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  1. Wild Justice general licence challenge a ‘distraction’, says BASC BASC says a potential legal challenge by Wild Justice over one of the newly-issued Natural England general licences is a ‘distraction’ and focus should remain on introducing a new set of workable licences. The association will review this latest challenge to the general licence for the control of carrion crow for livestock damage issued by Natural England last month and consider if any further action is necessary. Steve Bloomfield, BASC’s executive director of shooting and operations, said BASC’s focus would remain on ensuring that Environment Secretary Michael Gove issues new, workable general licences as soon as possible. “This is an unnecessary distraction and doesn’t particularly help anyone, least of all those who live and work in the countryside,” he said. “Defra is continuing to draft new general licences for England, and our focus remains on ensuring progress. “We appreciate how frustrating these ongoing delays are for everyone but BASC and other organisations are working hard to ensure progress is being made towards a workable interim licensing system that is fit for purpose until a wider review takes place at the end of the summer.” ENDS
  2. BASC will ensure views on Scotland general licences are expressed “loud and clear” May 21, 2019 BASC will ensure the views of the shooting community are fully represented in a consultation into the future of general licences in Scotland announced today. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will launch a 12-week online consultation in the summer but has said this year’s general licences are unaffected. Following the chaos caused in England by the decision to remove general licences without consultation or notice, SNH had previously reassured the rural community that any review of its systems would take into account the views of those affected. Dr Colin Shedden, BASC’s Scotland director, said: “SNH has said it will listen to those affected most by general licences and BASC will ensure those views are expressed loud and clear.” BASC vice chairman Eoghan Cameron said: “The shooting, rural and farming community in Scotland is understandably fearful of the situation around general licences having seen the chaos that has unfolded in England in the last few weeks. “SNH has recognised that depth of feeling and has moved to reassure people that it will listen to the views of the public and stakeholders. BASC will remain in close contact with SNH over all aspects of species licensing.” In its further announcement today, Robbie Kernahan, SNH’s head of national operations, said: “We want to ensure that general licences in Scotland are clear, proportionate and fit-for-purpose. “In light of the complicated situation in England with general licences right now, we have decided to bring forward our consultation which had been scheduled for 2020. “Our general licences cover relatively common situations – such as preventing agricultural damage and protecting public health and safety – when there’s unlikely to be any conservation impact on a species. “They avoid the need for people to apply for individual licences for these specific situations. As with any licence, we need to ensure that general licences strike the appropriate balance between species conservation and a range of other legitimate interests. “We would like to reassure those who are currently operating under general licences in Scotland that these remain in place, allowing those who comply with the conditions to continue to use them. “The consultation will ask stakeholders for their views about how general licences work in practice, what they should cover, and how they are worded.”
  3. Reinstate general licences as a matter of urgency, BASC tells Defra May 13, 2019 BASC is calling on Defra to reinstate the general licences that were withdrawn by Natural England last month as a matter of “absolute urgency”. In its 46 page submission to Defra’s call for evidence on general licences, BASC lays bare the damage already caused by Natural England’s decision, which came without consultation or proper notice. Over 29,600 people responded to an online survey set up by BASC to gather evidence in four days. BASC’s submission is based on those responses, as well as advice from BASC’s expert staff, a review of scientific evidence and in excess of 10,000 member enquiries. The association is now calling for Defra to launch a formal consultation with the aim of allowing Defra or another competent authority to issue a light touch, legally-sound general licence in 2020. BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “Every day lost to the ongoing crisis sees more wildlife, crops and livestock damaged by these very common problematic birds. We trust and hope that the review will reverse the gold plating and mission creep that has led to the current chaos and produce simple, workable licences covering all species and purposes previously included. “The evidence we have submitted to Defra makes a clear case for the reinstatement of the revoked general licences and this needs to happen as a matter of urgency to stop this crisis turning into a catastrophe.” In total, BASC’s survey showed that almost 3.4 million days were reported to be spent annually controlling pest birds. It showed that 96 per cent of respondents had stopped some or all of their bird pest control as a result of the revocation, with a minimum estimated financial impact of £1,200 per respondent. The survey also showed that: 86 per cent reported damage / loss of crops 81 per cent reported financial or economic impacts 79 per cent reported damage / loss of wild birds like songbirds or waders (eg through predation of eggs or chicks by corvids.) 