* Bird control licences. An ongoing fiasco.
* 1 in 15 licence holders FAILED to submit an 'obligatory' report of action taken.
* Natural England received no licence returns for nearly 7% of bird control licences that it issued between 2018 and 2019, despite this being a mandatory requirement.
* Dozens of licences have no known outcome......
As promised, I can now report back to you with the answers I received from Natural England regarding the percentage of returns (reports of action taken) that they logged for bird control licences issued over a period of one year.
Natural England have provided me with a set of (oddly round) figures.
They tell me that there were 1075 individual and class licences issued for bird control between April 2018 and March 2019; and of those 1075, returns were received for 1000.
Outcome of 1 in 15 licences is unknown.....
The results are perhaps better than I feared, comparatively speaking, but they still present a question mark over how many wild birds are ultimately being killed (or having their eggs destroyed).
Each licence holder is obliged, under the terms of their licence, to submit a return detailing action taken, yet Natural England admits that no returns were received for nearly 7% of all licences issued that year, that's around 1 in 15....
While it is certainly encouraging to know that most licence holders are fulfilling their obligations, the 7% who didn't means that a large number of birds may have been 'controlled' under licences that have an entirely unknown outcome.
Nobody knows, least of all Natural England, just how many birds might have been killed under these 75 licences because the returns were never received. Only the licence holders know what methods were used and how successful or otherwise the action was. With precious little penalty (if any) for failing to submit a return, the system is wide open to misuse and does not discourage those who might be acting irresponsibly or even illegally.
Natural England are always keen to trumpet their much flaunted 'five point system' which applicants have to satisfy before obtaining a licence, in theory to establish that the applicant has a compelling need to control wild birds.
But the truth is that, notwithstanding this process, huge numbers of licences are still issued and a small but significant proportion of licence holders fail to submit returns.
Unmonitored system of lethal control
I acknowledge that the management of wildlife is a complex and controversial question but it is essential that any lethal control of wildlife is fully monitored - it should be a basic requirement of what is supposed to be a 'last resort' solution to any perceived wildlife problem.
What we have is a largely unmonitored, officially sanctioned, culling of wild birds and animals. This broken system may be due to lack of resources and/or lack of funding but it remains in need of an overhaul and a rethink.
"It's time to entrust the protection of nature to those who actually care about the natural world... and not a government agency that is overseeing a broken wildlife licensing system, the slaughter of birds and badgers and the destruction of ancient woodland..."
I think Natural England has proved time and again that it does not exist to "help to protect and restore our natural world" - as it boldly claims on its website. By it's actions we can assume that it exists to oversee wholesale destruction of the natural world it purports to 'protect and restore'.
It's time to hand over the task of protecting our wildlife and environment to those who really do love and cherish our natural world.
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