General Licence confusion

I’d written the following blog post before hearing that Defra are announcing new, or not so new, general licences overnight. Wild Justice will be looking carefully at these and consulting with our lawyers over the next few days.

One of the things that has really struck me about the whole business of reforming the general licences is that maybe they aren’t fit for purpose even if they can be made lawful. This isn’t where I started, but it is where I am tending to go.

Why am I thinking that?:

  1. Natural England does not seem to have a clue about the evidence needed to justify such licences. Because of the extreme pressure put on them by shooting, and to a lesser extent farming, interests they seem to have been frantically trying to please these stakeholders rather than take a deep breath and see what the law says and what the licences should do. There is an alternative licensing system, which applies to all other bird species, which entails applying for an individual licence for a specific issue in a specific place. If Natural England can’t make general licences work then they can fall back on specific licences. This would be unpopular, especially if Natural England decided to charge for licences, but it is a clear alternative approach.
  2. Many owners of shotguns appear, if social media is anything to go by (which maybe it isn’t), completely clueless about what the current law is and what they should be doing, and what they should have been doing for decades. I was told of a conversation in Suffolk with a landowner who thought, it appears genuinely thought, that if it was his land and he had a shotgun licence then the law allowed him to shoot anything he wanted. Wild Justice has not changed the law. It’s a poor state of affairs when people are killing birds in the countryside and not knowing what their responsibilities are. Issuing lawful general licences won’t solve this problem if the users of the licence don’t understand them. Are the NFU, BASC, Natural England, Defra and others going to mount a massive, a really massive, education exercise to ensure that their members and the public are compliant with any new general licences which are issued?
  3. I fear quite a lot of deliberate law-breaking. It’s one thing, a bad thing, to be unaware of what the law says but it’s another thing entirely to know what it says and deliberately break it.
  4. Then there is the issue of bird identification. Rooks and Carrion Crows look quite similar and the old adage of ‘A flock of Crows are Rooks and a single Rook is a Crow’ is way out of date. Jackdaws (and Ravens) are black too. I’ve been told by farmers that Rooks are attacking their lambs and Carrion Crows are attacking their crops and in both instances I think these nth-generation farmers simply didn’t know which species they were looking at. Few farmers know the difference between a Stock Dove and a Woodpigeon too. Of course some do, but many don’t.
  5. Enforcement – how will any future general licences be enforced?
  6. Monitoring – how will any future general licences be monitored?

I’m quite often asked what Wild Justice wants the new system to be – and I always say I don’t know exactly and it’s Natural England’s and Defra’s job to sort that out. I say that I hope they come up with something that is lawful, reduces the amount of casual killing of birds in the countryside, stops any killing of Rooks, Jackdaws, Magpies or Jays for the purpose of protecting wild birds, and allows landowners to use lethal control of (let’s call them) pest species as the law allows. That’s where we will be if Defra takes the opportunity that Wild Justice has given them to reform the licensing system within the law.

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125 Replies to “General Licence confusion”

  1. Had a good read of the new GLs this morning, clear as a bell to me. Business as usual for those who have been using them for years. The consultation obviously showed DEFRA the true extent of damage done by pest species by those who actually see it day by day, not those who think about it while sipping their skinny Latte and reading the Guardian.

    I'm just getting my pen and paper to record my reasonable endeavours prior to lethal methods and comply with the new GLs. All of this will then be submitted as further evidence at the next consultation.

    1. S, you are entitled to a different view. But if you're going to simply dismiss anyone who disagrees with you as a latte sipping townie its not very convincing. I can't stand lattes. And I spend a lot of time in the field - not so much as I did when I managed 1000ha of land, but still quite a lot.

      I'm reminded of the NFU officer who objected to Beavers in the sincere belief that they ate fish. He was so sure that as a farmer he knew everything and everyone else knew nothing he didn't even feel the need to check what they ate before objecting to their reintroduction. Do you think he made a credible advocate for the Farmers' cause?

      Considering that Farmers get gigantic amounts of public subsidy you might want to ponder whether insulting the people who pay your wages is such a good idea. Disagreeing is fine, insulting the hand that feeds you is plain dumb.

  2. Mark, I always read your blog with interest and respect a great deal of what you say. However, this post has me confused. You are happy to allow landowners to use legal control of pest species but you want to stop all killing of rooks, jackdaws, magpies and jays to protect wild birds. This is a very confusing message in its own right is it not? Please clarify your position and why have you left crows off your list, are you happy to see them being killed?
    I am happy you enjoyed my fathers bird book....

    1. Toby - I’m glad you read this blog and I did enjoy your father’s book very much, and liked him very much too.

      It is confusing - it is complicated.

      Wild Justice recognises that the law allows legitimate ‘pest’ control to protect livestock and prevent serious damage to crops. We don’t have a problem with that within the limits that the law prescribes. So Crow killing to protect lambs according to the law is legitimate.

      When it comes to killing Jays, Rooks, Jackdaws and yes, even Magpies, to protect wild birds this clearly isn’t pest control. It’s intervening for the purpose of nature conservation. The evidence that these four species have a serious impact on bird populations generally is very weak. That’s probably why the RSPB doesn’t kill any of these four species on it s 155,000ha estate. We think these four species should come off the general licence which covers nature conservation purposes (they may or may not still be killed legitimately for damaging crops etc).

      Carrion Crows, we recognise, can cause problems for species of nature conservation importance and so we are not arguing that they should be removed from the general licences. We think their impacts though are often exaggerated.

      We don’t think people should kill Jackdaws under a general
      Licence to protect flora and fauna any more than they should be able to kill Blackbirds to protect earthworms or Song Thrushes to protect molluscs.