59 per cent reported damage / loss of foodstuffs for livestock 52 per cent reported damage / loss of livestock BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “This evidence paints a picture of the chaos and damage that has been wreaked across the English countryside as a result of the decision to withdraw the general licences without notice or consultation. “We hope that our response gives Defra the evidence and confidence to reinstate the general licences as a matter of urgency and launch a thorough, evidence-based consultation. “The severity of the issue of the management of livestock, crops and wildlife in the last couple of weeks as a direct result of the general licences revocation without notice, consultation or transition period is clear and stark.” Click here for a copy of BASC’s submission to Defra: https://basc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2019/05/BASC-General-Licence-Submission-FINAL.pdf Click here for the latest BASC updates on general licences: https://basc.org.uk/gl/ ENDS
  4. Time running out to have say on general licences, says BASC May 10 2019 BASC is reminding members time is running out to tell Defra of the impact of the general licence chaos. People have until 5pm on Monday (May 13th) to email Defra to say how they have been affected by Natural England’s decision to withdraw licences for the control of 16 ‘pest’ species. And the deadline for completing BASC’s short online survey is 5pm tomorrow. Information from this survey will feed into BASC’s official response to Defra’s review into the general licences. More than 22,000 people have so far completed BASC’s survey and the UK’s largest shooting organisation has also been fielding an extra 1,000 telephone phone calls each day on general licences. Ian Danby, BASC’s head of biodiversity, this morning told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme that listeners should sieze the chance to make their views known to Defra. “It’s crucial people engage with the process,” he said. “The response so far to our survey has been phenomenal. More than 12,000 people responded in the first 24 hours and that figure continues to rise. “People who haven’t yet done so should now use the time left to respond. BASC’s survey takes just five minutes to complete. Put that time to good use and make your views known.” Visitors to this weekend’s Northern Shooting Show will be able to fill in the BASC survey on the BASC stand up until 5pm tomorrow. People can email Defra to outline how they have been affected on glevidence@defra.gov.uk Click here to fill in BASC’s survey: https://www.research.net/r/BASC-GLsurvey The BBC Radio 4 programme can be heard here (from 6 mins 40): https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0004spw ENDS
  5. BASC flags up general licence concerns to Michael Gove May 9, 2019 BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC and chief executive Ian Bell have highlighted concerns to environment secretary Michael Gove about the general licence “chaos”. Mr Gove attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Shooting and Conservation, for which BASC provides the secretariat, last night. Mr Bell said: “The meeting was very positive. Mr Gove took the time to listen to our concerns. He also reiterated the importance of those in attendance and their members to contribute to the Defra review which will be collecting evidence until 5pm on Monday May 13th May.” People can email Defra to outline how they have been affected on glevidence@defra.gov.uk They can also complete a short online survey set up by BASC: https://www.research.net/r/BASC-GLsurvey More than 12,000 people completed the BASC survey within 24 hours of its launch: https://basc.org.uk/blog/ne-general-licences/basc-survey-hits-12000-in-less-than-a-day/ ENDS
  6. MPs to quiz Defra and Natural England on general licence chaos May 9, 2019 A one-off evidence session allowing MPs to question Defra and Natural England on the general licence chaos will hopefully “paint a clearer picture” of how the decision was reached and provide clarity on the way forward, says BASC. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has asked Defra Ministers and the interim chief executive of Natural England, Marian Spain, to give evidence on May 21. The session will focus on the events that led to the controversial decision being taken, the handling of the media fallout, the issuing and effectiveness of new general licences and the subsequent action taken by the Secretary of State. BASC and other rural organisations have heavily criticized NE’s decision to withdraw the general licences at a crucial time in the countryside calendar without consultation or warning. BASC has approached the committee to say that shooting organisations must be included in the session for the evidence to be balanced. Ian Danby, BASC’s head of biodiversity, said: “We are glad the committee is drilling down into this decision, the way it came about and the subsequent chaos that has been wreaked across the English countryside and beyond. “We hope the session will paint a clearer picture of what has happened, provide clarity for the way ahead and ensure this chaos is not repeated.” In announcing the session, committee chair Neil Parish MP said: “We feel it is our committee’s duty to question why such a step was taken and whether there are any alternative methods available. “We invited the Ministers and Natural England to give us a much clearer picture of how they reached this decision and how they plan to move forward given the fallout that has followed their announcement.”
