Campaign group Wild Justice (Mark Avery, Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay) has begun the process of launching two new legal challenges in England.
Pre-action protocol letters have been sent to DEFRA laying out the legal arguments for both cases. DEFRA has to respond within a short timescale and depending on the content of those responses, Wild Justice will consider whether to proceed with the cases and seek permission from the High Court to take judicial reviews.
Case 1: Gamebird releases
This case is a natural follow-on from Wild Justice’s successful legal challenge last year on the legality of large-scale gamebird releases on or near sites of high conservation importance (see here and here).
In that case, DEFRA was forced to agree to conduct a review of the harmful ecological impacts of released gamebirds on and near protected sites and to establish a licensing scheme to regulate such releases.
DEFRA has recently (May 2021) issued a new general licence (GL43) in an attempt to meet its obligations but Wild Justice submits that the licence is unlawful in that DEFRA is ‘permitting and licensing the release of gamebirds within European sites and within 500m of European sites, without having properly ruled out the risk of harm of the release of gamebirds in the numbers, densities, and locations permitted under GL43, and has failed to take the necessary steps to prevent the deterioration of European sites.‘
[Some of the 61.2 million non-native gamebirds released in to the British countryside every year, for shooting]
Case 2: Burning regulations
This new case builds on the e-action that was supported by 123,000+ people after it was launched on Hen Harrier Day 2020 (see here) where Wild Justice asked, among other things, for regulation of burning of vegetation on peatlands.
DEFRA has recently brought in measures which limit, to some extent, burning of upland vegetation but the measures cover, at best, only 40% of the resource (see here for details of the faults).
The DEFRA proposals have been roundly criticised by non-governmental organisations, by a parliamentary committee and in a special debate in the House of Lords (see here).
Wild Justice submits that the new Burning Regulations are unlawful on a number of counts:
- Ground 1: Unlawfulness arising from the Burning Regulations frustrating their own purpose
- Ground 2: Demonstrable flaw in the reasoning or serious logical error in the reasoning leading to the making of the Burning Regulations
- Ground 3: Breaches of the Habitats Regulations 2017
- Ground 4: Failure to take into account Material Considerations, in particular the requirements to act swiftly to limit the emission of greenhouse gases.
Wild Justice has asked DEFRA to make urgent amendments to the Burning Regs.
[Photo: muirburn on a North Yorkshire grouse moor. Photo by Ruth Tingay]
If you’d like to be amongst the first to know about what Wild Justice is up to, including progress on these two cases and a number of others in the pipeline, you might want to consider joining 40,000+ others by subscribing to the free Wild Justice newsletter (here), delivered directly to your email inbox.
Many thanks to the readers of the RPUK blog who have shown such enthusiastic support for Wild Justice’s work. There’s more on the way….