The game industry will be plunged into crisis by Natural England’s decision to withdraw licences for the shooting of birds, it was claimed on Sunday.
Britain’s pigeon industry, which shoots and processes around half a million birds a week for consumption, fear the new replacement licences will make it much harder for shooters to operate legally.
It says tougher restrictions will threaten the livelihood of hundreds of workers in the industry.
Natural England was forced to revoke general licences for the shooting of birds such as crows, Canada geese and wood pigeons last Thursday, following legal action by the Wild Justice environment group.
Wild Justice, run by the former RSPB Conservation Director Mark Avery and TV presenter Chris Packham, argued the licences did not comply with animal welfare requirements.
But Britain’s game industry says that not only will the new replacement general licences impose tougher restrictions, but the backlog caused by the need to issue new licences will bring the shooting of pigeons to a standstill for weeks to come.
Tom Adams, managing director of the British Game Alliance, told The Telegraph: “The new general licences due to come in will make it very difficult to shoot pigeons and there will be far more hurdles to jump before people are issued with the new licences.
“That will place a huge question mark over the game industry’s ability to keep shooting pigeons, putting hundreds of processing and distribution jobs at risk.”
Mr Adams added: “The pigeon sector is relied on by game processing businesses to keep them going through the ‘closed season’ of the spring and summer when no game birds like grouse and pheasant can be shot. Hundreds of jobs are at severe risk if a solution isn’t found.”
Natural England’s sudden revocation of the general shooting licences was announced on the day its new chair, Tony Juniper, took over. Natural England have said that the decision was taken earlier.
Mr Juniper has faced criticism he did not declare his links with Mr Avery before he was appointed to the post.
A veteran environmental campaigner and wildlife activist who was the Green Party’s candidate for Cambridge in the 2010 general election, Mr Juniper has also worked as special adviser to the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit and special advisor to the Prince’s Rainforests Project.