Q) At what stage can crops be protected? Under the general licence issued to permit pigeon shooting, it states you can kill only for the reasons stated – typically protecting crops.

A) JAMIE STEWART replies: The Secretary of State has within his remit the ability to grant a general licence which overrides the protection birds receive under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The general licence to shoot pigeon states that the purposes for which it is granted are for preventing serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock, crops and vegetables. It is on this licence that pigeon shooters rely throughout the year. The licence is not specific in that the birds are required to be actually damaging the crops at the time of shooting and we can therefore shoot on stubbles and roosts in a bid to prevent the damage at any time of the year. The conditions of the general licence require the authorised person shooting pigeon under the licence to be satisfied that appropriate non-lethal methods of control, such as scaring, are ineffective or impracticable.