Statement by Wild Justice

Yesterday afternoon (23 April), nearly 10 weeks after Wild Justice launched a challenge to the legality of the 2019 General Licences (on 13 February), Natural England announced that it was revoking  2019 General Licences 04/05/06 on Thursday (25 April) after deciding to do so at its Board meeting of 15 April.

After nearly four decades of unlawful casual killing of millions, tens of millions, of birds, sanctioned by a succession of government statutory conservation agencies over the years, the current system has been shown to be unlawful by the tiny and fledgling wildlife organisation, Wild Justice.

We haven’t changed the law, we have merely shown that the current system of licensing of killing of certain species of birds, developed and administered by a statutory wildlife agency, is unlawful now and presumably has been for decades.  

Our successful legal challenge may well have implications for what happens in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and we will be bringing this to the attention of the other statutory agencies.

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 legal arguments 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, Ruth Tingay)

More on this subject later – see Wild Justice’s legal challenge – how the case progressed.

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62 Replies to “Statement by Wild Justice”

  1. The general licences were a licence to kill with no need to report, no need fact to do anything other than use this as a freedom to kill many species. The WCA as Wild Justice correctly pointed out to NE wasn't framed as loosely as that. It will be interesting to see how the system changes or will there be another fudge?

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  2. Thank you making this start to protect our wild birds, ironically something NE is supposed to be doing.

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  3. Congratulations. It's long past time certain so-called 'professionals' lost the convenience of doing pretty much what they like to our birds (with our government's blessing) - particularly in the name of 'sport'. Judging by the number of dislikes (and I can't imagine there's a single birder ticking that particular box) having to actually think about what someone does before just doing it, is causing some irritation. Congratulations on that too.

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    1. Edward, comment is difficult (for me) to judge. Do you mean setting conservation back on track or do you think that killing native birds to 'conserve' native birds is a good thing and Wild Justice have messed it up?

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  4. You do realise all control be it by me, rspb, wildlife trust etc etc now stops until license re granted. That includes RSPB Skydancer project etc etc!
    It’s a bad day for conservation!

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  5. Mark, predator control has ceased for the time being, I’m holding you personally responsible for every nest, egg and chick predated in the interim!

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    1. Ed - what about Chris and Ruth? And you didn't come back with the long list of conservation organisations who have criticised us...

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  6. I have a dilemma. Only yesterday I was pleased to see the return of a single pair of curlew to my local moorland. Two years ago I witnessed what I assume was the same pair unsuccessfully attempt to defend their brood from predation by a pair of carrion crow that were nesting in a sitka spruce overlooking the curlew's nest. At the time I was angry at myself because I could have shot the crows nest out before they caused such damage to a species clinging to survival in Wales. If Wales follows N E lead, in order to protect those curlew this year I will have to prove (a) that the curlew are threatened by the crows (b) that alternative non lethal means of control had been unsuccessful before I go through the lengthy process of applying for a licence to save this years curlew brood.... by which time it will be far too late. With carrion crow enjoying a 89% population increase between 1970 and 2010 (BTO Bird Atlas) and curlew suffering a 44% (BTO Bird Atlas) population decline between 1995 and 2010 what would you do? Or should I just shrug my shoulders and walk away from the fabulous and all too rare sound of breeding curlew and whisper gentle "sorry curlew, but the law is an ass?

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    1. Perhaps you should be angry at the land management practices that have reduced your moorland to having a single pair of Curlew: that will be the land management practices carried out by the same people who use general licences to indiscriminately slaughter other wild birds, not just Corvids.

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      1. Actually this piece of moorland has changed very little from my youth 50 years ago when it supported good numbers of breeding curlew. What has changed is that today few farmers control crows like they did 50 years ago. What has also changed is that our carrion crows population has increase by 89% between 1970 and 2010 ( ref. BTO Bird Atlas 2007 - 2011) the BTO state that 'this is primarily as a consequence of decreased control'. Another factor is that with recent laws on the need to remove fallen stock our growing population of crows have had a large proportion of their diet removed. Little wonder they now target ground nesting waders. I am not disagreeing with your point about the impact of habitat reduction due to intensive farming. But what I am saying is that if the way to maintain a good population of lapwing and curlew on our uplands ( the BTO refer to managed grouse moor and associated farmland their remaining stronghold) whilst we turn farming around is by controlling predation it is a mistake to make this difficult. What's the point in the RSPB being able to kill over 500 crows a year on their reserves if it is difficult for local farmers to support this predator control on neighbouring land? That same local farmer who will find it difficult to satisfy the requirements of Article 9 of the EU Bird Directive is probably the person who will be asked to shoot crows on RSPB reserve... isn't that ironic?

