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General licences – how did we get here and what is the way forward?

There was a time when the law was clear on the shooting of woodpigeon and the shooting and trapping of crows and magpies and other pest bird species.

We had a pest birds list and approved control methods all outlined in the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

General licences were introduced in 1992 as a legal necessity to comply with European law.

The principle was simple; to permit people to continue to carry out necessary control of species of birds with no added burdens. The situation today is far removed from 1992 when Ministers assured stakeholders that the introduction of general licences was a legal device but one which would continue to allow necessary control with no added burdens.

The complexities have snowballed as lawyers have continued to tinker with the wording of general licences at every round of consultation to the extent that we have now seen a successful legal challenge leading to uncertainty and chaos for farming, shooting and conservation interests nationwide.

During the last round of consultation in England five years ago, BASC called for the simplification of general licences. We urged the shooting community to rally to this cause.

Our argument was that general licences need only to list the species legally affected and the legally permitted methods. And it should all be on a single page.  That was the principle in 1992.

The need for pest control has not gone away and events of the last week underline the urgent need for a back to basics approach.

But for now, as a matter of urgency, Natural England need to sort this mess out and that is why BASC has joined other rural organisations in writing to environment secretary Michael Gove to step in to take decisive action

Our priority is to ensure members are given and pointed towards the right information as soon as it becomes available. That is our absolute priority in the coming days and weeks.

Please keep visiting our website and social media accounts for the latest updates.

 

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