Wild Justice lodges court papers for judicial review of 2020 gamebird releases

Wild Justice has lodged court papers seeking a judicial review of pheasant and red-legged partridge releases in 2020.

[Seven week old pheasant chicks, often known as poults, in a release pen on an English shooting estate]

The three co-founders of Wild Justice said:

Chris Packham CBE:DEFRA has been dragging its feet on this issue since we first raised it. It is time to sort this out and Wild Justice is fully prepared for a court battle on behalf of UK wildlife.  Our challenge relates to Natura 2000 sites in England but the impacts will be felt right across the UK countryside“.

Dr Ruth Tingay:The lack of monitoring and regulation of gamebird releases is staggering. The Government doesn’t seem to know or care how many are released each year and even the figure of 60 million gamebirds may well be an underestimate.  Incredibly, there is nothing to stop the shooting industry releasing twice as many gamebirds next year. This has to stop and proper regulation brought in“.

Dr Mark Avery:These non-native gamebirds go around gobbling up insects,  other invertebrates and even snakes and lizards, they peck at vegetation, their droppings fertilise sensitive habitats which no farmer would be allowed to fertilise and they provide prey and carrion that swell the populations of predators that then go on to prey on other threatened species. And the biomass of Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges exceeds that of all native UK birds put together. This is a very serious ecological assault on the countryside which government is failing to assess and regulate“.

Wild Justice is represented by Tessa Gregory and Carol Day, solicitors at Leigh Day.

Carol Day:Wild Justice quite rightly held off issuing legal proceedings last year on the basis that the Government said it would review arrangements to consider the impact of the gamebirds’ release in future. It is now clear that the review has only just started and that no action will be taken that could affect the shooting season in 2020.

If Wild Justice waited until September to challenge the legality of the gamebird releases it would be too late. The Pheasants and Partridges would have left their breeding pens, and the damage could then be done. And so – responsibly and properly – the Claimant is acting now, at a time when it is still possible to head off the alleged illegality“.

To read the full press release please visit the Wild Justice blog here


20 thoughts on “Wild Justice lodges court papers for judicial review of 2020 gamebird releases”

  1. Les Etheridge,

    Would I be allowed to rear hundreds of thousands of pigeons and release them into the wild or perhaps city centres?

    1. It is not illegal to release pigeons in the UK, according to the Schedules of the W&CA 1991 and current EU legislation, so I suspect the answer is yes.

      (Aside. In general, in English law everything is legal which has has not been explicitly banned. The opposite is sometimes considered true in Europe.)

  2. Best of luck and thanks! Re Mark’s comments on pheasants gobbling up native wildlife yesterday on Grampian Moorland Group’s fb page saw a video posted by one of their keepers of a pheasant attacking an adder. The bird strode off after a while, the snake was probably just a bit too big for it to kill and eat, but the attack didn’t do the adder any favours at all. Reptile populations must be getting absolutely decimated by pheasants. Couldn’t find the video today, but sometimes they (unthinkingly?) provide evidence against their own occupation. I remember a certain ex keeper who posted a video of a pheasant fighting with a lapwing. But I bet there’s lots more they see that they don’t ‘share’.

    1. Some 25 years ago ( when there were fewer Pheasants released) one grouse head keeper I knew used to instruct his three under keepers in spring to shoot every Pheasant they saw on the moor as they were terrible egg eaters of ground nesting birds. That keeper, a friend, is long dead and I have no idea if that is still the case on that or any other estate. If it was a problem then with millions more pheasants released now but not apparently a great deal more shot it is a problem that can only have got bigger. It seems utterly scandalous that we have little real idea of the impact all these Pheasant and RL Partridges have on our native wildlife, until we do they should not be any releases may be not ever.

      1. A couple of years ago now a wildlife artist posted that he’d actually seen a pheasant eat a lapwing chick in spite of ten adult ones mobbing it. I often think what the repercussions would be if someone happened to catch an incident like that on video. It would be an enormous embarrassment for BASC, GW’C’T, etc. It can only be a matter of time before this type of behaviour gets filmed by someone who’ll make it public. What would direct observation and research on what pheasants are doing in the ‘wild’ dig up? Gamekeepers must be like Nelson only manage to see certain things. Funny how unlike Irish gamekeepers who were among the first to notice red squirrels increased when pine marten showed up, Scottish Gamekeepers didn’t, but yet I’ve had three personal communications with people in Scotland who’ve noticed it too.

