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.https://wildjustice.org.uk/general/defras-terrible-consultation-on-gamebird-releases-lets-see/
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‘.
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.