Wild Justice launches ANOTHER General Licence attack

Ringneck Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

The latest challenge seems to have been sparked by the classing of gamebirds as livestock while they are dependant on their keepers for food - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wild Justice has started another legal challenge of DEFRA’s newly released General Licence (GL42), which allows protection of livestock, food, crops and more.

On 1 January, DEFRA issued a new General Licence – GL42 – for the control of wild birds. GL42 authorises the licence user to kill or take the target species, take, damage or destroy the nest of the target species, and take or destroy the eggs of the target species, for the purposes of preventing serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, fisheries or inland waters.  

The clarification of the term “livestock”, which includes gamebirds in certain scenarios (i.e. when they remain significantly dependent on the provision of food, water or shelter by a keeper for their survival), has sparked outrage from anti-shooting group, Wild Justice. Predictably, less than a week after the licence was released, the group decided to challenge its lawfulness, and has taken the first step by sending a formal legal letter to DEFRA. 

A blog post on the Wild Justice website stated: “Last week, after receiving legal advice, Wild Justice sent a formal legal letter to DEFRA as the first stage of a challenge of the lawfulness of GL42. Unless we receive a legally watertight and convincing response to that letter we will proceed to seek permission for judicial review of DEFRA’s decision.” 

All Wild Justice’s legal challenges – of which there have been many – are paid for with donations from their supporters. Most blog posts and all newsletters end with a plea for more funds. Since its emergence in 2019, Wild Justice has launched a sustained attack on the shooting community; due to a complete lack of evidence, many of the legal challenges have been lost. You can see a timeline of its actions here.  

An article on the BASC website clarified the specific reasons behind the latest onslaught (aside from the fact that they just don’t like shooting very much): “Specifically, they are arguing against wording introduced by Defra to clarify the term ‘kept’ in relation to gamebirds when livestock, which is now included within the recently issued licence. 
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the law which governs the issuing of general licences, already defines livestock to include any animal which is ‘kept’ for the provision and or improvement of shooting.” 

Caroline Bedell, BASC executive director of conservation, said: “This is nothing more than part of Wild Justice’s long-term strategy of attacking game shooting. The approach taken by Defra to define what ‘kept’ means is not new. For example, the comparable Welsh general licence uses a similar definition, this should be well known to Wild Justice who recently lost a legal challenge against Natural Resources Wales, where the Judge deemed that the general licences issued there were lawful. 
There has been no change in the law and the use of GL42 to prevent serious damage is of vital importance to wide and diverse range of individuals and situations. BASC will do everything it takes to ensure that this remains the case.”