In a recent blog, Natural England sets out its approach to issuing specific licences for lethal control. You could be completely forgiven for not quite understanding how the licensing system works in England at the moment but I think it is like this:
- all wild birds are protected by law
- you can kill any species under certain circumstances for certain purposes but (except for gamebirds) you will need a licence to authorise your killing
- the purposes include for conservation purposes, the circumstances require non-lethal measures to have been tried and shown to fail
- some species, a shrinking number, can be killed for the allotted purposes, under described circumstances, under a general licence (ie one which is general and applies to any one, you don’t have to apply for it)
- the general licences no longer apply to protected sites (eg SSSIs) where specific licences are now needed.
I think that’s right, but it isn’t very straightforward. What it means though is that if you want to kill Jays on SSSIs, you need a specific licence from Natural England, whereas if you want to kill Jays off SSSIs you have to stick to the prescriptions of the general licence.
In the blog above, Natural England mention Jays and say:
In 2020, despite high demand, we approved very few individual conservation licence applications for these gulls, jays, rooks and jackdaws and I anticipate a similar situation in 2021. Successful applicants were those able to demonstrate a serious localised risk to red or amber listed bird species where lethal control was the only practical option such as where entire colonies of birds were at risk.https://naturalengland.blog.gov.uk/2020/11/16/individual-licences-to-control-birds-how-natural-england-will-manage-applications-in-2021/
I take that to mean that Natural England didn’t issue many licences to kill many Jays on SSSIs last year.
But the DEFRA general licence (see the proposal for 2021), applying to the rest of the landscape, has no such checks and ‘authorises’ unlimited, countrywide, Jay-killing. This adds up to casual licensing of casual killing of Jays for so-called conservation purposes.
Remember, Forestry England does not kill Jays on its land (and nor does Forestry and Land Scotland, and I’m waiting to hear from Natural Resources Wales) and no conservation organisation in my experience kills Jays.
So, if conservation organisations don’t kill Jays, and state forestry organisations don’t kill Jays, and Natural England issues few (from what I understand) individual licences to kill Jays on SSSIs across England, why is DEFRA allowing Jays to remain on its general licences.
Who does want to kill Jays for alleged conservation purposes? It mainly seems to be the Countryside Alliance and BASC who want this ability, and DEFRA goes along with them, of course.[registration_form]