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Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have decided to remove magpies from the list of birds that can be controlled under General Licence 001 in Wales. This licence is for the purpose of preventing serious damage or spread of disease to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock or crops, and the new rules will apply from 1 January 2024.

People wishing to control magpies after that date will need to apply to NRW for a specific licence. For a specific licence to be granted, evidence must be supplied by the applicant of the risk of serious damage posed.

Earlier this year, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation responded to a consultation being carried out by NRW in relation to the Welsh General Licence, and their plans to remove magpies from the licences.

We pointed out that according to data from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the magpie population across the UK has grown by 100% from 1967 -2020 and the magpie has enjoyed a 6.4% distribution expansion in breeding areas and an 8.4% expansion in winter distribution.

We explained that the NGO believe that the control of predatory species can play a crucial role in the modern conservation management and the recovery of wild birds in Wales, and it should be recognised that any changes to the licencing system cannot consider simply the protection of bird species which are already of conservation concern, but should also look at green-listed species that could become vulnerable if the population of magpies is allowed to grow unchecked. An increase in any corvid species would mean that more green-listed birds are likely to fall into the red and amber categories.

A serious concern for the NGO was the damage to farming interests going forward. Magpies, along with other corvid species, can cause huge financial loss to farming businesses through lamb loss, and damage to food stuffs. We stated that it was imperative that anecdotal evidence from farming practitioners was included in the consultation process.

Despite this response, and similar concerns being raised by other organisations such as the GWCT, NRW decided to push ahead and remove magpies from the General Licence.

David Pooler, Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and Regional Chairman for North Wales and Powys for 25 years, submitted evidence to the NRW consultation. He explained how when he began working at the Rhug Estate 37 years ago, the farm was suffering from huge numbers of lamb losses at lambing time. “I don’t remember how many lambs I was asked to destroy in my first year which had had their eyes plucked out or their tongues removed, but I do remember how much it upset me euthanising new-born lambs”, he explained.

The concern now is that, unless the estate is granted a specific licence, lambs will once again be falling prey to magpie attacks. The same issue will apply to hundreds of farms across the country.

David Pooler commented: “This is just another example of the Welsh Government completely ignoring the concerns of the country’s rural communities. Rather than listening to the evidence and the anecdotes submitted by those affected by the damage caused by magpies, they have pushed ahead with a poor decision that will have a detrimental effect on both livestock and on farming communities.

“In November, the NGO agreed to support financially a legal challenge against the Welsh Ministers regarding the ban on the use of Humane Cable Restraints (HCRs) because we believe that in Wales, rural voices are being ignored and marginalised.”

“More worryingly, there appears to be no appetite for challenging the Welsh Government, meaning that they can push through legislation while ignoring the need for evidence or scientific fact. Their decision regarding magpies is yet another example of this behaviour.”

Notes to Editors:

The National Gamekeepers' Organisation (NGO) represents the gamekeepers of England and Wales. The NGO defends and promotes gamekeeping and gamekeepers and works to ensure high standards throughout the profession.

The National Gamekeepers' Organisation was founded in 1997 by a group of gamekeepers who felt that keepering was threatened by public misunderstanding and poor representation. Today, there are over 13,000 members of the National Gamekeepers' Organisation.


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