Five years ago, Springwatch presenter Chris Packham was walking in his local wood when he encountered a man with a shotgun. “He said he was shooting vermin – crows, magpies and squirrels – but this man didn’t live in this wood, so those animals were not vermin to him or exacting any negative impact on his life. This was just wilful killing.”
But it was legal. Or was it? There is a set list of birds that can be killed under the so-called general licence, and they include a number of corvids and pigeons, plus two species of non-native geese and monk and ring-necked parakeets. You have to be the landowner, or have their permission, and you can only use the licence to stop “serious damage” to livestock, crops, trees and fisheries or to prevent the spread of diseases. Theoretically, you should have explored other forms of passive management, such as scaring devices or netting, but – crucially – you don’t have to prove that you have.