Freedom Of Information Request Prompts Natural England Response....
Just to let you know that the complete bird control licence data is due for publication on 10th March.
Natural England finally contacted me about it earlier this week, but only after I submitted a freedom of information request to obtain the figures.
Unfortunately prior to that they had been completely ignoring my enquiries.
The same thing happened last year, with the proposed publication date being moved from March to June, all a bit of a farce which even saw 10 Downing Street involved at one point.
For an organisation that appears desperate to tell us that they have 'nothing to hide', they nevertheless seem somewhat reluctant to let us see the licensing statistics without a bit of a fight.
Anyway, I am told that the results of my freedom of information request will be available next month, together with simultaneous publication on the Government's website.
The Head of Natural England's Wildlife Licensing Service told me that my request has been "discussed" and said "we’ve got everything in place to provide the stats in our FOI response by 10th March."
He also added "concurrently, we will prepare the information for its publication on our gov.uk webpage," and pointed out that "the statistics should be in the same format as what you have received before, so hopefully this will allow you to easily analyse and compare data with previous years".
So it's good news - but I have to say that Natural England should be publishing the data without pressure from me each year to get it released.
During discussions I had with them in 2019, they promised to do this as a matter of course going forward, but each year since it seems they have needed a reminder and some persuasion.
As soon as the figures are available I will let you know, then begins the work of sifting through the data and seeing what is there.....
I was hoping to have some news for you, as to when Natural England plan to publish the annual declaration of bird control licences (it's due next month).
I've also asked for more on the 'teaser' I was given before Christmas by Natural England's director for wildlife licensing, David Slater, about the controversial licences that enable eggs of Black-headed gulls to be collected from nesting colonies for the 'fine dining' trade. Mr Slater told me there would be "something public on this in the new year," which suggested to me that changes might be in the pipeline.
Wall of Silence
I've been politely asking for a conversation about both of these matters for the past two weeks and I'm afraid I've been met with a wall of silence.
It's not entirely surprising - I have a battle every year to get the licence data released - but it is irritating and, frankly, just really bad manners to ignore my requests.
I have worked hard to establish useful dialogue with Natural England and through this have managed to successfully bring about changes in the way they operate the licensing system. I think this is mutually beneficial - and moreover has strengthened protection for our wild birds. I believe that the achievements of our campaign (so far) have saved the lives of countless birds.
So it's hugely disappointing when Natural England go quiet on me like this.
"We have nothing to hide"
If Natural England are proud of the work they do (and they do blow their own trumpet frequently), then we might expect that they would freely share the data with us. Indeed three years ago I was promised that they would happily declare the complete licence information every year going forward. "We have nothing to hide" they kept telling me.
Yes, well..... every year since then I have had to 'persuade' them to release the data. And it looks like this year may be no exception.
So, to the 390,253+ amazing people who support and follow our campaign, please be assured I will not give up.
I'll keep putting pressure on Natural England, in the knowledge that I have your support.
In addition I will be looking closely at some of their plans for 2022, including the rolling out of their new 'organisational licences' which could potentially make it easier for local councils to control gulls.
We're not going to go away, so it might just be better for them to communicate more efficiently and show some respect.
As soon as I have an update I'll let you know.
Please keep sharing the petition: HERE
“….Under cover of a deliberately contrived illusion of caring support, what was really happening was manipulation and the removal of free thought…..”
I’m looking around me through eyes that can’t quite comprehend the world I’m living in, a world that I love with all my heart but which has changed beyond recognition, due to a pandemic, or rather the handling of a pandemic.
Countries across the world, especially the western world, are in disarray as one by one their governments appear to have forgotten that they exist for the benefit of the people - and not the other way around.
We find ourselves suffering the effects of governmental crisis management that has caused division and despair.
As cases of the virus rise and fall, along with regular scare stories of ‘worrying variants’, some of society is waking up to an unsettling new era, and sensing that something is not right.
