On Tuesday, 23 April 2019, following a legal challenge by activist group Wild Justice, Natural England (NE) suspended three general licences (GL 04/05/06), under which 16 bird species could be legally controlled in England.
Since then, there has been much confusion in the fieldsports community about what this means and how the situation is being rectified.
The ability to control several species of wild birds – including carrion crows, magpies and woodpigeons – to prevent serious damage or disease, to preserve public health or public safety, and to conserve flora and fauna under ‘open licences’, were all revoked in an unprecedented move by the statutory agency, at less than 36 hours’ notice.
In its position statement on the matter, NE stated that they hope to have further new general licences in place this week (week beginning Monday, 29 April).
The first of these new general licences to be released – that for controlling crows – was released last week but has been called ‘hurried’, ‘shoddy’, ‘botched’ and ‘completely unfit for purpose’ by our leading countryside organisations. This view has been expressed in a joint letter to Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
In the meantime, anybody who needs to act within the law to control wild birds before the licence they need is ready, can apply for individual licences online, here.