  7. BASC responds to announcement on future of general licences May 4, 2019 It has been announced that decision making on general licences in England will be passed from Natural England to the Secretary of State for the Environment ‘for a time’. It is understood this move will be followed by a call for evidence into the short and long-term future of general licences. Details of the new arrangement are included in an exchange of letters between environment secretary Michael Gove and Natural England chairman Tony Juniper published today. A covering letter from Defra said: “As part of his new responsibilities, the Secretary of State is now initiating a swift but formal call to evidence, in order to capture information from all concerned parties about the recent withdrawal of the three general licences (GL04, GL05 & GL06). ”In particular it will look at developing a better understanding of the implications for the protection of wild birds, and the impacts on crops, livestock, wildlife, disease, human health and safety and wider nature conservation efforts. ”All relevant evidence gathered from the exercise, alongside information that Defra and Natural England have already received since 25 April, will inform decisions and approach.” In response, BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “BASC hopes this is the first step to resolving the current chaos in the countryside. “This shambles of the last week or so was created by Natural England’s ill-advised decision to withdraw all licences without consultation or notice and, in effect, remove pest control at a critical time of year. “We hope that this intervention by the environment secretary, Michael Gove, represents that he is getting a grip of this problem and BASC will join the other leading organisations in providing evidence into the review to ensure we end up with a system of general licences that are fit for purpose.”
  8. New wood pigeon licence ‘not fit for purpose’, says BASC May 3, 2019 BASC has said the new general licence issued by Natural England for the control of wood pigeon to prevent serious damage to crops is not fit for purpose. The licence was published at the same time as a new general licence for control of Canada geese ‘to preserve public health and safety’. The licences were issued late on Friday night as replacements for the general licences revoked without consultation by Natural England on April 25. BASC’s experts are examining the detail of the licences but have already expressed serious concerns about the terms and conditions of the wood pigeon document. BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “The rural organisations were unsighted on the wood pigeon general licence dropped on us late on Friday night, contrary to assurances from Natural England earlier in the week that our technical expertise would be used in the drafting of the document. “On initial review of this licence, it is not fit for purpose. It has many of the same deficiencies as the new carrion crow general licence issued last weekend, is over-complicated and confusing. “BASC and the other rural organisations will be pressing for significant changes to be made so that we can have a more effective licence in the short term and we will all expect to feed into any long-term review of these licences.” BASC had delivered a two-page briefing to Natural England earlier in the week which highlighted the importance of wood pigeon control to rural England.
