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Surrey Police state killing any wild bird is “an offence”

A Facebook post featuring ring-necked parakeets, carrion crows and feral pigeons was misleading

Ring-necked parakeet

Ring-necked parakeet

Shooters in the Surrey area were shocked to see their county police force announce that shooting parakeets, crows and pigeons was illegal.  Surrey Police had made the statement on Twitter and in a Facebook post on 26 September featuring ring-necked parakeets, feral pigeons and carrion crows. All birds that are contained on the general licence.

Whilst Surrey Police were criticising the use of catapults for attacking the wild birds, this was not particularly clear to the public. In addition, the photograph was overlaid with rifle sights.

The statement that “birds such as pigeons … have the same right to protection under the law as every other wild bird” is misleading. As one reader pointed out, the birds illustrated in the post are all covered on general licences GL 34, 35 and 36. Culling these birds is legal provided there is good reason and the general licence guidelines are followed.

Surrey Police quickly moved to clarify their statement, advising Facebook followers to read Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They stated: “We have been following all your comments on this post and want to clarify the position on the killing of pigeons. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that it is illegal to kill or injure any wild bird – this of course includes pigeons. If there is a certain issue, a general licence may used. It is important to remember that there are specific guidelines about when you can use the general licences and they must be complied with.”

The Surrey Police website issued an apology saying: “The posts were published in response to reports made to police around the illegal killing of wild birds using slingshots. Due to the Twitter character limit, this was not referenced in our tweet, only the legislation, and we apologise for any confusion this may have caused.

“Our posts did not include reference to the general licences because it was intended to raise general public awareness of the illegal killing or injury of wild birds, not the controlled killing of birds for commercial, agricultural, or health purposes.”

Shooting Times contributor Mat Manning comments: “The advice from Surrey Police is incredibly misleading, and could end up wasting a lot of police time. Their tweet states that it is an offence to intentionally kill any wild bird, yet countless farmers, shooters and conservation organisations legitimately kill wild birds to protect crops, human health and vulnerable wildlife.

“Equally confusing is the fact that they have used images of birds that can be lawfully killed as long as control is carried out in a way that meets the requirements of the general licences. Responsible airgun shooters who control these pests in a humane way, with the right kit and within the law could come in for a lot of flak as a result of this misinformation.”

Shooting UK contacted Surrey Police for further comment but was referred to the statement on their website, with the press and communications office stating: “We do not have anything further to add to this.”