What they are saying about the General Licences (2)

Natural England is hiding from the media and hasn’t given a single interview about the general licences as far as I can see. Every journalist to whom I have spoken has said that NE is either not answering the ‘phone or is turning down interview requests. A bit odd for a public body.

I’ve just been on Farming Today talking about this subject – as was Minette Batters – and I expressed sympathy for land managers over the position they are in thanks to Natural England’s handling of the matter. Click here to listen.

I was at the every end of Today with Ann Mallalieu, the President of Countryside Alliance where I was described as one of ‘the usual suspects’. Click here to listen.

And currently the plan is to be on Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 at 12:30 today.

Daily TelegraphFarmers banned from shooting birds on their land after Natural England backs down in face of Chris Packham challenge – Chris is quoted.

Birdguides Natural England forced to revoke General Licences

Farmers GuardianNE stops farmers from shooting crows and pigeons to protect crops includes more criticism of Natural England and a quote from George Dunn where he says that he thought that Wild Justice’s challenge to the General Licences was ‘a stab in the dark’.

See what Wild Justice says and what it actually did:

Statement by Wild Justice.

Wild Justice’s legal challenge – how the case progressed.

Wild Justice’s legal challenge – what happens now?


30 Replies to “What they are saying about the General Licences (2)”

  1. I am a little surprised about your surprise .you go to court you win your case and then you are claim that the timing of events is everyone else’s fault. Your timing was perfect to create as much disturbance to land management of breeding waders as possible . I don’t think your bad people just need to grow up a bit talk to people who actually know whatthere talking about.your contribution to stop the decline of breeding waders in Britain will probably be noted in future book and articles .let’s hope your not the final nail in the coffin of breeding waders in the UK. From a personal perspective this is a very bad day I will have to close down all the Larsons on the marsh at the most critical time you made a whole year of habitat mangegment and creation pointless . I suspect you strongly disagree with me because that’s your right but remember I spend my whole life working on a marsh and might strangely to you actually know what I am talking about..to be perfectly honest with you I always wondered how long Larson traps will be legal they don’t look good at all to the general public and if there ever banned crow control will become non effective making the last fragmented highly localised pockets of breeding waders in the UK unsustainable

    1. Bob – thank you for your first comment here. You don’t understand the legal process so let me explain it.

      We had to submit our challenge of the licence by 1 April – we submitted it ealier than that. the Process started on 13 february – NE delayed the process by missing deadlines. If NE had wanted to fight this case in court we would probably have got there in the autumn – the fact that we didn’t is because NE realised we had a strong case.

      If NE and its predecessors had got the licensing system right in the past, we wouldn’t be where we are now. If they had managed the process better there would not now be the chaos that thee is. Do you think that is why NE are not doing any interviews on this subject?

      1. You are quite right I don’t totally understand the legal process but please let me tell you what I do understand .the process YOU STARTED was on 15 Feb just as the waders started setting displaying and setting up for there breeding season. This when Larson go out to start reducing the overall crowd population .this is done so by early March when the first lapwing eggs are laid there is a massive reduction in crow other predator numbers . Once this is done any new crows will then take a bee line for the Larson instead of clearing the marsh of wader eggs. I know you thought this process would be done by April 1 but when you have lawyers debating the finer points of a licence things will go wrong .I think this whole mess has alot to do with grouse moores and your objections to them. However many people working in conservation will never forgive this situation you made and though you won a victory nothing will really change except a 2019 becoming a black year for wader conservation.i will not even tell you what the RSPB wader adviser said on the phone about this but I let you guess

    2. How do I know your concern over breeding waders is fake and that you are far more concerned about the impacts on Pheasants etc?

  2. thought your interview came across very well on farming today, pointing out the failings in the implementation of the decision… well said.

    All that was asked was for a non-issue from next year, not a sudden, headless-chicken panic….

  3. With the benefit of hindsight, immediately they knew about the legal challenge Natural England should have had a contingency plan in place for how to deal with this outcome.

    They should have realised that if they lost the legal case they would have had no option other than to withdraw the General Licences forthwith. A statutory body simply cannot knowingly act in breach of the law.