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    2. If Carrion Crow numbers managed an 89% increase in spite of there being carte blanche to kill them, there must be some bloody rotten shots about. For whatever reason, regardless of legality, the policy clearly hasn’t been working.

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      1. Read the Published Science - The BTO Bird Atlas 2007 - 11 attribute the increase in crow numbers to 'primarily as a consequence of a decrease in control'. This is because whereas many farmer used to shoot crows on their farms 50 years ago today very few carry a gun on their rounds. Peer reviewed science has shown that predator control on managed grouse moors increases wader fledging from 23% to 64% this is the very population that will recolonise farmland if and when we sort out the mess that modern farming has wrought. We should be doing all we can to protect that population on our uplands, not hampering predator control just because its being done by keepers. Blind hatred!

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          1. No Mark I'm arguing that (a) predator control on crows is justified in that high numbers represent a serious risk to ground nesting birds, (which is why the RSPB kill over 500 on their reserves, upland and lowland, each year). (b) that the problem is so widespread that the granting of individual licences would be impractical (which is why the RSPB benefit from them being on the general licence.) (c) the conservation status of crows would not be compromised by being on the general licence. (which is why the RSPB can justify killing an average of 35 crows on 15 of their reserves each year). I have already posted a complaint on the N E website telling them that revoking their of the General Licence threatens the breeding success of ground nesting birds wherever they are. I hope you are that concerned about the status of curlew and lapwing that you would do the same.... LOL!

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          2. Owen - over 100,000 crows killed each year according to GWCT. Probably an underestimate. All justified? How do you know? How would NE know? Your argument amounts to ‘some predator control is justified’ and I’m prepared to go along with that. Your ‘argument’ falls far short of ‘all current predator control is justified’. And in any case, the soon-to-be-departing General Licences were an unlawful way to authorise the justified and did nothing to stop the unjustified.

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      2. They can be difficult birds to shoot they can be very wary, not a lot to do with marksmanship.

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  7. Well done wild justice you have just put another nail in the coffin for hundreds of vulnerable song birds and ground nesting birds at a very sensitive time of the year. All for wording of a document and your ego stroking. [Mark writes - this comment was made by someone with an invalid email address but I'll let this stand although it is a condition of commenting on this blog that the commenter has a valid email address]

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  8. Does this mean that Chris Packham will withdraw from any business associated with the RSPB since they have been unlawfully killing birds for many years under the general licence scheme. Or is he just a hypocrite like many suspect he is.

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    1. I hope that Chris will continue to be fully supportive of the RSPB Gareth and if he does there will be no hypocrisy involved.

      1) The law allows the lethal control of various species where certain conditions are met. The case brought by Wild Justice was that the issuing of the General Licences was unlawful because NE could not ensure or even know if these conditions were met.

      2) It is extremely probable that many, many birds were shot under the General Licences without the conditions being met - i.e. evidence of serious damage being caused to livestock or crops or wild birds and clear evidence that alternative control methods are ineffective or impractical.

      3) Some land owners/users however, will have taken pains to ensure that their use of lethal control under the general licence fully met these conditions. I think it is highly likely that the RSPB falls into this group. This does not mean that the law was not flawed but such individuals/organisations were operating in good faith under the law as it was currently being applied.

      4) Chris Packham may or may not oppose all use of lethal control in every single circumstance - that's for him to say - but even if he does that does not make him a hypocrite for supporting the RSPB. It is possible to support an organisation without agreeing with everything it says or does. Furthermore I am sure that Chris does not shy away from criticising the RSPB when he feels it is appropriate - either publicly or in private.

