New General Licences come into effect on 1 January 2021
New licences published today (Monday 9 November) by Defra for the control of birds such as woodpigeons, crows and magpies have been given a mixed reception by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO).
The General Licences (GL40, GL41 and GL42) will come into effect throughout England on 1 January and will last for the whole of 2021. They include significant changes to the existing licences, which Defra says are the result of 18 months work and evidence-gathering.
On the positive side, the licences will still be issued by the Secretary of State for the Environment, not Natural England, something demanded by the NGO in over a year of active lobbying. The language in the new licences is also clearer and they are probably legally more robust. Importantly, Defra has also resisted calls from extremist bird groups to stop nearly all bird control under general licencesing.
But on the downside:
- – The licences are still very long (11 pages each, 2,800 words, with more sections yet to come).
- – Rook and jackdaw have come off the conservation licence (GL40), despite 50% of moorland keepers surveyed this spring having seen both species taking wild birds’ eggs – findings which the NGO sent to the Secretary of State in July.
- – For Crow and Magpie, control in relation to conservation is limited to helping red and amber listed birds of conservation concern. That means you cannot use GL40 to assist pheasants and redleg partridge to breed in the wild, requiring all wild bird keepers to apply to Natural England (NE) for individual licences. The increased workload for NE implied by this is a huge concern to the NGO, given NE’s abject failure to cope with applications earlier this year.
- – For Jays, control is additionally limited to endangered woodland birds, preventing control to assist declining wild grey partridge, which are commonly predated by jays on lowland farms.
There are also some odd consequences of the new licences and some very silly advice, for example:
- – You can control jackdaws under GL42 to prevent the spread of animal diseases but you cannot control them, in England, under GL41 to stop the spread of human disease.
- – In the advice section of GL42 it is recognised that birds can become habituated to bird scarers but the licence says ‘that is not a reason to stop using them.’
- – And farmers and others are advised to plant single large woods, rather than many smaller ones, ‘to reduce the density of woodpigeon nests’ so the birds do not have to be controlled.
A big concern is the way that these licences have been introduced. A spokesman for the NGO said:
“This is the first time ever that Defra has made substantial changes to the General Licences without a proper public consultation on their intentions.
“We and the other shooting organisations were long ago promised draft licences in advance of publication. They never came. We only knew of these changes today when the licences were published.”
Although Defra regards its new licences as final, the NGO will be speaking with top Defra officials later today and working with politicians to call on the Secretary of State for improvements and corrections.
Links to the new Licences can be found here:
Conservation licence GL34/GL40: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-birds-licence-to-kill-or-take-for-conservation-purposes-gl34
Public health and safety licence GL35/GL41: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-birds-licence-to-kill-or-take-for-public-health-or-safety-gl35
Serious damage licence GL36/GL42: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-birds-licence-to-kill-or-take-to-prevent-serious-damage-gl36