And, as the mist clears, we begin to wonder whether it is the virus itself that has been the trigger for this disquiet, or whether it is something more engineered and possibly even sinister.
A fear driven narrative from those in power all over the world has caused distress and panic. The apparent sudden onset of the pandemic took the public by surprise, so instinctively we erred on the side of caution and followed official advice, observing lockdowns, restrictions and regulations. But some people realised that things were skewed.
Social Isolation and Suffering
When covid hit, what we really needed was care, compassion and understanding towards an anxious population. What we got was judgement from officials and rules that quickly brought division and separation. Harsh measures that stopped loved ones from meeting and banned kindness and comfort between family members and friends.
This, I believe, was deliberate and cruel, causing social isolation and suffering.
In fact it is clear that compassion and understanding have never been a part of most countries’ pandemic management plan, which seems to have focused on causing fear and removing personal liberty, followed by inducements, incentives and bribes in order to regain our freedoms.
They took away our rights to choose what is best for ourselves as independent, thinking human beings.
The government does not know me better than I know myself.
I make my own choices, a government will not decide for me.
Many years ago I had the rare opportunity to study a cult, from within its carefully constructed, self contained bubble. It was one of those ‘classic’ cults that you read about, a group of people who seem friendly and supportive but in fact are either the perpetrators of control, or their victims. It was frightening to witness the cruel coerced management of vulnerable people.
I have since seen the same dark forces at play on a grand scale, during the pandemic. By government.
The cult was in fact a terrifying regime that masqueraded as benevolent. Under cover of a deliberately contrived illusion of caring support, what was really happening was manipulation and the removal of free thought.
There are parallels to what we see today with governments’ handling of the pandemic across many countries.
In the cult we were told that in order to find a ‘better way’ we had to comply. We could ask questions but only those deemed acceptable. In order to achieve ‘salvation’ (insert here ‘freedom’) we were told to follow the teaching (insert ‘science’ and ‘rules’). No other way would be tolerated.
And I watched. And the scariest part of all was that most people complied without question.
Independent thought was frowned upon and quickly dismissed, it was seen as a threat. There was a sense among the members that by following the rules they were safe from some unseen peril in the outside world.
But it was all false. The only beneficiaries of the cult were those running the show, they became ever more controlling and powerful.
I could see it, the others could not; too afraid, or too heavily invested, to challenge the narrative.
This definition of cult behaviour from Wikipedia sums it up concisely:-
“Specific factors in cult behaviour are said to include manipulative and authoritarian mind control over members, communal and totalistic organization, aggressive proselytizing, systematic programs of indoctrination, and perpetuation in middle-class communities.”
In any emergency a good government would build trust. However, the faux positive messaging throughout this pandemic has been ‘we are all in this together’, but this is not the case, nor was it ever intended to be. They wanted us to believe that they cared. Initially, it may not even have been a deliberate deception, but once those with power saw that people could be managed, through fear, to behave collectively in a certain way, they took liberties, quite literally. They used techniques of manipulation, the same ones I saw in the cult, and they used them to cause doubt, fear and uncertainty on a huge scale. In fact they caused dis-ease. Then people complied. It was something like mass hysteria or hypnosis.
Segregation and Vaccine Passes
As I write, nearly two years into the pandemic, ever more limitations are being imposed on citizens in countries across the world, including the abhorrent segregation of people based on their medical status. To even discuss whether those around us are vaccinated or unvaccinated is both unscientific and discriminatory. Moreover, to consciously and willingly segregate society in this way, through ‘vaccine passes’ is revolting and entirely unethical. We know this well, and yet many are under the influence of official messaging, and are wilfully supporting this discrimination, thinking that they are somehow doing the right thing ‘for the greater good’ (I hate that phrase, the mantra of the gullible). Without seeming to realise it, they are denying their fellow citizens freedom of choice and demanding that others ‘fit in’. They are doing what governments are afraid of doing themselves, and it’s a prejudice that has no logic.
