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Defra announces three new general licences as ‘temporary way forward’ on bird control

Countryside organisations said it showed ’genuine progress’ but significant work still remains regarding protected sites.


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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Defra announces three new general licences as ‘temporary way forward’ on bird control

Defra has announced three new general licences for the killing or taking of wild birds in England.

 

Natural England revoked three general licences (GL04, 05 and 06) in April following a legal challenge and subsequent legal advice which concluded that the three licences were unlawful.

 

The decision was taken as a result of a legal challenge by Wild Justice, a group championed by BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham, campaigner Mark Avery and activist Ruth Tingay.

 

Defra issued the new licences on June 14 after a call for evidence showed the impact on livestock, eggs and fledglings of birds of conservation concern and public health.


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The licences will be valid until February 29 2020 and Defra will lead a review of the longer-term general licensing arrangements.

 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the new general licences would seek to minimise some of the negative impacts.

 

‘Temporary way forward’

“But this is a temporary way forward and does not cover European protected sites, where the law is more complicated and we continue to engage with stakeholders,” he said.

 

“We will shortly set out details of a wider review of general licences, to provide a long term licensing solution which balances the needs of users and wildlife.”

 

Leading countryside organisations said genuine progress had been made on the issue.

 

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said rural organisations had worked extensively with Defra and were content the new, additional general licences issued today would be ‘fit for purpose’ in many areas - despite significant remaining concerns around protected sites.

 

“We appreciate that it is not a perfect situation and there may still be some confusion; the organisations will continue to be on hand to steer our members through,” he said.

“The organisations have told Defra that we expect any gaps to picked up by the consultation in the summer.”

 

Progress

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “Whilst we remain very concerned about the initial decision by Natural England to revoke the general licences we are grateful for the Secretary of State’s intervention.

 

“Since Defra has taken back control of the licences we have seen significant progress and for most people managing most species the situation is now back as it was.

 

“The discussion does not, however, stop here and we will seek to resolve the outstanding issues as part of the planned consultation later this year.”

 

CLA president, Tim Breitmeyer added: “We are pleased that progress has been made and that the concerns of rural groups have been taken on board. We will keep working collaboratively with Defra and others to help resolve any outstanding issues.

 

“This includes engaging with the future consultation this summer, ensuring the emergence of a robust and fit-for-purpose licensing system which protects the interests of farming and food production, as well as the conservation of wildlife.”

NFU Deputy President Guy Smith said since the withdrawal of the general licences NFU had been campaigning for their reinstatement, with hundreds of NFU members responding to the call for evidence.

 

“The important role general licences play for farmers cannot be understated.

 

“When they were removed, the impact pigeons and crows had on crops and livestock was devastating and we are continuing to hear that farmers are having other issues, for example rooks damaging spring barley.

 

“It is vital that farmers have the ability to control these birds.”

 

He said the NFU had made the case to Defra and the Secretary of State.

 

“It is positive for farmers that the licences once again include species such as rooks and magpies, and it would appear that the new licences seem to be practical and fit for purpose for our members.”

 

However, he said there was potential confusion for farmers who control birds in or near protected sites and it was imperative the system was clear and unambiguous.

 

He added there was still much to be done and it was important to remember it was an essential tool for farm businesses, ‘which enables them to produce safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation’.

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