      In short there is no evidence that I can see either in this context or in any other to suggest that Chris Packham is a hypocrite. Indeed, in relation to bird persecution in Malta he has placed himself in significant personal danger and at his own financial cost to campaign for better protection of birds from illegal hunting - the very opposite of the actions of a hypocrite, it seems to me.

      I believe that the accusations of hypocrisy that come his way from shooting supporters are simply malicious and baseless mud-slinging perpetrated in the hope that it will stick and detract from his legitimate criticism of those who engage in illegal persecution of wildlife. It is motivated not by any genuine evidence of hypocrisy but rather by the fact that Chris is a well-informed and articulate critic of illegal and unethical practices carried out by shooting interests and as such he represents a significant threat to these interests.

      If we are looking for hypocrites I would suggest that all the people shedding crocodile tears for the wildlife they allege will now be decimated by crows when their real concern is the pheasant poults and grouse chicks that they hope to shoot later in the summer are the ones who really merit the term.

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  9. While we have no overall government lead plan for landscape restoration in the UK and while we continue to allow farming, forestry and game shooting to continue to intensify..wildlife and the habitats they need will continue to degrade..and this kind of conflict will only get worse.

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  10. Them to, Mark!
    We await statements, Mark. Are rspb going to be happy with it??!!
    Natural England don’t seem to chuffed.
    Essentially you’ve wiped out all predator control ( bar foxes & stoats ) on every nature reserve in England, just as breeding season starts! Give yourselves a big pat on the back!

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  11. You stupid foolish people. You have now condemed more song birds to certain death by allowing corvid numbers to grow out of control. I've many a time seen magpies work a hedge killing fledglings and taking eggs. This will include all the small reptiles etc. Yon need to go back to your urban lives and stay there. Do not medle in things you know nothing about. I see you aren't having a go at domestic cats that are decimating our small birds ,oh of course not they will be the ones crowd funding you.

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    1. Oh the old 'real countryman' argument eh? An utterly feeble and discredited line of reasoning.

      Concerned about small reptiles? Maybe you should stop releasing tens of millions of pheasants into the countryside every year then.

      Which bird species do you attribute the decline of to crows and magpies (or cats for that matter)?

      Maybe you are the one who doesn't know what he is talking about!

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  12. Thank you Wild Justice! If the decline of songbirds, curlew etc upsets anyone, we know unequivocally that it is down to human induced habitat degradation not predation. Only a reversal of this will offer hope. Predators are a fundamental necessity in maintaining healthy ecosystems and their removal from our landscape has been a major contributory factor in the poverty we now see.

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  13. Curlew and lapwing numbers have plummeted due to intensive farming
    They have been marginalised to mainly upland areas
    Reform agricultural practices and stop subsidising farmers for wrecking wildlife habitat

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  14. Wow! Perhaps all these irate people, so in favour of the unregulated slaughter of our wild birds so that other wild birds and millions of domestic birds can be shot for fun, should post their environmental and ecological credentials, because they clearly all know so much more about these subjects than Mark, Chris and Ruth.

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  15. Curlews and lapwings are successfully breeding mainly in the upland areas where predator control takes place. Take a look at the BTO curlew breeding map, the highest density of breeding Curlew in England are on or around our grouse moors.

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    1. Bird Boy - you'd be happy for keepers not in those areas not to be able to carry out predator control? If not, what's your point? And you do realise that the General Licences don't apply to mammal control?

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  16. Even the RSPB understand the need to control corvids for the benefit of certain endangered species, not just on farmland but on wild reserves which aren’t farmed (can’t blame the farmers there) The people behind this have a fantastical view that if you let nature be, it will be, whereas in reality it will become out of control species destroying others, showing a complete ignorance of ecology. Humans have irreversibly changed the ecosystems and that is why we need to control certain species for the benefit of many species that have suffered as a result.

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  17. Hi Mark. My point is, in areas where there is more intensive predator control, there is a far higher population of curlews ,lapwings and other ground nesting species. Legal predator control has to be taken as a whole, including both ground and avian.
    Anecdotal evidence I know, but in the last four years I have undertaken legal predator control on a 400 acre farm which had perfect habitat but a fairly low population of lapwings and curlews. There was a crow nest in every hedgerow. During the four years I and the landowner has noticed the wader populations have increased almost twofold as crow and fox numbers have been reduced. I only wish I had got the BTO involved to do a before and after.
    I’m interested to know what measures you would of taken to reduce this predation by non-lethal methods because I’m all ears and genuinely eager to learn.