Think about it. Your society is not your biggest threat now, any more than it was before the pandemic. The only thing that has changed is perception, and this shift has been driven by fear, a fear that has been deliberately manufactured by those in positions of power to breed uncertainty and divide society.
Meanwhile those that speak against the official line and question vaccine effectiveness, and/or their long term side effects, are being censored or even removed from their positions. Their opinions are silenced. They are labelled in the media and by officials (and therefore also by the mesmerised public) as ‘anti-vaxxers’ or ‘conspiracy theorists’. These include eminent doctors, scientists, medical specialists and educators. Highly respected prior to the pandemic, they are now branded fools. And this is very disturbing.
Health workers, the very same ones we were all told to applaud last year as stalwarts of our communities, are losing their jobs simply because they don’t want to be forced into accepting a vaccine. They cite safety concerns, and not entirely without reason. We know that there is a risk associated with the vaccines. It may be a minimal risk but it is nevertheless a legitimate concern. Yet health workers, and others, in countries around the world are being sacked in their tens of thousands if they choose not to have the jab. Let me ask you, could you live comfortably with yourself if you coerced an unwilling human being into taking a medicine that subsequently caused them harm, distress, or worse? To remove choice over bodily autonomy in this way is to deny a fundamental human right. Yet this policy is being actively pursued by many governments. Why?
We need to remind ourselves that governments do not necessarily have our best interests at heart.
Covid is a vile disease that has caused misery and death for so many, and I am in no way diminishing or questioning its impact. However, if governments have used the cover of a worldwide pandemic to cause fear and to enable and facilitate control over their citizens then that is truly abhorrent.
We need to stop living in fear, it is destructive and unhelpful. People really have to think; ask themselves questions and do some research. The truth will out. And there can be only one truth, the rest is interpretation.
We find ourselves a divided society at a time when we need to be together. Now is the time to be repairing relationships and putting our lives, and the lives of others, back together again.
Many are struggling, so it is time to be kind - with no strings attached. No conditions.
The illusion that we are being looked after by our governments might now be unravelling.
We have complied and followed the rules for so long and yet we continue to lose our freedoms and choices, which are now dependent on ‘booster’ jabs, a third, a fourth…. We are told we must comply or face even more restrictions.
Trust in our ‘leaders’ is diminishing as people begin to question (finally) where this will end. We find that our politicians are not the champions we needed them to be, as memories of the free society we enjoyed prior to the pandemic fade into the past. We now have the power to initiate change for good. We may only have a small window of opportunity. And many people are still vulnerable.
Look around, our world is fragile and people are scared. It’s time to be kind, respectful and compassionate.
And most of all, to stand together. No discrimination, no judgement, no segregation. We cannot rely on our governments to uphold what is moral and ethical, we cannot rely on them to defend our individual rights.
When we are standing upright once again, it will be time to hold the perpetrators of fear and division to account.
Then those charlatans who thought themselves invincible and all powerful will fall.
Just for the record….. these are my personal observations and opinions, I may be wrong, often, but hey isn’t that what freedom of speech is all about?
I strive to be a critically-thinking human being, and so these views are always subject to change at any time.
I am not aligned, or beholden to, any political party or movement.
I’m not an ‘anti-vaxxer’, nor a ‘covidenier’, nor a ‘conspiracy theorist’, so please don’t call me one.
And I try to be kind, because that is all that really matters in life.
"I share your ambition to reduce these red listed licence numbers further"
David Slater, Director for Wildlife Licensing and Enforcement Cases, Natural England, November 2021
You may remember last month I called on Natural England to stop issuing all lethal control licences for red listed species, including Lapwing, Curlew and Herring Gull.
Due to public pressure largely driven by our campaign, there had already been a significant reduction in the number of licences issued in the past year or two. But still red listed species of serious conservation concern were appearing on Natural England's annual declaration of data.
