Just thought I'd check in with an update and see how everyone is bearing up in these strange and challenging times.
In spite of the current situation, Natural England have today told me that the 2019 licensing stats are still scheduled for publication towards the end of this month, though (as with everything at the moment), constantly shifting events mean that nothing is entirely certain.
I will of course keep you up to date with this as and when I have more information, and I'd like to thank Natural England for keeping channels of communication open and for offering to discuss the data with me when it is released.
If current events have taught us anything, then it is to work together and to communicate, even when we have different perspectives and opinions.
The news that is assailing us from all parts of the world is shocking and often worrying, yet on this, the first day of Spring, there is still much to celebrate. While the human race is tested, the rest of nature carries on, following the seasons as it has since time began. Tides still ebb and flow, the buds on the trees are bursting open - and the birds are singing loudly.
Indeed, while we all try to make some sense of what we are experiencing, many people have been noticing that wildlife is undergoing something of a resurgence.
With the sharp drop in numbers of people travelling, industry shutting down, and a general reduction in human activity, birds seem to be much more visible and vocal everywhere, including parts of China where, in some areas, people have heard bird song for the first time. Dolphins have appeared in the canals of Venice, and here in the UK I've heard reports of wild mountain goats wandering through the streets of Llandudno and peacocks strutting along Bangor high street!
It all goes to prove what many of us already suspected, that when humankind becomes less demanding, wildlife can flourish and the planet can begin to recover from the damage we, as a species, have caused.
As someone put it recently on social media, with this coronavirus, nature seems to have pressed the 'reset' button on us.
Nature will heal us too - if we show some respect.
When we come through it all - and we will - lessons will need to be learned from this unique episode in human history. Will we learn? Who knows.
Meanwhile, though times are going to be extremely challenging and hugely difficult for many of us, life will go on.
I wish you all good health.
Stay safe and be kind to yourselves, to each other - and to nature.
Disappointing news to report today.... Natural England have told me that the long awaited and much anticipated 2019 wildlife licensing statistics, scheduled to be published by the end of this month, will NOT include detailed numbers for each species affected under their licences. This in spite of the fact that they had told me they hoped to include this key information going forward.
2019 licence stats were expected to include detailed figures...
After I complained that the 2018 statistics (published in January) were lacking some significant detail, interim operations director David Slater told me that "as part of our plans to publish the 2019 data in March we hope to include the numbers, similar to what we gave you for your FOI".
However now it seems that the 2019 data may be just as basic and ambiguous as the previous set of figures.
"....the total numbers for each licence type won’t be part of this package at this time...."
This news is likely to cause consternation among the supporters and followers of our petition who have been asking, for a considerable time, why Natural England appear to be reticent in providing detailed figures for the wildlife actions they licence, in particular the licences they issue approving lethal control of thousands of our native birds.
As many of you will know, it was only through freedom of information requests that I was able to obtain statistics and reveal the shocking numbers of birds killed under licence. Subsequently, a stunned public, previously unaware of the scale of this officially sanctioned killing, began to demand much more transparency and accountability from Natural England and its secretive licensing system.
So, I was dismayed when, on Monday, Natural England informed me that "we do plan to publish the 2019 data at the end of March.......[but] the total numbers for each licence type won’t be part of this package at this time".
I asked Mr Slater for an explanation of this decision and he told me "There are quite strict rules when we publish data, it needs to be defendable and explainable and the maximum numbers do give a exaggerated picture of actual numbers of animals that were subject to controls. While we do have that data for some species - the data is much more onerous to collect for others so it would be an incomplete picture anyway."
I have questioned this decision and have suggested to Mr Slater that publishing the maximum figures attached to each licence is relevant and would be of public interest as (either in theory or in practice) this is in fact the actual number for which Natural England has issued approval. For example, if Natural England issue a licence to kill 1000 Herring gulls then, regardless of how many gulls the licence holder finally kills, he or she would have permission from Natural England to kill up to 1000 of the birds. This may, according to Natural England, give an exaggerated picture of the actual final numbers killed but nevertheless that maximum figure is permitted and perfectly achievable without any wrong doing on the part of the licence holder. In other words, the figure appearing on the licence, exaggerated or not, is the figure approved by Natural England.
Mr Slater has invited me to discuss the data with him and raise any questions I might have.
My intention, when the data is published later this month, is indeed to examine some of the individual licences and ask some relevant questions.
So watch this space.
This may be a small step backwards but the campaign goes on....
