Chris Packham challenges the release of gamebirds into the countryside

Wildlife activist Chris Packham tries to ban the release of gamebirds into the countryside for shooting with legal challenge

  • Chris Packham says the numbers ‘damage biodiversity and attract predators’
  • He founded Wild Justice and has banned crow and pigeon shootings in April
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs say bird releases are under review
  • About 43m pheasants and 9m red-legged partridges are released by the shooting industry

BBC host and founder of the Wild Justice group Chris Packham, has called on the environment department to ban the release of millions of game birds into the wild

The release of millions of gamebirds into the countryside for shooting is to be reviewed by Whitehall after a legal challenge by BBC host Chris Packham.

Mr Packham, one of the founders of the group Wild Justice, called on the environment department to ban ‘the unregulated annual release of 50+ million non-native birds into the countryside’.

The challenge was made in June and paid for by £40,000 donations from the public. Wild Justice claim that the huge numbers of pheasants and partridges damage biodiversity, as well as attracting predators such as foxes and crows, contravening EU wildlife law.

Wild Justice declared: ‘At this time of year, 43million pheasants and 9million red-legged partridges are released by the shooting industry.

Wild Justice carried out a legal challenge which led to a ban on shooting crows, pigeons and other pest birds in April (stock image)

‘The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has failed to assess the impacts of this on UK wildlife as they should have done under the provisions of the European Union Habitats Directive.’ Mark Avery, of Wild Justice, said: ‘It’s only because this situation has crept up on us through lack of regulatory control that we are in this position.’

Carol Day, a solicitor for the group, added: ‘The aim of the law is to ensure that plans and projects that could have a significant adverse effect on important wildlife sites are properly evaluated before permission is given.

‘Our client is arguing that the scale of gamebird releases and the potential impact on the UK’s most important wildlife sites is such that a process for assessment must now be provided.’

The group claim that the huge numbers of pheasants and partridges damage biodiversity, as well as attracting predators such as foxes and crows, contravening EU wildlife law (file image)

A previous legal challenge by Wild Justice led to a ban on shooting crows, pigeons and other pest birds in April. There was outrage across the countryside when the rules allowing the shooting of 16 species to protect crops and livestock were torn up with 36 hours’ notice by Natural England.

This was effectively reversed by the then environment secretary Michael Gove in June. This time the environment department said no changes would happen immediately, but it conceded some changes may be needed.

Here Packham attends Birdfair, an environmental awareness conference, along side Carrie Symonds, the partner of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and businesswoman Deborah Meaden (far left)

Defra said: ‘We will shortly outline plans for a review to consider the effectiveness of the existing legislation around this issue.’

Thousands of rural jobs depend on shooting and supporters argue it is an essential part of the management of the countryside.

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