      That’s a short attempt to set out the logic. But maybe we should meet and talk about it - that would be fun.
      Best wishes

      1. The shooting sector cannot deny that their methods have brought us the current ecological disaster. The only answer is rewilding of large areas where ecological processes are allowed to happen in a healthy manner. As per Benedict Macdonald's book Rebirding. there is no justification at all for shooting magpies and jays to "protect" wildlife, never has been. They are a normal part of the ecosystem. If crows attack lambs, then it's OK to shoot them.

  3. I bet your lawyers are rubbing their hands together, you fools handing over all this cash for nothing.

    Is this Mr Packham this morning??

    1. Bb - our lawyers will be paid by NE because they conceded the case. We have the money to recycle in another challenge of GL36 which is already underway. And we are consulting our lawyers on the new licences issued today. There’s a long way to go before this is all resolved.

  4. Re your April blog about wood pigeons, I see one of the new licenses specifically allows them to be sold for human consumption. What would be the ramifications if they were reclassified as game?

  5. Mr Avery you are a total moron if you believe what you say. I would welcome you to come take a look round my farm and see the diversity of the plants insects and animal on it. This doesn’t happen by itself as I hope you are aware. If left to itself it would be nothing but corvids and gorse bushes. You and mr packham live in a dream world pushing your agendas threw the biased BBC. If I were you I would feel ashamed and embarrassed about what you are trying to do to the British countryside. Go take a walk in the country side away from your office desk and go talk to the people that actually knows what goes on there. I hope you can make time for a reply from your busy wildlife killing exercise.
    Yours thankfully

    Joe simpson

  6. With regard to this statement "I was told of a conversation in Suffolk with a landowner who thought, it appears genuinely thought, that if it was his land and he had a shotgun licence then the law allowed him to shoot anything he wanted". I've also been told of a multitude of "conservationists" that have been heard to say "I don't care what the law says, I don't like shooting and fishing so I'm going to get it banned by fair means or foul, including harassment and violence". About sums anti's up I thought.

    1. I've been active (working) in conservation for over 30 years and I have never, ever, heard any conservationist say that. No professional, no volunteer, no trustee. Never.

      Sure you're not confusing us with animal rights activists? I've had my run ins and been threatened, by them too.

      1. jbc, unfortunately it seems to me that in some quarters the boundary between conservation and animal rights is becoming a bit blurred. As a conservationist who has no objection to shooting for sport carried out legally, I'm not very happy about that. Given the problems with mismanagement of the uplands, raptor persecution and too-intensive lowland shoots, jays, rooks, magpies and jackdaws remaining on the general licence seems pretty small beer.

        1. Bob - this case is about whether the regulator is doing its job properly. One of a series. That is strategically important.

  7. Are you now saying that all the money I gave to your cause is just wasted!!!! and all it has done is line the pockets of Leigh Day solicitors. I will not be giving anymore money if you can't sort out this simple law. You come over as a complete amateur and someone who just has a 'bee in his bonnet'. What a failure, I can already hear shotguns blasting around my village as the shooters re-emerge.

    1. Andrew - thank you for your donation (by the way was it by PayPal, cheque or bank transfer?). You needn’t worry - NE will pay our costs for the first case because they conceded. So we have your money to recycle in another challenge. Thank you.

    2. I don’t believe for a second that ‘Andrew’ is or has been a supporter of wild justice.
      Quite the contrary actually.

      1. Karen, I can confirm that I did support Wild Justice. I just feel so peeved off that my £20 taken from my weekly allowance has gone to waste. I will now take out my own personal actions on these shooters till they see the need for all of us to become vegan.

          1. John, I do see the need to kill nice birds to protect corn in fields, I get my food from the supermarket or food banks and I don't see animals needing to be killed there. Veg is all we need as well as peace and love to everyone in the world.

    3. A - the law isn't simple, and
      B - it's not Wild Justices' job to sort it out, it's DEFRA and NE.

  8. I'm interested in birds but I have difficulty with identification. I'm sure many people who like to kill birds have no more idea than I do about what species they are aiming at, and perhaps most will not care.
    Off topic, but I'm noticing that the website is getting slow again.

    1. Then Alex, hopefully you do not own a shotgun.
      As identifying your quarry is fundamental to all types of shooting and the golden rule is if in doubt don’t shoot.

      1. Really? I've been told that a farm that hosted a red kite reintroduction and became an ecotourism business in its early days used to host a pheasant shoot too. That came to an end when some of the shooters somehow kept 'mistaking' red kites for pheasants and took a few pops at them. So either their bird ID skills were crap, or they just fancied trying to shoot birds of prey. The squeaky clean image of shooters and gamekeepers some like to try and palm us off with tend to fall to pieces when you speak to people who've had first hand dealings with them.

        1. Seeing as how this all came to you at least secondhand or more probably 3rd hand, I would suggest, as President Trump often say`s; `it is fake news`.Your assertion that game shooters cannot tell the difference between a game bird and a bird of prey, particulary one as large as a Red Kite, is quite frankly laughable ! That someone on a game shoot would risk losing his shotgun licence a heavy fine or worse, I find quite frankly unbelievable.
          However, as you are evidently not privvy to the facts, dont let this get in the way of starting an anti-shooting rumour

          1. Rufus - not so fast with the fake news allegation

            Maybe you mean he knew it was a Buzzard all along and shot it anyway. Did you? Or do you accept his defence plea and accept he couldn’t tell the difference?

