Wild Justice falsely claims win over Defra
Rural organisations have welcomed the news that Defra is ready to fight Wild Justice’s latest legal challenge in relation to the General Licence for the control of certain wild birds to prevent serious damage (GL42).
Writing for the Countryside Alliance, Adrian Blackmore said: when the General Licence was reissued at the beginning of the year, we welcomed the clarification that gamebirds can be classed as livestock whilst they are dependent on the provision of food, water, or shelter for their survival. This was helpful confirmation that the Licence could be used to prevent serious damage to pheasants and partridges until such time as they are fully released, at which stage they become wild birds.
It was this clarification by Defra, and the lawfulness of the General Licence, that Wild Justice challenged, claiming that the definition of livestock was significantly wider than that in the Wildlife & Countryside Act. This is despite animals that are kept for the provision and or improvement of shooting being included in the definition of livestock in the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
In its initial response to the legal challenge, and to avoid any further misunderstanding by Wild Justice, Defra updated the footnote to further clarify when gamebirds are defined as livestock for the purpose of using GL42. Previously, the footnote had stated that: ‘Livestock’ is as defined in section 27(1) of the 1981 Act. For the purpose of this licence, this expression also includes gamebirds kept in an enclosure or which are free roaming but remain significantly dependent on the provision of food, water or shelter by a keeper for their survival. This does not include supplementary feeding’.
The updated version of the footnote states that: ‘‘Livestock’ is as defined in section 27(1) of the 1981 Act. This expression includes gamebirds kept in an enclosure or which are free roaming but remain significantly dependent on the provision of food, water, or shelter (by and within the release pen) by a keeper for their survival. The placement of supplementary food out into the environment for wild gamebirds does not mean those wild gamebirds are ‘kept’ and it does not therefore make them ‘livestock’’.
A subsequent claim by Wild Justice that this amendment was a win for the organisation has been robustly denied by Defra. In a statement to the Guardian, a spokesperson said: “We confirmed to Wild Justice that we would contest their proposed claim in full. There has been absolutely no change in our position on gamebirds in relation to GL42. To imply otherwise, or that we conceded that the statutory definition was extended, is incorrect. We did not extend, nor have we changed, the definition.”
Wild Justice’s attacks on game shooting and its management practices have become relentless, wasting government resources and public money. They are made regardless of the impact they could have on wildlife and the livelihoods of many, and the Countryside Alliance will continue to robustly challenge them. We, along with BASC and the National Gamekeepers Organisation, have confirmed that we will register as Interested Parties in support of Defra, should Wild Justice remain determined to pursue this latest pointless challenge against the Department.