Have your say on general licences for bird wildlife management before it's too late.

Farming | Published:

As many will already be familiar, wild bird species, their eggs and nests, while they are in use or being built, are protected by law.

Edward Randall, graduate surveyor, Fisher German

However, licences in the form of individual, class or general licences can be granted to allow wild birds to be removed or lethally controlled where they are causing problems and certain legal tests are met.

Faced with a legal challenge from animal rights campaigners in April earlier this year, Natural England withdrew three of these general licences (for livestock protection, health and conservation) and began replacing them in May before Defra stepped in and took back control.

Subsequently Defra initiated a one week call for evidence which received over 4,000 responses, to which it issued three replacement general licences.

These licences can be used by those who come within the definition of an “authorised person.” In particular, this definition covers the landowner or occupier – as well as any person authorised by the owner or occupier to undertake control of birds on their land.

Although similar to previous licences they do differ as they no longer apply to designated sites such as Special Protection Areas, and Special Areas of Conservation among other changes. Likewise, you do not need to apply for a general licence, but you must meet its conditions and follow its requirements, as you may be committing a criminal offence if you fail to do so.

As before, you must apply for an individual licence if you’re doing any activity that affects a protected species and is not covered by a general or class licence. This includes activities such as disturbing, trapping or handling protected species and disturbing their habitats.

Noting the ever-increasing bureaucratic nature of carrying out a job many will have done without second thought under the umbrella of the old style general licence, it has never been more important to contribute to this consultation in order to provide balanced, knowledgeable and realistic input into the consultation process and ultimately overcome pressures exerted on government from organisations with questionable agendas.

The aim of the review is to deliver a robust system of licensing to manage the issues that arise between the protection of wild birds and the legitimate activities people need to carry out for specific purposes such as protecting livestock or crops and for conservation purposes.


In parallel to seeking information in this survey, Defra and Natural England will be conducting a series of workshops with interested stakeholders to cover other issues such as activity on protected sites as well as collating wider evidence.

You have until December 5 to have your say on General Licencing for Wildlife Management of birds which is currently open for consultation and I would strongly urge any interested parties to undertake the survey. Further information and details can be found on the Defra website or via the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Note that nature conservation is a devolved matter and this review applies to England only.

Edward Randall, graduate surveyor, Fisher German

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