Writing, reading and comprehension over non-native gamebirds.

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…


8 Replies to “Writing, reading and comprehension over non-native gamebirds.”

  1. It’s amazing, isn’t it. On the one hand, shooters and shooting organisations continually extol the virtues of ‘habitat’ management associated with game bird releases, yet once there is even an ounce of proposed scrutiny on the table, they descend in to name calling, smearing and disinformation.

    The truth is, the shooting industry in the UK has been spoiled and protected for so long by landed interests and their associated MPs, that the idea of any regulation whatsoever, that doesn’t involve them marking their own homework, is anathema.

  2. “We’re very good at policing ourselves, I strongly believe that”.
    Sure we will kick and scream over any suggestions that we might have to do the right thing, in any given circumstances and we continue to prove that there is no way we will proactively act on any of the issues that plague us (see lead shot, raptor persecution, number of birds released etc.).
    But we are doing well on other things, we are good at pretending we want to make things better (that counts doesn’t it) we are working really hard in the PR departments publishing denials and lies (this must count?) .
    Oh and we are doing much better at inviting the police to shoot days so that they can have a word if there is an incident that is witnessed (raptor persecution for example).

  3. “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…”

    Its an idea I like very much. I’m tempted to ask for unwanted hounds to be added to this list.

    Just for the record I don’t actually think this is a good idea, not really, but as a way of showcasing the illogic of the shooters arguments it has a lot of appeal.

  4. Do give my regards to Matt Cross -and maybe ask him why he is blocking anyone who questions any of his public statements on Twitter 😉

  5. Why is there a closed season for pheasants?
    Relatively few pheasants breed in the wild but, even if they did need protected during breeding, a much shorter closed season would accomplish that.

    1. Given that they damage arable crops the same way that pigeons do……. just as well they are going on the pest control schedule.

  6. This is good news. In the 90s in Wiltshire I remember damage to downland from large number of pheasants released nearby. We had no powers to control them

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