I think Matt Cross writes quite well, it’s his reading and comprehension that let him down!
This is the Matt Cross who leapt into a long Twitter chain which contained a gross error because he hadn’t properly read the papers on which he was commenting. He has calmed down a bit now, for his current offering on the BASC website, but he has still got a lot wrong.
In different places you can read that the move forced on DEFRA by Wild Justice’s legal challenge is either a disaster which must be fought against or of no consequence whatsoever. We don’t expect consistency from the range of shooting organisations scrabbling for media attention but each of them might try to stick to a particular view.
Among Mr Cross’s errors are that Wild Justice demanded a licensing system (we demanded that DEFRA should address the issue of damage to Natura 2000 sites), that we demanded that such a licensing system should be expensive (we didn’t) and that we demanded that it should restrict gamebird releases within 5km of Natura 2000 sites (we proposed that in the absence of DEFRA addressing these concerns the court should order a 5km exclusion zone, which isn’t the same at all).
What DEFRA has done, to recap, is:
- commit to adding Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (the same schedule that contains other non-native problem species such as Grey Squirrel and Japanese Knotweed)
- commit to licensing releases of these two gamebird species away from protected sites through a general licence but restrict their releases close to them – DEFRA has proposed a distance of 500m as the buffer zone but we don’t think that will wash so watch this space (and get ready to participate in the public consultation that will follow soon).
- commit that Natural England will investigate a long list of protected sites and check for evidence of damage
- commit to ensure that whatever they do meets the requirements of the Habitats Directive.
If the shooting community think that this is irrelevant to their activities then they either haven’t read what DEFRA must now do, or still haven’t understood it. But what BASC, Matt Cross and others think is pretty much irrelevant. This is a tussle between Wild Justice (and our brilliant team of lawyers) and DEFRA and the whole of the government legal department.
We would say (again) that DEFRA has come up with a fairly imaginative solution to the issue of protecting Natura 2000 sites, in outline. But they haven’t got the details right and there is further to go than their proposals suggest – but that is a question that will be decided after a consultation, not, at this stage, by further legal activity (which is why Wild Justice was content to end the legal challenge – conditional on DEFRA doing what they promised).
Wild Justice retains the option of taking further legal action against DEFRA if the measures they implement go back on their commitments (we don’t expect this to happen, they are committed) or do not meet the requirements of the Habitats Directive. We might even consider being an Interested Party giving DEFRA some help if BASC spend what is left of their 7-figure pot of money in taking legal action against DEFRA.
If the shooters are to put their members’ money where their staff’s mouths are then they could do worse than start getting their heads around the issues in today’s Guest Blog here by Richard Wilson. It’s a different world for the shooting organisations, and their bluster won’t get them very far with addressing the complexities of the law. It hasn’t so far. Less writing and more reading and comprehension are needed.
Just to give them another thing to think about. Several people have suggested to me that Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges should be covered by a general licence allowing householders to kill them if all non-lethal methods fail to keep them out of gardens and causing damage to growing plants and vegetables. It’s an idea…[registration_form]