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Could the “pest birds list” return?

The forthcoming Brexit Freedoms bill has offered the prospect of a return to a far simpler system for licensing the control of pest birds, according to BASC.

Currently the control of pest birds such as magpies, carrion crows and jackdaws is permitted under the general licence which allows control of these birds for certain purposes. The general licence system was introduced in 1992 by Michael Howard who was the Secretary of State for the Environment at the time. Originally conceived as a straightforward way of reconciling EU law with the need to control certain bird species, the licences have become progressively more complicated in response to legal challenges and new regulations.

Prior to the current system a single list of birds which could be killed or taken “by authorised persons at all times” was included in schedule two of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This list was known as the “pest birds list”. No reason was required to kill birds on the pest bird list and there were no requirements to try and use non-lethal means to deter them first. Now BASC is eyeing an opportunity to return to a simple and robust system. (Read how to use an air rifle for pest control.)

Speaking to Shooting Times Dr Conor O’Gorman, BASC’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, explained how he saw the issue. When he was asked whether he believed that there was a real possibility of a return to a simple and robust system, Conor claimed: “Where there is a will there is a way”. However he went on to explain that there were potential international legal complications. He said: “There are issues around the Bern convention,” Conor explained. “It is an international agreement which requires us to have open and close seasons for birds. But maybe we need to start discussing whether we would we agree to seasons for birds like crows or pigeons if that gave us a clear and strong legal basis to control them.”

More broadly, Conor was keen to see those actually managing problem species take the lead in developing new proposals. “None of what is happening now is benefiting nature,” Conor claimed. “We need to stop sitting back and waiting for others to lead the way. We have a muddied and muddled approach to the law and what we need is clarity about what we can control and when. We need to push for that.”