Last week Countryside Alliance chief Tim Bonner met the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Theresa Villiers. Heading the list of topics for discussion was the General Licence. Still fresh in everyone’s memory is the way in which this Spring, Natural England was ambushed by anti-shooting activists and forced into a temporary cancellation of the Licence and with it the removal of a control on corvid numbers at a key time of year. The resulting damage to the livelihoods of farmers and the impact on other birdlife will have been severe and certainly severe enough to see the group behind the challenge, Wildlife Justice, reduced to a finger pointing exercise as it sought to blame Natural England for the timing of the move.
This mess led to Defra to take control of the situation and reissue new licences a few weeks later; however, those reissued licences were interim until new ones were available as part of the normal annual cycle. As a result and in attempt to deliver what it describes as “ a robust system of licensing to manage the issues that arise between the protection of wild birds and the legitimate activities people need to carry out for specific purposes such as protecting livestock or crops, and for conservation purposes”, Defra has now launched a 12 week consultation exercise. It is absolutely vital that anyone who relies upon using the General Licence to protect crops and livestock or ground nesting birds makes their views known, so as to ensure that all necessary species of pest is included upon the new Licence and as, Tim Bonner put it, to ensure that: “The new licences are not vulnerable to malicious legal activism”. The consultation, which ends on December 5th, is available here: Defra.gov.uk