Wild Justice to take Defra to court over release of pheasants
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Wild Justice has announced its intentions to seek a judicial review of Defra’s failure to assess the impacts of releasing and shooting non-native gamebirds
Wild Justice, the campaign group led by Mark Avery, Ruth Tingay and Chris Packham, has turned its attentions away form the General Licences to instead focus on game shooting - it will now challenge the legality of releasing 50 million noon-native pheasants and partridges into the UK countryside each year.
According to Wild Justice, the government should be forced to carry out environmental assessments of the impact of released birds, and the group will be challenging this activity in court in another corwdfunded campaign.
An article on The Guardian website states that "Lawyers for Wild Justice believe that in failing to carry out such studies, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is in breach of the EU habitats directive".
In the same article, Mark Avery is quoted saying ""There is reasonable evidence that these birds could be having an impact. People forget that pheasants go around gobbling up adders, lizards and all sorts of invertebrates. All these dead pheasants [from shooting and roadkill] are feeding foxes, carrion crows and others, which go on to eat other, rarer species. This is a serious legal challenge and we hope to get people talking about pheasant shooting for months to come".
The new campaign by Wild Justice apparently comes following new research revealing a link between pheasant shoots and higher numbers of avian predators - such as buzzards.
Speaking to The Guardian, Chris Pakcham said: "The UK's shooting industry is one of the least regulated in Europe, with no centralised collection of any data. What is blindingly obvious to anyone with even a basic understanding of natural sciences is that dumping at least 50 million non-native birds into the UK countryside will have a profound effect on its ecology - it's about time we measured what that effect is."
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A letter has now been sent to Defra notifying it of Wild Justice's intention to take action, and the group has begun crowdfunding in an attempt to raise £44,500 to seek a judicial review of the department's failure to assess the impacts of releasing AND shooting non-native Gamebirds.
WHAT BASC SAID
Caroline Bedell, BASC's executive director of conservation, said: "This is another extremist attack on shooting by those associated with the League Against Cruel Sports that ignores the well-documented evidence of the benefits of shooting to conservation and the wider environment.
"The Code of Good Shooting Practice, which sets out the framework for sustainable shooting, includes reference to Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust research which sets out figures for sustainable game bird releasing that do not damage the environment.
"Studies show that well-managed shooting is of benefit to the environment and conservation organisations and the government have acknowledged the benefit of shooting to the environment. For example, shoots maintain 25,000 hectares of cover crops which provide important sources of food and shelter for songbirds particularly during the winter and shoots actively manage 500,000 hectares of woodland and 100,000 hectares of copses for the benefit of the environment.
Shooting influences 14 million hectares of rural land management and almost two million hectares are actively managed for conservation. It is estimated that shooting provides for 3.9 million work days being spent on conservation each year, which is the equivalent of 16,000 full-time conservation jobs.
"Without driven shooting the rural environment, and our economy, would be significantly poorer."
WHAT THE GWCT SAID
Teresa Dent CBE, chief executive of GWCT, has said in response: "The GWCT has carried out detailed research that measured the effects of released pheasants and red-legged partridges on other wildlife and wildlife habitats. Our aims were to provide a science-based approach to quantifying any negative effects of gamebird releasing and to develop solutions where these effects might occur.
"We found that the releasing of lowland gamebirds can be done in a way that minimises or avoids negative effects on habitats and other wildlife, and maximises the potential of management practices associated with releasing to deliver broader biodiversity benefit.
"These findings are published in our Guidelines for Sustainable Gamebird Releasing, and are enshrined in The Code of Good Shooting Practice."