(this declaration itself is also a major success of our campaign - previously the data had been hidden).
A Shared Ambition...
After sharing my concerns with them, Natural England have been keen to explain the remaining red list licences. This week they supplied me with concise data of the licences, which I am reproducing below with their permission.
Natural England's Director for Wildlife Licensing & Enforcement Cases, David Slater, told me that "with the exception of herring gull, all the licences were issued for air safety".
(Note: just to clarify this, you can see in the data that there are in fact a small number of licences for Starling and House Sparrow that were not issued for air safety).
As I've said before, the matter of air safety remains a highly contentious and difficult issue. The actual number of licences issued is relatively low, though still significant. My response is to ask why most airports seem to be able to manage birds within their parameters without resorting to lethal control methods, while a small handful are still killing endangered birds and destroying their eggs.
Nevertheless, in the light of recent reductions in the number of licences issued, I suggested to Natural England that it shouldn't be too difficult, with some 'out of the box' thinking and determination, to achieve zero lethal control for these species.
And they seem to agree.
Mr Slater told me today that "I share your ambition to reduce these red listed licence numbers further."
So that's good.
The Curlew Egg Project - Real Progress or Symbolic Gesture?
Speaking of air safety, Natural England have been super keen to show me their video illustrating a project they initiated to relocate some Curlew eggs. The eggs were collected and hatched away from the airfield and the chicks successfully raised and released into a safer environment.
It is an impressive film production, complete with lilting soundtrack and starring Natural England's very own Tony Juniper and even Prince Charles.
But, much as this project seems to have been a success, my immediate response was to ask whether this was just a small symbolic gesture or whether the scheme would be rolled out to more areas, saving Curlew that are otherwise still being killed, and whether other birds could also be treated to similar conservation efforts, the Lapwing for example.
Natural England told me "Yes we want to expand....that is a very live conversation at the moment."
Any expansion of the programme might depend on finding suitable places to release where the birds will flourish. Safe Curlew habitat is scarce, another legacy of our over industrialised countryside.
Disappointingly, Natural England added that there is 'less certainty' about establishing any similar project to save Lapwing, also a red listed species in decline, and one for which Natural England is still issuing lethal control permissions.
Progress is slow. Whether there is time to have all necessary 'live conversations' while populations are in freefall, is the real question. A race against time.
But it's a positive start and I remain hopeful that further progress will be made - and that the number of lethal control licences issued will continue to fall.
With regard to Herring Gulls, the picture is less clear. Though there has been a recent reduction in licences issued to control them, still the numbers are in my opinion far too high.
Natural England told me "As you can imagine we get a lot of interest from local authorities to control large gull species in towns where they are perceived as a pest or a nuisance. We issue very few licences for lethal control".
But it still meant that since 2020, Natural England approved the killing of 309 Herring Gulls and the destruction of more than 5,000 Herring Gull eggs.
Natural England told me today that "We are currently reviewing the evidence to set those thresholds for next year."
Let's hope that the review will see a sharp reduction in the number of licences issued, bearing in mind that the Herring Gull population in the UK has been in rapid decline for many years.
Egg Collection For The Restaurant Trade
Interesting to note that I also asked about the licences that Natural England issues each year to collect the eggs of (amber listed) Black-headed gulls for the 'fine dining' industry - it's clearly an unethical and outdated practice in the 21st century. The collection of these eggs, in large numbers, is based on 'bequeathed rights' which no doubt makes it slightly more complex.
But there may be some interesting changes on the horizon.
Mr Slater told me on this matter that he recently met with stakeholders to look at licences for next year and added "There will be something public on this in the new year."
So watch this space....
In spite of small steps, we are making progress and I feel confident that our voices are being heard and that Natural England is now sharing at least some of our goals.
Let's keep up the pressure.
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.
