Dear Mr Pursglove,


First, congratulations on your promotion to Minister of State at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice.  As your colleagues resigned in droves I wondered whether you would be one of the few remaining government ministers.

I am writing to you about an endangered bird called the Woodcock. It’s a wading bird, a bit like a large dumpy Snipe, which nests in UK woodland, including in our constituency of Corby. Glapthorn Cow Pasture used to be a good place to see them, and I did see one there last spring, but they are generally much more difficult to see these days. And what is true of our part of North Northants is generally true as Woodcock have declined enough to be added to the UK Red List of birds because of their population decline.

Wild Justice, the not-for-profit organisation based in your constituency is concerned about the fate of the Woodcock in the UK. We wrote to Defra in March asking the department to exercise the powers available to the Secretary of State to restrict the shooting season, in fact to move the start of shooting from 1 October to 1 December.  The pro-shooting Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust recommends this as a voluntary move by shooters but we are asking for this to be a legal change.  We have still not received a reply from Defra.

Our response was to start a parliamentary petition calling for a change in the shooting season. This notched up 10,000 signatures, triggering the need for a response from Defra, on its first day of existence and has since moved to over 20,000 signatures today – one day short of its first month of existence.

Defra responded to the petition recently but with an off-hand response that simply did not address our moderate proposal.

As a result, I would ask you to contact Defra and ask the following questions on my behalf, please:

  • what standards does Defra regard as acceptable for dealing with correspondence and does their non-response to our letter meet those standards?
  • does Defra believe that a change in shooting dates is of no help to the declining Woodcock population? If so, please can they cite the science on which they base that view?
  • if Defra believes that a change in the shooting season dates might or would help Woodcock populations then why are they not taking action?
  • has the Defra minister, Lord Benyon, ever shot a Woodcock?
  • Does Lord Benyon plan to shoot any Woodcock this autumn/winter and will he be complying with the advice of GWCT (for which he has been a trustee when not a minister) and not shoot any until on or after 1 December?

many thanks,

Yours sincerely

Dr Mark Avery

address supplied


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