Defra is consulting the public, fairly properly, on general licences. But don’t worry, you have plenty of time to think about it.
Today, Defra issued this consultation which asks for views and evidence – the latter is quite important.
This survey forms part of the process of consulting and engaging with stakeholders for the 2019 review on general licences to kill or take wild birds in England (nature conservation is a devolved matter and this review applies to England only). The aim of the review is to deliver a robust system of licensing to manage the issues that arise between the protection of wild birds and the legitimate activities people need to carry out for specific purposes such as protecting livestock or crops and for conservation purposes. Defra is leading this review in close partnership with Natural England. In parallel to seeking information in this survey, Defra and Natural England will be conducting a series of workshops with interested stakeholders to cover other issues such as activity on protected sites. We will also compile and consider other available evidence to inform the review.
I don’t think we would have seen this consultation, written in this way, were it not for the legal challenge brought by Wild Justice which due to Natural England mishandling, stirred up the whole of the countryside back in the spring.
Defra have not been quick to bring out this consultation but it is good that it has finally appeared. Wild Justice stands ready, able and willing to challenge any unlawful aspects of any new licences issued next year. Defra know that, and they probably know that there are other interest groups that might take legal action too. This is good! It makes it very likely that whatever Defra comes up with will have to be played with a straight bat. Hysterical behaviour by either farmers or shooters is unlikely to cut much mustard this time around. But we’ll see.
Wild Justice had a short, friendly, phone call from Defra about this consultation yesterday (as will many other so-called stakeholders, for sure). I took the call on behalf of Wild Justice and welcomed the consultation (although I hadn’t seen it).
I also suggested a meeting between Wild Justice and Defra to discuss the legal aspects of any future general licences and this offer was enthusiastically taken up by Defra. It’s far better that we talk about these issues and put our cards on the table ahead of Defra issuing any new licences. If we feel that Defra has issued unlawful new licences then we will still be able to take legal action – and we are certainly prepared to do that.
I’ll certainly be coming back to this issue over the days and weeks ahead.