From tomorrow it will be illegal to kill any of the 16 bird species, such as jackdaws and magpies, without applying to the regulator for an individual licence.
Campaigner and Wild Justice founder Mark Avery told ENDS the regulator had “given in” and “backed down in full” before it was taken to court where it knew it would lose, he said.
All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in the UK.
However, the decades-old practice of using three different general licences has allowed landowners and tenants to kill certain bird species that are “seriously damaging” livestock, crops, growing timber or fisheries and inland waters, without needing to justify why the killing is necessary, or whether alternative non-lethal measures could be applied.
Avery said he had sympathy for some farmers whose crops could be seriously damaged by birds such as wood pigeons because of the timing of Natural England’s decision, but disagreed with claims that songbirds would be impacted by the arrival of corvids (birds in the crow family) or that ground nesting birds such as curlews would be adversely impacted.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c.69)
08 May 2018
Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association whose members manage over a million acres of moorlands in England and Wales, said she was “dismayed” by Natural England’s action and described it as a “grave error of judgement”.
Natural England’s newly elected chair, Tony Juniper, took to social media to defend the regulator’s action, arguing it “was not a choice of Natural England, but the result of a legal challenge to us.”
He went on to explain that ending the use of the three general licenses so suddenly was not an initiative of Natural England’s, or his own, but was “driven by external forces.”
In a press statement Natural England said it was “working at pace” to put alternative measures in place in the next few weeks to allow the “lawful control” of these birds where necessary.
A planned review of Natural England’s licensing scheme, including the use of general licences for other wildlife, is due to take place later this year with details to be “shared shortly,” the regulator said.