Farmers Weekly struggles with facts on Wild Justice legal challenge

Earlier this week, Farmers Weekly wrote an article purporting to be about Wild Justice’s first legal challenge. The article headlined with this:

The headline was, of course, completely inaccurate, as was a lot of the text, and led to a fair amount of online abuse.

This morning Wild Justice Director Mark Avery wrote a letter of complaint to Philip Clarke at Farmers Weekly as follows:

Letter of correction for publication:
Your article on Wild Justice’s legal challenge of the General Licences (Chris Packham group seeks ban on shooting pigeons and crows, 22 March) contained mistakes – perhaps because you did not talk to us before writing it.
Wild Justice was founded by three people but you inexplicably omitted Dr Ruth Tingay, scientist, campaigner and blogger whilst mentioning both myself and Chris Packham. Was this casual sexism or simply inattention to detail?
Your headline states that Wild Justice ‘seeks a ban on killing of crows and pigeons’ – not true! Our legal challenge is that the current system of ‘authorising’ such killing is itself unlawful and that if Natural England wishes for crows and pigeons to be killed then it will have to introduce a lawful system to ensure that such killing is only carried out when non-lethal methods have failed and under the conditions set out in the legislation which includes serious damage to crops.
Our legal advice is that farmers and gamekeepers have been rather casually killing millions of birds under a false impression that this is legal for nearly 40 years.
Dr Mark Avery (one of three equal directors of Wild Justice)
Raunds, Northants
To be fair, Philip Clarke has been very responsive and has quickly amended both the headline and some of the text in the article (read the amended version here). Although mistakes still exist – our lawyers are not based in Manchester! Here’s the amended headline:
The article still doesn’t include a statement from Natural England, who seem to be being pretty evasive about how they intend to respond to Wild Justice’s legal challenge, but it does still include some ever helpful commentary from Tim Bonner, Chief Exec of the Countryside Alliance, an organisation best known for promoting the killing of wildlife, so not a bad stand-in for Natural England.

5 Responses to “Farmers Weekly struggles with facts on Wild Justice legal challenge”

  1. March 25, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    I have been trying for many years to get the Scottish Government to hold a full review of the General Licensing system in Scotland. It even allows people to trap magpies in their gardens and kill them by bashing their heads off a wall (so long as the first blow renders the bird insentient). Some areas are almost devoid of corvids as land “managers” trap or shoot just about any native bird that might predate on the eggs and chicks of non-native pheasant. The killers don’t have to justify their actions to anyone, they don’t have to tell anyone how many birds they kill and most of our MSPs do not realise that this goes on and that it is the Scottish Government (through SNH) which sanctions this every year. I really do wonder if our senior politicians have a clue about half the things their employees get up to on their behalf.

  2. 2 George M
    March 25, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    We had a rookery next to our cottage but this year it is devoid of most of the birds. Why is this? A local has decided that for some reason he does not like corvids and shotgun blasts are heard at various odd times during the day. No matter how fast we are on the scene there is always no one to be found. It appears that some of the few remaining nests have been shot through from ground level. Given the all encompassing interpretation of the general licences there appears little we can do to stop this. I throw my whole support behind Wild Justice legal challenge as we miss our nightly fly-byes and the hypnotic behaviour of these beautiful birds..

  3. 3 Paul V Irving
    March 25, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    An ex work colleague of mine in his new home in North Yorkshire had rookery at the end of the garden, as a birder he thought this was great although noisy very early in the morning. His neighbour ( a fireman) shot the Rooks as often a possible, when challenged he said they are vermin ( oh how I hate that word!) and not protected and he didn’t like them at all and so he shot them. When my colleague showed him the terms of the general licence he was quite offensive. Unfortunately my colleagues wife felt that it would only create even more bad feeling between neighbours if taken further, so it wasn’t.
    One of the problems with the general licence is it gives people like that fireman the impression that these birds are unprotected and that is quite clearly not true in law.

  4. 4 Iain Gibson
    March 26, 2019 at 2:53 am

    For many years I have believed that the unrestricted right to kill crows is deeply flawed. Perhaps living in Scotland where alleged damage being done by this family of birds is greatly exaggerated. I also feel that cultural changes have taken place in recent years which are having a serious effect on the populations of Carrion Crows, Rooks, Magpies and Ravens in particular. This trend I feel has been exacerbated by the rise of the Countryside Alliance, which in itself arose as a ‘countryside’ reaction to changes in the law regarding fox hunting, which farmers and hunters regard as the thin end of the wedge. The increase in persecution of pigeons, crows and foxes is part of this overall reaction. Ask any devoted birdwatcher in Scotland who has become familiar with countryside behaviour and its impacts on certain species, and they’ll tell you that populations of so many birds are being alarmingly reduced, mainly through being shot by gamekeepers, farmers and hobby killers. My strong feeling is that rather than go into reverse and worsen the situation for these falsely demonised species, they should be afforded full statutory protection like most other species. Rural control freaks will tell us that the country will become over-run with so-called pest species, eating their way through crops and killing lambs. It’s all nonsense of course, and if anyone believes otherwise they ought to get themselves a pair of binoculars and watch what is really happening out there.

    • 5 Simon Tucker
      March 26, 2019 at 3:51 pm

      Iain: I could not agree more: gone are the days when farm workers killed rooks for the pot! This is an anachronism that needs consigning to the dustbin of history.

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