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14 December 2021

Wild Justice claims win in Northern Ireland general licences case


Campaign group Wild Justice has issued a release celebrating a "landmark victory" in a legal challenge to Northern Ireland’s general licences for the control of wild birds.

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In November 2021, the group launched a legal challenge against the 2021/22 general licences issued by Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera).

Although there is no confirmation yet from Daera, Wild Justice reports the government body has "conceded the claim that the decision to issue three general licences on 10 September 2021... is unlawful".

Daera has reportedly provided written assurance to Wild Justice that the general licences will be replaced by interim licences and that a full consultation will be launched.

In their pre-action letter, Wild Justice set out that the 2021 General Licences were unlawful and breached the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 for these reasons:

  • Daera had not satisfied itself that there was no other satisfactory solution in relation to the killing being authorised for the respective purposes for which the 2021 General licences were issued
  • Daera did not comply with Section 18(6) of the 1985 Order in that it failed to specify the circumstances and conditions subject to which birds may be killed or the “Area of Use” for the 2021 General Licences
  • There was no evidence to justify the inclusion of certain species in the 2021 General Licences
  • Daera failed to seek out the relevant information required to make a decision to grant the 2021 General Licences at all
  • Daera failed to complete any consultation prior to issuing the 2021 General Licences.

Wild Justice, celebrating a victory, said:

"The Daera General Licences we challenged were not fit for purpose and were unlawful to boot.

"Daera seemed to think that Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons threatened conservation interests in Northern Ireland – a totally bizarre idea.

"We look forward to seeing lawful replacement licences in the very near future. Daera must do better and Wild Justice remains ready, willing and able to take further legal challenges on behalf of wildlife in the UK."


If you're operating in Northern Ireland and have questions about the general licences, get in touch and we'll find you the answers.

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