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BBC & IOA hit out at DEFRA Class Licence proposal

Siberian-bullfinch-henTHE BRITISH BIRD Council (BBC) and International Ornithological Association (IOA) have branded “unacceptable” DEFRA’s proposal for a Class Licence for Northern British bird subspecies instead of a General Licence.

A new Class Licence could be introduced as soon as May, meaning fanciers would need to apply for a licence to sell or exhibit Siberian goldfinches and Siberian bullfinches, along with mealy redpolls, which would be revoked from the current General Licence 15 and moved to a Class Licence.

Fanciers would be forced to register with DEFRA for the licence, and provide their name and address. But the IOA claim that under the Freedom of Information Act applicants’ details could be accessible to the public, exposing them to security risks over their birds.

In the interest of birds’ welfare, the BBC and IOA urgently want to increase the ring sizes for the Northern species (Siberian goldfinch: C to D, and Siberian bullfinch: D to E), which they say could easily be addressed under a General Licence.

However, in an email to both, Lucy Bellini of Natural England wrote: “The registration requirements [for the Class Licence] will be minimal, and will not involve any assessment by us. We therefore do not anticipate any problems with being inundated, especially given the very low numbers of individual applications we receive for this currently.

“We agree that covering the Northern/Siberian subspecies on bullfinch and goldfinch on the same licence as the mealy redpoll makes sense. Changing the licence to a Class rather than a General Licence allows us to improve our confidence that the mealy redpoll General Licence is not facilitating sale of ‘red listed’ lesser redpolls with larger rings.”

But BBC council member Robb Brown responded: “The accusation of fitting lesser redpolls with the larger C ring is outrageous, totally unfounded, and there is absolutely no evidence to support this statement. A lesser redpoll with the wrong ring size is of no use to any birdkeeper. The difference in the subspecies is so clear to be seen that it just would not happen!”

BBC president Bob Partridge added: “DEFRA and NE accepted that the larger subspecies need larger rings, but they won’t give us the licence. At the end of the meeting Alan Robinson and I agreed that it is time to go public because this will affect many birdkeepers, not just IOA and BBC members. We have until May to change their minds.” The consultation continues.

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