General Licenses – Defra Delay

So, tonight we learn that the review on the General License debacle is delayed for another week. The escalation from a Natural England legal capitulation (remember, Scotland and Wales have still refused to bow to the legal challenge) to the anticipated safety of DEFRA and the Secretary of State (SOS) was welcomed by the rural community at a time when predated stock and subservient wildlife is most threatened. When spring crops are under attack from rook, pigeon and crow. We are now a full month on from Natural England’s knee-jerk revocation. We’ve even had an EFRA committee enquiry which, if you took the time to watch any of it, served to prove the total lack of expertise involved in that decision. Marian Spain “I have farms all around me!” There are none so blind as those who cannot see. Lord Blencathra“We had to act quickly because the legal advice was so assertive.” So why didn’t Scotland and Wales see that way, sir?

What chance the ground nester now? How likely is it that nests belonging to vulnerable bird species like curlew, lapwing, skylark, yellowhammer and meadow pipit will survive a predatory onslaught. At risk of a cliché, it’s too late for many lambs. They have already been silenced … and blinded. Tongues and eyes pecked out by corvids while those who would normally protect them sat trying to understand the Natural England hurriedly issued and totally unfathomable replacements. GL26, for crows (not corvids, just carrion crows). Did I really read “set up a chair with scarecrow in and when the crows get used to it, sit yourself in it and shoot them”? Ye Gods! Where did NE get these authors and how much do they get paid? Then we had GL31, for woodpigeons. Another fantasy fiction assignment obviously delegated to an NE junior tasked with  ‘ten ways to avoid shooting a bird’. Including, to deter pigeons, put down decoys. I kid you not. But let’s get back to where we are tonight, shall we?

This weekend, I know that many in the countryside had hoped to get back to some sort of normality. I know of people who had lined up their Bank Holiday Monday to make up for lost time and help their farmers / landowners with some pigeon control. Our hard working farmers don’t have the time for such attention. That’s why they give shooting permission to people they trust to act in their interest. It’s now not going to happen, because someone has failed to reach a conclusion. But this in a week made worse by one of the perpetrators behind the revocation of the old Licenses.

This week Chris Packham (he who would forsake a red-list curlew to save a crow) announced that he supported the culling of muntjac deer to protect the nightingale. The muntjac has no close season, is a non-native species, a crop raider and is guilty of grazing the woodland under-storey due to its diminutive size. I guess Packham feels some comfort in that. Nevertheless, it smacks of hypocrisy. Kill one creature to protect another. Isn’t that what the original GL’s were about? More importantly, they allowed folk who actually know and understand the countryside to act instantly and make the decision when action was necessary. What I have been seeing recently (under the duress of revocation) is total compliance. A law abiding community. What I’ve been seeing from WJ3 and its supporters is mocking and jeering, while nests are being devasted and livestock killed or injured. Tell me therefore, where is the ‘Justice’?

Unfortunately tonight I have already seen open attacks on Social Media at Michael Gove, who I understand has been known to pick up a gun now and then. This is not useful at a time when shooting and conservation (for the WJ3 challenge attacked both) need to work together to move forward. The SOS moved quickly to intervene and I’m sure we all appreciate that today, events have overtaken him. It’s not every day a Prime Minister resigns.

If he deigns to read this, I would suggest to Michael that he has a chance to help win back the rural vote that Natural England may have reduced through their ineptitude. He and DEFRA have the power to restore what was never broken until a mischievous trio of hypocrites threw a firecracker (for it was no more than that) under the well oiled wheels of wildlife legislation.

Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, May 2019

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