Leading Scottish animal campaigns charity OneKind has described changes to wild bird licences announced today as a step in the right direction, but renewed its calls for a comprehensive review of the welfare issues surrounding the trapping and killing of wild birds and animals.
Following a consultation in 2019, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has today announced details of the changes it will make to general licences (GL) from 1 April 2020. Wild birds are generally protected under the law, but the licences allow landowners and their representatives to take or kill certain species such as corvids and pigeons without the need for any specific permissions, for certain specified purposes. The changes announced today cover GL01 – 04 and include:
- GL01 (conservation of wild birds) – removal of rook and great black-backed gull from the licence
- GL02 (prevention of serious damage to agriculture) – removal of great black-backed gull from the licence
- GL03 (public health and safety, prevention of disease spread) – removal of carrion crow, hooded crow, rook, jackdaw, magpie, jay, woodpigeon, collared dove, great black-backed gull, herring gull and lesser black-backed gull from the licence
- GL04 (air safety) – withdrawn, to be replaced with individual licences for airports and aerodromes
SNH has decided not to put ravens onto any general licence, although the process of securing an individual licence is to be streamlined.
The removal of all currently-listed species of gulls recognises the status of these birds as Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC).
A further key change is that all individuals using traps under the general licences will be required to register their details with SNH. At present, registration is by landholding and overseen by Police Scotland. The lack of operator information has made enforcement extremely difficult when breaches of the licences or other legislation have been identified. SNH says the aim is to have “direct contact with those trapping under our general licences which will lead to clearer understanding of user responsibilities and aid communication in future.”
OneKind Director, Bob Elliot, said:
“The changes announced today by SNH are a step in the right direction, but our position remains that the law makes it too easy to take and kill our wild birds.
“We knew that SNH was not going to review the legal framework or the welfare issues in the consultation, so that work remains to be done. For example, in our consultation response, OneKind called for a ban on lethal control during breeding seasons, to protect dependent chicks who are left to starve if their parents are killed. We also want to see a ban on the use of decoy birds and Larsen traps and crow cage traps, along with proper assessment of shooters’ competence and practice, so that birds are not wounded and left to die.
“It’s good news that ravens are not to be added to any general licence, but we are wary of the prospect of a ‘simplified’ process for licence applicants. All of these are matters of welfare as well as conservation, but the current general licence structure takes little account of this.”
OneKind has lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament, calling for an independent review of the welfare issues surrounding the trapping and killing of wildlife in Scotland. In addition, as members of the Revive coalition, OneKind and the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland have published a report, Untold Suffering, which illustrates the inhumane nature of animal and bird traps currently used in Scotland.