It doesn’t take much to imagine the smug satisfaction felt by those involved with Wild Justice after its torpedoing of the general licence. The campaigning group could not have wished for a better outcome; certainly not in terms of the publicity it garnered and the dismay it visited upon farmers and others, left unable to control pests at a key time of the year. Of course it came close to rebounding on the group, when it became clear to the wider public just what the absence of those controls means – pictures of eyeless lambs don’t go down well across most breakfast tables.
Fortunately, however, Wild Justice had its fall guy in the shape of Natural England, the body under whose remit the granting of the general licences falls. Co-founder of Wild Justice, Mark Avery, was quick to point the finger, telling Sporting Gun magazine that Natural England had been aware of the challenge to the general licence in February, but had done nothing about it and that had it done so new provisions could have been in place before the matter of pest control became an issue.
That tells us little about Natural England, which everyone knows is a lumbering behemoth unfit for purpose and long overdue for reform, but tells us quite a lot about Mark Avery. For when the new head of Natural England, Tony Juniper, was appointed in February, Avery was one of the first to congratulate him, describing the veteran environmental campaigner as “one of us”, as well he might, because the pair of them go back a long way having collaborated on a book and sat on numerous committees together. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that when Avery began to feel the heat for his and Wild Justice’s ill-timed meddling, one of his first actions wouldn’t have been to chuck his mate under the bus, by pointing the finger at Natural England, but then Avery is a man with few followers and even fewer friends and on this recent performance, that isn’t going to change any time soon.