Friday, 25 June 2021

Subject: Wild Justice 66 - Grouse shooting debate and more


Good morning!
This newsletter tells you about the grouse shooting debate in parliament, asks that you contact Natural Resources Wales about their general licences, suggests a date for your diary, tells you that we are helping other campaigners on Badgers and gives you information on another petition we think you might want to sign.

Westminster Hall Grouse shooting debate: this debate was held on Monday evening and was triggered by a parliamentary petition launched by Wild Justice in August 2019 - the long delay is because of a general election in December 2019 and then coronavirus of course. There was a previous debate on this subject in October 2016. Progress has been made in that time and petitions causing debates of this type are a means of challenging government and keeping the issue alive. 
Since 2016
  • Hen Harrier numbers have increased in England very slightly, an important scientific paper has shown beyond doubt that Hen Harriers die or disappear mysteriously on grouse moors at a far, far higher rate than on other habitats and that the killing continues. What han't changed is that DEFRA does not have a plan for dealing with wildlife crime emanating from the grouse shooting fraternity.
  • the calls for burning of vegetation on peat soils have risen, notably from the Committee on Climate Change, and DEFRA has been slow to act, and its proposed measures to limit damaging burning are inadequate 
  • Scotland has committed to introduce licensing of grouse shooting there, the Labour Party has committed to introduce licensing in England but DEFRA has done nothing
You can read our initial comments on the debate in our blog (click here) and we'll be adding to those comments over the next few days and weeks. We're grateful to the accurate and helpful points made by Kerry McCarthy MP, Dave Doogan MP and Olivia Blake MP.  The DEFRA response was evasive and feeble.
Essentialy, the government of Scotland is taking action and the alternative party of government in England would take action but the current party of government in England remains wilfully blind to the problems and to taking action. 
Coverage of the debate in the Independent - click here.
But maybe the most interesting media coverage on grouse shooting recently was this piece on the Shooting UK website, which says that grouse moors are becoming less attractive purchases because of their unsavoury reputation and their commercial future may lie in delivering clean water, carbon storage and mitigating flood risk.  Times are a-changing.

NRW and their general licences: we asked you, in March, to consider writing to Natural Resources Wales asking them about their general licence GL004 which is the basis for killing of selected bird species (crows of several species) for the purpose of nature conservation. Hundreds of you wrote but none of you got a proper reply. This is astounding behaviour from a regulator: failing to make clear the legal basis for its own licences. So we're suggesting that you might like to write again and ask very specifically 'Under the terms of GL004, in what months of 2021, from July onwards, would it be legal to kill any species of crow to protect nesting birds?'.  The email address for enquiries: .
We know that this newsletter will be winging its way around NRW staff and Council as you are reading it, and we'd like to make it clear that we regard NRW as being in breach of its responsibilities as a regulator if it does not explain the terms of its licences to the public. We will make formal complaints about NRW's behaviour if it, again, fails to respond to reasonable questions from the public on this matter.  
Of course, the simplest way for NRW to clear this matter up is to put the relevant information on its website as we asked them to do back in February.
A date for your diary - in fact two: Wild Justice will be providing a live online Hen Harrier Day event on the traditional weekend before the start of the grouse shooting season - so that'll be Saturday 7 August. We're filming interviews and reports for that event from now on and it'll be quite a rush. Fingers crossed we get it all done in time, and thanks to our collaborators. More information nearer the date, through this newsletter.
Hen Harrier Action, following their successful Skydancer Day in the spring, will be holding an online event on Sunday 1 August.
So the profile of this amazing bird and the problems it faces will be getting more publicity than ever this year.
We told you in our last newsletter, only a few days ago, that we had lost our own legal challenge on behalf of Badgers and against the inhumane process of free shooting them.  But we have some resources freed up because the case did not go the whole way and so we are pleased to say that we are transferring £2,500 to the legal challenge of Tom Langton who is an indefatigable campaigner for Badgers. We wish Tom well and if you wish to top up his crowdfunder some more then you can do  so here.  At the time of writing, our contribution hasn't made it to the total but it will appear soon.
We know  we can't fight all the legal battles in the world on behalf of wildlife, but we do our best to pick important and strong cases. And we are happy to help others trying to do the same. That's why we have supported Tom Langton's challenge and it's why we supported Trees for Life's challenge to licensing of Beaver culls in Scotland. That challenge has now been heard and we are keeping our fingers crossed for a good result. Win or lose we have supported Trees for Life's action.
This is an interesting petition from a new organisation, called Wild Card, asking the Royal Family to rewild their landholdings. It's a polite and respectful request which we support. We would suggest that the grouse moor at Balmoral would be a good place to start and that would have a massive impact on neighbouring and nearby landowners.
Have a look for yourselves - click here - and see whether you'd like to support it, please.
That's it for now. There are news items stacking up at the moment - so we'll probably be back soon.
Wild Justice (Directors: Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Ruth Tingay).
Photos: Red Grouse and Jackdaw, Tim Melling; Badger, Chris Packham.

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