Please respond to the NRW consultation on general licences

Our guidance on responding to the NRW consultation on general licences.  

We welcome the NRW consultation on general licences.

Wild Justice’s legal challenge to the previous Welsh general licences was clearly a major factor in shaping the proposals that are now on offer in this consultation. But the places where we have moved NRW are not yet secure – that’s where you can help. We need hundreds of responses to the consultation to flood in to NRW. You should make whatever points you wish to, but here we give you suggestions. The consultation closes this coming Thursday – 11 November. 

Here are our thoughts which cover most, but not all, of the consultation questions;  

Questions 1-6 – only you can fill these in, they are about you.

7. Do you agree with the principles we are proposing to apply for deciding whether to grant a general licence?


Yes and No. You have set out 7 principles – how likely is it that anyone will agree 100% with all of them?

Principle 1: There is an apparent and genuine need to allow the killing or taking of the species of wild bird in question, or to take or destroy their eggs or nests, in order to further one or more of the purposes outlined in section 16 of the Act.

‘Apparent and genuine’ should be ‘genuine and scientifically proven’. It is clear from the current NRW general licences that this is not always true and therefore that NRW is licensing unlimited, unnecessary and unlawful killing.

Principle 2: Allowing the lethal control of birds of the species concerned under general licence can reasonably be expected to contribute to resolving the problem or meeting the need.

Insert ‘on the basis of the science’ between ‘be expected’ and ‘to contribute’.

Principle 3: There are no satisfactory solutions that would resolve that problem or address the need in question, other than to grant a general licence allowing the killing or taking of the wild bird species concerned.

There is always the option of issuing specific licences rather than general licences.

Principle 4: Allowing lethal control of the species in question under general licence, rather than only under specific licences subject to individual applications, is a proportionate response, given the frequency, scale and severity of the problem or need.

This is not so much a principle as a craven lack of principle. NRW is not fulfilling its duties as a regulator by allowing such casual killing of birds in Wales. There are many things that lots of people want to do, not all of them should be allowed. NRW has allowed rural myths to be the basis for general licences and it’s time to change.

Principle 5: Allowing lethal control of a ‘target’ species under a general licence will not risk putting it into an unfavourable conservation status.

Unlimited general licences will always risk putting species into unfavourable conservation status because NRW hasn’t a clue how the licences are used, geographically, temporally or on what scale.

Principle 6: No action authorised by a general licence will adversely affect the conservation status of any species other than the target species.

That seems good to me.

Principle 7: The general licence can be framed in terms which are clear to all users, compliant with all relevant legal requirements, and enforceable.

Seems sensible, but the consequence is that there should be separate general licences for each target species – the general licence for the Jay (which I don’t think should be on a general licence anyway) cannot have the same details as that for a Carrion Crow.

8.  Skip this question

9. Do you think that magpie is suitable for inclusion on general licences in Wales in light of evidence of decline in their population in Wales?


I don’t think that the Magpie is suitable for inclusion on the conservation general licence because the science does not back up the case for such a wide-ranging reduction in species protection.

SELECT option ‘Not include magpie…’

Because this is what NRW should have been doing for years. You can still consider specific licences.

10. Do you think there are other species which may be suitable for inclusion on a general licence?


11. Do you agree that general licences should be subject to regular review?


Because they apparently authorise (unlawfully, I reckon) the large-scale and widespread killing of birds across Wales. Of course they should be regularly reviewed and should have to justify their details every year.

12. Do you agree with the way in which we propose to carry out a regular review of general licences?


Reviews should be annual, unless you implement all my suggestions, in which case every few years would be OK.

13. Do you agree that general licences should continue to be issued for one year, and run from January to December?


Yes for one year; No to January-December.  The licences should be valid only at the time of need. For conservation purposes (there are few examples) this should be in the spring/summer when species are nesting.

14. Skip this question

15. Do you have any comments on the format of general licences or any suggestions on how we could improve them in terms of presentation?


If you persist with general licences then they ought to be very lengthy in order properly to specify the circumstances and conditions of lawful use.

16. Do you agree that a person authorised by a land owner or occupier to carry out actions under a general licence, should be authorised in writing by the land owner or occupier?


17. Do you agree that general licences should include a condition requiring users to first try to address the problem using alternative non-lethal methods, and to continue to make reasonable efforts to do so?


I believe this is a legal requirement.