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  18. Sorry Mark. Just realised I didn’t answer your questions.
    I think predator control should be increased across the country for the benefit of red listed ,ground nesting species, in conjunction with habitat improvement.
    I do realise the general Licences don’t apply to mammal control.

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  19. His point is that the keepers will be controlling corvids hence the successful curlew breeding.

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  20. Really good work by all at Wild Justice. There is only one set of laws in this country and it applies to NE as much as everyone else. If there is a need to 'control' 'pests', make the case, make it legal, monitor the outcomes. I've just donated my bit of hard-earned to Wild Justice, and am happy to contribute more to help ensure that wildlife laws are effective and enforced.

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  21. If they managed introduce a law to prevent the keeping/breeding of domestic cats I'd be saying "well done" because they are the real problem for our songbirds, not a few corvids and Woodpigeons.
    They have just picked an easy target and have attained a very short term success; new laws will be drafted to control the pest species or farmers will suffer and food costs will rise accordingly...so back in your nesting box Chris, unless of course you can do something about the cats!

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  22. Hi Mark,

    Could I ask a couple of questions...

    1. Are any of the species on the general licence list currently in population decline?
    2. What is Wild Justice's motives and required outcomes from the legal challenge?
    3. Presumable NE will just now have to issue a licence to all the persons who currently kill pest bird species, so apart from those persons having to send a photo of a decimated oil seed rape field or lambs with eyes pecked out along with an application form, nothing will change?
    4. Do non lethal methods for crop protection work as effectively? I mean the birds which get scared away have to feed on something eventually right? Will we have to have the whole country sounding like WWIII with gas guns and birds feeding on bird feeders in peoples gardens instead?
    5. Do you think putting in place open and close seasons for these species similar to game species would work as an alternative?

    Thanks in advance

    S

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    1. S - thank you for your first comment here. That's seven questions - just counting the ???????

      1. Not most of them but Lesser Black-backed Gull is in gradual decline.
      2. To ensure that the killing of birds by land managers for varous specified reasons is lawful. We think that this will decrease the number killed and rule out casual killing whilst allowing killing when needed.
      3. I wouldn't bet on that - we'll have to see. After decades of an illegal system they'll have to get it right won't they?
      4. They work more effectively than not trying them - and the law requires them. This is not all about crops.
      5. When would your open season for Woodpigeons start and end? I think open and close seasons ought to be looked at. How do they fit in with the alleged periods of greatest damage?

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      1. Hi Mark,

        Haha thanks for your reply and apologies, my maths isn't very good! Please see my responses below:

        1. Not most of them but Lesser Black-backed Gull is in gradual decline. - OK, thank you. So the main species which are killed under these licences such as woodpigeons, carrion crows etc. are not in decline with the current licencing system in place (or was in place until the end of today) , do you then agree that the current licencing situation doesn't have any detrimental affect on population levels of these species?
        2. To ensure that the killing of birds by land managers for various specified reasons is lawful. We think that this will decrease the number killed and rule out casual killing whilst allowing killing when needed. - So given my response above, is your aim to increase the population levels of these species?
        3. I wouldn't bet on that - we'll have to see. After decades of an illegal system they'll have to get it right won't they? - How can a legal system for 30+ years be illegal, you haven't changed the law yet?
        4. They work more effectively than not trying them - and the law requires them. This is not all about crops. - I'm afraid I dont understand your response can you explain if you have actually looked into their effectiveness? Performed any studies? And agreed, it isn't all about crops, how do you scare away corvids from song bird nests or new born lambs? Do they have to take the eggs and peck the lambs first in order to provide evidence to NE when the land manager requests a licence?
        5. When would your open season for Woodpigeons start and end? I think open and close seasons ought to be looked at. How do they fit in with the alleged periods of greatest damage? - That's a good point, I admit it isn't something I have considered in great detail as yet. I suppose given the game seasons are there to protect the breeding season of game species, then the pest species you dont want killed will have better chance to breed, taking me back to point one and two above. Would that situation make it harder and more costly for land managers? Would it then give rise to more evidence of crop destruction and songbird decline which in turn would allow NE to issue more and more licences thus allowing more birds to be killed? Isn't that what you would like to avoid?

