The slaughtering of thousands of “pest” birds each year including crows, rooks, jackdaws, magpies and woodpigeons is to be challenged in court by wildlife campaigners including Chris Packham.
Wild Justice, a fresh new group created by Packham and fellow conservationists Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, is taking legal action against Natural England, the government’s conservation watchdog, for issuing a general license that permits the unlimited slaughter of certain wild birds throughout the year.
According to Wild Justice, this is illegal under British wildlife laws and also the EU birds directive.
“We’re not saying that no birds should ever be killed but the means that Natural England has chosen to authorize this is unlawful because they are not taking enough care to judge individual cases, or indeed any case at all,” said Avery.
“It appears to us that Natural England – the government’s wildlife regulator that should be a protector of wildlife and a defender of wildlife law – has been an unlawful killer of wildlife.”
Most wild bird species are kept safe unless someone fetches a particular license from NE to allow their killing. The Guardian recently revealed that NE issued licenses to destroy some 170,000 wild birds, eggs and nests, including rapidly declining species such as curlews and swifts, in the past five years.
Then again these figures are shortened by the number of unprotected crows, gulls and other wild birds that are killed under NE’s general license, which it issues at the initial part of a year.
Wild Justice is seeking a judicial review, launching crowdfunding to raise £36,000 to cover the cost of the legal action.
If the courts find out that the general license is against the laws, NE could be forced to issue thousands of specific licenses to allow the hunt of magpies and other species, hugely expanding its workload.
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