Gamebird releases – renewed challenge

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

Today, indeed this very afternoon, our lawyers have sent the following Pre-Action Protocol letter to the Secretary of State for DEFRA, and to Natural England and Welsh ministers as interested parties.

You will see that this is a follow-up to our earlier challenge (which was submitted in July 2019 see here and to which DEFRA responded in September 2019 see here) where DEFRA admitted that gamebird releases needed to be assessed properly and they promised to do so. We have seen no progress on this and so we are giving them a nudge. We are sure that this will be welcomed by the Pheasant-shooting and Red-legged Partridge-shooting community so that this matter is dealt with before such non-native gamebirds might be released next summer (usually from July onwards). It’s in everybody’s interest for this to be sorted out sooner rather than later.

The most easily understood (perhaps) and highly pertinent passages for the layperson are paragraphs 11 and 12 as follows;

11. The simple point is that, the problem having been recognised by Defra in September 2019, it would be unlawful for those releases to take place in 2020 unless the possibility of them having detrimental impacts on the sites in question had been properly considered and specifically ruled out ahead of time. And so the Secretary of State needs to initiate those processes now (in parallel with any continuing review if so wished).


12. To hold off doing that would lead to illegality later and so be unlawful now (unless the Secretary of State were to commit to using the SN and equivalent powers ahead of the 2020 releases as a longstop).

But here is the PAP letter in full, followed by a quote from Wild Justice’s Mark Avery.

Mark Avery from Wild Justice said:

We started this legal challenge last July, DEFRA took two months to respond (mid September) and now we are past mid January and only six months from the time when gamebird releasing might start again. DEFRA needs to get moving. This legal letter is designed to give them a very firm shove.

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.