Subject: Wild Justice 68

Wednesday 7th July 2021
Good morning!
Our main news today is that Wild Justice has made significant progress on reform of the general licences that apply in Northern Ireland. But first, here are a couple of snippets from elsewhere, and some ‘thank you!’s.
Thank you for your continuing support, both in terms of moral support, practical support by signing petitions and writing letters, and your financial support. Wild Justice couldn’t be the challenging organisation that it is without your help. Thank you to the large numbers of you who helped get the #stateofnature petition, calling for legally binding targets in the Environment Bill, to over 208,000 signatures. The petition is being handed in to DEFRA later today. The contribution of Wild Justice supporters to that total was immense – thank you.  And thank you for your ongoing financial support for everything we do – we couldn’t do it without you.
And thank you! to Gill Lewis: Gill is a children’s author and writes about wildlife issues. She has dedicated her latest book, Willow Wildthing and the Magic Spell to Wild Justice – a few more details here.
Shooting Times article: in our last newsletter we told you about the article that was published in the Shooting Times last February which we believed described events which contravened the terms of the general licences. And we brought you the news that the author of the article had told the police that the article was false in some respects and that the Carrion Crow and Jay involved had actually emerged from his freezer. We contacted the Shooting Times and, to be fair to them, they were prompt in responding and have told us they will print a correction in this week’s magazine. We have asked to see that correction to judge whether or not it is adequate but we haven’t seen it yet and publication of this weekly magazine is imminent, so this matter may not be at an end – we’ll let you know. We also wrote a light-hearted blog about the original article but it is a serious matter as the last paragraph of the blog makes clear.
Northern Ireland general licences: back in March (Wild Justice newsletter 56) we told you that we had written to DAERA in Northern Ireland telling them how awful, and unlawful, we believed their existing licences to be, and that if they didn’t improve them considerably then we would intend to take legal action against them (see our letter here).  There has been subsequent correspondence in the interim.
Last week, out of the blue but certainly as a result of our legal letters, DAERA announced a consultation on changes to the general licences which is now open, and closes on the Inglorious 12th August.
The consultation proposes removing several species from some or all of the three current NI general licences – and about time too!  Wild Justice welcomes the proposed removal of Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Rook from all three of the categories of general licence (public health, serious damage to agriculture, and conservation) although we have pointed out to DAERA that Herring Gull isn’t currently listed on the conservation licence!  We also welcome the proposed removal of Wood Pigeon and Feral Pigeon from the ‘conservation’ licence and Wood Pigeon also from the ‘public health’ licence.
General licences should have conditions attached to them but they are often seen as giving carte blanche to anyone with a gun to kill the listed birds on sight. We have written to DAERA pointing out what we regard as a large number of legal flaws in their licences which, in our opinion, render them unlawful. We expect DAERA to make further legal changes to the licences before issuing the new licences in September.
Removing species from the licences is a good way to reduce casual killing of these species considerably. Removal from the general licence does not prevent all killing of the de-listed species, but will mean that people wanting to kill that species will have to apply for an individual licence which should not be granted unless the circumstances comply with the law and stringent conditions as to numbers of birds, place and time should be set.
The consultation is open to anyone, and we would encourage you to respond to it, but we would particularly encourage Wild Justice supporters based in Northern Ireland to respond, please.
It only takes five minutes to fill in the form, it’s mostly some simple details about yourself and then a lot of tick boxes that are self-explanatory. You may wish to respond in that way now, and that would be very helpful, but there is a box for further comments and we will be considering what we think it would be helpful to include in that box and will tell you what we think in a future newsletter before the end of July.
If you like what we are doing then please consider making a donation through PayPal, bank transfer or a cheque in the post – see details here.

That’s it for now.

Wild Justice (Directors: Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Ruth Tingay).

Photo credit: Wood Pigeon, Tim Melling.

Jonathan Downes
Cryptozoologist, naturalist, musician, singer, composer, poet, novelist and Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology since 1992. Jon was born in Portsmouth in 1959 and spent his infancy in Nigeria and his childhood in Hong Kong. His wife Corinna died of cancer in 2020, leaving him with two stepdaughters and a six year old granddaughter called Evelyn.