Across all four countries of the UK every wild bird is protected by law, it is illegal to intentionally kill or injury a wild bird, damage eggs or disturb an active nest. In most areas the law is black and white, however there are circumstances where a license can be issued to grant an exemption from this law.
Which brings up the question, is it ever justified to kill? A big question, but an important one for conservation.
For some the answer is always no, and although most will disagree with this position, we should respect that. No one takes an interest in conservation to kill. For many of us our love of nature and urge to protect it comes from experiencing it at a young age when the idea of harming this wonderful and precious thing seems abhorrent.
However, for most the answer is likely to be “no, but…”. Self-defence, protecting human health, saving crops and ensuring the survival of rare and endangered species and the habitats they depend on are among the reasons that people may offer following that ‘but…’.
As you will have seen in my annual ‘Making tough decisions’ blog, the RSPB does use lethal control methods on occasion, and only when we are convinced there is both a valid reason and no viable alternative. You can see our rationale and what we believe, and (unlike any other major landowner) the number of times we use lethal methods.
So why are we talking about this now?
Ben Andrew's fine picture of a jay (rspb-images.com)
Earlier this year following a legal challenge by Wild Justice, Natural England (NE) revoked the General Licences. Later, after a short call for evidence, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issued three new general licences in order to replace those which were revoked by NE. However, Defra promised to hold a full review later in the year in order to make future licences as good and fit for purpose as they can possibly be. That review is now upon us and can be found here.*
The RSPB will of course be responding to this survey. Broadly speaking we’ll be asking for similar things as we did in the previous call for evidence.
The RSPB believes:
A call to action
It is crucial that as many people as possible complete Defra's survey in order to ensure that future licences are fit for purpose and feature appropriate species.
Your contributions can help give Defra the information they need to improve this system. This is your opportunity to have your say.
Take the survey
Please note: It is not the most user-friendly of surveys (!) so here are our top tips for completing it.
For further guidance and information please see the Frequently Asked Questions right at the bottom of this post.
*A similar consultation in Scotland has recently concluded with results expected to be announced later this year, whilst new General Licences have recently been issued in Wales. You can read our thoughts on them here.
Done - unlike the propaganda exercise being carried out by the GWCT, this consultation does seem genuinely open. Of course, the proof will be in what DEFRA does with the results.
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