BASC produces critique of “unworkable” crow licence

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BASC has produced a critique of the new “unworkable” crow general licence produced by Natural England

The new licence includes many more “additional restrictions and conditions” than its predecessor, which was one of the three general licences for the control of pest birds in England that was withdrawn by Natural England last week.

BASC and other rural organisations have described the new crow licence as “unworkable” and “not fit for purpose” and there are real fears for the quality of other general licences yet to be released.

BASC’s Dr Conor O’Gorman said: “Natural England needs to urgently come up with a new plan of action.

“Issuing further general licences as complicated and confusing as the crow licence is not going to solve this ongoing crisis in the countryside.”

Click here for the latest information.

The critique can be read here:

On 26 April Natural England issued a new general licence (GL26 – carrion crows – prevent serious damage to livestock including poultry and reared gamebirds) as part of the process of replacing the general licences it withdrew without consultation on 25 April.

BASC and other rural organisations have described the new crow general licence (GL26) as unworkable and not fit for purpose and there are real fears for the other general licences which have yet to be released.

To make things even more complicated Natural England also published on 26 April no less than three other documents associated with the new crow licence. There are GL33, WML-GU01 and WML-GU02.

Far from allowing crow control to carry on ‘much as before,’ the new crow licence (GL26) includes many additional restrictions and conditions than its revoked predecessor.

Key additional restrictions in the crow licence are as follows:

  • Control is only allowed as a last resort where reasonable steps to prevent predation by [other non-lethal] lawful methods have been taken.
  • Non-lethal methods have to be continued alongside use of the licence (although they have presumably already been shown not to work, otherwise the licence could not be used).
  • Taking, damaging or destroying a crow’s nest is limited to when that nest is in use or being built. (i.e. you cannot damage/destroy an old crow’s nest to discourage re-nesting).
  • Control methods allowed are listed out. It used to be ‘any lawful method’. This adds unnecessary restriction (e.g. the new licence specifies what product you must use to oil an egg).
  • Allowable cage traps are restricted to ‘Larsen’ or ‘Multi Catch’ cage traps, the latter defined as ‘large enough for a man to enter’. Any other size would therefore become illegal. The new licence defines a ‘Larsen’ in a way that prohibits the use of a Larsen Mate or similar device.
  • Can only be used by ‘farmers and other keepers of the vulnerable livestock and by people acting on their behalf’. It used to be ‘any Authorised Person’. An unnecessary additional restriction which removes flexibility for unforeseen needs.
  • States that users can only undertake lethal control of birds during the breeding season if lethal control at other times or use of other licensed methods (e.g. egg destruction) would not provide a satisfactory solution. How can a licence user know that? The spring breeding season is the key time of use for both farmers and gamekeepers.
  • Users of the new licence must be able to show, if asked by an officer of Natural England or the Police: (i) what type of livestock any action under this licence is protecting;  (ii) what lawful methods have been, and are being, taken to prevent predation of such livestock by carrion crow or why the lawful methods have they have not been taken;  (iii) what measures have been and are being taken to minimise losses to that livestock from other predators and causes; and (iv) why the threat of predation from carrion crows is sufficiently serious to merit action under this licence. These are all new, onerous and arguably impossible requirements.
  • The new licence cannot be used to shoot crows in protected sites (i.e. SSSI, SPA, RAMSAR etc), or within 300 metres of them, without first obtaining a further licence from NE. [Originally it banned trapping too but this was dropped by Natural England 24 hours after issuing the licence].
  • The new licence states that the loss of some released game birds to crow predation is not ‘serious damage’ but is an element of the ‘normal business risk’ and it provides a long and complicated ‘justification’ for this conclusion.
  • The new licence says, “Users of this licence are requested to exercise restraint when undertaking shooting or scaring activities during periods of prolonged severe weather.”

Click here for GL26 crow general licence to protect livestock

Click here for GL33 licence conditions for trapping and use of live decoys

Click here for WML-GU01 legal measures for managing wild birds

Click here for WML-GU02 relevance of Animal Welfare Act 2006