Responses from shooting organisations to a current Natural England (NE) consultation have highlighted serious concerns that the licensing system for the control of pest species in England and devolved administrations is overcomplicated.

Organisations had until last Friday, 13 March to submit responses to NE’s consultation on changes to the general licences to be introduced next year. BASC, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) and the Countryside Alliance (CA) all highlighted the fact that shooters find the operation of the system, which permits control of pest species such as woodpigeon, Canada geese and magpies, confusing.

In its response, BASC explained that shooters know pest control is governed by legislation but they may not always be able to show a precise understanding of that law.

BASC’s Dr Conor O’Gorman stated: “We recognise that some licence users may be
confused if put on the spot. If some users were asked to explain the circumstances and conditions of the general licences their replies might be homespun, but BASC states with absolute confidence that any non-compliance is the exception.”

The NGO was equally concerned aboutlack of clarity. A spokesman told Shooting
Times that “most people have a low understanding of the general licensing system and its content because it is incredibly complicated, keeps changing and is different in each home nation of the UK.

Those who rely on the licences generally know more, but we still take many calls from individuals uncertain whether they need a licence on paper or where to look the licences up or what, precisely, they say.”

The Countryside Alliance’s James Legge explained that there is an urgent need for better publicity surrounding the use of general licences. “When the reviewed licences are issued in 2010 there should be an associated advertising campaign in the rural, sporting and farming press. NE should also prepare a package for dissemination to members of the CA, NFU, NGO and BASC. It would be worth having a single website that makes available the different licences in the different countries of the UK so that there is
a single point of reference.”

The rest of this article appears in 19 March issue of Shooting Times.

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