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General Licences – Latest Updates

BASC calls for reinstatement of revoked general licences as a matter of urgency

BASC has recommended that general licences for the control of pest birds such as crows, magpies and pigeons in England be reinstated by Defra as a matter of urgency and no later than 21 May.

BASC made the recommendation as part of a 46 page submission to Defra in response to its call for evidence on general licences; and was based on the advice of its team of experts; a review of scientific evidence; 29,657 responses to an online BASC survey and over 10,000 member enquiries.

Click here for a copy of BASC’s submission to Defra

 

 


 

Bird pest control in England – latest update

General Licences (GL04, GL05 and GL06) which used to allow the control of pigeons, crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws, jays, Canada geese and nine other bird species were withdrawn on 25 April. These birds are therefore fully protected unless you are in possession of an individual bird pest control licence from Natural England or are carrying out control of carrion crow, woodpigeon or Canada goose under the terms and conditions of newly issued general licences (GL26, GL28 and GL31)

Natural England individual licences for bird pest control

If you have applied for and received an individual licence granted by Natural England you can carry out the control that it specifies as long as you stick to all the conditions in the licence.

There have been suggestions by Natural England that applying for a licence may allow people to carry out control, whilst waiting for their application to be assessed, under what is being called the section 4 defence. This refers to part of Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However this is a defence which is not the same as acting under the authority of a licence issued to carry out control.

It is only a valid defence if a number of specific conditions are met such as you being able show there was no other satisfactory solution and includes a reporting requirement. It also does not apply to all areas i.e. it is NOT valid in relation to lethal action for the purposes of conserving flora and fauna.

Having received legal advice BASC cannot recommend members rely on this defence.

Click here to apply for an individual bird pest control licence from Natural England

General licences for carrion crow, woodpigeon and Canada Goose

Natural England has issued new general licences for carrion crow, woodpigeon and Canada goose. BASC has raised serious concerns around the poor, contradictory wording and onerous conditions of these licences. You should note that they are not a like for like replacement of the old licences. Before relying upon them you should be absolutely confident that you understand and are able to comply with the terms and conditions. Anyone using them should be able to demonstrate, if required by Natural England or the Police that they are complying fully with the terms and conditions.

Click here for general licence GL26 to kill or take carrion crows to prevent serious damage to livestock

Click here for general licence GL31 to kill or take woodpigeons to prevent serious damage to crops

Click here for general licence GL28 to kill or take Canada geese to preserve public health and safety

 

Frequently asked questions

Please check the FAQs below, which may help with queries. We will continue to update this information with latest developments.

What has happened?

General Licences (GL04, GL05 and GL06) which used to allow the control of pigeons, crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws, jays, Canada geese and nine other bird species were withdrawn on 25 April. These birds are therefore fully protected unless you are in possession of an individual bird pest control licence from Natural England or are carrying out control of carrion crow, woodpigeon or Canada goose under the terms and conditions of newly issued general licences (GL26, GL28 and GL31).

On 4 May Defra took over decision making on general licences from Natural England, after intense lobbying by BASC and other rural organisations.

This change means that Natural England cannot issue any new general licences and the new general licences for crows (GL26), wood pigeon (GL31) and Canada geese (GL28) remain valid.

This change does not affect Natural England’s function for issuing individual licences.

On 4 May Defra launched a call for evidence on the withdrawal of the three general licences (GL04, GL05 and GL06) The deadline for responses was 5pm on Monday 13 May.

On 7 May BASC launched a campaign encouraging people to email Defra and to complete a BASC survey to help us make our case in the call for evidence.

On 13 May BASC submitted a 46 page response to Defra’s call for evidence. BASC has recommended that general licences for the control of pest birds such as crows, magpies and pigeons in England be reinstated by Defra as a matter of urgency and no later than 21 May.

What is BASC doing about this?

BASC is working closely with other rural organisations to establish facts and lobby Defra, Natural England and Government to ensure a speedy and appropriate outcome.  We are using email, our website and social media to keep people informed of the latest developments.

On 4 May Defra launched a call for evidence on the withdrawal of the three general licences (GL04, GL05 and GL06) The deadline for responses was 5pm on Monday 13 May.

On 7 May BASC launched a campaign encouraging people to email Defra and to complete a BASC survey to help us make our case in the call for evidence.

On 13 May BASC submitted a 46 page response to Defra’s call for evidence. BASC has recommended that general licences for the control of pest birds such as crows, magpies and pigeons in England be reinstated by Defra as a matter of urgency and no later than 21 May.

How does this affect me?

