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Wild Justice moves to BLOCK gamebird releases

The campaigning group is challenging the legality of releases on protected sites

Pheasant poult in release pen

Pheasant poult in release pen

Today lawyers acting on behalf of Wild Justice have written to DEFRA challenging the legality of releases of gamebirds on Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) sites and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

Wild Justice says that in September 2019 DEFRA admitted that gamebird releases needed to be assessed properly and “promised to do so”. The group is unsatisfied with the progress made so far on this and explains its legal actions: “…we are giving them a nudge”.

Leigh Day, legal adviser to Wild Justice, has written a pre-action protocol letter, a step taken by when a body wishes to bring a claim to court, which has been sent to the Secretary of State for DEFRA, Natural England and Welsh ministers. 

The activists describes this action as a follow-up to its challenge of July 2019 and says: “We are sure that this will be welcomed by the pheasant-shooting and red-legged partridge-shooting community so that this matter is dealt with before such non-native gamebirds might be released next summer (usually from July onwards). It’s in everybody’s interest for this to be sorted out sooner rather than later.”

Unlikely to succeed?

Shooting UK spoke to Liam Bell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) who said: “This is a potential legal challenge against DEFRA – not the shooting community – and it is for DEFRA to respond. However the NGO has offered its expertise should it be required. The challenge only relates to gamebird releasing on sites protected under EU law (SACs, SPAs and Ramsar sites), which make up just a small percentage of all UK SSSI’s and no land outside them. We do not think it likely that the challenge will succeed.”

Wild Justice is a campaigning group which was set up to campaign for wildlife in 2019 and will issue court proceedings when it considers that wildlife is threatened. The three directors are Dr Mark Avery, BBC presenter Chris Packham and conservationist Dr Ruth Tingay.

Shooting Times contributor Matt Cross stated: “This action fits with the now established pattern of Wild Justice trying to use legal technicalities to disrupt shooting. It will be interesting to see whether their followers decide to back it or whether the novelty of this type pf tactic is starting to wear off and it falls even flatter than their previous challenges. We will be taking a good look at it in Shooting Times next week.”