High Court rules on suffering of decoy birds
The High Court has ruled that Magpies have legal rights. A senior judge declared it is unlawful to allow the birds to suffer unnecessarily if they are used under licence as decoys in traps to catch other magpies. This is often done to with the intention of protecting the eggs and chicks of songbirds.
Mr Justice Leveson, sitting in London, allowed an RSPCA appeal against a refusal by Telford magistrates court in April last year to convict a member of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) of causing unnecessary suffering to a magpie kept in a Larsen trap.
Norman Shinton set up the trap in the garden of his home at Mendip Close, Little Dawley, Telford, Shropshire. Mr Shinton was accused of causing a single magpie unnecessary suffering as he used the bird over and over again between July 5-10 2000, instead of “rotating” decoys.
Mr Justice Leveson said Mr Shinton was authorised as the owner or occupier of land to confine the magpie in a cage trap.
There was no doubt that the use of the Larsen trap fell within the terms of the licence, and Telford district judge Philip Browning was right to acquit on that charge.
But the district judge had gone wrong in law when he cleared Mr Shinton of causing the bird unnecessary suffering, contrary to the 1911 Protection of Animals Act.
The High Court judge ruled that, even though the trap might be lawful, it was “illogical” to say its owner was therefore absolved of all responsibility.
The judge said it was unnecessary to send the case back to the magistrates court for it to be reconsidered as the RSPCA had only brought the case to clarify the law.