Northern Ireland - challenging DAERA's general licences

by Wild Justice

Northern Ireland - challenging DAERA's general licences

by Wild Justice
Wild Justice
Case Owner
We challenge government decisions on behalf of wildlife
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Wild Justice
Case Owner
We challenge government decisions on behalf of wildlife
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Wild Justice is a not-for-profit company.  We take legal challenges on behalf of wildlife.

The Northern Ireland Executive’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has recently issued general licences which permit the unlimited killing of several species of wild bird for specified purposes (e.g. to preserve public health & safety, to prevent the spread of disease, prevent serious damage to livestock and crops, and for the purpose of conserving wild birds).

We believe these licences are scientifically flawed and unlawful.

They are scientifically flawed because they allow the killing of several species where there isn’t evidence to demonstrate they are a problem (e.g. DAERA permits the unlimited killing of House Sparrows and Starlings to preserve public health, and the unlimited killing of Rooks, Woodpigeons, Great Black-backed Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls to conserve other wild birds). DAERA is the only regulatory body in the UK to issue general licences for these purposes. 

The general licences are legally flawed for a long list of reasons, including that they do not specify the circumstances under which they can be used or the non-lethal alternatives which should first be deployed.

We could say a lot more - we think these licences are awful and are far below the standards employed in other parts of the UK where we have successfully challenged general licences. We have been in lengthy and reasonable discussion with DAERA since March 2021 with a view to having them amend the licences to ensure they are scientifically and lawfully appropriate before renewal in September 2021. However, DAERA has re-issued the licences without addressing any of our concerns. We will now challenge them in the courts with vigour.

If we win this challenge, we will ask the court to grant an order quashing  these licences so that DAERA can start again.

We have issued a pre-action protocol letter and unless we get a satisfactory response from DAERA within 14 working days we expect to issue judicial review proceedings.

We need £45,000 to take this case all the way  - it's a lot of money but we think we have a very strong case.

Please give generously - we promise we will spend your money well.  Thank you.


Photo:  a Rook, one of the species which is listed on the DAERA conservation licence and is not listed on any such equivalent licence in Scotland, Wales or England. Photo credit: Tim Melling

If for any reason, for example the other side gives in, we do not spend all the money raised on this case then we will use any residual funds for other similar legal cases on behalf of wildlife and the environment.

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