DEFRA launches bird-kill licence review

The government has launched a review into how its discretionary bird-kill regime is used by land managers, following pressure from legal outfit Wild Justice to overhaul the licensing scheme.

Wild birds, their eggs and nests, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and cannot be killed without a licence.

Yesterday, DEFRA launched a survey asking stakeholders to feedback on how they use general licences – a decades-old light-touch regime that has allowed landowners and tenants, under some circumstances, to kill certain bird species, including crows, jays, magpies, jackdaws, rooks, parakeets, Canada geese, some gulls, feral pigeons and wood pigeons, without needing to justify why the killing is necessary.

Disagreements over the use of the light-touch permitting regime came to a head in April, when wildlife regulator Natural England felt it had no choice but to axe the general licence scheme, following pressure from Wild Justice. 

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Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c.69)

In force/
Current
Legislation
England, Scotland, Wales
Published
08 May 2018

Commentary

06/02/2013 The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedules A1 and 1A) (Scotland) Order 2013 (SI 2013/31) published, adding species to Schedules 1A and A1., 23/04/2015 Amending Regulations (SI 2015/1180) published.
07/07/2015 Amending Act (Planning (Wales) Act 2015) published.
09/02/2016 Amending Regulations (SI 2016/127) published.
01/05/2018 Amending Act ( Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018) published., 19/03/2019 Amending Regulations ( SI 2019/579) published.

Characteristics

Subject

Land and development Wildlife and conservation

Source

OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information)

Affected Sectors

Cross-sector Agriculture Animal Boarding and Pest Control Fishing and aquaculture Forestry Construction Conservation Land Management and Landscaping
ECM

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c.69)

Document Status: In force/Current

Scope: England, Scotland, Wales

Commentary:

06/02/2013 The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedules A1 and 1A) (Scotland) Order 2013 (SI 2013/31) published, adding species to Schedules 1A and A1., 23/04/2015 Amending Regulations (SI 2015/1180) published.
07/07/2015 Amending Act (Planning (Wales) Act 2015) published.
09/02/2016 Amending Regulations (SI 2016/127) published.
01/05/2018 Amending Act ( Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018) published., 19/03/2019 Amending Regulations ( SI 2019/579) published.

DEFRA subsequently introduced new licences allowing landowners and managers to return to a business-as-usual approach until February 2020, when the licences would expire.

In a statement issued yesterday, DEFRA confirmed it was leading the review in “close partnership” with the wildlife regulator, Natural England. It is asking stakeholders how they use general licences including what kinds of records are kept.

DEFRA said that the feedback it receives would form part of a wider root-and-branch review into the use of general licences. 

Yesterday, the government announced it would also be reviewing the way in which the release of non-native gamebirds, on or near European protected sites, was managed, following legal action brought about by Wild Justice.

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