PLEASE SIGN/SHARE THE PETITION HERE
"Where were the RSPB....?"
I've lost count of the number of RSPB members who have contacted me, complaining about the Society's initial response to Natural England's bird kill licences.
When I first revealed the shocking statistics behind the bird culls, the natural reaction from many of my blog readers was to contact the RSPB for reassurance. While it seemed obvious for members to turn to their Society for advice, people tell me that they were disappointed with the banal responses they received.
The RSPB was hardly reassuring its worried supporters with statements like: "...without knowing the reasons for each license, it is impossible to comment on individual cases, but some of the species that have been listed raise questions..."
By the time our petition had reached a quarter of a million signatures, the RSPB were telling one of my readers: "...we are aware of this matter and are trying to find out further detail. This may take some time so I’d ask you to bear with us while we investigate."
The Society added that it was "in the process of working with Natural England....on the licencing process", but there were suggestions that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds should have already known the extent of Natural England's bird killing.... never mind having to 'investigate'.
"...As members of the RSPB, shouldn’t they have told us?"
Discussion on my blog began to tell a story of growing dissatisfaction with the RSPB, some people were even beginning to question the role of the Society in protecting the nation's bird life, "...it does make you wonder why we have to rely on Jason to tell us this stuff. As members of the RSPB, shouldn’t they have told us?" asked one reader, while another remarked "I am also an RSPB member and cant think why they are not more involved in all this."
The RSPB killed nearly 600 foxes in just one year....
Some felt that the Society had been ambivalent over a flawed licensing regime that had gone unchallenged for years.
However, the RSPB has been involved in its own killing spree....
As part of its conservation efforts, the RSPB kills thousands of animals and birds each year. The Society is quite open about this, even publishing an annual summary of its own wildlife culling. Yet many of its members seem unaware that RSPB management initiatives involve large scale slaughter of selected wildlife.
I took a look at the most recent set of statistics, which were published by the RSPB last July. I have to say that the figures seem shockingly high, even with an understanding of the motives behind the killing (motives with which I personally strongly disagree).
In just one year, between September 2017 and August 2018, the Society killed 598 foxes and 800 Crows, on and off its reserves, as part of its work in conserving various threatened species of birds.
RSPB destroying eggs of amber listed Barnacle Geese....
The RSPB also destroyed 322 Canada Goose eggs and 321 Greylag goose eggs (the reason given for this action being 'Air Safeguarding').
They also removed 22 Barnacle Goose nests and destroyed more than 100 eggs of this amber listed species (in the name of 'Tern and Avocet conservation').
In total the Society killed at least 2,719 animals and birds in just one year.
"An option based on rigorous scientific research..."
One of my readers, worried about fox and crow killing at their local RSPB reserve, was told that "...occasionally, when all other options have proved ineffective, we have had to resort to lethal control to protect some of our most threatened and vulnerable species..." and that "it is an option based on rigorous scientific research..."
But surely it is not beyond the means of an organisation as large and resourceful as the RSPB to have found a way to capture and relocate at least some of the animals on its kill list?
And surely there are far better ways of controlling birds than wrecking nests and eggs.
Am I naïve in suggesting that, rather than destroying the Barnacle goose eggs, they could be removed if necessary, and hatched elsewhere to maintain the population of this threatened species?
"These decisions can be controversial...."
Of course the RSPB feels that it can justify its action, but as the Society's Global Conservation Director, Martin Harper, admits in his introduction to the figures, "these decisions can be controversial".
Something of an understatement perhaps.
Controversial indeed... it seems odd, for example, that the Society still advocates the use of Larsen traps to catch and kill corvids, a cruel system that has been outlawed in other countries. In recent years, there has also been criticism of the way the Society chooses to despatch foxes and other mammals.
I don't doubt that the RSPB carry out some excellent work, but it does worry me that they exterminate large numbers of animals, and for so long apparently ignored the slaughter of thousands of birds, many of conservation concern, that were being killed under licences issued by Natural England.
Public pressure brings change...
It took the determined and remarkable efforts of our campaigners, members of the public, to bring about more transparency at Natural England.
Our petition, with nearly 360,000 supporters, made huge strides in bringing about change at Natural England. Many think that this should have been the job of the RSPB.
The RSPB do seem to be more engaged now, recently telling one of my readers that "we are asking Natural England for greater transparency on their decision-making process......we are recommending that there is clearer data collection and publication of this data which, where necessary, will enable Natural England to be held accountable for the decisions they make."
