I had the pleasure this week of being able to make a donation to the Gamekeepers' Welfare Trust (GWT) from Chris Packham and Mark Avery’s anti-shooting vehicle Wild Justice. The contribution resulted from costs awarded to the Alliance, BASC, the NGO and the Moorland Association, four members of the Aim to Sustain partnership, who were ‘interested parties’ in Wild Justice’s attempt to judicially review Defra’s heather burning regulations in England. As interested parties we were able to submit evidence to the judge in the case who considered our material alongside Defra’s submission and decided to refuse permission for Wild Justice to take the judicial review forward. He also awarded a total £10,000 of costs against Wild Justice and the £1,100 of that which comes to the Aim to Sustain partners has been donated to the GWT.
As I have reported before, Wild Justice’s record in the courts is dire. Judicial Reviews are launched in a blaze of publicity, and from time to time have caused government agencies to take premature and unnecessary decisions, but the courts have been consistently harsh when its arguments are aired. All Wild Justice has actually achieved is to waste large sums of time and money. It has happily spent hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed by its own gullible crowdfunders, forced the government to spend large sums defending its position and made it necessary for organisations like the Alliance to intervene on behalf of our members at considerable expense. How any of this has helped wildlife is difficult to ascertain.
What this case has also highlighted is the contrast between superficial Wild Justice campaigns and the serious and effective work of Aim to Sustain partners. Chippy blogs and emotional video messages may excite a corner of social media, but it is facts, evidence and logical argument that effects the law. This case was an example of just how effective the partnership can be in combining the practical expertise of moorland managers and gamekeepers with the legal and technical experience of larger membership organisations.
Whether you are burning heather under the current regulations, releasing pheasants and partridges near protected areas, or using the General Licences to control corvids, wood pigeons and other avian pest species, you are doing so because Aim to Sustain partners won the arguments and Wild Justice lost them. I would much rather Wild Justice’s supporters donated their money to a real conservation organisation and that we could focus more of our resources on education and promotion, but be in no doubt that as long as Wild Justice keeps attacking shooting and wildlife management through the courts we will keep beating them back.