The Countryside Alliance has been witness to some spectacular incompetence by public bodies in its 22 year history, but the email we received on Tuesday from Natural England on the future use of General Licences may take the biscuit.
The email stated that the licences that hundreds of thousands of shooters have relied on for over 30 years would be revoked in just under 36 hours, pending the introduction of a new set of licences yet to be drawn up. There was no prior communication or consultation, in fact we had been assured just a few weeks before that despite the legal challenge “the three contested general licences remain in place”, just one email saying that it would be illegal without an individual licence to kill or take 16 species of wild birds including many members of the crow family, feral and wood pigeons, and invasive species such as the Canada goose.
So as of today crops are unprotected from flocks of pigeons, livestock are left unguarded from carrion crows, and songbirds and waders are at the mercy of generalist predators such as magpies. At such an important time of year for farming and conservation, Natural England’s irresponsible decision will have far reaching impacts on the rural economy and environment, and for what reason? Because Natural England had not carried out species damage assessments as it should have done, and a new activist group brought a Judicial Review as a publicity stunt.
Putting aside, for the moment, how this disaster unfolded we have set our priorities on working with Natural England and other rural organisations to ensure the quickest possible switch over to a new set of general licences which give back the essential tools to once again control wild birds. As soon as the new system is in place, we will most certainly be asking Natural England and those responsible for agreeing this decision some very awkward questions on how this could have happened.
Our advice on how to apply for individual licences to control birds for various reasons before new general licences are issued can be found here.