DEFRA’s gamebird consultation – here’s how to have your say

DEFRA is currently running a consultation about the harmful impacts of releasing gamebirds (pheasants and partridges) for recreational shooting on and near to protected sites of nature conservation value.

DEFRA is running this consultation as part of a review it committed to take after Wild Justice took it to court last year (a legal challenge to which many of you contributed and supported, thank you).

The exact number of gamebirds that are released in the UK for shooting every year is not known because, incredibly and unlike virtually every other European country, the game bird shooting industry in the UK is under-regulated. Nobody even knows how many game bird shoots there are because the people involved do not have to register anywhere, nor report on the number of birds released / shot each year. It’s been a great old wheeze for decades.

[This photograph of non-native pheasants released for shooting was posted on social media by a gamekeeper in Scotland]

The most recent figures, still considered to be a conservative estimate, were for the year 2018 and included 49.5million pheasants and 11.7 million red-legged partridges, making a total of 61.2 million non-native gamebirds released into our countryside. These figures emerged as a result of Wild Justice’s recent successful legal challenge on gamebird releases (see Mark Avery’s blog here for more details).

DEFRA’s consultation closes on Monday (15th March 2021) so if you want to have your say, you only have this weekend to do it.

For those who would like advice and guidance about how to respond to the consultation questions, please visit the Wild Justice blog here, where you’ll find an easy step-by-step guide.

It’s important that as many people as possible respond to this consultation so that DEFRA understands this is an issue of concern. If the majority of responses that DEFRA receives are responses from the game-shooting industry, demanding the status quo and zero changes, then that’s what DEFRA will do.

Responding to the consultation is not as daunting as you might think. Hundreds of supporters have already done it and have told Wild Justice how straightforward it was (e.g. read some of their comments here, here and here).

Here’s the link again on how to respond if you’d like to participate – click here

Thank you.

25 thoughts on “DEFRA’s gamebird consultation – here’s how to have your say”

  1. Done, not too onerous and the text from WJ was useful. Exclusion should be extended to all SSSIs as many have features that are just as vulnerable to harmful impacts from high stocking densities of gamebirds.

    In England NE continues to issue assent for release pens and high numbers of feeders on many SSSIs which often increases pheasant density by attracting birds from a wider area than the ‘protected’ site. In addition to the direct impacts there’s obviously the lead contamination that follows once they start killing them. Madness.

  2. Hi, I tried. I got this far, then the brain fog took over and my head started to spin…

    “A1. Do you agree that requiring an individual licence for the sites in Group 1 and excluding the sites from list in Group 2 from the scope of the general licence will help minimise negative impacts on the relevant protected sites in an effective and proportionate manner? ”

    I assumed it wouldn’t get easier, and they’ve deliberately made it difficult to comprehend. I made that a 46-word sentence.

    1. I may go back for another try. First time, I expected to be able to understand what I was commenting on.

      Wasn’t there once a Plain English campaign, or similar?

  3. All killing for fun is absolutely disgusting and a crime.

    [Ed: Killing gamebirds for fun isn’t an actual crime unless it’s done outside of the shooting season. I think you’re maybe referring to it being an ‘ethical crime’, which is something very different]

  4. Why don’t you turn your attention to battery birds, at least pheasants, partridges have a life.

    [Ed: You seem to have missed the point of this consultation, which isn’t about gamebird welfare, it’s about the potential damage caused by the release of millions of non-native gamebirds on protected sites of conservation value]

  5. For those who are daunted by the DEFRA use of language and over long sentences the WJ guidance is very good, very straight forward and extremely helpful. PLEASE DO IT THIS IS IMPORTANT. What’s half an hour of your time compared to all our trashed countryside!

  6. Done.

    What a bollocks consultation though – totally couched in protecting the status quo.

    Thanks to WJ for guidelines as I was a bit ranty to start with.

    Absolutely bonkers that millions of non-native species are released annually into the countryside of one of the least biodiverse countries on the planet! No wonder our grey partridge is red-listed!

  7. I too am disturbed that there was little opportunity in the consultation to express a belief that the release of non-native species should be stopped. Unlike many others here, I am not opposed to shooting for pleasure, as long as it can be done without impact on our native wildlife. I tried my best, but I reckon that, unless there are a large number of objections to the release, the status quo, or a ridiculously complex licencing regime, will be the conclusion. The advantage of actually recording an opinion is that I will be informed of the conclusion of the consultation.

    1. It should not be forgotten that DEFRA have been forced into this consultation because of legal action. That legal action was not based on arguments about what some ‘majority’ want, but upon what the law demands. Therefore, DEFRA have to take into account not just people’s views but also what the law demands, otherwise they will be open to future legal action… That is why Wild Justice’s suggested responses are what they are: pointing out the evidential bases in support of suggested improvements to avoid future legal action.

  8. Is DEFRA a UK organisation? I thought they only covered England and Wales and wasn’t sure if comments from people in Scotland who really care about the matter, will be accepted as valid. I’ll happily make my observations to DEFRA, if they’ll accept them.

    [Ed: Thanks, Harry. Yes, comments from across the UK are accepted on this]

  9. How can it be that in this country we don’t licence game bird shoots, require records of total numbers of game birds released and total numbers of game birds shot? This is an absolute shambles and proves there is a complete lack of interest in any sort of concern for our natural species and habitat. Considering virtually all of the game birds releases are of non-native species it is also an illegal act to release them. It needs abolishing or completely controlled

    1. “How can it be that in this country we don’t licence game bird shoots…”

      It is because shooting is enjoyed by the very class of people who also overly influence legislation.

  10. Completed with, the help of the WJ suggestions. I couldn’t help having a dig at the way the consultation seems to be worded in a way that made it seem biased towards one point of view.

  11. Thank you WJ for your excellent guidelines and assistance.
    The whole monstrous thing and the short time window within which we had to get the response done was designed to put us ,the general public off .
    It is now 23.03 hrs on Sat night and I’ve just sent mine in and received my confirmation email.Phew!

  12. Please remember to share widely so we get a good representation in this!

    I can see quite a large contingent of the Nasty Brigade struggling to articulate a response to this consultation. “Er, what’s a SPA?”

  13. Thank you for the guidelines. I would not have been able to complete the consultation without it. I agree with others that 3 weeks is not enough time; without your site I would have been unaware of the consultation.

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