The frustrating part is that I was already saying that more than a year ago, while it had apparently taken the RSPB some time to acknowledge, at least publicly, that there was a problem at all - and to speak out.
An increasingly skeptical - and knowledgeable - public
Perhaps we need to question the RSPB itself over its extensive killing of native wild animals and birds. 598 foxes in one year? 800 Crows? Doesn't this seem excessive?
As more and more of the Society's members discover that protecting a handful of species involves killing thousands of other animals and birds, the RSPB might have to work harder to placate an increasingly skeptical - and knowledgeable - public.
Are contrived 'reserves', for selected species, really the answer?
How, one wonders, did wildlife survive before it was so carefully managed by the likes of the RSPB and Natural England? Humankind has desecrated habitat and countryside to such an extent that many species simply cannot naturally thrive in this country - that is why we have artificially contrived areas of habitat, 'reserved' for these selected species, often at the expense of other animals.
Clearly we have a need for reserves like those run by the RSPB, due to the mess we have made of our countryside - but there is a danger of accepting them as an alternative to proper protection of the environment outside these areas of conservation. Note HS2 and its desecration of ancient woodland, where 'mitigation' measures merely facilitate destruction.
Reserves must not become zoos. Species which are currently being exterminated on reserves, may soon themselves be under threat elsewhere.
Personally I think we should celebrate - yes and protect - those species that have found a way to thrive in the hostile environments that we have created. That includes foxes and crows. And gulls and geese. Killing them in large numbers, as a means to conserve other species, whose demise was itself caused by misguided human activity, seems like flawed thinking.
It's killing, it's exterminating lives of wild animals.
In a world on the brink of natural disaster and mass extinctions, is killing more animals really the best solution?
The RSPB kill figures for 2017 to 2018 include:-
Carrion/Hooded Crow: 800,
Fallow Deer: 38,
Muntjac Deer: 38,
Roe Deer: 333,
Red Deer: 547
Sika Deer: 146
Feral Goat: 4
Grey Squirrel: 97
Great Black-backed Gull: 3 shot, 2 nests removed
Lesser Black-backed Gull: 5 shot, 30 nests removed
Herring Gull: 2 shot, 19 nests removed
* statistics have been collated from RSPB published figures. The author has attempted to reference them as accurately as possible from the source material.
Natural England's latest plans to 'protect' endangered gulls appear to be inept....
Last year, I complained to Natural England that far too many gulls were being slaughtered under licences that they were issuing to 'pest' controllers and others.
I called for a suspension of all Herring gull licences due to the population of this iconic bird being in free-fall, some estimates suggesting an 82% drop in the birds' numbers.
Through freedom of information requests I had discovered truly shocking figures that suggested excessive extermination of the birds and for often spurious reasons.
I received reassurance, from then operations director James Diamond, that new measures would be considered to protect gulls, including red listed endangered Herring gulls.
In July, 2019, Mr Diamond told me that "it seems likely we will need to review again our approach to gull licensing, both individual and class licences...."
Gulls' Decline Is "Worrying Trend," Says Natural England
Today I note with interest that Natural England have modified the licensing criteria for two species of endangered gulls. From now on Herring gulls, together with Lesser black backed gulls, will be afforded a little more protection through slightly stricter licensing rules.
Marian Spain, interim chief executive of Natural England said today "Populations of herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls have declined significantly in recent years and it’s essential that we do all we can to reverse this worrying trend."
Er, yes, well we could have told you that a long time ago - oh hang on, actually we did.
Too Little, Too Late
Though today's announcement from Natural England is welcome, their action really is 'too little and too late'.
Although licences for gull control and management in rural areas are likely to be significantly reduced in number, a statement from Natural England said that "Control levels of nests, eggs and chicks will not be limited in urban areas, where populations are thought to have better breeding success rates."
That is a mistake.
It leaves the door open to largely un-monitored persecution of red listed and declining species of gull. It is absurd to assume that urban gulls are in less danger than rural gulls - and yet that is exactly what Natural England have decided.
It will therefore still be possible for 'pest' control companies and others to kill these magnificent birds in urban areas if they can persuade Natural England that there is a threat to 'human life and health'. In practice, I doubt that this will prevent Natural England from issuing hundreds or thousands of licences to those who make their living from killing birds, as they have been doing for years. No wonder that the gulls are in steep decline.
