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The Telegraph

Gulls protected from being shot as Defra issues new licenses in wake of Packham row

Shooting of gulls has been banned under new licences issued by Defra after a challenge by Chris Packham’s wildlife group. In 2019, Natural England was forced to withdraw its general shooting licences for ‘pest’ birds after Packham’s group launched a legal challenge, which argued not enough care was being taken to ensure birds which were shot were only killed as a last resort and for good reason. Since then, the government department Defra has taken control of the process and has now tightened rules to further enshrine bird welfare, and removed shooting licences for birds including gulls. It has also removed permission to shoot jackdaws for conservation purposes because of a lack of evidence that they predate on young birds. It will be possible to apply for some individual licences to shoot certain birds for reasons including health and safety and conservation of more endangered species. However, because gull numbers are declining, Defra said it will be very difficult to get permission to shoot them. An official explained: “Due to their poorer conservation status, herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls were taken off the general licences last year. Users can continue to apply to Natural England for an individual licence for control of these species. “It is likely that demand for gull licences under both the health and safety and conservation purposes in 2021 will be beyond what can be allowed to support the recovery of these species, and individual licensing will require strong evidence of proportionality in order to ensure that there is no detrimental effect on overall populations.” Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We have undertaken an extensive process to review the scientific evidence as well as over 4,000 responses to our general licence user survey, to help ensure we have a long-term licensing system which balances the needs of users and our wildlife. “We have taken on feedback to help ensure these new licences are fit for purpose, and will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure our licensing process is robust for wildlife and workable for users going forward.” Shooting organisations said that the new licences could make the lives of farmers and gamekeepers more complicated. Glynn Evans, BASC head of game and gundogs, said: “On first analysis, it’s clear that Defra has tried to produce general licences that are watertight and will bear the scrutiny of a legal challenge. “However, the terms and conditions are more complex than the current versions they replace and where necessary BASC will continue to make representation to Defra and produce guidance and advice to help people interpret them.”