Wild Justice starts two more legal cases

Wild Justice forced DEFRA to introduce restrictions on the release of non-native gamebirds into the countryside in a process which started back in 2019, produced, eventually a review of the evidence and a last-minute announcement that DEFRA would put Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act making it an offence to release them into the countryside, and, perfectly reasonably, alongside that change in status of these two species it said it would issue a general licence to allow gamebird releases but control them so that they did not damage wildlife sites. DEFRA consulted, late in the day, on those new measures but their measures were, hopelessly inadequate as protection for wildlife sites, in Wild justice’s view. This is what Wild Justice said about the measures on which DEFRA consulted’

In the view of Wild Justice the proposals in this consultation fall far short of what DEFRA promised to the court in October 2020. The proposed measures will not, in our view, protect N2K sites in the way that is needed and to which DEFRA committed itself. If these proposals are implemented then Wild Justice will seek legal advice on how best to expedite a further legal challenge to gamebird releases in England.


So it should come as no surprise to DEFRA, the shooting industry, or anyone else that last week Wild Justice sent a Pre-Action Protocol letter to DEFRA claiming that DEFRA’s new regulations are unlawful on the following grounds because through them DEFRA is ‘permitting and licensing the release of gamebirds within European sites and within 500m of European sites, without having properly ruled out the risk of harm of the release of gamebirds in the numbers, densities, and locations permitted under GL43, and has failed to take the necessary steps to prevent the deterioration of European sites‘.

Moorland burning. Photo: Sarah Hanson

This week, Wild Justice sent another PAP letter to DEFRA – this one is on the DEFRA regulations on burning of vegetation on peatlands. Here DEFRA has introduced some regulations to limit burning on peat soils but those measures are hopelessly weak and have been criticised by NGOs and in Parliament.

Wild Justice submits that the new Burning Regulations are unlawful on four grounds:

  • Ground 1: Unlawfulness arising from the Burning Regulations frustrating their own purpose
  • Ground 2: Demonstrable flaw in the reasoning or serious logical error in the reasoning leading to the making of the Burning Regulations
  • Ground 3: Breaches of the Habitats Regulations 2017
  • Ground 4: Failure to take into account Material Considerations, in particular the requirements to act swiftly to limit the emission of greenhouse gases.

Wild Justice has asked DEFRA to make urgent amendments to the Burning Regulations. 

What these two legal challenges have in common is that DEFRA was in both cases forced to act in favour of the environment, but that when it came to acting DEFRA acted weakly and, it might be surmised, weakened the regulations after pressure from industry, in these two cases, two different parts of the shootng industry. In the first case, gamebirds, the measures introduced are wholly inadequate – I’d say DEFRA is simply taking the mickey. That doesn’t necessaruily mean that a legal challenge can corect those palpable weaknesses but DEFRA’s behavioous leaves no other option to right those wrongs. In the second case, DEFRA has massively and perversely underpitched its measures so that they do not achieve what they are set out to achieve. Unless this matter is corrected, the UK will host a climate change conference facing legal challenges over its own actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its own uplands, and all because some want to shoot Red Grouse for fun.


14 Replies to “Wild Justice starts two more legal cases”

  1. – “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its own uplands, and all because some want to shoot Red Grouse for fun.”

    And our National Park is full of thousands of cars visiting from all over the country every day! Does this not cause green house gasses?- all because some want to have a drive out!

    The detrimental effects on lots of species from visitors packing down narrow country lanes in their cars is Huge, then when they eventually get to their destination their bloody dog disturbance is huge! This doesn’t help the environment either especially when you see the litter they leave behind .
    But that’s fine as it’s not country folk.
    I wonder what the reaction would be if we started spreading cow s**t down their streets?

    1. A.sill – thank you for your first comment here. You’ll find the government is acting on car emissions too.

      1. Why aren’t you making it happen sooner? It’s not just emissions but our wildlife suffering too!

    2. You mean the nation are using the national parks for recreation like they’re some sort of park? Surely the townies have enough parks in their towns? Leave the national parks to the privileged few so they can turn up in their little economical runaround Range Rovers and helicopters, and obviously retrieve their own dead birds because loose dogs are a menace right? Shotgun cartridges aren’t litter though. Or the wad. Or the lead shot that’s sprayed around the place. Loud bangs going off all day never frightened any wildlife either. It’s all fine because they’re ‘country folk’.