No Confidence In Natural England Or Defra
Natural England said that they are "working with Defra to explore options for filling current gaps in evidence around urban gull populations, which would enable us to refine our licensing approach in future."
By the time these clunky organisations get their 'evidence' together, threatened gulls will be in even more danger. I have very little confidence that either organisation is competent enough to trust with the future of our beleaguered wildlife.
Public Pressure Can Bring More Change
But let us not forget that it is a very small step towards real change.
Without the support of all the people who continue to sign our petition, and the pressure this support has brought to bear on Natural England, I doubt that even this limited review of gull licensing would have happened. People power has again brought about change, a change that will doubtless save very many gulls, albeit not enough.
We will continue to push for change, for more protection for our native wildlife.
Meanwhile, for those hundreds of thousands of you who have signed the petition, next time you spot a gull, please remember that, but for you, that gull might not be there.
Well done. Now onward, there is much more work to do.
Please continue to sign and share the petition: HERE.
Access Complete Data File, Via My Blog, Today....
Following Natural England's publication of licensing data last week, I contacted them and expressed the disappointment many of us had felt over the lack of certain details, especially the absence of statistics specifying the numbers of birds (and other animals) covered by each licence.
I shared with Natural England my belief that, by withholding this vital information, they were reinforcing the growing public concerns over their activities.
After some further discussions with their national operations director, David Slater, I'm pleased to say that I now have Natural England's permission to share some further licensing information with the public in much more detail, via my blog, today.
And some very welcome news, beginning in March, with the next published instalment of wildlife licensing data, Natural England plan to include the numbers associated with the licences - this is a great step forward and shows a firm commitment from Natural England to strive for more transparency and accessibility over their work.
So today I am happy to provide a link to the raw data (for birds only), detailing all the individual and class licences that Natural England issued between 2015 and 2018, including the numbers of birds affected by each licence. I feel it is correct that the public can have access to these statistics in order to have an informed opinion.
The data file can now be freely accessed by the public* via the link below.
LINK: CLICK HERE
(It should be noted carefully that this raw data includes duplicate licences which need to be taken into account, in order to avoid overstating the number of birds affected).
I think this is an excellent outcome and I thank Natural England for their kind co-operation over this matter, and for listening to public concerns.
Special thanks to all the supporters of our petition, without whom this could not have happened.
I hope this information is useful and I hope too that we can now look forward to much more openness from Natural England going forward.
*Please bear in mind that this data remains copyright and cannot be misused in any way.
Please see the further information below for details of this:-
FOI data information: Please note that the information we have supplied to you is subject to copyright protection under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. You may re-use this information (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, for the purposes of research for non-commercial purposes, private study, criticism, review and news reporting. You must re-use it accurately and not in a misleading context. The material must be acknowledged as Natural England copyright and you must give the title of the source document/publication. However, if you wish to re-use all or part of this information for commercial purposes, including publishing and the information is not covered by the Open Government Licence you will need to apply for a licence. Applications can be sent to Enquiry Service, Natural England, County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester, WR5 2NP.
This information may also contain third party copyrighted material and you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned before you re-use it.
Well, was it worth waiting for?
While Natural England have published some wildlife licensing data on their website, as per our discussions last year, the information they have released is not what we were anticipating or hoping for.
Frankly, I was expecting something better than this.
The published data does contain some information on a wide range of species (birds, mammals, amphibians and more) for which Natural England has issued licences.
This includes the bird lethal control licences which are at the heart of our campaign - but with one important set of figures missing - the actual number of birds approved to be killed under the licences. It is perhaps not surprising that this detail is missing as it is a shocking figure that would no doubt prove highly controversial if it were in the public domain. As I've revealed through freedom of information requests, it is the sheer numbers of birds that Natural England has permitted to be culled under these licences that is the biggest issue - and this, crucially, is missing from the published information.
I was, however, led to believe that these statistics would be included.
So, on behalf of the 356,000 concerned supporters of our petition, I am hugely disappointed and a little irritated.
Natural England told me that it is their intention to be much more transparent going forward.
If this is Natural England being more transparent then they have a very long way to go.
And I will be asking for an explanation from them in the next few days.
You can see the published data HERE
And please keep sharing our petition HERE
"It's too big a risk to assume that these sensitive, magnificent and ancient creatures will adapt to the clumsy experiments of humankind."
As deaf whales are washed ashore in Taiwan, with hearing loss being the 'primary reason' for their demise, I ask the question: are stranded British whales and dolphins casualties of the offshore wind industry in this country?