"Sitting in offices up and down the country, they issue licences to kill wildlife at the whim of a government that, as we all know, is made up of some nauseating individuals who care little for people and even less for nature"
Since I started my campaign to challenge the government-sanctioned mass destruction of our wild birds, it has gained much publicity - which in itself is a success.
Bringing this atrocity to wider attention has certainly been essential in raising public awareness and has also shown the government that it can no longer hide its dodgy attitude towards the environment. Many of us can see right through the hypocrisy and soundbites. And Natural England is complicit, acting on government orders by ticking boxes and issuing licences to cull wildlife in huge numbers. If anyone has any doubts as to this, just take a look at the ongoing slaughter of badgers and the devastation caused by HS2.
387,000 Signatures... so far
But back to the birds, I've been humbled by the huge amount of truly incredible support from the public, with 387,000 amazing people signing the petition.
From a standing start, we have together accomplished much.
In the beginning, Natural England and the government ignored us, refused to answer my questions, declined to engage with me.
There might have been times when I would have agreed with those cynics who questioned what I was doing.
I would receive messages like "we've already tried, you're wasting your time", and "they are too powerful, they won't listen". But I received far more messages of encouragement.
And Natural England's systematic enabling of mass bird culls was something I felt strongly about, and still do of course. I have never been one to sit back and keep silent when I see something very wrong happening in front of me. Many times a phrase resonated in my conscience, 'silence is consent'. I did not consent to the destruction of wildlife - and I would not be silent.
Public Anger - and Politicians' Silence
I took no heed of the naysayers, and bolstered by the many encouraging messages that outnumbered the critics, I started questioning those in high office.
The silence was deafening... so I took the campaign to the press. I managed to get substantial coverage in many of the big nationals, which garnered a huge increase in support for the petition.
With headlines in the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Mail and more, public anger grew - and suddenly Natural England wanted to talk with me.
No doubt they saw it as an opportunity to 'explain' their work, limit damage to their reputation, hoping that the whole saga would draw to a close.
That is how naïve they really are.
Sitting in offices up and down the country, they issue licences to kill wildlife at the whim of a government that, as we all know, is made up of some nauseating individuals who care little for people and even less for nature - in spite of all the soundbites and virtue signals that spew out from the various departments trying desperately to control every part of our lives.
But, no doubt to the consternation of Natural England and the government , this saga was far from over, the 'explanations' emanating from Natural England were usually incredibly patronising - and often made little sense.
I submitted a few freedom of information requests that clearly revealed that the whole system was flawed.
I put pressure on Natural England to publish the licence data freely for the public to see.
This was the first win for our campaign, I eventually secured a promise from them that they would publish the data fully each year so that we could examine the figures and see what this dubious government-sponsored organisation was doing with its time and funding.
Natural England's initial reluctance to let us see the statistics clearly showed that they had something they really didn't want to share.
Another win for our campaign has been a reduction in the number of licences issued, notably for gulls, some species of which were suffering severe decline through licensed culling. Though Natural England's approach to scaling back these licences was typically illogical and haphazard, there is hope that gull populations will recover as long as licence numbers are reduced further.
And although Natural England has an unnecessarily complicated system of reporting figures, it would appear that other species too may have benefitted from our campaign, Starlings, Coots and Moorhens for example - but only after I pointed out to Natural England the ludicrous grounds on which they had decided to approve kill licences for these species.
Natural England should have taken a lesson from all this bad publicity and concern, but the whole licensing system remains bogged down by inefficiency and dodgy decision making, and the number of birds affected by these lethal licences remains far too high.
Empty Gesturing from Government
The welfare of nature seems very low on the government's agenda, in spite of the gesturing and promises.
And still each year I've had to fight to get the data released.
I've had to trawl through the data and look for anomalies and then submit freedom of information requests to get answers.
And it remains galling when I have to read self important press releases and media posts from Natural England about the 'wonderful' work they are doing to 'help' and 'manage' nature, when we all now know that they are at the same time issuing thousands of licences to facilitate the mass slaughter of birds and other wildlife across the country.
