Jason Endfield has done a great job in unearthing more information about Natural England issuing licences for bird killing – this time the culling of Starlings – see here.
People are up in arms on social media about why Natural England has continued to issue licences to a farmer when the conditions of the original licence were not, apparently, upheld. Additionally, the Starling is a UK Red List species (it has declined lots in numbers) and the continued issuing of a licence appears to turn this into a decade-long gamekeeping action against this species on this farm. Surely by now some non-lethal solution should have been found, and, quite honestly, how is killing the birds any better than scaring them with loud noises?
It was while I was RSPB Conservation Director, probably over 20 years ago, that we persuaded DEFRA (although they weren’t called that then) to remove Starling and House Sparrow from the General Licences of the time. If we had not succeeded then this type of thing would have been happening much more widely, with no attempt at regulation. So if you think that the example that Jason Endfield produces is awful, just remember that this is at the ‘relatively good’ end of things.
Natural England has been stung into some sort of explanation of their behaviour – read it in full here and even Tony Juniper has been wheeled out to tweet about how NE is doing a great job – click here.
In the Natural England blog their Director for Wildlife Licensing & Enforcement Cases, Dave Slater, says that Natural England has five policy tests which must be checked before they issue a licence, and they are;
- actual damage or a problem is occurring;
- the species is actually causing the damage or problem;
- other reasonable and practical non-lethal alternatives have been considered and tried (such as scaring, trapping or proofing);
- the action is proportionate; and,
- the conservation status of the species will not be negatively affected.
Those are the type of tests which are necessary to make the licences legal. It is also interesting that the blog mentions humaneness of control – I don’t recall much mention of that in previous discussions (maybe the Wild Justice Badger challenge is already having an impact?).
The five policy tests above are simply what the law requires. They are what the law requires for any killing of wild bird species to be lawful.
The Wild Justice legal challenges of General Licences in England and in Wales are based on the fact (we claim that it is a fact) that you cannot possibly ensure these tests are passed by the General Licences currently issued.
We await the results of the DEFRA General Licence review with interest and we are waiting to find out whether we will be granted permission for judicial review of NRW’s General Licences.