NEW general licences for controlling carrion crows are “not fit for purpose”.

This was the call from industry bodies as Natural England (NE) published the first of the new general licences for controlling birds, starting to replace the previous general licences for controlling carrion crows, a priority for farmers looking to protect against damage to livestock. Further licences will be introduced at pace over the coming days and weeks.

The move is part of NE’s work to identify alternative solutions for all those affected by the decision to revoke three general licences for controlling certain wild birds.

Individual licences have been introduced to farmers wishing to shoot birds across England, and industry bodies are concerned about the impact this will have on animal welfare.

BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC has said the drafting of the new general licence has been “shoddy and hurried” and the document is “not fit for purpose”.

Mr Glenser said: “Some of the content of the new licence for controlling carrion crows is, quite frankly, bizarre and we believe the licence in its current form is unworkable. We have real fears for the other licences which have yet to be released.”

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker also expressed concern over the decision: “I don’t believe this is a decision that NE would have wanted to make but its hand has been forced by a legal challenge behind which lies Mark Avery (ex RSPB) and the BBC’s Chris Packham. It’s disappointing to see people without a practical understanding of land management and livestock farming being able to frustrate things in this way and not consider the reasons behind the need to quickly and humanely control birds that are causing animal welfare problems.”

NSA is concerned that adding a level of bureaucracy to the process, even temporarily, will result in ewes and lambs suffering.

Mr Stocker continued: “It’s common for Corvids to peck out and eat the eyes of sheep unable to defend themselves, take the tongues of new born lambs, and even tear their stomachs out.”

Those who need to control wildbirds in the circumstances described in this licence, for example where crows cause harm to new lambs, can now do so without further steps. For people in other circumstances who need to take action before new general licences are issued, NE has also published an online application for individual wild bird control licences.