In light of the continuing rapid decline in many wild bird populations, I've asked Natural England to immediately stop enabling the lethal control of red listed species.
Without urgent action on many levels, we risk losing several species in this country.
Natural England continues to licence egg and nest destruction - and still in some cases (unbelievably) shooting - of endangered species.
Many of our most treasured birds now face a real and imminent threat of extinction in the UK.
This threat, though caused by a number of factors including rapid habitat loss, is being exacerbated and reinforced through bird control licences issued by Natural England.
It is not a sustainable situation.
Population numbers of red listed species are in freefall and I predict that we could lose some species entirely within the next ten years.
These include Starlings, for which Natural England continues to issue lethal control (shoot to kill) licences, Lapwing (licensed egg destruction), Curlew, Herring Gull (alarming number of licences still being issued) and more.
Many of these birds were once a common sight, now in some areas they are absent.
Air safety remains a contentious issue, accounting for a number of red-list licences being approved, including those for Lapwing, Curlew and Red Kite, though questions remain why a handful of airports have to resort to lethal control of endangered species, either through egg destruction (Lapwing) or shooting (Red Kite, Curlew and more), while most others seem to manage the matter by other means.
The lethal control licences issued to a small number of farmers, permitting them to shoot Starlings, are perhaps even more controversial.
We will not be able to stem the decline without addressing all of the relevant causes, but a good start would be for Natural England to stop issuing all licences to kill red listed species. It would send out a strong message that killing endangered birds is not acceptable under any circumstance.
We need a shift in attitude.
The increasing conflict between humans and wildlife is a real and immediate problem.
And killing wildlife because it inconveniently affects our lives is just not acceptable.
I don't have the licensing data for NRW (Wales), NatureScot and DAERA (NI) so I can't comment on the specific licensing practices of these bodies, but birds do not recognise imaginary national boundaries, so a joint approach is critical and a UK wide ban on issuing red listed licences would be significant. Natural England could set a precedent.
I believe that pressure from our campaign (together with the work of others, including Wild Justice), has already changed the way in which Natural England's staff go about considering licence applications.
We know they listen.
So I have called on Natural England to stop issuing licences affecting red listed birds, with immediate effect.
I am awaiting their response and will of course update further.
*There are a few occasions where a licence is issued to relocate eggs or nests in order to save them from imminent danger - these licences of course are not contentious where it is a matter of preservation rather than destruction.
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