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Defra investigates Natural England over general licences
Natural England revoked three general licences for shooting 16 species of wild bird.

Call for evidence to explore impact of decision to revoke 

Defra is investigating Natural England’s recent decision to revoke general licences for shooting 16 wild bird species.

Natural England made the decision to scrap the general licences with 36 hours notice last month, after a legal challenge from the group Wild Justice in February.

Environment secretary Michael Gove announced that he will be taking over the ultimate decision making powers for general licences. A call for evidence on the impact of revoking the licences was also launched.

In particular, Defra is hoping to gather information on the implications for the protection of wild birds and the impacts on crops, livestock, wildlife, disease, human health and safety and wider nature conservation efforts.

Wild Justice, which is comprised of Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, launched a legal challenge against the licences in February, asserting that birds could only be killed under certain legal conditions, but Natural England had not satisfied itself that those conditions were being met before issuing general licences.

In April, Natural England revealed it would revoke three general licences from 25 April, prompting concern from farmers about protecting crops and livestock from predation.
Following the revocation of the licences, naturalist Chris Packham received death threats and suspicious packages to his home.

Defra’s call for evidence closes on Monday 13 May, after which the secretary of state will take a week to consider the evidence gathered, before making a decision.

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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.