Decisions Going Forward
So, to my decision. I will continue to fight for the survival of our birds, wildlife and nature. Of course I will, always. But this campaign has at times been battering and tiring.
I need your help even more going forward.
Your support has been inspirational. Now I need people to take up the baton (there are lots of them available!) and start going through the data themselves.
I need people to ask questions, bombard the government and Natural England with questions. Wear them down. Make them change. It can be done - and indeed I know so many people up and down the country are already fighting the good fight for nature.
Education and Awareness
For now it is still possible to submit freedom of information requests, though there are rumours that the system may change - but it's important to ask the right questions (I'll happily provide guidance on this, just ask).
Write to the papers, tell your friends, increase awareness.
Educate your children and instil in them a fascination with nature, don't rely on the schools to teach them about wonder and magic.
I'll continue to ensure that Natural England release the data annually, and I'll continue to highlight anomalies as I see them.
Question Everything and Fight for Good
My one big message to all of you - and this applies to all of life with a capital 'L' - and in all matters and all situations - question everything. Don't believe what they tell you. Use your instinct and your intuition. If something feels wrong then it probably is.
And fight for good.
With good on your side you will always win.
And that is why, in spite of being sometimes weary, I will ensure that the campaign will go on - just please walk with me, delighting in nature as we go, fighting for its survival, sharing knowledge with the next generation and most importantly of all - questioning everything that those in power tell you.
Please keep sharing the petition: HERE
"It's perhaps our last chance to change the way we perceive, interact and coexist with, our wild birds. We might be the last generation to have that privilege."
After a long wait, Natural England has finally released the bird control licensing figures.
I'm afraid the data is depressing with very many species still suffering at the hands of this controversial organisation.
Let's not forget too that they were NOT going to release the detailed data until I pressed them to do so.
Back in April, Natural England sent me a copy of what they intended to publish. It was a stripped down summary excluding all the relevant detail.
After I told them that it wasn't nearly enough, they delayed publication.
I submitted a freedom of information request, they took the matter to Downing Street - and only now do we have the data.
Quite a journey just to get some statistics.....
So, on to my initial thoughts.
Cormorants targeted yet again
A quick glance at the statistics suggests that among the species targeted in huge numbers are once again Cormorants with no less than 371 licences issued in a little over a year. Natural England has already encouraged the persecution of the Cormorant over several years in order to protect inland fisheries. It is my belief that no species can survive such sustained persecution.
'Fine dining' threatens Black-headed gulls
There are many species that may be experiencing significant population decline due directly to Natural England's licensing system. Though many of the 2020 licences permit action against a small number of birds (suggesting more careful decision making), others still appear to offer a somewhat reckless approach to issuing licences. This includes some amber and red listed species.
Black Headed Gulls, for example, besides being under threat from culling due to concerns over air safety, are even more heavily targeted for their eggs, considered a delicacy by the elite.
This trade in gull eggs is fuelled by 'fine dining' establishments and it's a highly dubious industry, impacting heavily on the species in order to satisfy the appetites of high society.
Is this really appropriate in a civilised country that claims to care about the natural world?
Natural England clearly thinks so, as it approved the removal and sale of several thousand eggs last year alone - and this during a pandemic.
Large scale extermination of geese
Various species of geese appear on the list in large numbers, running into the thousands, these including Greylag Geese, with licences for both their large scale extermination and egg destruction.
The destruction of Mute Swan eggs also continues to be approved by Natural England, for example they issued a licence to 'take or destroy' up to 300 eggs to 'conserve flora or fauna' in Wiltshire.
The problem of 'air safety'
Many other rare and declining species continue to appear on Natural England's now notorious list.
Oystercatcher and Curlew are still there, being lethally controlled to preserve air safety, as are red kites and kestrels.
The numbers are thankfully comparatively small, though this actually begs another question - why do a handful of airports find the birds a threat while most others seem to be able to cope - without resorting to killing them?