        Thanks again

        S

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        1. S - you seem a bit confused about the law - but you do seem good-humoured and that's nice.

          1. The law doesn't say that you can kill them if they are common/increasing - it says you can kill them if - and then there is a long list of conditions. That's what it says.
          2. No, our aim is to reduce the level of unjjustified illegal killing going on.
          3. The 'just about to exit' General Licensing scheme has been shown to be illegal - by Wild Justice, and NE's legal advice must agree that is the case otherwise they wouldn't have revoked it. So they need to fin a new system which allows any necessary control and which meets the law.
          4. The law requires use of non-lethal means ahead of use of lethal ones. How NE assure that is the case is up to them. For all bird species other than the strange mixture on the GL lists NE ask for some paperwork and then do or don't issue licences. That is one way forward but there are others.
          5. You keep mentioning songbird decline - there is precious little evidence of an impact of corvids on songbirds (passerines) although there is evidence for ground-nesting birds. There are some big detailed studies that have come up with little evidence. And why is the Jay on the GL? Those will be scientific questions that NE will need to think about very carefully. And I/we are resigned to what you call 'pest species' being killed - but we think they should be killed lawfully which at the moment means under the specific circumstances set out in the GLs and elsewhere but NE has to ensure those conditions are met.

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          1. Thanks Mark

            I'm much more informed about Wild Justice's agenda now thank you. I still would have like you to answer No. 4 and 5 more directly but understand you have a lot of persons to reply too. I cant help but feeling that this is more of a personal attack on the shooting community driven by personal dislikes (which you and Wild Justice's members are perfectly entitled too), rather than a real care for birds.

            Ultimately you are still ok with people killing birds aren't you?...as long as they have a bit of paper to say they can? Good luck in your crusade for justice.

            S

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          2. S - well you were doing quite well for a while there. You can feel what you like but it is not, unlike the vandalising of Chris Packham's property and the hanging of two crows on his land, a personal attack. To attempt to enforce the law, which applies to everyone, is hardly a personal attack.

            And we recognise that the law allows killing of birds under specific circumstances and believe that those circumstances should be enforced. That may or may not require a bit of paper.

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  23. I could fully understand where Wild Justice is coming from, if the species under the general licences were In decline but they are not. Is there evidence where the general license is being abused and not theoretical abuse? They should be helping with a solution, rather than pushed for a ban at this important time of the year.

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    1. James - thank you for your comment but you haven't been paying attention. Wild Justice did not push for a ban see point 2 here https://markavery.info/2019/04/24/wild-justices-legal-challenge-how-the-case-progressed/ We could have, but we specifically didn't because we decided not to.

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  24. Terrific effort from Wild Justice and so well done. I see from a news item that the shooters have tied dead crows to Chris Packhams’s gate. There could not be a better illustration of the type of nasty persons we are dealing with and the type of persons this Government is acquiescing to.

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  25. Come on Mark... just you even mentioning the 'attack'on Chris shows how weak your facade of doing this for the reason you say you are really is. You won't even answer my reasonable questions with a straight answer it's all spin and drawing on sentiment and feeling not science or reason. Even your sarcastic start to all your replies shows I'm ruffling your feathers..Haha excuse the pun...you did say I had a good sense of humour!

    I would have much more respect for you if you just came out and said you don't like shooting and want to try anyway possible to end it.

    S

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    1. S - really? Well, I'd be lying if I said I want to try any way possible to end shooting because that clearly isn't what I am doing or what I have ever said. You seem to have run out of steam anyway.

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  26. Mark your comment about my not being able to say whether 100,000 crows killed is justified, can be turned on its head, do you have any data showing that it is unjustified? probably not. So the only way to judge if we are getting it right is to ensure that our actions do not cause a decline in their population status (BTO research say it does not) and to monitor that our control brings benefits to ground nesting birds and livestock (GWCT research says it does). This is a considered opinion that leads the RSPB to believe that killing crows on their reserves is justified, as it has for other land managers across the country.

