Last year we saw the successful legal challenge by Wild Justice, (founded
by founded by Dr Mark Avery, Chris Packham CBE and Dr Ruth Tingay) of Natural
England’s General Licence that allows corvid trapping.
This led to a suspension of the licence, but earlier this year, new licences were in
place with England, Scotland and Wales tweaking their licences, and in effect they
were weaker than before as the “scaring and proofing” that was supposed to have
been tried first was removed -or made so vague as to be worthless.
Wild Justice is now has permission to bring a judicial review of Natural Resources
Wales’s (NRW’s) issuing of general licences
This challenge, of the Welsh licences, will have implications right across the UK,
with hope that the licences will be tightened up considerably to comply with the law
and to reflect the scientific evidence.
The legal grounds of challenge
All wild birds are protected by law and the exceptions to this full legal protection are
well-defined and quite specific.
Although NRW identify the purposes of their general licences (eg nature
conservation, protecting crops from serious damage, human health etc) they do not
identify the circumstances under which there is no non-lethal alternative to using
lethal control. This, we argue, is unlawful and amounts to allowing casual killing of
otherwise protected birds.
The three legal grounds are:
Unlawful failure to specify circumstances
Unlawful failure in relation to satisfactory alternatives
Unlawful approach to derogations
The science is lacking
The main concern with NRW’s licences is with General Licence GL004 which
purports to be a nature conservation licence. Although licences GL001 and GL002
have the same legal flaws we might not have challenged them if they weren’t
associated with the awful GL004.
GL004 allows the killing of Jackdaw, Jay, Magpie and Carrion Crow to protect the
eggs and chicks of a list of 143 bird species in Wales. At first glance, it looks like a
decent job has been done by NRW, but the more we looked the more we realised
how poor a job they had done.
First, many of the 143 species listed have never, and will never, nest in Wales!
Species like Sanderling and Velvet Scoter are winter visitors and corvid predation on
their eggs in Wales is simply out of the question. Yet NRW list them as species
whose eggs and chicks can be protected by lethal killing of corvids!
Second, there is no strong evidence, and precious little weak evidence, that, for
example Jackdaw has any impact on species of conservation concern in Wales (or
anywhere else). In one of the most important studies looking for evidence of impacts
of predation on prey species the authors didn’t even consider Jackdaw as worth
examination because it simply isn’t a predator of nests and chicks. Also, the
literature review on which NRW relies actually states that there is a ‘Low [level of]
expert opinion and no anecdotal evidence to suggest Jackdaw will have an impact
on wild bird populations’ and yet Jackdaw is on the list as a species that can be killed
for nature conservation purposes. This is turning the precautionary principle on its
We believe that Jackdaw, Jay and Magpie must be removed from GL004 and that
the licence would then only cover Carrion Crow, but that the circumstances where
Carrion Crows can be killed for nature conservation purposes must be greatly
The requested remedy
We are asking for permission for judicial review of the 2020 Welsh general licences
where we will ask the court to declare the licences unlawful. This will give NRW the
opportunity to carry out a proper review of these licences in time for lawful
alternatives to be issued in 2021.