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7 Feb, 2022 16:12

UK govt facing legal challenge over wild birds

Campaigners claim that updated shooting licenses in England give an unfair advantage to gamekeepers over wildlife
UK govt facing legal challenge over wild birds

A court challenge over the lawfulness of updated guidance in England on general licenses was launched by activists on Monday over concerns it means some wild birds can be killed to protect game birds bred for shooting. 

At the start of 2022, a new definition of ‘livestock’ was released by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), covering game birds – such as pheasants, partridges, and grouse – which are given food and shelter from landowners.

The change gives the green light for shooters to kill wild birds – such as carrion crows, jackdaws, magpies, and rooks – to protect game birds, in a move that the campaign group Wild Justice argues is unlawful.

“Any licence authorising killing of wildlife should be clear about when it can be used. DEFRA’s GL42 fails that test. In any case, why is DEFRA fiddling with definitions of livestock while wildlife declines?” Wild Justice said in a press release on Monday.

GL42 is the general license to kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage, giving authorized individuals permission to eliminate wild birds in order to protect livestock and foodstuffs for livestock.

Wild Justice said the UK government made the change “after pressure from shooting and farming interest groups,” sparking “public concern” that led the group to pursue a judicial review unless officials could provide sufficient justification behind it.

The UK government has not yet publicly commented on Wild Justice’s legal challenge.