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    1. owen - 10,000 murders a year would make no difference to the human population level (not if it was measured as we measure bird populations) but I doubt you'd say it was therefore OK. have a think about why you wouldn't.

      I don't think BTO research says that control doesn't affect population levels does it? Can't remember that. But, for sure, Carrion Crows are doing oK on a population level (see point above).

      I accept that crow control can sometimes (but not always) bring benefits to ground-nesting birds and Wild Justice isn't asking for, and hasn't asked for, all Crow control to cease (remember?). A proper regulatory system would reduce the chance that needless and pointless deaths occurred and maximise the benefits from those that are killed. I'm all for proper regulation.

      The RSPB does some Carrion Crow control on some of its nature reserves - I reckon they have chosen those circumstances where crow control is most likely to benefit species of conservation significance. Some would oppose that but I don't.

      There are at least three problems with what you are putting foward. Two are logical errors, the first is that you say because some good can sometimes be done by an action then it can be done in any old way everywhere under any circumstances and we all ought to applaud it. That's not right.

      And you say, that because the RSPB do something in a very careful and researched way then any old bloke (or woman) should be allowed to get on with it in whatever way they wish. That's almost the same flawed argument.

      But fundamentally you are arguing for the law to say something that it doesn't say. The conditions for lethal control are clear and NE's former (since I am writing this at just past midnight) method of applying the law allowed unlawful behaviour. If you want the law to say something else then start campaigning for a change. You could start straight after reading this if you like.

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      1. mark, your drawing a level of equivalence between 100,000 human murders and 100,000 crows shot is very revealing because it introduces a level of subjectivity to a debate that should be evidence led by the available science.

        The introduction of subjectivity is a highly emotive ploy and one that has been used to great effect by ‘Revive’ who are telling policy makers that grouse moors are ‘Dead Burned and Barren’. The subjectivity of this statement is heavily contradicted by the objectivity of the science that clearly shows that grouse moors are the remaining stronghold for our threatened waders and as a mosaic habitat encourage biodiversity, all which is due to the work of the keepers funded by grouse shooting. (Caviat - I do not support raptor persecution and take very opportunity to decry it on social media).

        I did not write that BTO research says that control doesn’t affect populations levels I specifically used the term population status‘ I hope you will accept that by that I meant rising or falling. The BTO Bird Atlas clearly shows that their population is rising so the regime of control under the general license that has been used until yesterday has clearly not had an adverse effect on their status.

        You say that the RSPB do 'some' Carrion Crow control on some of their reserves. Can you explain what ‘some Carrion Crow control’ on a particular reserve entails, because the figures of, on average, 35 being killed on each reserve suggest a near zero tolerance level. Given the opportunistic behaviour of crows this would be the only way to ensure the high level of hatching and brood survival amongst breeding waders desired by the RSPB on their reserves. Of course by doing this the RSPB, like keepers know that their crow killing is not having an adverse effect of their national status.

        Your insistence that crow killing should be ‘justified’ is interesting. I would say objectively using the available science it is justified when considering the benefits for livestock and ground nesting birds measured against no adverse impact of their population status over the period it has been used. Subjectively it is not if you are a bird lover or a preservationist. I respect your subjective views, but suggest that if we introduce subjectivity, which varies so much from person to person, we will get into an awful mess. As a trained scientist you will now this, however I would be interested to learn if your lecturers encouraged you to introduce subjectivity into the lecture room, after all you were studying science not philosophy.

        As for regulation I agree that N E are in a mess, however I hope that whatever replaces the general license will allow crow control to continue to be conducted at the same level as it has so far. Anything that reduces its effectiveness will have an adverse impact on our endangered ground nesting birds, I’m sure we can agree that this would be a tragedy.

        I will leave this discussion now as I have other things to do such as painting another watercolour of curlew which i will donated to 'Curlew Country' to help them with their work restoring the species back to farmland in Shropshire, (if you haven't supported their excellent work so far, you should). I also need to shoot out that crows nest which two years ago caused the single pair of curlew on my local moor to lose their entire brood in a day. That pair weren't there last year but now I'm delighted to see them back and if I don't doing something soon the same sorry story will happen again. I'm mentioning all this so you don't stereotype me as your 'any old bloke' with a gun. Thanks for the civilised, if not slightly school masterly debate.

