Analysis by the NGO has found that Natural England’s new General Licence for controlling crows is hurried, botched and completely unfit for purpose.

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) has condemned a new General Licence for controlling crows in England as “hurried, botched and completely unfit for purpose.”

The new licence (GL 26, for killing crows to protect livestock including kept gamebirds), was issued by Natural England (NE) last night, just two days after they had revoked earlier General Licences, thereby temporarily making crows a fully protected species throughout England.

Announcing the replacement licence, NE’s Interim Chief Executive, Marian Spain said it would bring “peace of mind” to those who needed to control crows. But urgent analysis by the NGO has found the new 11-page licence to be far more restrictive than the 5-page licence it replaces.

The additional restrictions include:

  • The new licence only allows crows to be killed “as a last resort.”
  • It allows someone to kill crows only if they have previously tried non-lethal ways of solving the problems the crows are causing.
  • It prevents someone from destroying a crow’s nest when it is not in use.
  • It prevents the use of some types of cage traps.
  • It restricts the control of crows during their breeding season.
  • It is invalid in conservation areas such as SSSIs unless a further licence is obtained from NE.
  • And it requests users to “exercise restraint” when shooting or scaring crows in periods of severe weather.

It took the NGO just moments to spot many serious flaws in the new licence, which was rushed out without any consultation, with no chance given to suggest changes.

Liam Bell, the NGO Chairman, said: “NE’s new crow licence is hurried, botched and completely unfit for purpose. NE must go back to the drawing board and we have offered our help in drafting a replacement licence that is workable and clear. That will take time, however, and vulnerable young gamebirds, lambs and other livestock cannot be left this spring without protection from crows.

“In the meantime, therefore, the NGO has asked NE for the immediate re-introduction of the old General Licences that were revoked last Thursday, with additional legal safeguards to ensure that gamekeepers and others who control crows and other problem birds can do so without risk of prosecution.”




The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation: 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 13,000 members of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.



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