  9. Given your previous employment within the RSPB, your age ( I have seen you in Hebden Bridge and even bought two or three of your books !) and your observations of birds in their many different habitats I too find it amazing that you refuse to accept / admit that the Magpie has little / meaningful impact on songbirds and other wild birds. This is to say nothing of all you have written and profess to know about the countryside and what goes on there .
    In the late spring and early summer my own observations are that magpies are focused on stripping nests of eggs fledglings and small chicks for some weeks into their new life and little more when seeking food. I am glad you see the Carrion Crow as a bird that can and does impact on new born lambs and other sheep. I have over many years seen them attack new born lambs particularly where there are multiple births, or ewes either on their backs or perhaps in other difficulties such as being caught in a ditch or fence. As for their impact on Lapwing and Curlews either on the moor or moor fringes I believe them to be a significant factor in nesting failures.
    The fact is that in many places local to myself Magpies Carrion Crows Jackdaws etc are just about everywhere in high numbers- unlike other birds- and they do impact on nesting success. You and others that clearly support you must see this. I do not want to see the last of those birds but they certainly warrant some management and particularly in the Spring.
    It is with respect that I say I sometimes find your views most definitely in the left hand carriageway and you will rarely pass onto the right in any manner. You appear to have a dislike of the rich and landowners. I fall into neither category but I do not think it does not do you any favours and I detect such a tone more frequently now. Mark please find some middle ground and allow some common sense to prevail. Many birds- large and small come to this country to breed in many of our unique habitats. This is to say nothing of our native birds. Let’s give them a helping hand. Respectfully. Phillip W

  10. Mark, are you really going to risk more of your kind Donators' money on a legal challenge against a licence which the Government have re-issued after being challenged previously??? I mean is it likely that they will have issued a new licence which hasn't been scrutinised and reviewed by lawyers already to ensure its meets the requirements of the relevant legislation??? Sounds like more of a waste of taxpayers money with NE and/or Defra having to put resources going to court again.

    Grasping at straws or what. I mean the true intent here is so obvious to everyone now, WJ is just an anti-shooting organisation. WJ have caused untold damage to occur during the revocation of the old GLs, most likely resulting in predation of numerous endangered species, its a complete own goal. And I'm sure you will come back and say this isn't what WJ asked for, but you certainly basked in the glory for a while didn't you and given that the old GLs were legally flawed you must have known they had no choice other than to revoke the licences?

    I have much respect for your other conservation efforts which dont involve ulterior motives and maybe you should think about concentrating on those efforts instead of letting your personal views on shooting cloud your judgement any further.

    1. S - it isn’t more money, it’s the same money going round for a second time because we won round one. So you mustn’t fret about that.

      We are basically where we would have been if NE had decided to fight the case except we have raised all the money we need and they have spent money (and all you shooting types are complaining about how awful it was to revoke the licences).

      Our view is that GL26 is unlawful and we are fully prepared to go to court to argue that case. That’s perfectly respectable isn’t it? If we win, we’ll be pleased, if we lose then it will still have been worth the battle. And we are confident that the light being shone on the general licences will make it almost certain they will have to change after the promised consultation by Defra.

      1. All in the name of anti-shooting. Look forward to seeing how it pans out but for now the government has seen sense. The public consultation will allow further evidence to be collated and strengthen the case for GLs , maybe then you might find a middle ground Mark? Even your fellow conservationsits are questioning your reason over this one

      2. It must be so easy when you are not playing with your own money
        I must ask would you be doing it if it was and if you would why dont you

        1. Steve M - not so easy to raise money for a cause. All our funds are donated - and so indicate the level of public support.

          1. Or public ignorance of how the countryside really works to feed them, it’s not all like bbc coutryfile would have you believe.

  11. Like it or not you can not wind back the clock, the countryside we have today has been man made and man managed for centuries and controlling pest species to maximise food production is part of that process. Your aims put at risk profits/jobs of farmers and businesses in the shooting industry. Jobs that support families and food production that helps feed the nation. You appear to care more about pest species than you do people. Perhaps you should try living on the streets for a few months with no money to see how that feels.

    1. John - like it or not, you cannot ignore the law and neither can government or its agencies. That is the issue here.

      1. Then you must have known that if NE lawyers looked at it found it to be wrong then the general licence would be pulled which is totally the opposite to the statements that WJ has said

        1. Steve M - not at all. If everyone could predict the course and outcome of legal cases then we wouldn’t need judges. No-one knew what would happen, including us.

          Little test here - what will be the outcome of our challenge of GL26, and when? No? No, I don’t know either.

          1. So what did you expect to happen if you won your case. You have already stated that if a law is being broken it cannot continue..Did no one think of the consequences not even your lawyer's

  12. Mark, nobody is suggesting we should ignore the law but the law should be fit for purpose and recognise the real world we live in people need food and jobs and farmers need to be able to maximise their productivity.
    Firearms owners are probably the most law abiding members of society in this country, break the law even in a minor way and you are considered an unfit person to own a gun and your licence is revoked.
    When did you last ignore the law? Speeding perhaps? If caught that could cost a gun owner their gun licence but for you just a few points on your driving licence or a fine.

    1. John - glad we are agreed on that. You’d better try to change the law if you want to. We are perfectly happy with the law in this area - just not with the poor way that NE has implemented it for over two decades.

  13. If you're having to rely on hearsay - even if it does originate in Suffolk - then any remaining credibility that you may have kept with country folk has vaporised and as such is a fair indication that if that's all you can offer as a lynch pin for your case then patently you're doomed to failure. And probably at someone else's expense.

    1. P - I don’t rely on it, but am happy to relay stories. True stories as far as I know.

      I’d love to see the figures from a study of shooters’ knowledge of the law. We know that compliance on lead use is terrible don’t we? Yes we do.

      1. "As far as I know", but not being certain does not prevent you from commenting. If the shooters' knowledge of the law was as you suggest - yet again without any proof - the magistrates courts would be busting at the seams with law breaking shooters but funnily enough, they're not. Whereas I have to concede that the compliance on lead use - here I suspect you actually mean compliance with NTS - is not fully 100%, but we know that it's never-the-less very good and our 'fowlers have grasped the nettle and have done us proud in this respect over the years. We know this don't we as otherwise the LAG's work might have carried more weight instead of being virtually ignored by the peer review.