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        1. owen - you have overstated what I said by a factor of 1o in your first line. My point was entirely mathematical and relates to the conservation status of people. There is nothing subjective in what I said.

          Control presumably does then affect population levls does it? Or doesn't it? You don't seem very clear about that.

          You don't know whether a tightening up of the licensing regime would have any impact on ground nesting birds - it depends how it is tightened up. You're just guessing aren't you?

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  27. If kept in balance but certain birds have been given complete protection and their number have increased beyond natural levels and are threatening other species.

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  28. There seems to be some confusion about the relevance of national corvid population figures and what corvid control during the breeding season should be aiming to achieve.

    Mike Swan from the GWCT wrote an excellent article for the Shooting Times fairly recently, outlining that general corvid control is pretty pointless - it needs to be targeted at specific individual birds in specific locations at specific times of the year. So controlling breeding pairs of corvids on a patch of ground where their territory includes nesting pairs of farmland birds/waders/whatever species you wish to conserve and which could be predated by crows, and doing that during the breeding season only, can be effective. General blanket control at other times of the year is pretty pointless (for protecting breeding ground nesting birds at least).

    So debates about whether the national population of carrion crows is rising or falling are largely irrelevant - because effective targeted control isn't actually aiming to reduce the national population. It's about trying to limit the LOCAL population at a time of year when scarcer bird species (some of them Red Listed) are trying to hatch a brood of chicks. And it can only work in combination with habitat management measures that aim to maximise nesting, brooding and feeding habitat for the bird species whose population you're trying to increase. The territories made vacant by corvids removed at this time of the year will be re-colonised later in the year, but the main point is that those birds won't have time to raise a brood themselves (so they won't be trying to feed a brood of chicks) and the farmland bird/wader chicks will then be fledged, past the most vulnerable stage of their lives and thus much more able to fend for themselves (particularly if habitat management for this stage of their lives is also favourable).

    As I'm not very conversant with crow attacks on livestock, or the loss/spoilage of animal feed by corvids, then I can't offer comment on whether all-year-round corvid control would be effective in mitigating those losses. But again, targeted control at the time of year that is genuinely most effective should be the guiding principle. And again that has nothing to do with national corvid populations - if the population was stable or declining in one area due to targeted control it could be rising more rapidly in another area, thus leading to an overall national increase.

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  29. Well done Wild Justice for winning this important battle and I wish you every success for your future work.
    I will preface this by saying that I grew up in the countryside surrounded by mixed farms, arable and livestock, and I enjoyed shooting and fishing. I say 'enjoyed' with quite a heavy heart now as, at the time, I firmly believed what I was told about shooting being a good thing for the countryside. In my late teens I began to realise that my love for nature clashed with my enjoyment of shooting and started to question why animals needed to be killed to protect wildlife. 20 years on and after extensive reading on all sides of the debate I still don't have a good answer either way but I am much better informed. I know animals do need to be killed at times but it's not so much a matter of shooting anything in range but using science to inform a management plan. There are certainly issues with 'pest species' numbers for some people but perhaps this is more a product of our broken ecosystem and the excesses of human activity.
    These days the land I used to shoot over has been extensively planted up with trees and wildflower meadows, there are hedges that are kept on the ragged side, ponds, logpiles, all that sort of stuff. I also maintain over 20 bird boxes that are all used every year, although not always by birds (the dormouse was a particular highlight). As far as I can see most of the wildlife is doing better now than when I used to 'help it out' by shooting. I see a lot of woodpigeons about and curse them when they eat my cherries but I also see a lot more sparrowhawks and peregrines about and they're not the only things eating the pigeons.
    However I still meet people while out walking who are out to shoot crows "to protect the lambs". Speaking to a local farmer on the same patch he tells me he doesn't lose any lambs to birds. His method is to feed the local ravens during hungry periods and in turn they don't seem to turn to the lambs for a quick meal while also driving crows out of their territory. It won't work for everyone but it shows there are other ways. The people I see out shooting are not farmers and have not been asked to control the birds but the mentality that they are doing good (and doing it legally) still persists and can only be changed thanks to campaigns like yours. Again well done.

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