General Licences

To comply with the law we shoot pigeons, corvids and other ‘pest species’ under the terms of The General Licences issued each year by Defra/Natural England.


Defra has published three new general licences for the shooting and trapping of certain birds in England.

The new general licences, which come into effect on 1 January 2022, provide the legal basis for the control of certain birds such as crows and woodpigeon for reasons such as conservation, protecting public health and safety and to prevent damage to crops and livestock.

The publication of the new licences follows lobbying of ministers and MPs by the various field sports organisations after the current system of licensing became subject to legal challenge in the Spring of 2019.

The new general licences allow for control on protected areas and Defra has advised that they will publish further information on this before the licences come into effect.

All the birds within the current licences remain in at least one or more of the new general licences. It will be essential that we comply fully with the terms and conditions and that the licence is applicable to the circumstances within which we are shooting.

The new general licences are the result of an 18-month Defra led process, which by the various field sports organisations fed into, and a review of the scientific evidence.

On first analysis, it’s clear that Defra has tried to produce general licences that are watertight and will bear the scrutiny of a legal challenge. However, the terms and conditions are more complex, maybe more onerous than the current versions they replace and we hope the various field sports organisations will continue to make representation to Defra and produce guidance and advice to help us interpret them correctly.

The new licences are as follows:

Conservation general licence GL40

Public health and safety general licence GL41

Serious damage general licence GL42

In most instances we can legally control those birds designated in the licences on all but SSSIs and similarly designated sites and we will be applying for special licences for those areas in due course if/when Natural England make that a workable proposition. On past experience we’re not holding our breath!

We have always maintained that even under the old GL31 licence issued in haste by Natural England back in May 2019 and subsequently we could comply with much of the conditions of that licence however it did baffle us that NE should consider pigeon decoys as a good way of ‘scaring’ the birds.

We kid you not, under the heading ‘Scaring and Deterrents’ they say, and we quote word for word…’Woodpigeon models (particularly those with outstretched wings, showing the white wing bars) to give the impression of dead birds, and kites/hawk-kites can be effective in deterring woodpigeons’. They also say, many of the methods (to control birds) are common sense…something obviously lacking in the NE camp!

We’ve always said that NE are an organisation not fit for purpose and with statements like that it just compounds our belief that those jobs-worth’s tasked with running our countryside haven’t a clue what it entails…

As a ‘heads up’ following the Covid pandemic and it’s obvious consequences isn’t the only problem we all face, there are other dark clouds on the horizon affecting shooting in particular.

Come and join us before its too late!

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