        1. P - it certainly doesn’t stop me relating things I have been told, no. That’s quite common isn’t it? People say ‘Do you know what I heard the other day?’.

          The LAG report was ignored by Liz Truss and by shooting - despite being underpinned by excellent science. Another example of a Tory Secretary of State taking a decision against the public interest but in favour of recreational shooting.

          The courts wouldn’t be full because enforcement of laws about wildlife protection is pitifully weak.

  14. Can’t believe the rudeness of some posts on here. Why can’t folk just make their point in a civil way. Very happy for my donation to be recycled! Keep up the good work.

    1. Tracey - thank you. There seem to be an awful lot of uncouth shooters. Not all of them of course.

  15. Mark, I think in someways we agree a lot with each other’s views, most pigeon shooters do it for three reasons, 1) to provide a service to the farmer to maximise crop yield and the data shows wood pigeons numbers continue to increase year on year despite shooting,
    2) to provide a meal on the table as whenever possible the shot birds enter the food chain, 3) for the love of the countryside as believe it or not we enjoy the diversity within nature it is surprising what you see when sitting unseen in the hedgerow, be that other birds or animals, so we no more want to see the extinctions of pigeons than you do.
    Leaving aside shooting of pest species surely their are bigger issues causing the decline in all birds like domestic cats.

    1. John - looks like we do agree about quite a bit. Most of the meat I eat at home is lead-free venison. I’d eat a lot of pigeons if they were shot with non-toxic ammunition.

  16. Sadly Mark, technology is not yet their with non-toxic shot.
    What I mean by that is that given the choice we would naturally prefer to move away from using lead shot to shoot pigeons. But as I am sure you know the alternative are just not viable yet as an everyday replacement, failing on cost or other environmental issues but the shooting industry continues to innovate and hopefully one day a suitable alternative will be available.
    At the end of the day we want I think the same thing but to date all I have read from wild justice focuses on shooting and I note you ignored my comment re the domestic cats as a significant killer of song birds.

    1. John - thst’s Not really true about non-toxic ammunition is it. How have the Danes managed all these years?

      Since Wild Justice has only taken one case (watch this space) and that is on the general licences, it would be difficult for shooting not to come up.

      Yes I ignored the comment on cats because there is always a ‘what about this other thing?’.

      1. Mark, So you are happy to litter the countryside with plastic wads which is what happens when steel shot and other types of non-toxic shot is used.
        Was it not the Dutch who did the u-turn ie banned lead shot then realised the problems with non-toxic shot and then revoked the ban on lead shot.
        Their is always pros and conns with almost every activity humans undertake on this planet but clearly you are not able to have a grown up discussion on the part shooting plays having a closed mind that all shooting is bad.
        Hiding behind comments like their is always what about this other thing demonstrates your closed minded approach to justice for wildlife provided it only involves shooting.
        Clearly you do not want to upset the millions of cat owners by telling them the truth about how their cuddly little pet is a killer of millions of song birds every year, I believe some countries ban cat from leaving their houses.

        1. John - you are all over the place aren’t you? No, I’m not happy for shooters to litter the countryside. You don’t need to use plastic and if you do BASC claim to have a successful recycling scheme. Lead is a poison, using it to shoot into creatures that pass into the human food chain is just crazy when non-toxic alternatives are cheaply available.

          Banning cats might or might not be a good idea, but if it is a good idea it doesn’t stop us from following other good ideas first does it? And our first issue is to reform the general licences because they aren’t scientifically sound and aren’t, we contend, lawful.

          1. Mark, you find me a non-toxic shot cartridge that does not use a plastic wad or one that is biodegradable and is freely available in the shops for very similar price to a biodegradable fibre waded lead shot cartridge and I will use it for crop protection on pigeons. Oh and ideally I want that cartridge in all the sizes .410 through to 12ga.
            Good luck with that task.
            I know of no recycling scheme for plastic wads I think you are confusing the wad with the cartridge case.
            I do not use plastic wads for any of my shooting clay targets or wood pigeons but some do use plastic wads with lead shot, but have you ever looked at the two versions of plastic wad? ie lead shot and non-toxic shot, the plastic used in non-toxic wads is thicker and denser than even that for lead shot plastic wads, so given the problem with plastic waste they will both be in the environment for a very long time once fired out from the muzzle of the gun and at this point in time that is exactly what you are suggesting should happen.
            The lead shot debate has been and gone changes were made you lost the argument for a total ban on sensible scientific data/evidence.

          2. John - if you think this issue is over, that is fine by me. You’l find that the world is moving on this subject.

          3. P.S your non-toxic cheaply available ALL use plastic wads.
            So who is now crazy?

          4. John - shooting for fun depends on plastic or lead does it? Your hobby really is in a complete mess then, isn’t it

          5. I dont think it```s John all over the place My Avery, I think its you who are getting confused. You are getting yourself mixed up with the wads used for steel shot and spent plastic cartridge cases. While the later can be readily collected and there are attempts being made to re-cycle them, the same does not apply to the wad which cannot be readily collected. As for your amusing comment that non-toxic ammunition is cheaply available; I suggest you look up the price of 25 lead cartridges and then compare the price with a box of Tungsten-matrix or Bismuth.

          6. Rufus - work harder at it, that’s what the 21st century is about. Although you will have to leap from the 19th straight to the 21st. We’d love to have you join us.

      2. What was one major reason why the Norweigen Parliament voted to overturn their lead shot ban - albeit with exceptions - with 76 votes for, just 16 against and with 5 abstentions?

