Update: The Schrodinger’s Pheasant conundrum.

You might remember our recent head-scratcher involving gamebirds; when is a Pheasant livestock, and when is it wildlife? Today news of our legal challenge to DEFRA was reported in the Guardian online – we expect it’ll be in the print edition tomorrow.

Updates to the English General Licence GL42, earlier this year, meant gamebirds, such as Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges, were classified as livestock if they were ‘dependent’ on food, water or shelter provided by gamekeepers even after they had left their release pens in the countryside. By being classified as livestock, this opened the door for gamekeepers to shoot other wild birds, like Rooks, Jackdaws, Crows and Magpies in order to ‘protect’ the gamebirds for a longer period, and under wider circumstances, than had previously been the case.

The article in the Guardian reports on today’s news of a U-turn by Defra brought about by Wild Justice’s threat of legal action (not simply public outcry, as the article suggests). DEFRA conceded that only food, water or shelter provided ‘by or within the release pen’ is relevant when assessing if a gamebird is wild, or livestock.

Defra agreed to revise the definition, telling Wild Justice’s lawyers: “The secretary of state does not consider pheasants to be livestock within the meaning of the WCA 81 [Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981] once they cease to be kept”.

We consider this to be good news. Wild Justice are, however, still deeply sceptical about whether the whole General Licence system is the best way to regulate activity in the murky field of ‘pest control’. We’ll be keeping an eye on things, as always…