    They could have made it known from the start that there was a real prospect of the General Licences being withdrawn and invited individual applications immediately for those who would have been adversely affected by that eventuality.

    Any difficulties people are experiencing in this situation are entirely attributable to Natural England.

  4. Good to hear you on Today not falling for Justin Webb’s hook in his move towards “birds in general” being shot. But oh dear – branded as one of “the usual suspects”. Keep up the excellent work you suspicious three….

  5. Mark i have to ask while you were working for the RSPB was the GL in effect then and if it was and were so concerned about it why didnt you bring it to everyones attention then or was it ok for you (as in the RSPB) to use it

  6. Radio 4 Today interview at 3.02.59 for those who don’t want to listen to the whole programme!

  7. Whinge, whinge, moan, moan!
    What a joke!
    I live in the countryside. I walk through and pass fields of various crops and livestock on a daily basis.
    I see very few scarecrows and gas guns in fields.
    I have never seen a lamb with its eyes pecked out, but I have seen hundreds that have died from exposure to the elements and disease! On a cold spring morning you can see dead lambs in plenty of fields on my drive to work! For every lamb that has apparently been attacked by crows how many die from disease and exposure? The same can be said about foxes!
    You can walk for miles around where I live in the middle of the summer and barely find any life at all. The odd yellow hammer, a hare if your lucky.
    Even rabbits are few and far between.
    How about farming organically? Then we can have healthy crops and a healthy eco system with all the wildlife that is missing from our supposedly green and pleasant land.
    As for the gamekeepers, don’t get me started! The sooner game shooting in its present form is gone for good the better. It is a sick and evil blight on our landscape and economy!
    In the long term only good can come of this review of the licensing system as long as the law is adhered too.
    Chances of the game shooting industry obeying the law??
    I rest my case, close it down now and have done with it!!
    And don’t think for one second that I am some vegan, anti shooting warrior because I am not!
    I have friends that genuinely shoot for the pot and I have no issue with that.

    1. I have also lived in the countryside for most of my adult life, and what I see there every day is very much in line with what you describe.
      All I can add to what you have written is that the most damage I see done by animals to sheep and lambs is down to ‘man’s best friend.’

      1. I also live in the countryside in north Wiltshire and, like you, I have never seen the supposed depredations of crows and pigeons (or foxes come to that) and, as I point out hen doing my talks on behalf of the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch Scheme, my garden has always had successfully breeding Magpies, alongside successfully breeding Blackbirds, Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Goldcrests (not anecdotal: I am also a bird ringer and ring their newly-fledged offspring in my garden each year).

    2. I see more road-casualty rabbits and pheasants than birds killed by human hand. that roadkill EVENTUALLY gets picked over by the carrion-eaters such as magpies and crows, but it seems to take longer. I used to use ‘eyes pecked out yes/no’ as one of my freshness tests for roadkill… dont bother any more.

      Yes, we have a few songbird pulli taken by corvids, but equally by squirrels or cats…….there is research out there (proper, scientific, peer-reviewed research) showing that most songbirds are not affected significantly by corvids (there were a couple of exception). Yes, our local farmland lost a lapwing clutch last year.. but we dont know whether it was corvid, mustelid or fox……..
      Our village farmers grumble about crows but do not control them. They DO shoot woodpigeons in winter, but the vast numbers in southern cambridgeshire are little impacted by this.
      The grumbling from the farming community is over the crap decision (?panic?) taken by NE and should not be focussed on this campaign.

      Yes, the balance between farming, food and environment is seriously askew. This is probably a small part in starting to get it fixed properly.

    3. Daniel, you should not talk about farming.
      You know absolutely nothing about it.

  8. Mark posed a question a couple of hours ago and still not seen it up so i will ask again
    While working for the RSPB was the GL in place and did you (as in the RSPB) use it and if you have such concerns about it now why didnt you then

    1. Steve M – that’s because I was on the Jeremy Vine show, then recording a TV piece, then in a taxi, then talking to a TV station amd now I’m going to have breakfast/lunch. But it was, we did, and I did.