  9. Natural England publishes new general licences May 3, 2019 BASC is advising members that Natural England (NE) has published new general licences for the control of Canada geese and wood pigeon. NE has published the general licence for ‘Canada geese to preserve public health and public safety’ and the general licence for ‘woodpigeon to prevent serious damage to crops’. NE has advised that if individual circumstances are not covered by the new licences then an application for an individual licence should be completed. BASC will be carefully considering the terms and conditions of the new licences and associated documents before making further comment. The former general licences (GL04, GL05 and GL06) which previously allowed the control of pigeons, crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws, jays, Canada geese and nine other species, were all revoked on 25th April. A dedicated page on BASC’s website provides links to the latest advice and analysis: https://basc.org.uk/gl/
  10. BASC highlights importance of woodpigeon control to Natural England May 1, 2019 BASC has told Natural England the importance of woodpigeon control to the rural and farming community. In a two-page document delivered today, BASC has highlighted the necessity of woodpigeon control ahead of the expected publication of the new general licence for controlling woodpigeon in England. Natural England has said that the new licence is expected to go live before the end of the week. Steve Bloomfield, BASC’s executive director of shooting and operations, said: “It’s important that Natural England realises the impact of woodpigeon on the rural and farming community and just how much damage they cause to crops and consequently people’s livelihoods. “Woodpigeon have the ability to strip fields of crops and the knock-on effects are huge. The changes to the general licences have come at the worst possible time of the year for wildlife management, which is causing chaos and confusion across the country.” There are over five million breeding pairs of woodpigeon across the UK and their population has increased by 134 percent between 1970 and 2011. BASC estimates that these bird pests cause £115 million damage to UK oilseed, brassica and pea crops annually. For more information on the latest developments, visit BASC’s dedicated webpage here: https://basc.org.uk/gl/ The document can be read here: https://basc.org.uk/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=1810 ENDS
  11. BASC lays bare the threats posed by general licence chaos The impact of ‘pest birds’ on public health and safety, aircraft security, crops, livestock and vulnerable, red-listed species is outlined in a briefing document published today by BASC. The document will be sent to all MPs in the wake of Natural England’s decision last week to withdraw three general licences for the control of pest birds in England. The document is also for members and the wider shooting and rural community to give the facts in one place to help challenge the myths and fake news posted online. It is supported by an infographic which highlights headline facts. • Pigeons and doves were responsible for 800 reported aircraft bird strikes or near misses in the most recent figures available, the document says. Crows were responsible for 300 and gulls more than 1,300. BASC estimates that without proper control, aircraft strikes or near misses from woodpigeon could be expected to increase by seven per cent per year. • Concerns that major football, sporting and events stadia and arenas will not be able to operate within the terms of their safety certificates if pest controllers are unable to deal with pest birds such as pigeons. • Damage caused to brassica, pea and oilseed crops in the UK by woodpigeon is estimated to cost £115 million annually and this species will have a devastating effect on farming if allowed to go unchecked. • Up to 50 per cent of urban pigeons can carry the most common cause of food poisoning. • Several examples are included which highlight the importance of corvid control on the breeding attempts of vulnerable, red-listed bird species. BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “The facts, the figures and the evidence speak for themselves. The chaos caused by Natural England’s decision runs much deeper than the countryside. “Our briefing document shows it stands to affect people’s health, livelihoods and the environment and people’s day-to-day lives in cities and the countryside. “Livelihoods could be lost, people will be out of pocket, livestock will be unprotected and conservation efforts will be in crisis. “Our members and the wider shooting and rural community can use this document as a point of reference to deal with the misinformation that has been peddled in the last week since NE announced its appalling decision.” The document can be read here: https://basc.org.uk/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=1808 The infographic can be read here: https://basc.org.uk/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=1809 ENDS
