Shooting crows, rooks, magpies and woodpigeons will become illegal from Thursday 25 April, along with using Larsen traps and crow cages.
Natural England has announced that General Licences GL04 (for the prevention of serious damage to crops and livestock), GL05 (for prevention of disease and ensuring public safety) and GL06 (for conservation purposes), will all cease to exist from ‘sometime’ on 25 April 2019.
The shock announcement was made late on Tuesday 23 April and has provoked an angry reaction from the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) , who immediately demanded comprehensive alternative licensing arrangements and proper communication so that those who need to control pest birds are kept informed.
A snap announcement by @NaturalEngland to disallow shooting of pigeons on private land from Thursday; did you ever hear anything so ridiculous? @michaelgove @NFUtweets @CLAtweets @DefraGovUK @Gameandwildlife
— Farmer Tom (@Farmer_Tom_UK) April 23, 2019
The Government body explained that its sudden decision was the result of a legal challenge and taken on the advice of lawyers. It plans to have a new temporary system for individual licensing available on its website by 25 April and will issue replacement licences for ‘certain circumstances’.
Legal proceedings over general licences were issued against Natural England in March 2019 by Wild Justice, a group set up by Chris Packham and other campaigners.
Tony Juniper, the new Chairman for Natural England replied to criticism on Twitter.
This was not a choice of Natural England, but the result of a legal challenge to us. We will try to find a solution, but this is not our initiative (& certainly is not one of mine).
— Tony Juniper (@TonyJuniper) April 23, 2019
Mark Avery was also active on Twitter.
Do you not remember that swallow’s nest on Springwatch being emptied of nestlings by a magpie? Do swallows not deserve any protection? What about ground nesting birds, are you not aware of the constant risk to them from corvids stealing their eggs? pic.twitter.com/pMNq02x5Wf
— sprouthound#FBPE (@boxcoblizzie) April 23, 2019
Natural England commented: “Natural England is working at pace to put in place over the next few weeks alternative measures to allow lawful control of these bird species to continue where necessary. In the meantime, once the licences have been revoked and until new licences are issued, anyone needing to control one of these 16 bird species where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative will need to apply for an individual licence.”
Reaction from National Gamekeepers Organisation
Liam Bell, Chairman of the NGO said, “The science on this is completely clear. Without spring corvid control, wild gamebird production and the breeding of red-listed waders like the curlew and lapwing will be insufficient to maintain their English populations.”
A cynical attempt by campaigners to cripple shooting by the back door now means that if a crow is pecking the eyes out of a lamb a farmer will not be able to shoot it. If pigeons are destroying a crop they can not be killed + the RSPB will have to cease all crow trapping (contd)
— Matt Cross (@wildforest_matt) April 23, 2019
Liam continued, “Stopping the use of all corvid traps and the shooting of crows and magpies at this time of year will be a disaster for wildlife, to say nothing of the livelihoods of those dependent on well-run grouse moors and farms where wild gamebirds such as the declining grey partridge are being managed.”
The general licences that allow for the shooting of pest bird species, including crows, feral pigeons, Canada geese and lesser…
A spokesman for the CLA commented: ““These licences have worked successfully for many years, enabling farms and rural businesses to produce a secure supply of food alongside protection for young livestock, farmland birds and other wildlife from a range of predatory wild birds. This decision means farmers and land managers are now plunged into uncertainty at a critical season for both wildlife and farming.”
BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “Natural England’s decision to withdraw the open general licences will cause chaos and uncertainty in the rural community.
“To take such a step without consultation and proper notice is utterly unacceptable from a statutory body and leaves many people at risk of breaking the law at a crucial time of the year when their need to control pests could not be more pressing.”