  9. So snipe, woodcock, golden plover, teal etc can still be shot during the shooting season? Some of these birds are Amber listed and grey partridge is red listed. I would have liked this to be addressed firstly. Look forward to seeing the new licence terms? I’m from a farming family turned naturalist so can see both sides on a number of issues, but the only way progress will be made will be by education. I can see why something unlawful was challenged, but I have learnt that trying to stop an activity can sometimes have undesirable side effects, again from lack of education. I support Chris and Mark on a number of issues but not on a few others. Chris, for instance, would like to see 20% of our land organic, whilst I can see that in badly degraded UK land, this would be very difficult to achieve and it would be better to retain existing organic land in other countries.

  10. you sir are a fool, a lot of what now cant be controlled i.e shot will have a MASSIVE impact on nesting song birds, farmers crops, DIY farming crops etc etc. you and your clan have not sat down and thought of the implications of un controlled vermin/corvids on other birds and mammals. I know you want to stop sport shooting but you really have done the countryside no favours what so ever, with shooting stopped the whole balance is now F*+@~D

  11. Even by the Daily Mail’s usual low standards their report on this matter is extremely inaccurate and dishonest, making entirely false claims such as the law has being changed. Rather than the truth that the law remains the same and the problem was that Natural England failed to uphold the law and enforce the conditions of the General Licence. I won’t put a link to such dishonest fake new here.

  12. You stated the facts very clearly this morning on R4’s ‘FT’ and ‘Today’… nobody should doubt that NE are responsible for the immediate difficulties that various groups are trying to lay on Wild Justice. NE should clearly have had contingency plans in place… so basic. As for the ridiculous calls for the BBC to sack Chris Packham, reference during your interview on ‘Today’ to ‘one of the usual suspects’, and the hate crime taking place against Chris Packham… Cruel, evil, bullying behaviour which achieves nothing but to reduce the credibility of the perpetrators.
    Well done all three of you – keep safe, keep going, you have our backing!

  13. Once again, its worth pointing out that NE have pulled the general license because their use of it was breaking the law. You only have to read this blog, CA, etc to realise that there is a group of people who feel the law doesn’t really apply to them – you could equally ask why didn’t the people fulminating now ever question the General License – they have every bit as much responsibility as Mark did when he was at RSPB.

  14. Then Mark I would have to ask you when you questioned the use of the GL while at the RSPB were you questioning the use of it or the legality of it also i belive you said that you left your post there about eight years ago so the next question is why now .
    If you or any of your colleagues as part of the RSPB had sent a letter to NE questioning the legality of it I dont think they could have just ignored it .

    1. Steve M – we questioned the use of it because the RSPB used lethal predator control as a last resort rather than a routine ‘let’s kill things’ approach – as required by the law and by morality. In fact, if you can get a copy of my book Fighting for Birds and turn to Chapter 5 (Is it ever right to be nasty to birds?) and especially to pages 74-76 you will find a discussion of these matters. It is of some relief to me that what I wrote in 2011/12 is very much what I still think in 2019. And it is fully in tune with Wild Justice’s line. In the 12+ years that I was RSPB Conservation Director the amount of lethal predator control increased – but not hugely. It increased in those places where we had good reason to believe that it would help nature conservation efforts – it wasn’t a casual decision. And if the RSPB wanted to apply for licences to kill some generalist predators it would, in my day,have been in a very good position to fill in any licence application rather convincingly.

      We also did have discussions, but not many and not very deep , about whether this was actually legal. I remember asking that and being persuaded that it was. However, I was not and still am not a lawyer so my opinion wasn’t very firmly based! I see a lot of comments on here and elsewhere of people who want to be able to do something, and think they should be able to do it, but do not have a clue about whether they are legally entitled to do so.

      Because you have asked sensible questions politely I have tried to give you sensible polite answers. I might take the evening off though – it’s been a busy day with media interviews and lots of chats on the phone with journalists.

  15. Hi Mark,
    I’ve just listened to your excellent interview on Farming Today.
    As expected it was well reasoned, clear and concise and should have done much to allay the fears of people who may genuinely want to prevent damage to crops.
    Well done to you and the team at Wild Justice.

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