Licenses allowed Buzzards to be killed inside the pheasant rearing pens, Why? Why?

So now the government is replying to all those who signed a petition to halt these licenses being issued in the first place, and guess what – they are also using the plural licenses, so they are going to kill a lot more Buzzards in the support of the ‘Rural Economies’!!
Buzzards can be prevented from gaining access into a pheasant pen by simply covering the top of the pen with netting. So before considering issuing a licence to kill 10 Buzzards why did Natural England fail to check if the pens had been covered by netting first?
So a coal miner can lose his job but not a game keeper! I wonder why!! Because ‘ this approach strikes a balance between conserving wildlife and supporting our rural economy’ says the government. I wonder why so many staff from the old Natural England are losing their jobs while the DEFRA side of Natural England are gaining ground as they have no idea about the countryside. How long before Goshawks, Red Kites, Peregrines and White tailed Eagles end up on this list (anything to make the gamekeeper an honest rural citizen). No wildlife is safe with this government in power, and we will have at least 8 in government years left for them to commit HELL in the COUNTRYSIDE.

Here is DEFRA’s e-mail reply in full sent by DEFRA to one of our readers today (23/09/2016)

Buzzards are widespread in England and the issuing of control licences has no impact on their conservation status. This approach balances conservation of wildlife and supporting the rural economy.

Buzzards are now widespread in England with, according to the British Trust for Ornithology, over 60,000 pairs in the UK. Issuing control licences has no impact on the conservation status of buzzards and this approach strikes a balance between conserving wildlife and supporting our rural economy.

Where appropriate applications are made, Natural England issues Wildlife licences ( ) to prevent damage to agriculture, livestock and fisheries. In deciding whether a licence should be granted, applications are assessed in the same way against the evidence and within the legal framework of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 ( If all the relevant criteria are met, there is legally very little scope for Natural England to refuse to grant a licence. Natural England would not consider licensing any activity that would adversely affect the conservation status of a species.

Natural England recently issued a licence permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent predation of young pheasants within rearing pens.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

7 comments to Licenses allowed Buzzards to be killed inside the pheasant rearing pens, Why? Why?

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

    The gamekeeper is effectively using his poults inside the open pens as live bait enticing the hungry buzzard who would naturally take such a meal, served up on a plate. THE PENS SHOULD HAVE BEEN COVERED IF BEST PRACTICE HAD BEEN FOLLOWED IN THIS CASE.

  • Circus maxima

    If DEFRA are moving towards basing licencing on “good practice” then it is vital that “good practice” standards are both reasonable and robust.

    Any reasonably minded person can see that putting a cover on a pen should be a minimal standard.

    However, BASC and GWCT are the folks responsible for drawing up the “best practice” and as we all know, they are politically driven organisations which by their very nature are not bound by rational thought. Its time that RSPB, the wildlife trusts et al, should an interest in advising on these “good practice standards”.

    If a game keeper knows that leaving a pen uncovered, is leaving their vulnerable LIVESTOCK open to predation and harassment by natural predators then they are simply not doing their job. It could easily be argued that agricultural welfare standards are being broken. After all, even if they have a licence to kill the predators in the pen (would the use of a 12 bore next to their Livestock be acceptable?), they are not there all the time. They are acknowledging they have a problem and that their measures for mitigating the problem are ineffective. When they know that they have a good practice solution that they are deliberately avoiding.
    DEFRA needs to be thoroughly tested on their shocking bias.

  • Circus maxima

    As a footnote, if DEFRA are keen to talk economics and balance, have they considered the cost of covering a pen against the cost of shooting ten buzzards?

    Gamekeeper man-hours of additional hours visiting the pen and stalking + hardware etc, over say five years.
    Against the one-off cost of putting a roof on the pen + the reduce gamekeeper time?

  • Albert Ross

    I am sure that the phrase “within the pen” has a broader meaning than just the netted area/cage. Probably used in a wider context as ‘rearing area’? No one in their right mind would attempt to shoot any bird within the confines of the netted area shown in the photograph. To do so could actually be construed as using the poults as decoys or live bait to lure the target within range and would be illegal, with or without a licence, as well as endangering the poults.
    That matter aside, the licence still “only” covers ten (10) birds so would have no effect on the numbers killed under that licence. So provided the licence terms and conditions are adhered to, and monitored by Natural England Officers as being so, then the situation is unchanged.
    It is up to NE and “us” to ensure the licence terms are adhered to and to report and act upon any breaches.

  • Trapit

    So finally at least we are clear on something.The licence is to protect Pheasant poults in “rearing”pens. Not as has been stated by some and argued over,in,around,returning to the pen,or otherwise dependant on the hand that feeds them. Rearing pens should for all practical reasons read
    Release pens, built to acclimatise young Pheasants to the wider countryside. Typically birds are placed in these pens between the ages of six to eight weeks, gradually after five to ten days, dependant on the type of pen, being trickled out to begin their exploration of the surrounding habitats.

    The confusion arises,in some of the comments I have read, as a result of the type of pen used.
    By far the largest numbers of Pheasants, in my opinion, are released from open topped pens. These should have a varied vegetation structure, providing shelter from weather and predation and encouraging the birds to roost at a higher level at night. Generally, certainly for larger numbers of Pheasant, this type of pen gives the best results.

    The second type of pen frequently used is similar to the one illustrating this article. Often used on smaller shoots, as an experiment before building a larger pen, or where this is impractical. This should be sited at the edge of suitable cover, as once released the pheasants cannot normally return into the pen, whereas with the open type this is still possible for some time.

    The last sentence of the document quoted above must mean that the applicant for a licence is using open topped pens. I would really like to see published details of the shoot, numbers released, maps, photographs of pens, percentages shot, densities of Buzzards and methods used to cut losses before I could comment further.

  • Alastair Henderson

    Let us not forget that prior to the judicial review NE, under several different governments, had consistently refused to grant licences to control birds of prey. The judiciary are not permitted to find on the basis of party politics. It is clear that the law has not been applied correctly since the introduction of the WLCA ’81 which gave effect to the Birds Directive promulgated by the EU.
    I agree, that to leave game bird release pens uncovered, is inviting raptor predation, however, the licence also extends to the surrounding open area in the vicinity of these pens which obviously could not be covered. The nub of the problem is the definition of livestock as it applies to game birds and the guidelines which apply “any animal kept for the provision or improvement of shooting or fishing – where birds are either in pens or are significantly dependent on people they are classed as livestock”

  • alan

    I would love for Pheasants to be classed as livestock.
    Im not sure how estates would get round their duty of care, and have immense bills due to the damage to vehicles cause by their inadequately controlled “livestock”.
    I don’t think they will ever be classed as livestock once they have left the pens.

    Editors Comment. We understand the Judge in the Judicial Review found that pheasants in and outside the pens were livestock so long as they were dependent up the gamekeepers for their upkeep, i.e., feeding. However in DEFRA’s latest communication stated pheasants were only classified as livestock inside the pen, all very confusing.