Natural England should simplify the complicated system which authorises the necessary control of certain species of birds, such as pigeons which damage farm crops, according to the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).

BASC believes in reducing red tape and says that the current system is complicated and unnecessarily bureaucratic.


The control of certain bird species is authorised under a series of general licences which are issued annually by Natural England and separately by the relevant authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is not necessary to apply for or to have a copy of the licence, but people who control these birds must abide by the licence conditions. Under a wide-ranging consultation issued by Natural England, changes to the general licences for England could be introduced as soon as next year.

General licences were introduced more than 20 years ago as a legal necessity to comply with European law. The principle was simple – to permit people to continue to carry out necessary controls such as protecting crops from feeding pigeons. However, following two decades of tinkering, the general licences in England are now so complex that they are confusing.

Richard Ali, BASC’s chief executive, said: “The English general licences are complicated, bureaucratic and burdened with layers of unnecessary regulations. They need a complete overhaul so people can understand them. We would like to see them stripped back so they are short, straightforward and people can use them without worrying about their complexity.”

“General licences are designed for a specific purpose and should be as simple as possible. The 48 pages of proposed changes in this consultation will make things even more complex. Users could be required to understand up to ten pages of legal text before they shoot a pigeon for a farmer. The general licences need only list the relevant species and legally permitted methods of control– it could be done on a single page.”


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