DEFRA’s most vexatious litigant is at it again. Wild Justice is crowdfunding a £40,000 legal bill that will allow its solicitor to write a letter aiming to force DEFRA to ‘assess’ the impact of pheasant and partridge release in the UK.
Wild Justice says that the 43 million captive-reared pheasants and 9 million red-legged partridges released into the countryside each year are a 10-fold increase on numbers 45 years ago – though Wild Justice’s Chris Packham says, “No one knows how many birds are released or shot, whether wild or captive bred.”
In a statement, Wild Justice says: “More paperwork is needed to reintroduce native UK species into the countryside for conservation purposes than to release non-native omnivorous birds on a vast scale to fuel recreational shooting.”
Packham’s fellow Wild Justice director Mark Avery, blames DEFRA. “Government has been lax and now Michael Gove must act,” he says
If the pressure group is successful – as it was when it wrote a letter to Natural England about the general licences – DEFRA will have to find the money to carry out an ‘assessment’ on the release of pheasants and partridges. Wild Justice does not provide a costing for this assessment but it could be limitless.
Under austerity measures since 2010, DEFRA is the most heavily cut government department.
The action by Wild Justice ignores the weight of scientific evidence that already exists showing the benefits pheasant and partridge shoots bring to UK conservation.
Carol Day, solicitor at Leigh Day which acts for Wild Justice, says: “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.”