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​Wild Justice renews call for government to assess impact of gamebird introductions

Environmental campaign group Wild Justice has renewed its call for the government to properly assess the impact of introducing gamebirds on wildlife sites

Posted on 20 January 2020

The NGO first challenged the government on the issue in July 2019 by sending a pre-action protocol letter, the first step in a legal challenge, to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) arguing that the government needed to put in place provisions for properly evaluating the impact of the release of gamebirds. In September 2019 the government conceded and committed to a review the legislative arrangements for assessing the environmental impact of the annual mass release of non-native gamebirds.
However, no progress appears to have been made and Wild Justice are now once again warning the government that they will face legal action if a proper evaluation is not put in place. A second pre-action protocol letter was sent today to DEFRA.
Every year some 43 million pheasants and 9 million red-legged partridge are released into the countryside in preparation for the shooting season.
Wild Justice argue that the release of the gamebirds could have a detrimental impact on the natural environment and native wildlife. They argued in their original letter in September that the UK government is failing to properly comply with a key provision in Article 6 of the Habitats Directive, which concerns the potential impact on sites protected under EU law, because it does not have a proper mechanism for evaluating the impact of the release of gamebirds on Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs) and/or Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
Mark Avery from Wild Justice said: “We started this legal challenge last July, DEFRA took two months to respond (mid-September) and now we are past mid-January and only six months from the time when gamebird releasing might start again. DEFRA needs to get moving. This legal letter is designed to give them a very firm shove.”
Carol Day, solicitor of law firm Leigh Day, said: “It is clearly necessary for the Government to ensure appropriate measures are put in place now to avoid the unlawful introduction of millions of gamebirds in 2020. Our clients are concerned that the clock is ticking and DEFRA appears to have made no progress on this matter following its concession in September 2019.”