        1. PEF-S - pressure from shooting interests wasn’t it?

          Denmark has managed with no lead ammo for decades. They haven’t stopped shooting, they’v simply stopped Shooting a poison into food and the environment. The UK shooters’ flouting of lead ban is quite a long way from general licences but it does show that far too many people with gus in the countryside either don’t know the laws or deliberately break them. Are you a shooter? Do you break the law? Or comply with it? Do you shoot under the terms of the general licence?

          1. As I think you are probably aware, it was because the Norwegian Parliament considered the anti lead lobby's case to be grossly exaggerated and not trustworthy.
            And, yes, no (in common with the vast majority of my fellow shooters), yes and yes.

          2. PWF - it was because the shooting lobby lobbied wasn’t it? But it’s a good anecdote to support retaining poison in food and the environment I guess. I prefer, obviously, the Danish case study where the country has been lead free for decades with the full and enthusiastic support of thousands and thousands of Danish shooters. UK shooters seem to be pretty backward in their views on ecology, lead, predator control, big bags, numbers of released reared birds, heather burning, raptor persecution etc etc. The current state of UK shooting makes it incredibly vulnerable. A better regulated pastime would not be under constant pressure from many sides.

          3. First of all, my apologies if this turns out to be a duplicate. I have changed computers as my I pad could well be misbehaving.

            No, the Norwegian Parliament was of the opinion that the evidence from the anti lead shot camp was grossly exaggerated and not trustworthy.
            And, yes, no (in common with the vast majority of shooters), yes and yes answere your questions regarding my shooting activities

  17. you don't give up mark good luck on trying to overturn a secretary of states decision in court
    (no chance )

  18. The detail of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and its schedules can seem quite complicated. Years ago a much respected member of the local birdwatching club I was involved with used to do talks about bird protection law. Pretty well everyone in our club and other groups always learnt a lot, including the key issue that ALL bird species in this country are protected unless specific exemptions, ie those within licensing and legal shooting regulations under the 1981 Act, apply. I myself and others at the talks were just people with a general interest in the topic. I am really disappointed that so many of the contributors to today’s blog post, and indeed in this licences debate generally, whilst claiming to be countryside custodians, seem (a) pretty ignorant about the basic detail of the law and (b) so upset when these issues are politely explained to them. Farming and ‘shooting’ organisations, seem to have either a poor understanding of the law as advised to their members, or very poor communication skills. Defra and NE have apparently failed lamentably over the years to either fully understand or promote knowledge of laws and regulations passed by Parliament. Wild Justice seem to have unintentionally uncovered a much more worryingly unregulated segment of our ‘green and pleasant land’ than anyone could have anticipated.

    1. Richard, I think a lot of what you say is true to a certain degree.
      Education is key to compliance with the law, may be the way forward in this day and age is a simple online computer based training.
      It could also included other legal requirements like the use of non-toxic shot.
      It could be run by the likes of BASC (note I am not suggesting an exam or test).
      Reference to be compliant with the 1981 act and general/personal licences could be put on every shotgun (& firearms) certificate as a reminder, a lot are issued purely for clay target shooting.
      Naturally cost will be an issue but it should not be significantly expensive to setup and administer and could be a selling point for membership benefits for the likes of BASC.
      Mark, you see open minded happy to embrace change.

        1. Let's for discussion purposes - and I have no hidden agenda - assume for a minute that NTS wins the day and lead shot is banned. Now this is not a blanket statement, but the fact is that the vast majority of guns which will be rendered useless will be older models, many with Damascus barrels. Their owners in all probability will value them more than their actual monetary worth, but some will indeed be worth well into four figures, if not more. Would you, Mark, on the owners' behalf advocate as positively as you are on having lead banned for them to be fairly reimbursed for their financial loss?

          1. PWF - no thanks. I’d be selling Purdey futures.

            Are you asking for poison ammunition to be shot into food until rich people are compensated for loss of value of a gun?

          2. Many, many thanks for your reply which nails your colours to the mast in no uncertain terms. I was asking if having made a case the government then decided to ban the use of lead shot which would have meant that many like myself who can afford to shoot and mainly vermin control and who just happened to have inherited a gun which through careful use and maintenance for over 100 years is now worth a few bob but worthless in the event that lead was banned as as a humble retired ex serviceman and state pensioner who whereas not totally brassic could not afford the only type of NTS which the gun can accept, that you might appreciate the possible unforeseen consequences of your actions.
            Well, I have my answer. Your glib reply reflects your true intent and that is simply that you will not rest until all shooting of any live quarry is outlawed.. You know it. I know it and as it always has and always will, the truth will out and everyone else will know it. Fortunately, you are doomed to failure. Simply, you can fool most of the people all of the time, or all of the people most of the time, but .................

          3. PWF - you’re welcome. You want yourself and others to be compensated by the taxpayer when eventually you are forced to use non-toxic shot instead of poisonous and environmentally harmful lead. And you want me to campaign on your behalf. Your inflated sense of entitlement is manifest.

            I don’t want to ban all shooting, not even all game shooting, and my views on the subject have been clearly laid out here and in books and articles for years. So it is bizarre each time this crops up. But shooters keep aiming for their own feet.

            John, another recently arrived commenter here raises the prospect of food riots if birdnprotection laws are properly implemented and you claim that being allowed to shoot steel, tungsten, antimony and other metallic balls through the flesh of living creatures is actually stopping you shooting metal balls through the flesh of living creatures.

            You’re making the case for recreational shooting to be properly regulated through the paucity of your own arguments.