18. Do you agree that general licence users should be advised to keep records of the actions they have taken under the licences?


No, they should be required to keep records.  NRW hasn’t a clue how many birds are killed in Wales under these licences and has no way of finding out.

19. Do you agree with our proposed approach to addressing protected site requirements when granting general licences?


NRW is just catching up with DEFRA/NE here.

20. Do you agree with the list of sites and buffer zones where we are proposing that general licences should not apply?

Skip this question unless you have specific knowledge of the sites.

Questions 21-27 – skip all of these.

28. Do you agree that NRW general and specific licences should specify the types of cage trap that may be used?


This will restrict the use of traps that may otherwise be unsuitable for the welfare of any trapped birds.

29. Do you agree with the types and specifications of cage trap which we propose to authorise for use under any general licences we grant?


It is particularly important to include a requirement that Larsen Mate & Larsen Pod traps are secured to mitigate the risk of them being dragged away and also that the closing edges are sufficiently rounded so as not to trap/damage the raised wings of a non-target raptor.

30. Do you agree with the proposal not to allow the use of meat-based baits under any general licences granted by NRW?


Research in Scotland, commissioned by SNH, has demonstrated that the use of meat baits encourages birds of prey (non-target species) to enter traps.

31. Do you agree that continuing to allow the use of diced meat as feed for decoy birds achieves the right balance between mitigating the risk of catching non-target species and the welfare of decoy birds?


Although would like to see evidence-based research on the use of diced meat for decoy birds. If it is shown that this still encourages raptors to enter the trap then the use of diced meat should not be permitted.

32. Do you agree that licences should include a condition requiring captured birds of the target species to be killed out of sight of other captured birds and decoys, except in relation to multi-catch traps?


Although this provision needs to be considered alongside consultation question #34 (should trap users be required to kill trapped birds (of the target species) as soon as reasonably practicable after discovery?). For example, it would not be acceptable for a trap user to take trapped birds to a distant location (far from the original trap) and hold them for several hours before killing them.

33. Do you agree with the proposal to allow users of multi-catch traps discretion to kill trapped birds within sight of other birds where they consider that the additional delay and handling caused by moving out of sight to kill each bird would cause more distress?


There needs to be much more thought about the method of killing multiple birds from one trap. For example, covert footage in Scotland has shown a trap operator swinging wildly with a baseball bat inside a cage trap full of crows, wounding some and then battering them to death in a corner, causing considerable distress to the other birds in the cage.

34. Do you agree that trap users should be required to kill trapped birds (of the target species) as soon as reasonably practicable after discovery?


35. Do you agree that NRW licences should specify, as a licence condition, the matters that must be addressed at each cage trap inspection?


There is evidence that some trap operators ‘check’ their cage traps from a distance (e.g. with binoculars from a vehicle) rather than physically attending the trap. There is also at least one company promoting the use of a ‘remote’ trap checking system, whereby a camera installed at the trap sends pictures to a mobile phone in lieu of the trap operator physically visiting the trap. Neither of these systems is satisfactory, especially when the trap operator needs to assess the welfare of the decoy and any trapped birds, e.g. any evidence, physical or behavioural, of injury and/or distress.

36. Do you agree with our proposal to specify a maximum interval between inspections of 25 hours?

YES and NO

The proposal to specify a maximum interval between inspections is essential but the justification for choosing this interval to be 25 hours is unacceptable. It has not been selected with the decoy/trapped birds’ welfare to the fore; rather it has been chosen to streamline various licence conditions. NRW should undertake some research on the welfare impacts of checking live traps at 6, 12, 18 and 24 hour intervals so that the timing of trap checks can be based on evidence of welfare impacts. Large multi-catch traps may be suitable to hold a bird for up to 25 hours (if there is adequate and suitable food, water, perches and shelter) but the same cannot be said for most clam traps, which are considerably smaller.

37. Do you agree with our proposal to include a condition prohibiting the use of wing-clipped birds as cage trap decoys?


The condition should go further and specify that decoy birds may not be wing-clipped, blinded, tethered or maimed in any way.

38. Do you agree that we should introduce a dedicated general licence containing standard terms and conditions for the use of cage traps?


