General Licences Revoked
Natural England has announced the revocation of three categories of general licence from 24th April. These allowed the killing of 16 species: for the prevention of serious damage to crops and livestock, for the prevention of disease and ensuring public safety and for conservation purposes. Natural England has promised to replace these but, in the meantime, it is illegal to shoot pigeons or use Larsen or other traps to control crows, rooks, jays or magpies. This comes at a time when birds’ nests need protection from predators and crops from pigeons. It appears that the action was taken on the advice of lawyers in the light of a legal challenge to the issue of licences by Wild Justice, a lobby group led by Chris Packham and Mark Avery.
Once again vast tracts of moorland have been destroyed by fire. The latest was an estimated 3,700 acres near Marsden in West Yorkshire on Easter Sunday started by a disposable barbecue at a popular picnic site. Another broke out on Ilkley Moor, also over the Easter weekend, with a man charged with arson. There are three lessons to be learnt: firstly that the weather has been very warm and dry in recent months leaving vegetation tinder dry; secondly that everyone must be very careful not to cause a fire and prosecution for those who do so deliberately; thirdly that the rotational controlled burning of heather to encourage new growth is a major preventative measure despite opposition in some quarters.
Animal rights activists have attacked a game farm in Suffolk, releasing 9,000 pheasants into the wild. A spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front said ‘we will dismantle the shooting industry farm by farm, shoot by shoot until the end’. There have also been calls for Eurotunnel to ban the import of gamebird eggs and day-old chicks into the UK from France. Government figures suggest that half of the thirty million pheasants and six million partridges reared and released in the UK come as eggs and day-old chicks from Europe. Ferry companies have refused the traffic in recent years leaving Eurotunnel the only route in. If the trade were stopped there would be major repercussions for shooting.
Farmers have been warned that they must reduce emissions of ammonia or face new regulation under the Clean Air Strategy 2019. Whilst not recognised as a greenhouse gas, ammonia causes serious air pollution, especially when it combines with other pollutants to form minute particles. Farming is responsible for 88% of UK emissions, mostly coming from the use of organic and inorganic fertilisers. Low emission spreading techniques require slurry to be injected into the soil rather than spread on the surface whilst the use of powdery urea rather than prilled ammonium nitrate also increases emissions.