          4. Although the situation is different, the effect is the same. Back along when those nasty people who owned handguns were forced to hand them in, they were compensated for their loss. This because through no fault of their own it became illegal to own them where previously it had not been so. It will not be illegal to own shotguns if, in the unlikely event that lead is banned, but in some cases it will be illegal to shoot the only type of shot that meets one of the criteria for the blanket use of NTS. In the event, and it is indeed fortunate that it will not be you that makes this decision but the government - and judging by current events, they've more than enough on their plates to worry about for at least the next decade or so - they saw fit to recompense those law abiding folk affected by a change in legislation on that occasion, so hopefully in the event of any change they'll be minded to do the same again.
            You mention that you do not wish to have all shooting, not even game shooting, banned. In view of your post of 9:52pm June 16th where the pen was forsaken for the proverbial sharp pointy stick, you're going to have quite some difficulty in convincing those shooters mentioned of that fact. Who's shooting who in the foot one might ask?
            I have to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my point, but having done so, I'm now out.

  19. Mark, yes like I have said and like life in general we have to make choices. The options may not be perfect but then that is true of virtually all of modern human living. But at least the industry is alway forward looking and open to new initiatives to reduce the impact on the environment but to date we are where we are.
    You on the other hand want to ignore or twist the facts that do not suite your anti shooting agenda.
    But I look forward to your next campaign on banning the ownership of domestic cats, otherwise you will have shown your true objective is just that anti shooting and not about protecting/conserving wildlife at all.

    1. John - you are running out of steam aren’t you. Your first para says nothing at all, the second is ad hominem and the third is another attempt at pointless and irrelevant ‘whataboutery’.

      1. No my first para shows I live in the real world, open minded and happy to embrace change when it is practical/sensible to do so, the second that you are just the opposite do not want to accept that choices have to be made and unable to accept that you are just anti shooting, my third para is one of support once you start your campaign to ban all domestic cats to demonstrate you are not just an anti shooting organisation I will be happy to make a donation to the that campaign, so best get crowd funding underway for it.

          1. John - I have been saying this since the first legal challenge, I have repeatedly asked Mark to admit WJ is just an anti shooting group nothing more and time and time again he bats away the question with a sarcastic remark or just ignores it. But its becoming very clear to all now. They seem happy to accept culling of certain species but not others which just so happen to be culled for the purposes of conserving the shooting industry. No regard for people at all, sod all of those who would lose livelihoods, people with families, children supported by the shooting industry. Sociopathic if you ask me, and it seems to be tragically driven by a total dislike for the upper classes (very much like the foxhunting debate), with little regard for all of us in the middle and lower classes that shoot and love the countryside and the wildlife within it who ultimately suffer from these actions.

          2. S - it’s hardly surprising that when you ask someone to admit something that is untrue then they don’t admit it.

  20. Mark, please don't give this bunch of ignoramuses the oxygen of publicity. I can't be bother to respond to their profound ignorance.

    1. That certainly drives home Tracey's point made earlier, just a shame for her that it came from the direction it did.

  21. Mark, so how many people have died from eating game shot with lead? I am 69 and have eaten plenty of game shot with lead and I am still here, I also know of others who are of a similar age and older who have also been eating game all their lives, and yes they are still alive.
    Personally I think there is more to you wanting a ban on lead, you are more likely to ingest more lead from eating root vegetables than eating game shot with lead, lead needs to-be bioacessible before it can be dissolved in the gut and absorbed by the body, lead in its metallic form cannot be absorbed easily by the intestine and will quickly pass through the body.

    1. Countryman - it’s difficult to understand why the shooting industry won’t switch to non-toxic ammunition if shot game is destined for human food chain. After all, for that and many other reasons, the Lead Ammunition Group’s report, written by scientists, recommended withdrawal of lead. And NHS England advise pregnant women to avoid eating lead shot game. But it’s all a plot to stop shooting according to so many shooters. It clearly isn’t because it doesn’t stop shooting, it stops shooting with lead. Not a very difficult difference to understand but beyond many it seems. Just give up the lead and you will find shooting has an easier life. And you won’t look like selfish, unscientific, backwoodsmen (and women) so much.

      1. Yes, but wasn't it other scientists having a more relevant scientific discipline which won the day?

          1. Surely, you're not saying that they were bested by a couple of laymen plumb Bobs

    2. Yes, you're still here, but not with a functioning moral compass. Lead poisoning has that sort of effect.

  22. SteB, well with that arrogant and blinkered view of other peoples posts I guess its one way of getting debate/views stopped, or is it just a case of rattle out of pram.

    1. The "opinions" are nonsense sophistry with the usual bully boy travelling circus. I've comprehensive demolished the arguments of every "fieldsports" apologist I've ever taken on, and I have stuck with it. Through all the sophistry, the attempts to overwhelm me by ganging up on me, the character assassination, being threatened in my own home by anonymous online thugs etc. However, it really is a waste of time.

      Yes, I can demolish all these arguments, because they're all founded on sophistry - all the logical fallacies, bluster, dishonesty, and just outright lies. But it's just downright unpleasant dealing with it because the fieldsports proponents are so darn nasty and love their little gangs. I'd quite happily engage in a good natured debate, if it wasn't for the fact that this particular lobby group always get nasty and personal when they lose the argument with my straight forward presentation of evidence.

      Mark has given you space to vent your nonsense, and he's far too fair like this. Personally I think that the way to deal with these dishonest arguments is just not to publish them.

      1. Was it nor Chris P, who refused to go on a bbc program if BASC were also to be present, the BASC person had travelling arranged including hotel booked and the bbc cancelled it with him at the last possible moment. But the program still went out, with only Chris allowed to put his view across. Or is this wrong and BASC lied to it’s one hundred and fifty thousand or so members?

        1. John - was that the time when Chris was talking about death threats? If so, then the person who sent the death threat and the other unpleasant attempts at intimidation changed the story...

