The campaigners claim the annual release of 47 million pheasants and 10 million red-legged partridges is “unlawful” without a proper assessment of the ecological impacts the gamebirds have on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Although birds are not allowed to be directly released on these areas without permission, they are allowed to be released nearby.
Wild Justice’s Dr Mark Avery explained they are calling for a 5km buffer zone: “Pheasants go wherever they want. They turn up on nature reserves where they’ve never been released. This is a very serious ecological assault on the countryside which government is failing to assess and regulate.”
In response, the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) is actively ensuring that the government does not back down to legal threats and is working with MPs to guarantee the 2020-21 season can go ahead as planned and defeat this challenge for the future. As well as briefing the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Shooting and Conservation, BASC met and briefed Theresa Villers, the former Secretary of State for the Environment and demanded a robust response.
BASC has said it is unlikely that there will be any changes to releasing game birds for the 2020-2021 season. A spokesman said: “We are undertaking further work with Natural England and Defra to ensure that releasing on designated sites is robustly underpinned by law and will continue, as it did without damage to the environment on these sites before they were designated. Alongside our sister organisations we have applied to become an interested party, to ensure full involvement with the legal challenge. We will ensure that members are informed of progress.”
Defra’s Gamebird Release Review team can be contacted on GLTeam@defra.gov.uk for further information.