Red listed species
Air safety is also given as the reason for issuing licences to lethally control Herring Gulls, Rooks, Starlings, Mallards, Lapwing, Great black-backed gull and many many more.
All in all, though some of the figures are slightly better than in previous years, I remain appalled at the fact that so many birds are being legally killed and controlled by the state.
Natural England is at pains to point out to us the value of the work that it carries out and that the number associated with each of their licences represents the maximum allowed under those licences, but nevertheless they have enabled licence holders to destroy that maximum number, so really that is the only number that counts.
Without details of the actual numbers killed, we have no other figures to judge.
Indeed, Natural England says that it can't publish the actual return figures "due to the complexity of return information" though they insist that "for all bird licences, annual returns show that the actual numbers affected are significantly less than the numbers covered on the licences."
This part of the system remains a little murky to say the least. Natural England has to rely on the honesty and accuracy of licence holders to report their actions - and we can't see these figures anyway "due to the complexity of return information" - whatever that means.
If we have any doubt that our concerns are justified, we must remind ourselves that Natural England has also been an accomplice in the mass slaughter of England's badger population and in facilitating HS2 in their destruction of wildlife and habitat.
To say that our birds remain under threat from the organisation that claims to 'protect England's nature', is an understatement and I'm afraid that we desperately need a complete rethink before we lose entire species from this country as a direct result of a flawed, clumsy and irresponsible licensing system.
We should I suppose acknowledge that Natural England did (eventually) publish the data, allowing us an opportunity to explore the figures. This at least contributes to the transparency promised by the organisation moving forward.
But we now have a responsibility to really examine the data and ask questions, flag concerns and collectively work towards reducing the number of licences issued.
Every bird saved has the potential to re-build populations of many species that have drastically declined in recent years.
Where are the RSPB?
Where indeed.... time and again people ask me what the RSPB has been doing in regard to questioning the licences. It would appear to be very little.
I've worked hard to secure public access to this data while the RSPB stood back with apparent ambivalence.
It should also be noted that the detailed licence data relating to all other animals (aside from birds) is still hidden from the public, with only basic statistics published. This is something that needs to be addressed by those organisations interested in the welfare and protection of other species. Or do they, like the RSPB, expect someone else to do that job for them?
Examining the detail
I'll be taking a more in depth look at the licences over the coming days and weeks. I would urge you all to do the same (see links at end of post). It will be very depressing reading I'm afraid.
Meanwhile, I've captured some screenshots in the video below showing the range of species affected by Natural England's kill licences. Note that these are a small sample of the lethal control licences, and that there were also large numbers of licences issued to destroy the nests and eggs of various species.
The only way out of this spiral of species destruction will be a complete overhaul and reassessment of the system and the ethics behind the decision making.
It's perhaps our last chance to change the way we perceive, interact and coexist with, our wild birds. We might be the last generation to have that privilege.
Link to our petition: HERE
Links to the data: HERE
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Number Ten approves release of Natural England's Licence Data
Well, I know we've had a few false starts over all this, but I think I finally have some good news.
I've just heard from Natural England that the wildlife licensing data for 2020, (including of course wild bird control licences), will be published by the end of this month.
Natural England's Head of National Operational Projects and Complex Cases, David Slater, contacted me today and told me that "It has all been ready for a while but we have had to wait for number ten approval."
(Yes folks, this has been right to the very top - I told you we were making an impact...)
He said "I feel like I keep promising you this – but I am told it will be published by the end of this month."
The fact that we have Number Ten approval for the release of the data is significant news, though as always we must wait and see the actual statistics. We need the full data, that's what this campaign is all about. Only through examining the complete data can we assess the licensing process and its impact on our wildlife.
So, anyway I wanted to update you all, thanks as always for your continued and unflinching support, it really does encourage and inspire me.
I'll let you know when I have a further update.
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