Defra cannot give us a proper response yet
Our challenge to Defra over the impact of the release of 50+million non-native gamebirds is clearly giving them some difficulty.
They have been in receipt of our Pre Action Protocol letter (which sets out the details of our claim against them) for three weeks. We were generous – they should reply in two weeks but we gave them three weeks – after all Michael Gove was trying to be Prime Minister and we were approaching the holiday period.
There is a protocol set out for this type of thing – you can read it here. Wild Justice always intends to stick to the protocol and so far we have, but public bodies such as Natural England and Defra often don’t.
Not meeting deadlines is sometimes due to inefficiency, sometimes because the other side is struggling to come up with a cogent answer and sometimes is because they are mucking you about. But the rules are clear:
Defra should have replied to us on Tuesday this week after we had given them three weeks, rather than two weeks, to come back to us with their response and they did respond, but they asked for another four weeks on top of the three weeks they had already had. This is not the action of a government department which is certain of its case. Where the proposed defendant is confident they often slap back a response quickly just to show that they aren’t the least bit bothered by the proposed legal action. But that’s not what Defra has done.
Now, it might be that a new ministerial team, with Theresa Villiers, who has some background in animal welfare issues so may be interested in this case simply because it is about captive-bred birds destined for shooting, and Zac Goldsmith, who is more of an environmentalist than most Defra ministers of the last decade, is engaging with this action. Or it might be that the government legal department has nipped off to the south of France for a month.
Once we can let you know what is happening then we will.