Ban on shooting 'pest' birds could be damaging to farming - say growers in South Holland
A ban on the shooting of birds considered to be 'pests' would be disastrous to the farming industry - say the county's growers.
Natural England announced last week that it was revoking three licences that allowed farmers to shoot certain birds, including crows, Canada goose, some gulls and pigeons.
It followed a legal challenge by conservationists, including BBC presenter Chris Packham, who condemned the killing of the birds.
On Friday (April 26), Chris Carter, farmer and chairman of the South Holland National Union of Farmers (NFU) branch, said: “I am disappointed to see they (Natural England) are bringing this in without any prior consultation.
“They are listening to a well-known environmentalist, but in terms of vermin, they (certain birds) are a real threat.
“There are some patchy fields of rape you may see around that have been targeted by pigeons.
“Crows are carnivores and have been known to attack young sheep, pecking their eyes out.
“Farmers are very sympathetic towards the environment and environmental groups but this has been ill thought out.”
Andrew Branton, who farms at Willow Tree Farm in Deeping St Nicholas, explained that without the ability to control certain birds regarded as ‘pests’, farmers will have to resort to growing crops such as wheat and barley which he says birds, such as pigeons, do not eat.
Michael Booth, who farms at Sutton Bridge, added: "If these birds can't be controlled there are going to be big problems. A pigeon, for example, can decimate a field of oilseed rape and peas."
Since the ruling last week, Natural England appears to have done a 'u-turn', introducing a new licence to allow the killing or taking of carrion crows 'to prevent serious damage to livestock including poultry and reared gamebirds'.
An NFU, East Midlands spokesperson, said: "While we welcome this move, it is imperative that the status quo for all the affected licences is resumed as quickly as possible.
“This sudden legal change has caused enormous problems and concern for everyone reliant on General Licences, and their withdrawal has come at the worst possible time of year, when lambs, young crops, and nesting birds, including declining species such as curlew and lapwing, are all in need of protection from marauding ‘pest’ birds.
“The system that Natural England has tried to put in place to provide individual licence cover for those in urgent need in the meantime has been a disaster.
"It was launched later than promised, and only three hours before the General Licences were revoked. Very few people could make the online application forms work and the website became inoperable through over-loading.
“The NFU is in constant dialogue with Natural England to resolve this situation, as our members are desperate for it to be sorted out as soon as possible.”
More by this authorZoe Myall