HAMPSHIRE wildlife expert Chris Packham is launching a legal challenge against the government over its "failure" to assess the impact of releasing non-native gamebirds for shooting.

Mr Packham is a director of Wild Justice, which is fighting a decision taken by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It claims the department failed to assess the impact on conservation sites of releasing tens of millions of pheasants and partridges into the countryside by the shooting industry.

Wild Justice is launching a crowdfunding appeal in a bid to raise £44,500 to cover its legal costs.

Earlier this year a campaign by Wild Justice led Natural England to revoke licences to shoot birds regarded as pests by famers and gamekeepers.

As reported in the Daily Echo, the move resulted in Mr Packham becoming the victim of a hate campaign.

The presenter received death threats and dead birds were hung from a gate outside his New Forest home. He was forced to pull out of the Dogstival show near Lymington amid fears that protesters would target the event.

Now Wild Justice has gone into action again.

Mr Packham said: "What is blindingly obvious to anyone with even a basic understanding of natural sciences is that dumping at least 50 million non-native birds into the UK countryside will have a profound effect on its ecology."

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has defended the plans.

Chief executive Teresa Dent said: "The GWCT has carried out detailed research that measured the effects of released pheasants and red-legged partridges on other wildlife and wildlife habitats.

"Our aims were to provide a science-based approach to quantifying any negative effects of gamebird releasing and to develop solutions where these effects might occur.

"We found that the releasing of lowland gamebirds can be done in a way that minimises or avoids negative effects on habitats and other wildlife, and maximises the potential of management practices associated with releasing to deliver broader biodiversity benefit.

"These findings are published in our Guidelines for Sustainable Gamebird Releasing, and are enshrined in the Code of Good Shooting Practice."


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