General Licenses - how they work.
This is a very simplifed version of a very complicated subject, to explain to members in simple language how General Licenses work in practice.
Since 1981, all birds throughout the whole of the UK have been strictly protected by law except under special circumstances, as part of our agreement with the European Union.
If in individual country wishes to allow birds to be killed, it must 'derogate' from this general agreement. 'Derogate' simply means deviate from the rules, and there is a small number of specific situations where an individual government is allowed to do this under EU law.
For example, if a government feels that the number of crows needs to be kept down to protect ground nesting birds (one of the specific situations allowed) , it can 'derogate' from the general protection and allow the killing or taking of that species for that purpose. There are various ways in which this can be done, but in the case of many of the common species which cause widespread agricultural damage, environmental problems or public safety or health issues, the usual method is a General License.
This license allows any 'authorised person' to kill or take the species listed at any time, and there is no need for anyone to have an individual license if there is a general license in existence.
Unless it is specifically allowed by law in such a way, it is an offence to kill or take any bird, so to allow what we used to call 'vermin' and pigeons to be shot legally, the four regional governments in the UK issue a General Licenses each year on 1st January. These licenses allow anyone who has permission to shoot over land to kill the species listed on the license, but only for the purpose specified on the license.