General Licences (GL04, GL05 and GL06) which used to allow the control of pigeons, crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws, jays, Canada geese and nine other bird species in England were withdrawn on 25 April. These birds are therefore fully protected unless you are in possession of an individual bird pest control licence from Natural England or are carrying out control of carrion crow, woodpigeon or Canada goose under the terms and conditions of newly issued general licences (GL26, GL28 and GL31)

General licences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remain unaffected at present.

Natural England individual licences for bird pest control

If you have applied for and received an individual licence granted by Natural England you can carry out the control that it specifies as long as you stick to all the conditions in the licence.

There have been suggestions by Natural England that applying for a licence may allow people to carry out control, while waiting for their application to be assessed, under what is being called the section 4 defence. This refers to part of Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However this is a defence which is not the same as acting under the authority of a licence issued to carry out control.

It is only a valid defence if a number of specific conditions are met such as you being able show there was no other satisfactory solution and includes a reporting requirement. It also does not apply to all areas i.e. it is NOT valid in relation to lethal action for the purposes of conserving flora and fauna.

Having received legal advice BASC cannot recommend members rely on this defence.

Click here to apply for an individual bird pest control licence from Natural England

General licences for carrion crow, woodpigeon and Canada Goose

Natural England has issued new general licences for carrion crow, woodpigeon and Canada goose. BASC has raised serious concerns around the poor, contradictory wording and onerous conditions of these licences. You should note that they are not a like for like replacement of the old licences.

Before relying upon them you should be absolutely confident that you understand, and are able to comply with, the terms and conditions. Anyone using them should be able to demonstrate, if required by Natural England or the Police, that they are complying fully with the terms and conditions.

Click here for general licence GL26 to kill or take carrion crows to prevent serious damage to livestock

Click here for general licence GL31 to kill or take woodpigeons to prevent serious damage to crops

Click here for general licence GL28 to kill or take Canada geese to preserve public health and safety

What species are affected?

The English general licences that have been withdrawn affect the control of these birds:

  • Crow
  • Woodpigeon
  • Feral pigeon
  • Collared dove
  • Jackdaw
  • Jay
  • Magpie
  • Rook
  • Canada goose
  • Lesser black-backed gull
  • Herring gull
  • Egyptian goose
  • Monk parakeet
  • Ring-necked parakeet
  • Sacred ibis
  • Indian house-crow

Can I sell dead woodpigeon?

Yes. The general licences that were withdrawn do not affect the legality of the sale of dead woodpigeon, which is covered by section 3 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Why are the three new general licences unworkable?

Natural England have issued only three new general licences.

  • GL26 to kill or take carrion crows to prevent serious damage to livestock
  • GL31 to kill or take woodpigeons to prevent serious damage to crops
  • GL28 to kill or take Canada geese to preserve public health and safety

BASC and other rural organisations have described the new general licences as unworkable and not fit for purpose.  Wording within the licences is unclear and contradictory which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to follow what is required.

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

Far from allowing control as detailed in the three new general licences to carry on ‘much as before,’ the three new general licences include many additional restrictions and conditions than their revoked predecessors.

Key additional restrictions in the general licences 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 general licence (although they have presumably already been shown not to work, otherwise the general licence could not be used).
  • Taking, damaging or destroying nests are limited to when that nest is in use or being built. (i.e. you cannot damage/destroy an old 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).
  • Section 8e of the three new general licences lists detailed information that the users of the licences must be able to show, if asked by an officer of Natural England or the Police. These are all new, onerous and arguably impossible requirements.
  • For the crow general licence (GL26) 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.
  • For the crow general licence (GL26) it can only be used by ‘farmers and other keepers of vulnerable livestock and by people acting on their behalf’. It used to be ‘any Authorised Person’. This is an unnecessary additional restriction which removes flexibility for unforeseen needs.
  • For the crow general licence (GL26) it states that users can undertake lethal control of birds only 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 general licence user know that? The spring breeding season is the key time of use for both farmers and gamekeepers.
  • The three new general licences cannot be used in protected sites (i.e. SSSI, SPA, RAMSAR etc), or within 300 metres of them, without first obtaining a further licence from NE.
  • The new crow general licence (GL26) states that the loss of some released game birds to crow predation is not ‘serious damage’ but is an element of ‘normal business risk’ and it provides a long and complicated ‘justification’ for this conclusion.
  • The three new general licences state “Users of this licence are requested to exercise restraint when undertaking shooting or scaring activities during periods of prolonged severe weather.”

Click here for general licence GL26 to kill or take carrion crows to prevent serious damage to livestock

Click here for general licence GL31 to kill or take woodpigeons to prevent serious damage to crops

Click here for general licence GL28 to kill or take Canada geese to preserve public health and safety

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

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