The protection of growing crops from the UK’s number one agricultural pest – the woodpigeon – would be severely damaged by a proposal put forward by Natural England according to the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).
The proposal would make it mandatory to attempt to scare pigeons and other avian pests before shooting. Shooting is widely accepted as the most effective method of protecting crops from the devastation which can be caused by flocks of feeding pigeons.
The control of bird pests is authorised under a series of general licences, 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 pest 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.
BASC Chief Executive Richard Ali said: “This proposal to make people try to scare pigeons before shooting, under threat of legal action, fines and prison, would hamstring crop-protection in England. Shooting is the only viable and effective method of protecting growing crops which are vulnerable to flocks of pigeons and other pests. Pigeons soon become used to scaring – scarecrows have long vanished from our fields and the birds soon become used to other methods such as noise-making gas guns.”
“The proposals would also be completely unenforceable. Who will be going around farms checking that each pigeon shooter has tried scare tactics before getting on with the job of protecting crops?”
“The proposals fly in the face of the established principles of better regulation which state that regulation should be proportional to the problem and only applied when absolutely necessary. New rules should be justifiable, simple and user-friendly and should be focused on a problem while minimising side effects. This proposal fails on all counts. BASC will be making its views known in its own response and I fully expect that common sense will prevail when Natural England has had time to sit down, look at this issue and assess responses to the consultation.”
The Natural England consultation closes on the 19th May. For more details please see the BASC website