Many UK bird species are at risk of regional extinction, but government figures reveal that hunters are still allowed to hunt rare songbirds. Figures published this week by government watchdog Natural England have raised concerns among environmentalists.
During the practice of falconry, wild animals are hunted in their natural habitat by a bird of prey that is trained for this purpose. There are said to be around 25,000 falconers in the UK. The sport dates back hundreds of years and has seen a recent resurgence. Although captive hawks are still legal in Britain, many people do not realize that captive hawks are used to hunt local wild birds, including some endangered species. Serious concerns were raised when it emerged that Natural England was issuing licenses to hunt rare songbirds for sport.
Given that Natural England's primary purpose on paper is to help conserve and improve the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations, many feel it appears regressive that it does not protect threatened bird species.
– he writes in his article euronews.
In the application form on the local government's website, hunters pre-select the species of birds they want to kill. Permits are issued on their basis, and they are free. The entire licensing process is at the discretion of Natural England staff. Natural England is a public body that is technically independent from the Government, operates with the support of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and issues permits on behalf of the Government. This means that these licenses are no longer subject to review by another organization or body.
The UK Government's latest permit statistics, which for the first time include permit data for falconry, reveal that permits are regularly issued to kill many endangered species. The permit allowed legal hunting of highly protected birds, which appears to conflict with existing conservation efforts and environmental plans.