          1. Not sure, but what I am sure of is if basc had been allowed on the bbc program they would have unequivocally condoned such threats (if true) as indeed all responsible and respectable people would.
            By Chris refusing to go on the bbc show together with basc he denied basc that opportunity, but then that is probably exactly what he wanted to do, what other reason could their be?
            And I would hope that by now the culprit/s should have been identified and dealt with as appropriate by the law.

          2. John - I am sure you meant condemned not condoned. The police are investigating threats so there can’t be much doubt that they are credible enough. Not sure why BASC must have a place at every media table - I haven’t noticed Wild Justice being asked for comment by many media outlets presumably they should be quoted for balance every single time.

  23. selfish, unscientific, backwoodsmen, well Mark thanks for that, I have over some time looked at a number of studies on the effects of lead contaminated game.
    There have been studies in Germany, America, Spain and other countries, their finding suggest that it is possible to get lead poisoning from eating game shot with lead, but most studies also found you would need to consume large amounts of lead contaminated game over a long period before it had any harmful effects on the body, they also say that consuming large amounts of meat could be just as harmful if not more so.

    1. Countryman - there is no safe lead level. Since there are safe, cheap alternatives then they should be used for health and environmental reasons. Doing this would not stop shooting.

      1. Mark, but that is the problem their is no cheap alternative to lead that is environmentally friendly you either spread lead around or plastic wads. Ideally we would not do either but the cheap alternative you keep mentioning does not yet exist.
        Hence the no win difficult choice personally I prefer the very low risk of getting lead poison from eating lead shot pigeons to that of the certainty of throwing plastic around the fields.
        We are wanting the same conclusion but we are not their with the technology yet. Hopefully one day soon we will have a win win choice as lots of money will be made from who ever comes up with solving the problem of cheap biodegradable alternatives to the current plastic wad used with steel shot.

  24. Mark, Could you expand a little on this part of your post? “Just give up the lead and you will find shooting has an easier life”???

  25. Mark

    Keep up the great work you. The legal principles you are trying to highlight are important. The wildlife laws are so difficult to prove; government and so-called regulatory organisations are so out of control; and they are so submissive to the demands of the shooting and farming industries that something extraordinary needs to be done. That is what Wild Justice is doing and is actually achieving.

    The success of the campaigns, blogs and educational work you have all undertaken and the incredible achievement of the work of Wild Justice are an absolute inspiration to those of us who are not as knowledgeable as you but able to contribute in other ways. Thank you.

    1. Lizzybusy, I am not sure what you actually want as an end game.
      We are not talking about controlling (shooting) blackbirds and thrushes etc like some countries do. We are talking about controlling pest birds like pigeons that have been increasing in numbers year on year.
      If farm productivity/yield fall then food prices will rise and possibly small farms will go out of business. If you want to know just how little profit farmers make ask a dairy farmer how much he gets for his milk. And cereals growers never know what profit they will make until the harvest several months after they have taken gamble on what to actually grow.
      So now we have increasing food prices worst case riots on the streets when the people are no longer able to feed themselves, just look at the increase in food banks today.
      But the pigeon will be happy and I guess so will you until the riots are in your street or town.

      1. John - you don’t know what your end point is do you? Presumably you don’t really think we will have food riots when the general licences are made lawful?

      2. Damn - I just pressed Like instead of Reply!

        The exaggeration simply amazes me. I remember when hunting was about to be banned, we were told that the countryside economy would collapse. Hounds would be 'put down' in the thousands. Horse owners would have their horses slaughtered. Animal feed and product companies, vets etc etc would go out of business. Lambs would be killed in their hundreds. etc etc etc.

        Same old. Same old.

        As soon as the 3 general licences were pulled, there was a concerted effort to make out that Wild Justice was unreasonable and was deliberately attempting to destroy the shooting and farming industries. It shows the arrogance of an industry that thinks it should be allowed to simply act illegally with no accountability.

        For some reason, the timing of Natural England's decision to pull the licences got blamed on Wild `Justice. Why not blame The GWCT or other pro shooting / farming individuals actually on the NE board? Surely they 'knew' of the consequences and were in a better position to persuade the Board not to agree to pull the licences? Surely they were in a better position to decide when to pull the licences? Talk about blaming the messenger!

        If you read the response of NE to Wild Justice's action the lack of evidence of any harm, let alone serious damage or harm caused by the birds on the various lists is staggering.

        If you have all this evidence, present it! Why not let Natural England know about the research evidence. Stop the fairy tale nightmare predictions. Prove the situation!

        That's all some of us are asking. Individual licences for the serious business of killing a sentient creature. It's not like we're asking for a ban. It's a bit of paper proving the need.

        One good thing for those opposed to the outcome of Wild Justice's superb work is that they will supposedly now be able to produce all those videos of those flocks of crows, rooks etc mocking those lambs, pecking out their eyes! The livestock industry will be destroyed. Pigeons will be proven to have devastated this year's crops etc etc! We will all starve! Numerous food banks will be set up in agricultural areas to support the out of work farmers, employees, shop owners etc etc. The wider economy will suffer and there'll be riots! It's utterly ridiculous fantasy stuff.

        Keep up the great work Mark, Ruth, Chris and others. Their lies get more and more exposed with every word they spout!

      3. I regard Pheasants as pest birds and they're not even native. Mind you the biggest pests are those that dump millions of them in our countryside every year, and who slaughter our native biodiversity to protect them.

  26. Mark, lizzybusy, No one knows the long term future but I think we should be trying to keep as much farming and maximum food production as possible in this country.
    Will their be riots over food in generations to come? Then your opinion is as good as mine and only time will tell. But in 2000 at the start of the new millennium who would have predicted food banks opening in 2004 in this wealthy country?

