There is a narrative developed by DEFRA and Natural England that the Madden and Sage review, and the bits that they didn’t look at, all combine to mean that any impacts of gamebird releases are limited to, and are known to be limited to, 500m from release sites. This is not true.
It’s not true because the ones we know about are not limited to 500m, and the ones we know less about cannot be assumed to be limited to 500m.
This was not something that would have been possible to resolve during the final days of the successful Wild Justice legal challenge, nor is it the type of thing that the court would have ruled upon if we had insisted on going to court (the legal profession doesn’t like having to think about the real world of science and can’t really cope with it (though they might put that differently)). So, just as BASC and others will argue (though good luck to them in finding some science on this subject) that they know and can prove that the impacts are restricted to 500m, Wild Justice and many others will be making the case, on the science, that 500m will not meet DEFRA’s need to satisfy the requirements of the Habitats Directive. And I’ll be doing that in a few further blogs here.
But just take a look at the dead Pheasant at the top of this post. It’s on a grouse moor in the North York Moors and was taken in 2016 when Ruth Tingay and I travelled around the country with a six-foot Hen Harrier. As you can see, it seems to have wandered quite a long way from any release pen (and who knows which direction it came from, how long it had been present and what scavenger would have eaten it and then gone on to gobble up some Curlew eggs or chicks?).
Pheasants get everywhere. They are almost everywhere, and so their impacts are everywhere. 500m will not be too much, it isn’t spot on, it is too little and there will be ways in which you the public can help make this point in the future.