12/09/2019
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DEFRA responds to Wild Justice challenge

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DEFRA has responded to the recent challenge by Wild Justice, regarding the release of non-native gamebirds, and will consult on the need for an assessment of impacts.

In a statement, DEFRA said: “The way in which the release of gamebirds on or near protected sites (Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation) in England is managed will be reviewed following a proposed legal challenge, DEFRA has today [11 September 2019] confirmed. This will not result in any immediate changes for owners or occupiers of land.


An estimated 9 million Red-legged Partridges are released into the countryside annually (Chris Teague).

"In response to a pre-action protocol (PAP) letter from Wild Justice, DEFRA accepted in principle the annual release of non-native gamebirds, specifically the Common Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge, can be considered a ‘plan or project’ requiring appropriate assessment within the meaning of the Habitats Directive.

"While not accepting the argument that current laws do not provide for appropriate assessment in such cases, DEFRA proposes to undertake a review to consider the legislative arrangements around the relevant activities and whether there are ways in which their effectiveness could be improved. The detail of this review will be developed over the coming weeks.

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"DEFRA will undertake a review to consider the legislative arrangements in England around the relevant activities and whether there are ways in which their effectiveness could be improved. The detail of this review will be developed over the coming weeks. A review of this nature will take time to conduct and it will only be after a thorough examination that it will become clear if any subsequent change is necessary.”

Wild Justice commented on the decision: “We’re delighted to have prompted a government change of policy that will open the door to a review of the ecological impacts of non-native gamebirds on our native flora and fauna. The currently unregulated release of gamebirds for shooting has, the science shows, large potential impacts on the ecological health of our countryside. 

“It is time that these releases are properly assessed and come under proper regulation. We will scrutinise the plans that DEFRA brings forward in order to assess their ecological value and their compliance with the Directives. If DEFRA’s plans do not comply fully with the Directive then we stand able to take further legal action, and we will not shrink from doing so if that is necessary.”