    Lizzy as Mark would say to me you are going of at a tangent fox hunting on horses had little to nothing to do with feeding the nation.

    Anyway have enjoyed the discussion and all credit to Mark for allowing it on his blog.

    1. Ps history shows the national hunger marches of the 1920, 1930 with the 1932 march ending in riots.
      So yes anything is possible in the future.

      1. John - anything may be possible in future, but there is little chance of food riots being triggered by lawful killing, instead of unlawful killing, of wild birds.

        1. But you need to allow the ability to lawfully kill fit for purpose when appropriate. For example, I think it was a Canadian study showed you need at least 16 scarecrows per acre and then just like other non-lethal methods, pyrotechnics, gas guns the birds quickly get used to them and then ignore them.
          Do you really think it is practical for a farmer to have to put 16 or more scarecrows on each acre of land and then move them every couple of days? That will be hundreds of scarecrows on say an average rape field and Just his action of placing and repeatedly moving them will do significant damage to the crop yield.
          We should trust farmers (and the ones I know love the countryside and do various conservation activities) to do what is required to feed us.
          And it now looks like DEFRA has reached the same conclusion.

          1. John - but Wild Justice does not oppose ‘pest’ control under the circumstances allowed by law. If you think we do then you haven’t been paying sufficient attention. Maybe you have been reading too much of the nonsense that has appeared on social media.

            Defra appear to be taking the risk, which is their right, of hoping that either Wild Justice will go away or that Defra will win the legal case. Wild Justice won’t go away and we’ll have to see what the courts think on the legal issues.

  27. Mark
    Your comments about the lack of scientific evidence concerning Magpie predation on songbirds, goes against the findings of the Songbird Survival [SBS] research.. please check out their website www songbird

    1. IG - no. See here for our closely argued position on the science including a study funded by Songbird Survival (with a GWCT author) which indicates no impact.

    please see above. I have no axe to grind, just a love for the countryside and the wish to see the truth published

  29. Yes Mark, I am confused defra have issued new general licences like GL36 which allow pest control, so provided it is done within the terms of GL36 it is within the law, so what are the legal issues wild justice has with them now?

    1. John - well NE issued general licences that they would have claimed were within the law, Wild Justice challenges their legality and NE said ‘yes, you’re right’. Then NE issued three more licences and Wild Justice is challenging one of them GL26. We are waiting for NE’a legal response to our Pre-Action Protocol letter. This may go to judicial review - I’ll keep you posted on that. Last Friday Defra issued three more general licences. Wild Justice’s lawyers are scrutinising them and asking Defra for the justifications behind them. We might mount a legal challenge against these licences too. I don’t know yet. So, just because Defra has done something doesn’t mean it’s right, and doesn’t mean it won’t be challenged.

      1. Fair enough Mark. I which our main shooting organisation had half the fight in them that you do, gun ownership may not be in such a mess in other ways if they did.
        Will keep an eye on your blog and the wild justice website for any news.

  30. I think all members of WJ are anti shooting/hunting and this is their agenda especially Mr Packham who is never afraid to air his views via the BBC . .... ( and in my opinion should be sacked)

    Why don’t WJ mention the domestic cat and the impact this has on songbird numbers , maybe it’s because they don’t want to upset the millions of cat owners in the uk?

    Or target / put pressurethe Egyptian government about the millions of migratory birds such as swifts that are caught in Chinese nets each year to be consumed as a delicacy..

    Where is the justice for wildlife here

    1. Karen A - thanks for your advice - this is our first case. And it’s about bird killing of 16 species being lawful elect her than unlawful. So, you may need to wait a while to see the full range of our, Wild Justice’s, interests. And do have a go at explaining how trying to make sure that birds are not killed illegally is anti-shooting. Which shooting organisations are campaigning for that? I look forward to your reply.
      Has anyone started an anti-cat campaign? BASC? Countryside Alliance? GWCT? The field is clearly open for the real country people to start this themselves - you could do it yourself if you really believe what you write here.

      1. All I can say is that in my opinion WJ’s campaigns thus far are all related / targeted at the shooting organisations ( hence why you refer to them all in your previous response in what I may say is quite sarcastic

        I also believe that WJ currently has a decision pending on a court case which is related to Grouse shooting which you want to eradicate do you not?

        Why aren’t you transparent , ie say what you truly feel about the issue of shooting?!

        1. Karen A - every time I say what I truly feel about shooting I’m asked to say what I truly feel about shooting. I have said so many times what I truly feel about shooting that I am getting slightly bored with saying it. I have campaigned for the banning of driven grouse shooting for a whole bunch of reasons. I am pretty relaxed about walked up grouse shooting. I think Pheasant shooting needs reform but not a ban. I am fairly relaxed about wildfowling. I’d like to see lead ammunition banned as it hs been elsewhere. I can’t see why Woodcock are shot in autumn. Snipe shooting seems a bit off to me. How will that do?

          1. Well it all sounds rather impressive or it could be that you are on the fence with your choice of words such as fairly ...and you have not elaborated on what you mean by reform so I believe it’s the latter..

            I would be interested to hear whether Mr Packham shares the same views ( I bet he doesn’t)

  31. Mark I had 3 wren nests one black bird nest and a thrush nest in my garden all ransacked by magpies the only surviving nest is a blue tits which is in a box away from the hooded assassin and you say they do not do damage to the songbirds how can this be

    1. Jacko - Song Thrushes war snails. They smash them to bits on stones and then eat them. Cheetahs eat gazelles. Wildfowlers shoot ducks. Do you want to intervene on the side of the hunted in all of these events?

      1. do cheetahs decimate gazelles in an area do people sit in garden listening to and watching snails ....magpies onless controlled will wipe the songbirds from our gardens imho they are as bad if not worse than grey squirrels


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