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Birds| Birds
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Birds| Birds

After the government updated guidelines regarding its general licences, some wild birds can be killed to protect game birds bred in England.

General shooting licenses allow you to shoot certain wild birds in broad areas to help conserve wildlife, preserve public safety, and protect livestock.

Officials from the government say that the new licenses will be issued for two years, rather than one. This is to ensure stability and certainty for shooters.

General licences are permissive licenses. Users do not need to apply, but they must follow their terms and conditions when performing licensed acts.

There has been some debate about whether partridges, grouse, and pheasants can be considered livestock. They are wild birds and therefore cannot be shot to protect them.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (Defra), has updated the definition of livestock to include these birds. This gives explicit permission for carrion crows, jackdaws, rooks, and magpies to be shot.

It reads:: Livestock is defined in section 27(1), 1981 [Wildlife and Countryside] Act. This licence applies to game birds that are kept in an enclosure or free roaming, but who are dependent on a keeper for food, water, shelter, and other necessities of survival. Supplemental feeding is not permitted.

A spokesperson for Defra said that the decision was made after gamekeepers demanded more clarity on whether game birds counted under livestock.

The new language clearly states that wild predatory bird cannot be shot in accordance with this licence to protect wild birds that are not dependent upon food or shelter from humans. However, they can be shot if they are.

The official stated that the new general licenses have been updated to clarify when and when they apply. The activities that license users are authorized to perform do not change with the changes.

We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that our licensing process is strong for wildlife and usable for users moving forward.

Conservation groups expressed concern that the update could lead to an increase in the number of wild birds being killed.

Kate Jennings, head of site conservation policy at RSPBs, stated that if the update to the livestock general license goes beyond a reclassification and implies that it will increase the killing of wild bird interests to protect them, then this would be a huge backward step in nature conservation in this country.

Wildlife groups including Chris Packhams Wild Justice (BBC presenter) have challenged the general licenses. His group challenged the legislation and managed to get it suspended in 2019. Wild Justice has secured changes, including the removal of all gull species. The places they can no longer be used do not include sites of special scientific importance or other nature reserves.

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