FARMERS and land managers are reeling again this week after news laws governing the shooting of pests were slipped into legislation without anyone knowing.
A new EU directive which came into force on March 1 effectively outlaws traditional country ways of controlling pest species of birds like wood pigeons, which can devastated grain and brassica crops, magpies, which rob thousands of songbird nests, or crows, which prey on the nests of rare ground-nesting species like partridge, grouse, sky larks and peewits.
The directive orders that these species should be shot only as a last resort after other methods of frightening them away have been tried. As one observer commented: "The people who drafted this law patently have no idea how much damage these birds can cause.
"If we flap our arms and shout 'boo' they will just fly into the next field to carry on with their depredations - and come back the minute we have gone."
The Northern director of the Country Land and Business Association, Douglas Chalmers, commented: "It does seem rather sinister that fundamental changes in regulation are brought in overnight with no public announcement and no proper consultation with the groups most affected by these changes, and it does seem to be yet another swipe at the farming community.
"These changes effectively outlaw the shooting of woodpigeons, a traditional and necessary activity for crop protection purposes. It seems that under the new rules farmers would apparently have to demonstrate that they had considered all alternative means of controlling pest species - which includes crows, rooks, seagulls and pigeons - before shooting them."