Essex farmers' leader condemns 'dead crow' incident at Chris Packham's home
PUBLISHED: 11:30 26 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:17 26 April 2019
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Farmers' leaders have condemned an incident in which dead crows were left hanging outside the home of a BBC Springwatch presenter after he backed a legal challenge which resulted in restrictions on shooting 'pest' birds.
National Farmers' Union (NFU) president and Essex farmer Guy Smith said the action, which happened outside the home of Chris Packham, was “unacceptable”. But he said his organisation was continuing to press for clarity for farmers after a legal action which resulted in Natural England revoking three general licences which allowed the shooting of 16 species of bird, including crows, magpies, Canada geese and feral and wood pigeons.
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“We condemn it - it's unacceptable behaviour,” he said of the Chris Packham incident, which is being investigated by Hampshire police.
Farmers and other groups have been up in arms since the Natural England announcement, arguing that they need to control 'problem' birds like crows and pigeons as they always have done.
Mr Smith, who farms at St Osyth, near Clacton-on-Sea, and spoke at a farmers' meeting at Halesworth on Wednesday (April 24), said the issue even overshadowed Brexit as members' number one concern at the event.
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“This is a huge issue for our members,” he said. “It's very unsatisfactory. It's imperative Natural England and the government clarify the situation as soon as possible so farmers can be assured it's legal for farmers to control crows and pigeons.
“This is not about sporting rights. It's about farmers having the ability to protect crops and livestock.”
Farmers' right to shoot 'pest' birds has existed all of his working life, he said. “Without it, farmers would lose crops and livestock farmers would lose lambs in particularly nasty ways,” he said.
The legal challenge was brought by Wild Justice, which includes wildlife campaigners Dr Mark Avery and Dr Ruth Tingay, as well as Mr Packham.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said: “We absolutely condemn such behaviour @ChrisPackham. We are clear - there is no place for illegality in the countryside.”
Natural England said it would look to bring in “alternative measures” over the coming weeks to allow the lawful shooting of the bird species to continue. Until then, those wanting to kill the birds where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative will have to apply for an individual licence, it said.