Practically every day brings new reports of stranded whales and dolphins around the British coast, the numbers are on the rise and nobody seems to know why.
Ever expanding wind farms are beginning to dominate our coastal seas.
Is there a link?
I've suggested in previous articles that it might be wise, indeed essential, to halt the further proliferation of offshore wind farms until we have safely established whether or not giant fields of humming wind turbines are causing havoc to sound-sensitive marine mammals - but the industry seems to be oblivious to the signs. Something is definitely awry.
With research showing that beached whales were stranded after becoming deaf, it's surely time to stop the madness and reassess the wind industry.
Damaged hearing - the 'primary reason' for the beaching of whales
In April last year, a headline in Taiwan's Taipei Times read "Beached whales’ hearing badly damaged". Taiwan's Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA), discovered that scans on beached Pygmy Killer Whales showed abnormal shadows in their middle ears, concluding that it was a loss of hearing that caused them to become stranded. Indeed a beached Pilot whale that survived was placed under observation and was found to be completely deaf; according to observers the whale appeared to be "anxious and unable to swim normally." It was duly noted that "this was the primary reason for its stranding."
The definite cause of the whales' hearing loss is not known, conservation specialists have suggested that it might have been caused by 'some disease'. But it has nevertheless led to renewed concerns about the widespread construction of offshore wind farms in Taiwan, and there have been warnings that critically endangered Humpback Dolphins could be wiped out entirely by human activity, including wind farm development, off the coast of the island nation. The Taiwan conservation organisation MFCU said in statement that "the large-scale off-shore wind power plants along the western coast may also threaten the dolphins' survival due to low-frequency noise by wind turbines".
Warnings from science - but UK continues to champion offshore wind industry...
As we know, many marine mammals rely on sensitive sonar to navigate through our oceans, and infrasound from offshore wind turbines (along with other ocean noise such as seismic surveys and military sonar) can interfere with this, causing them to become confused and disorientated. Yet in spite of warnings from experts and scientists, the gung-ho and irresponsible proliferation of wind farms in our seas continues unabated.
The UK already has the largest offshore wind farm in the world, in the Irish Sea, and work is beginning on an even bigger development in the North Sea, which will comprise 87 turbines each 260 meters high. They will join the staggering 2,590 turbines already operating in the area.
The glaringly obvious potential for whale and dolphin strandings, caused directly by the giant offshore turbines, is apparently being largely ignored by authorities in the UK and many other countries, while the plans to recklessly expand offshore wind are hailed, by the gullible, as the answer to climate change and the energy crisis.
Since I last reported about the perils posed to marine life by the offshore wind industry, dead and dying whales and dolphins have continued to wash up in significant numbers around the UK coast, often in close proximity to the giant wind farms that have, without our permission, become a blot on our seascapes and perhaps the biggest folly of modern times.
And with developers and politicians clamoring to jump aboard the wind farm bandwagon, there seems little hope that the insanity of rampant offshore wind development will cease any time soon.
Whale beachings up by 15% in UK
Both wind farm construction and operation cause noise that affects whales and dolphins and many of us believe that this could be a significant cause of strandings.
The cautionary advice from Taiwan adds weight to this theory.
A quick look at whale strandings around the British coast shows that an alarming number of them take place close to offshore wind farms. Not so surprising as Britain's coast is quickly becoming dominated by forests of enormous turbines.
According to research by the CSIP (Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme), whale beachings in the UK rose by 15% in the period 2011 to 2017, a total of 4,896 whales, dolphins and porpoises died. The actual number of deaths is likely to be much higher as not all carcasses are washed ashore.
A report in Science Focus points out that, in addition to other threats such as disease and plastic pollution, cetaceans are highly susceptible to environmental noise pollution, suggesting that "chronic noise from shipping and off-shore wind farms can drive animals away from their usual habitats and into dangerous environments".
It seems logical to conclude that at least some of the whale deaths might be due to noise pollution from offshore wind farms.
Hundreds of 'unexplained' whale deaths - not caused by fishing, plastics or ship strike
Over a period of seven years, post mortems were carried out on about 1,000 specimens of whales and dolphins stranded on British beaches, in an attempt to discover the cause of their deaths.
According to the results, accidental entanglement in fishing gear (trawlers are commonly blamed for killing whales and dolphins) actually only accounted for around one in four deaths of Common Dolphins, and one in 10 of Harbour Porpoises. A further 25 individuals had been struck by a ship and just one single Cuvier's Beaked Whale died after ingesting marine litter.
