Applications for gull cull licences fall short of required standards.

Natural England is waking up to the shambolic state of knowledge amongst those seeking licences for lethal killing of birds under new licensing regimes.

In a recent update, Dave Slater, the Natural England director for licensing makes it clear that many applications to kill large gulls in rural settings (now removed from general licences following Wild Justice’s legal challenge last year) have been received after the deadline and lacking the necessary information to justify a licence being issued.

Rather extraordinarily, Natural England’s response to this is to allocate more staff to the issue rather than simply sending out letters rejecting the licence applications. Wild Justice has several times suggested to Natural England that if workloads are high on processing licences then charging for licence applications is a completely reasonable response. Where licence applications are late or inadequate it is difficult to see why public money should be spend on hand-holding applicants.

If large shooting states, owned by some of the wealthiest in the country, charging massive fees for shooting days, and employing land agents, shooting agents and teams of so-called professional gamekeepers cannot fill in some forms and submit them on time then it is unclear why the taxpayer is picking up the bill.

But more broadly, and more importantly, this is an insight into the reality of the casual killing of wild birds under the discredited former and current general licences. Mr Slater had to remind the world that:

Natural England will issue licences where there is enough evidence and information in applications for us to conclude that:

– there is a genuine problem to resolve or need to satisfy for which a statutory licensing purpose applies;

– there are no satisfactory alternatives, including that non-lethal solutions have been tried and/or shown to be ineffective;

– the licensed action will contribute to resolving the problem or meeting the need; and,

– the action to be licensed is proportionate to the problem or need.

This is what the law has always required except that in their former and current general licences, DEFRA, Natural England (and Natural Resources Wales) left it to the licence user to go through those steps on their own rather than, as Wild Justice believes is required, making sure that these conditions are met. Here we see that those requesting (often demanding) licences to kill protected birds (all birds are protected by law) fail to meet the simple requirement of filling in a form properly.

As an insight into the shambolic and unjustified casual killing of birds, and the urgent need for reform of the licensing system for bird killing across the UK, we couldn’t have come up with a much better example.

Wild Justice is challenging the current general licences in Wales – our crowdfunder is almost at its target.

Wild Justice is waiting eagerly for the results of the long drawn out DEFRA review of general licences.

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