BASC go ballistic

Seven week old pheasant chicks in a gamekeeper’s release pen on an English shooting estate

Maybe it was optimistic to think that the shooting industry would be eager to see the issue of the conservation impact of the unregulated release of tens of millions of gamebirds into the countryside heading for resolution.

We renewed our legal challenge to DEFRA on this matter this week because we have seen no move from DEFRA over the last four months. Having admitted in September the need for conservation assessment DEFRA needs to move very quickly on this matter if the 2020 gamebird releases near designated sites can be considered lawful.

BASC issued this pugilistic statement – click here.

Our challenge to DEFRA on their failure to implement the nature conservation legislation properly is apparently an ‘attack on shooting’. DEFRA does sometimes give the impression of being in the pockets of the shooting industry for sure, but this is a legal challenge on conservation law. That ‘C’ in BASC doesn’t stand for much, does it?

BASC then says that our challenge is ‘vexatious’ and that Wild Justice is attempting to ‘rush’ the government into a decision on the legality of gamebird releases. In fact, Wild Justice could only be criticised for being too patient with DEFRA: our challenge started on 10 July 2019 and DEFRA took two months before conceding the correctness of our challenge. They have now taken four months without informing us or the world that anything is happening and we are getting ever closer to the July 2020 season for releasing gamebirds into our countryside. That’s not vexatious and it’s not a rush. After 6 months, the government ought to tell us what it plans to do to address and correct its admitted unlawful implementation of environmental legislation.

BASC say that their members should not be panicked by Wild Justice’s ‘cynical’ action. Well, our action is hardly cynical in pressing government to get itself and the shooting industry into compliance with environmental legislation. It’s up to BASC to advise its members on whether to panic or not but our reminder to DEFRA that they need to act is a serious one which may have consequences for gamebird releases this coming summer. We are aware that game shooters may well now be ordering in advance millions of gamebird eggs and poults for delivery in spring and summer – it would be a good idea if they were aware of this legal action.

The 2019/20 Pheasant shooting season ends 1 February. Wild Justice intends to help DEFRA ensure that the 2020/21 season is regulated in compliance with environmental legislation.

And just to be perfectly clear, Wild Justice expects a response from DEFRA by 4pm Monday 3 February, failing which we reserve the right to issue judicial review proceedings without further reference to DEFRA (and certainly not to BASC).

And because we successfully crowdfunded for action on this subject last year, and because DEFRA conceded our case, then we have most of the funds that we assembled then still at our disposal. At this stage we are not asking for further funding from the public and our supporters for this challenge (although that might change in future depending on how things go). We’re not asking you for money because you’ve already provided the funding for such a challenge – thank you again.

However, we are always open to more donations so that we can build up a fighting fund to investigate and then take on more cases – click here for details of how to donate to our work via PayPal, bank transfer or cheques through the post.