This leaves potentially hundreds of cetacean strandings around the coast of the UK with no conclusive explanation of exactly how and why the creatures died.
Damage to the delicate hearing of these animals might be a contributory cause, and the increasing noise from wind farm construction and operation in the seas around the UK should be taken into consideration as a possible factor in the mammals' deaths.
While this seems worthy of investigation, there is much complacency within the industry and its army of supporters; birds and bats, we know, are being slaughtered by offshore turbines in large numbers, but nobody can see the dead bodies at sea. Explaining away stranded whales and dolphins might prove to be more of a challenge....
Whale and Dolphin deaths continue in areas where offshore wind farms proliferate...
Last month alone, two dead dolphins were washed ashore in Selsey and East Wittering on England's south coast, close to Rampion offshore wind farm.
A whale was washed ashore on a beach in Walney, Cumbria, just a short distance from the world's biggest offshore wind farm in the Irish Sea, an area that has been overwhelmed by industrial wind farm development in recent years.
But it's the tip of the iceberg - the news was full of similar reports during 2019. And already in the first few weeks of 2020, the news is depressingly familiar with dolphins and whales appearing all too regularly, stranded on British beaches, including the terribly sad sight of a Killer Whale washed up in Norfolk, a very worrying event that begs further questions over the wisdom of building even more wind farms in the North Sea, an area, as mentioned earlier, already saturated with vast banks of turbines.
Has the whale, for so long a symbol of conservation, now become a casualty of an industry that markets itself as a saviour of the planet?
With so much environmental damage already attributed to the wind industry - on and off-shore - the modern fanciful folly that is wind energy might turn out to be one of the biggest contributors to environmental destruction that we have seen in recent times.
More research BEFORE more offshore wind farms
Who knows how many whales and dolphins are swimming around with hearing damage caused by the construction and operation of wind farms? And who knows how many will perish? The answer is simply that we do not know. And while we do not know, shouldn't we just stop and think? It's too big a risk to assume that these sensitive, magnificent and ancient creatures will adapt to the clumsy experiments of humankind.
As I have often repeated, we need much more independent research into the potentially catastrophic effects on wildlife before further offshore development is permitted. Alas, such research looks unlikely to happen on any significant scale; and would the industry and gullible politicians listen to words of warning anyway?
Perhaps the financial gain has become more of an incentive than the survival of our wildlife. That sounds familiar.
When the world finally wakes up to more dead whales on more beaches, it will probably be too late.
It seems that humankind will never learn, we have almost wiped out these incredible creatures several times before in our short history.
Somehow they have survived.
Now, with mind boggling stupidity, we might finally drive them to extinction through greed and a bumbling attempt to 'save the planet' pursuing wind energy.
If we continue to indulge this very dubious industry, we might stand to wipe out not only some of our rarest birds, bats and insects, but also earth's greatest living mammals.
It would be the ultimate, tragic irony.
Firstly Happy New Year to you all!
I thought I'd provide an update on the long awaited and much anticipated Natural England wildlife licensing data, which should have been published by now....
Discussions and Developments
My revelations last year about the shocking extent of wild bird control including mass culling sanctioned by Natural England, led to discussions I had with the agency in which I shared public concerns over the secrecy surrounding the wildlife licensing system and the quality of Natural England's decision making processes.
With the weight of hundreds of thousands of supporters behind me, I was able to secure a promise from Natural England's then operations director, James Diamond, that in future all licences issued by the agency would be published in full, annually, beginning before the end of 2019.
The information (the first installment of which I have been assured was all collated and checked as early as last October) should include (at least) details of every individual and class licence Natural England has issued, including the number of each species affected and the reasons for approving the licences. In other words, these will be statistics from which the public can draw their own conclusions and opinions about the effectiveness and suitability of Natural England's licensing system.
I was told yesterday by interim national operations director David Slater that the data would be live on the government website today (Friday 10th).
Unfortunately I received a further email from him late last night advising me of a further delay. He had misread the date, and publication was actually scheduled for next Friday.
Mistakes happen, but hundreds of thousands of people have been waiting very patiently to view this data and there is bound to be a backlash if it does not appear, on time, next week or if it is not as comprehensive and clear as we have been led to believe it will be.
Mr Slater told me in December that he is "keen to be as transparent as possible on our wildlife licensing work going forward."
That indeed bodes well for the future.
A good start will be to have a transparent look at the licensing statistics next week.
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