DEFRA have hit back at claims made

The campaign group announced earlier that it would challenge the inclusion of gamebirds as livestock for the purposes of using the general licence to protect them from predation. The group appear to have hoped that by preventing the control of corvids to protect gamebirds they could disrupt shooting activities.

However the effectiveness of such a strategy is very much in doubt, with gamekeepers pointing out that losses of adult gamebirds to corvids are not generally very high.

In a a blog explaining its legal case Wild Justice argued that DEFRA had acted outside of its powers by broadening the definition of livestock from the one found in the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It then went on to make a high profile claim that DEFRA had conceded that its main claims were correct and that they would amend the licences.

In a statement Wild Justice said: “It seems that someone in Defra yielded to pressure from the shooting community to expand the definition of gamebirds as livestock. Wild Justice pointed out to the secretary of state, George Eustice, that he doesn’t have that power and his department has overstepped the mark. We won.”

However DEFRA were quick to hit back at the claim insisting that they had changed nothing and were willing to fight Wild Justice in the courts. In a statement the ministry said “We confirmed to Wild Justice that we would contest their proposed claim in full. There has been absolutely no change in our position on gamebirds in relation to GL42. To imply otherwise, or that we conceded that the statutory definition was extended, is incorrect. We did not extend, nor have we changed, the definition.”

The case now looks inevitably set to be heard in court and the shooting organisations who make up ‘Aim to Sustain’ have pledged to register as interested parties in the case. Glynn Evans, BASC head of game and gundogs, said: “GL42 is an essential management tool for farmers, gamekeepers and many others in preventing serious damage. For those who rely on the use of GL42, this update changes nothing. The law relating to the issuing of general licences is clear and has not changed. We will support Defra in their defence against Wild Justice.”