          1. And your point is…? Curlew is (obviously) a native species, and if your statement is correct, them eating grouse or any other chicks must be perfectly natural. I would also conclude that native so-called ‘pest’ species, such as foxes and Carrion Crows, should be fully protected under law. Their alleged ‘damage’ is in the mind of the beholder anyway. As for non-native imaginary pests like Grey Squirrels, unbiased research has shown them not to significantly impact on songbird populations, and not damage forestry to the extent claimed by some forestry interests. They may oust Red Squirrels (themselves a non-native subspecies), but what actually is happening is that the two species are redistributing to their most suitable sub-habitat woodlands. Reds are already absent in woodlands favoured by Greys. So why should we be attempting, at significant expense to the public purse, to eliminate Grey Squirrels? We should welcome and appreciate them, the so-called “invaders” of public parks and gardens. There are far more ecological issues worthy of financial and public support. The Grey-haters are delusional, in that they don’t seem to understand the comparative ecology of the two species.

            1. I’ve seen squirrel damage to smooth-barked trees like sycamore. The animal sits on an upper side branch and chews off the bark from the trunk and the top of the branch. This will then allow fungi and bacteria into the exposed wood to cause decay. The problem may not be visible from ground level. A risk develops of the branch then falling onto someone’s head.

              1. sog, I’ll say no more than to point out that I spent a day in my study woodland with a Head Forester, who had made similar claims to yourself. In that day, he managed to show me two bark-stripped trees out of several hundred trees that we had inspected. The strips were approximately 6 inches by 1 inch, and only one in each tree. They were both birches, and we did check many sycamores but could find no squirrel damage. I can’t help but feel that you may have exaggerated your witness statement regarding tree damage. The point about branches falling on someone’s head is just too ridiculous to merit a response! Yet another attempt to demonise the “invasive non-native.” It’s comments like yours that encourage under-graduates to take this matter seriously, then draw conclusions based on hearsay to write their thesis.

            2. “And your point is…? ”

              I thought it was a statement of fact.

              “… Red Squirrels (themselves a non-native subspecies)”

              Piffle. You appear to have no understanding of the scientific definition of ‘native’. The rest of your comments therefore fall.

              No one wins ecology arguments by falsifying scientific facts: that remains the realm of the shooters and ideologues.

              1. Keith, you have completely grasped the wrong end of my comment regarding how you interpreted “And your point is….”. Please think again. As for Red Squirrels being a non-native subspecies, which you insultingly referred to as “piffle,” I can only suggest you read a wider range of scientific literature. Anti-Grey advocates like to keep that fact quiet. However, our native Red Squirrels were virtually wiped out throughout Scotland, England and Wales over a century ago, when it was considered by country folk and householders to be a “pest species”, just like so many now think of Grey Squirrels. In those days that was taken seriously enough to merit substantial payments per Red Squirrel tail! The vast majority of Red Squirrels currently in the UK are derived from a gene pool through the import of Reds from continental Europe. How odd for you to accuse me of not understanding the meaning of ‘native.’ That is some insult! For your information I have been a conservationist and scholar of nature since my younger days. I later spent most of my working life as a Principal Ecologist with a Local Authority, in charge of a team of Ecologists and Biodiversity Officers. I wouldn’t brag about my expertise in the field, but can assure you I am totally familiar with the concept of “native” species (or subspecies), and have been since early school days followed by university. Your implication that I falsified scientific facts is verging on libellous. As I said, search the literature and you’ll realise your own errors.

  3. What worries me is when the new agricultural subsidy kicks in. It looks increasingly like a process where marginal land will be reclaimed and partly supported by subsidy in order to return it to it’s natural order. This might well make some smaller farms financially inviable forcing them to sell to larger concerns.
    The danger then emerges that these areas will now be used for shooting game birds, thus increasing the numbers introduced while concentrating the damage they do to the ecology and all the other ills they bring in their wake. This must be guarded against.

    1. The release of pheasants into the countryside causes far, far more ecological damage then Grey Squirrels, which have settled into a vacant ecological niche. The reputation afforded to the Grey Squirrel is false, but often picked up by Universities as true, because most of those who choose to take up research seem to base their projects upon unreliable baseline headlines, thus (and it pains me to speculate), basing their studies on information from the sensationalist fake targets of the gutter press, often passing to other scientific researchers. Just think of the serious research that could be afforded if the alleged Grey Squirrel ‘problem’ could be left alone, and funds diverted to far more ecological issues which need serious attention.

      1. I notice that this thread has become increasingly anti-science, with referenced refutations being redacted by the owner.

        1. Keith, If you’re referring to me at all, I can assure you that I am definitely not anti-science. If anything I’d go as far as to say that I’d like to see poor science given more in the way of objective scrutiny, being honest about the degree of dubious science that can be found in many a flawed hypothesis. Grey Squirrel condemnation is a perfect example, based on exaggeration of questionable references and subjective ideology. Some of it should be consigned to the fiction category in libraries.

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