The consultation on general licences, released on Thursday by Defra, looks very promising.
You can read all the questions and think about them here without having to start filling in any of the information. And that means you can have a long think about them and maybe even come back to this subject in November rather than rush into it. The consultation closes in early December.
It is striking that the consultation requires views to be supported by evidence and there is the slightly stern warning that ‘These will only be registered if you give reasons why‘ which should weed out quite a lot of unscientific bluster on the subjects.
We are also asked for our views species by species (with the appropriate evidence) including whether we believe that a species should be covered by a general licence for a specific situation (such as being a conservtion problem). This is good.
The consequence of this approach is that ‘evidence’ such as that of the GWCT, which blurred the science and talked often of ‘corvids’ rather than of the individual species, or of ‘predator control’ without distinguishing between the impacts of mammals and birds (see here for Wild Justice’s analysis of the GWCT evidence), will be clear for what it is – a threadbare case for the inclusion of Jay, Rook or Jackdaw as species which should be killed under general licence for conservation purposes.
Reading the consultation gives me the impression that it is a serious one. The questions are framed to get science on the subject and to enable the case for the delisting of some species if the evidence does not support their inclusion. There will be plenty of scope for spelling out the science that shows the weakness of the case for including a species on the general licence in order to conserve wildlife and also to suggest that if there are circumstances under which a species is occasionally a problem this can be perfectly adequately covered by the specific, case by case, system that applies to all other bird species and where the onus is on the person applying for a licence to provide the evidence of harm and of non-lethal methods having failed.
I would hope that the RSPB and even the BTO will be briefing their members as to how to respond to this consultation. I’m perfectly sure that shooting and farming organisations will be doing so. Wild Justice will also be briefing its supporters.