The news of Wild Justice’s case against Defra had been looming for some time now: ever since Chris Packham and his chums announced their gripe with the release of game birds in July of last year. Packham – who is worth over £3m – then successfully launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for legal fees.
So it was no surprise when the headline broke yesterday morning of Wild Justice’s case being filed against the government, alleging that the annual release of some 50 million pheasants and partridge for shooting was unlawful without proper ecological review.
Defra, for its part, had been more than compliant to the insistent demands of Wild Justice, announcing that they would be conducting a thorough review into the shooting industry shortly after the case first garnered media attention last year. The department now has only three weeks to assemble its paperwork – and just a fortnight after a government reshuffle.
The timing seems more than a little suspicious; especially considering Wild Justice reached their funding target a month after announcing the case. Rather than striking while the iron was hot, or waiting for the department to get back up and running, the activist group have launched their crusade in perhaps the most ecologically demanding week in recent history, following the horrendous aftermath of storms Ciara and Dennis.
On top of this, Wild Justice’s case is entirely at odds with their previous campaign to remove general shooting licenses for pest control. Their lobbying in 2019 made it harder for farmers to control verminous species like crows and jays by requiring individual licenses for shooting them. Yet now the group say that the release of game birds is unlawful because it benefits these pests, which in turn leads to predation on vulnerable species like curlew. Land managers were, of course, well aware of the risk posed by pest species when they complained of individual licensing –a risk that Wild Justice seemingly ignored until it benefited them to bring it up. The hypocrisy is not only sickening but a danger to the continued wellbeing of our wildlife.
Not only is Packham’s case entirely frivolous – railing against a government department that has shown him plenty of good will. It is also machiavellian in its timing and self-defeating in its logic. Wild Justice seem to only care about disrupting the shooting industry as much as possible, while talking down to a community that knows full-well how to look after its countryside.