its not just the uplands. BOP and Ravens disappear at a regular rate at exactly this time of year where I live in Northamptonshire.
    I have stopped walking in the area that is managed by this very famous estate as the persecution is so blatantly obvious.

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  27. So Mark are you saying magpies, Jay's and other corvids do not do a massive amount of damage to the song bird and ground nesting population in the UK?

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    1. Darren - thanks for your comment. That wasn't what I did say. The science shows no evidence of impact on songbirds - ask the BTo for a start. There is an impact on some ground-nesting birds - but unlikely to be from, for example, Jays. I'd be very happy to follow the science on this.

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  28. Out (insert expletive of your choice, I'd personally choose quite a rich one) standing! Scipio comes to mind.

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  29. Songbirds may have managed perfectly well for thousands of years but they are no longer. Yes there are man made reasons for that which is mainly the use of land to feed or house us all. Song birds that were once abundant are now vulnerable and I appreciate those landowners and farmers who are giving them a helping hand by removing some of their predators. Few will take pleasure in doing so. Springwatch a couple of years ago featured a farm with fabulous biodiversity (I'm sorry I can't remember where it was) where the farmer admitted to Chris Packham that a necessary step for their success was the control of the corvid population. I wonder what Chris would say to that farmer now should he revisit him?

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