I have taken legal advice on our scope to mount a challenge in law and I regret that it seems very limited.
We are told that the only way forward is to seek a Judicial Review. Unfortunately despite the DEFRA consultation being wholly unsatisfactory from our perspective, it was undertaken in accordance with their statutory requirements. Therefore the outcome of any Legal proceedings would likely go against us. DEFRA have not broken their own rules.
I have written to the department today in the strongest possible terms making the point that whilst they have followed their statutory obligations in consultation, they have not proceeded in the spirit of open and accessible consultation. Neither have they consulted directly with falconers, breeders, display givers, educationists, bird abatement specialists and pest controllers, amongst others, who are both the experts and key stakeholders.
The way forward is for us to engage via the published guidelines - whilst time is short for this, a good number of our fraternity are engaged in feeding back to DEFRA. Interestingly the guidelines have not been published for all but drip fed to a limited group of people - this illustrates how they are persisting in unacceptable practice.
I ask that you contact your local MP and raise the concerns outlined herein, that whilst DEFRA have consulted according to their statutory remit, they have not done so effectively, openly nor did they constitute their expert panel with appropriate expertise from the Bird of Prey fraternity. The amendments to the Animal Welfare Act contained in the Statutory Instrument currently before Parliament will be much less effective having bypassed those very experts who could have contributed the most.
We continue working with the Sustainable Users Network, the Countryside Alliance and others, to have our voice heard.
Dr Gordon Mellor
The Hawk Board