09 May 2019

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) wants to hear from those impacted by the recent withdrawal of three general licences for shooting wild birds. Those wishing to contribute have only a short time to do so.

On 25 April 2019 Natural England withdrew three general licences for the shooting of 16 species of wild bird, including carrion crows and wood pigeons. The withdrawal came about in response to a challenge by the environmental NGO, Wild Justice.

The licences, which had been granted by Natural England pursuant to 16(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, allowed eligible persons to kill or take certain wild birds to prevent serious damage to livestock or crops, to preserve public health, or to conserve wild flora or fauna.

Any person carrying out activities previously covered by the general licences will commit an offence, unless the activity is carried out pursuant to an individual licence.

Whilst Natural England has unveiled a streamlined procedure for obtaining individual licences, the revocation of the licences concerned (GL04, GL05 and GL06) has been met with confusion and concern by farmers, who are faced with the prospect of criminal charges should they take previously permitted steps to protect livestock and crops.

On 4 May 2019, DEFRA announced that it would be taking back control of the general licencing regime. The intervention appears to have come about primarily in response to lobbying from the National Farmers Union and other countryside organisations.

DEFRA has issued an urgent call for evidence on the impact of the withdrawal of the general licences. Those wishing to contribute must do so by 5pm on Monday 13 May 2019.

Further detail on the call for evidence, and information on how to respond can be found here.

For specialist legal advice for farmers and landowners, contact James Owen on 01935 315565 or