      1. Dave,
        I never once mentioned gamebird shooting being good or bad but obviously you think I’m for it! Let me tell you you are wrong. The comment I made was about people damaging wildlife and the gasses motor vehicles produce also the damage dogs do at this time of year when everything is breeding. I never mentioned anything else but I was asking how come nobody cares if it is visiting public causing the damage?
        I bought my home firstly because I wanted somewhere quiet to live and secondly because of the wildlife. I now see the curlew chicks murdered by dogs not under control. I am no supporter of driven game shooting however I am slowly turning away from ignorant people from towns (not all of them) that come here and plough through chicks on the road and have no understanding of how vulnerable some of our breeding birds are. I find it hard to understand why you and many others feel they have the right to assume I’m pro shooting and slate me! You are the ones that are obsessed with what you should be able to do and what other people shouldn’t be doing when I’m fact it’s time you sat back and had a good look at your pathetic opinion if you truly care about our wildlife.

        1. You directly compared the destructive methods used to farm grouse with domestic tourism. Surely it can’t be that hard to understand why people assume that your position is pro-shooting? It would be an odd comparison to make otherwise. Now you’re implying that because you get the privilege of living in a national park that visitors should stay away to maintain your standard of living? In my pathetic opinion our National Parks need to act as parks for the nation as was intended. Yes we need better green transport links, yes we need better protections for wildlife and habitats, all these things are obvious and completely irrelevant to this action by WJ.

          1. To remove green house gasses from our uplands is what I was talking about. I have no problem with people visiting our national parks however I do think they should do so respectfully as I would if I visited anywhere. I don’t have an opinion on game shooting however I have lived here long enough to see that cars and dogs and ignorant people pose a great threat to the wildlife and also to add greatly to green house gasses that I referred to in my original post.
            Just because I live here doesn’t mean I’m privileged I have worked hard for everything that I have, maybe if people were to realise that hard work gets you where you want to be our country would be a much better place to live instead of thinking you have a right to something that somebody else has worked bloody hard for.
            The area I live is also a designated area and I have to follow rules ie. staying away from nesting merlins, that, I have no problem with however the visitors can pull up let the dog out and have a pic knock within yards of their nest and nobody says anything and it’s all ok? Surely you can see where I am coming from?

    3. Fair point – up to a point. Mass tourism brings its own problems but most visitors are not actively slaughtering the local wildlife for the benefit of human hunters. Yes, disturbance can be a major issue and needs effective management for the benefit of wildlife and people. The current status quo in our uplands certainly needs radical reform.

      1. Problems like quad bikes and off-road vehicles being driven at high speed along narrow lanes, loose dogs rampaging through peoples’ gardens and woodland, chasing pets and wildlife, damage to private property and illegal activities taking place everywhere you look. I’m sure my local fox hunting group are an exception though…

    4. “And our National Park is full of thousands of cars visiting from all over the country every day!”

      Which one of the several NP’s are you refering to to?

  2. Looking forward to seeing how these progress.
    What happened to the now blank blog:
    Alleged breach of General Licences – back later?
    Thought that one was interesting.

  3. If ever proper and strict regulation is needed of game bird release I saw it this morning. We were on a walk in a 100 acre wood most of which is ancient woodland. To my dismay we came across a huge pheasant pen some 100 metres long and many metres wide. Pheasant feeders were all over the place in the wood. I was told the pen is due for restocking in July. Asking who owned it I was told it is owned by a group of rich financiers from London who come down periodically for big shoots of pheasants and then go for a massive drinking session. This is the type of activity Defra are supporting to the detriment of our native wildlife.

  4. It will be ok, the recommendation is, i think, only 500 birds released per Hectare of pen on the relevant protected sites, which should be enough to prevent serious damage.
    Then again they could just build a bigger pen.

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