  12. BASC condemns threats made to Chris Packham Apr 30, 2019 BASC has unequivocally condemned threats made to Chris Packham which he revealed in a television interview earlier today. The BBC presenter revealed this morning on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the police are currently investigating threats of a “serious nature” which he said were part of an ongoing campaign again him and his home since the revocation of the general licences last week. Natural England has said its decision to revoke the licences was in direct response to a legal challenge from the group Wild Justice, whose directors include Packham. BASC previously condemned targeted, illegal behaviour after Packham tweeted a picture of dead crows hanging on a gate outside his house. In response to Packham’s latest comments during today’s interview with Piers Morgan, Steve Bloomfield, BASC’s executive director of operations and shooting, said: “We have already stated in unequivocal terms that we do not condone any illegal behaviour. And for people to continue to behave in such a manner is utterly unacceptable. “It will be no surprise to anyone that we don’t agree with Chris Packham on how best to manage the countryside, in fact we probably couldn’t be further apart at this stage. But the sort of behaviour and threats described by Packham does not help anyone’s cause and must stop.” However, BASC has challenged Packham’s assertion during the TV interview that farmers have been ‘misinformed’ in the row over the withdrawal of general licences without consultation or notice from Natural England. The UK’s largest shooting organisation has criticised ITV for allowing Packham’s statements to go unchallenged by countryside experts during the broadcast. BASC had agreed last Friday to take part in a live debate with Packham and Morgan and had already booked travel and accommodation for staff, but were cancelled by the broadcaster at the 11th hour yesterday after it said Packham agreed a deal with GMB and the Daily Mirror newspaper. The programme published a short statement from BASC during the broadcast which urged environment secretary Michael Gove to step in and show leadership as fury and anger builds among the rural community. But BASC said the broadcaster had also failed rural England by cancelling the televised debate with Packham. Garry Doolan, BASC’s deputy director of communications, said: “That is simply fake news by Packham. Farmers and the rest of the rural community could not be clearer on where the blame lies for the current fiasco and their anger and frustration is palpable. “ITV did not allow representation of the reality of the situation being faced by those in the countryside. ITV has failed us all by not allowing the rural community to have a voice in that debate with Chris Packham.”
  13. BASC joins other rural organisations to write to Michael Gove BASC has joined other rural organisations in writing to environment secretary Michael Gove to demand an investigation into Natural England’s handling of the general licensing “disaster”. BASC chief executive Ian Bell is joint signatory of the letter alongside the National Farmers Union, the Countryside Alliance, CLA, The Game and Wildlife Countryside Trust, National Farmers Union, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers Organisation and Game Farmers Association. The letter says: “As Secretary of State for the Department to which NE is contracted as the current licensing authority, you are asked to undertake a full investigation as to who made what decisions, when, and why. Your Department needs to determine what changes may be necessary going forward, to ensure this sort of disaster is never repeated.” Mr Bell said: “The rural organisations have united to tell the Secretary of State that this fiasco is simply unacceptable. The shooting and farming community has been failed and Mr Gove has to step in to take decisive action”. Click here to read the letter in full: https://basc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Joint-Letter-to-Gove-from-SLC-Member-Organisations.pdf ENDS
  14. New general licence “not fit for purpose”, BASC tells NE Apr 27, 2019 BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC has said the drafting of the new general licence issued by Natural England has been “shoddy and hurried” and the document is “not fit for purpose”. BASC’s experts have been analysing the 11-page document and its supporting information since it was released by Natural England on Friday night. BASC chief executive Ian Bell outlined his concerns around the failings in the new licence in a phone call to Natural England on Saturday afternoon. Mr Glenser said: “We have been in contact with other leading rural organisations during Saturday and all our experts have been working very quickly to analyse the licence so that we could give some reassurances to the rural community. “Having done that work, we are not able to give those assurances and we have told Natural England exactly that. We have to say that the shambles is continuing in the aftermath of Natural England’s appalling decision to withdraw the three original general licences without warning or consultation on Tuesday. “Some of the content of the new licence for controlling carrion crows is, quite frankly, bizarre and we believe the licence in its current form is unworkable. We have real fears for the other licences which have yet to be released.” Mr Bell said: “When I spoke to Natural England directly today I demanded they reintroduce the 2019 general licences that they took away without consultation. There is no time to delay in this, the rural community is desperate for answers and reassurance.”
  15. Natural England publishes first new general licence April 26 2019 Natural England has just published the first of its new general licences - for carrion crows. Those who need to control these crows in the circumstances described in this licence, for example where crows cause harm to new lambs, can now do so without further steps: there is no need to apply for an individual licence. BASC advises members to read the full details of the licence, which are available on NE’s website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/carrion-crows-licence-to-kill-or-take-them-gl26 BASC will continue to link to updates on the situation around general licences as they become available.
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