Defra ‘creating chaos’, BASC tells Minister in open letter


Following Defra’s failure to publish GL43 in adequate time and provide a thorough, evidenced explanation for the subsequent and significant changes to the licence, BASC has written the following letter to the Defra Minister responsible, Trudy Harrison MP.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation,
Marford Mill,
Ll12 0HL.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Under Secretary of State,
Trudy Harrison,
Main Street,
Bootle, LA19 5TF

Email –

Dear minister,

Significant changes to General Licence 43

BASC is deeply disappointed that you have not renewed GL43 governing the release of gamebirds on and near European Protected Sites before its expiry on 30th May. As a result, the release of common pheasants and red-legged partridges is now illegal on or near these sites in England. Your advisers will be aware that shoots in these areas have been working for months and have invested in the release of gamebirds which would normally commence in the next few weeks. These rural businesses and activities have been deprived of all certainty, which will cause serious damage.

In your email to BASC on the 10th May 2023, we were told that the decision to drop the general licence for SPAs was taken without stakeholder consultation and related to HPAI. There is no evidence that gamebirds play a significant role in the spread of HPAI in wild birds. In fact, an analysis of the real-life APHA data on AI in wild birds in 2021 and 2022 shows that there was neither a temporal correlation between gamebird releases and surges in HPAI, nor a spatial correlation between areas with greater densities of gamebirds and areas with higher numbers of HPAI findings in wild birds.

Your decision, not to provide a clear policy but to direct shoots to a questionnaire on the Natural England website is creating chaos. At a time when shoot preparations are well advanced, it will have catastrophic consequences for businesses, jobs and conservation projects without providing any benefits in the fight against HPAI.

BASC has sought legal advice and considers Defra’s decision unlawful, unevidenced and disproportionate and will not hesitate to commence legal actions.

I do hope that this Government which has declared its support for sustainable shooting will be able to ensure the renewal of GL43 as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

Eoghan Cameron signature

Eoghan Cameron