39. Do you have any views on whether a mandatory scheme of trap registration and tagging in Wales would be beneficial?


NRW says that previously there has been ‘very little demand’ for trap registration by trap users – of course there hasn’t! Trap operators are not going to request more regulatory hoops to jump through, are they?! It is a massive missed opportunity for NRW not to impose a mandatory trap registration scheme. Without trap registration, which identifies the actual trap operator, enforcement of the trap regulations becomes virtually impossible on land where more than one potential trap operator is employed. For example, if a cage trap offence has been discovered (e.g. a trapped raptor that has not been released within 24hrs and has died of its injuries), any attending police officer will be met with ‘no comment’ answers from the potential trap operators and therefore the police officer will be unable to identify the actual trap operator, and thus charges cannot be laid. This has happened time and time again on large shooting estates in Scotland, where multiple gamekeepers are employed, which is why SNH (now NatureScot) introduced the trap registration scheme, to enable the enforcement authorities to identify the individual trap operator. And it must be registered to the individual operator, not to an estate for example, for exactly the same reasons as above.

40. Do you have any additional views on the approach that NRW should take towards regulating the use of cage traps for lethal control of wild birds?


Although the proposed licences permit actions that are sometimes justified and necessary, NRW needs to introduce far more accountability into the use of cage traps to kill birds. The new proposals still do not include any requirement for licence returns, e.g. how many birds are killed or what species they are. NRW is effectively still licensing the ‘casual killing’ of potentially millions of birds with absolutely no idea of the numbers involved or the impact on local populations. NRW also needs to consider the seasonal use of cage traps. For example, at present they are operational year-round, but what justification is there for running a multi-capture trap during the summer, autumn and winter? NRW also needs to consider the type of habitat in which cage traps are set. For example, at present they can be deployed in every habitat, but what justification is there for setting a multi-catch trap in woodland or on open moorland, where the risk of trapping birds of prey is highest? NRW should also be considering restrictions to the entrance sizes on funnel and ladder traps. Some of these entrances are disproportionately large, some might argue deliberately so to allow large raptors to enter the traps. NRW should also introduce a competency test for trap operators. Given the rigorous and robust licensing requirements for those who handle birds for scientific monitoring (e.g. ringing), it is inexplicable that those handling birds with a responsibility for the humane destruction of a sentient animal are not individually qualified and repeatedly-re-tested and licensed.

47. Do you agree with our proposed principles for licensing the lethal control of wild birds for conservation purposes?


You’ve done it again – listed 5 complicated principles and asked for a yes or no answer – that’s silly.

48 – skip this question

49. Do you think we should: (1) retain a general licence for conservation of wild birds where the evidence indicates that a general licence is appropriate; (2) not grant a general licence for conservation of wild birds; (3) gather evidence on the extent to which GL004 is used before making that decision; (4) adopt another approach?

Not grant a general licence for conservation purposes

Jays eating Blackbird eggs is a very different circumstance to Carrion Crows eating Curlew eggs.  The current licences are spectacularly unclear and give the impression that anything goes – exactly what the law does not allow.

50. Do you agree that the most appropriate basis for identifying the beneficiary species of a general licence for conservation of wild birds is: red or amber listed species which regularly breed in Wales and which are considered vulnerable to predation by one or more of the corvid species concerned?


But that consideration of vulnerability to predation must be science based and not on the basis of rural myths or prejudice.

51.  Do you agree that a general licence for the purpose of conserving wild birds should continue to be limited to conserving only the chicks or eggs of the beneficiary species?


The species listed are not predators of adult birds to any important degree.

52. Do you think that a general licence for the purpose of conserving wild birds should include restrictions on the time of year when the licence can be relied upon?


Breeding season only.

53. Do you agree that carrion crow should continue to be included on a general licence for the purpose of conserving wild birds?


Well, perhaps. But only a general licence which specifies the species being protected, the months in which killing is authorised and the geographic location in which it applies – not walking down a street in Cardiff in the autumn for a vague unspecified purpose.

54. Do you agree that jay should continue be included on a general licence for the purpose of conserving wild birds, but only in relation to the conservation of woodland bird species?


No serious conservation organisation is calling for this – it’s casual unjustified killing.

55. Do you agree that jackdaw should no longer be included on a general licence for the purpose of conserving wild birds?


I agree with NRW – no need for it.

56. Do you think that Magpie is suitable for inclusion on a general licence for the purpose of conserving wild birds in light of the evidence of its impact?


Which species does NRW claim will be protected by this?  You don’t name any – probably because there aren’t any.