THE DEVIL ISN’T in the background. It’s in the guidelines. Readers wishing to learn more about DEFRA’s proposed Animal Activities Licence (AAL) can check out what’s in the public domain, for instance the Next Steps document referred to in our news story on page 4. But there’s no mention of birds there and you might be forgiven for thinking it sounds woolly and innocuous. The alarming and bird-related stuff is in DEFRA’s proposed guidelines to local authority inspectors (whom we might be getting to know a lot better soon), and the guidelines haven’t been made public yet.

But here’s a DEFRA response to a question from someone involved at the AAL consultation stage (someone from a cavy club, not a bird club): We are currently drafting guidance that will assist local authorities in determining whether a particular breeder is in fact a business. This will include taking into account factors such as profit making. And “breeder” would mean “bird breeder”. It doesn’t take a genius to see that “profit making” might apply to anyone selling their surplus after a good breeding season. You’d need really robust guidelines to defend hobbyists from having a “commercial” label slapped on them, right? Well, these guidelines aren’t robust, they leave it all up to those local inspectors to decide what’s a lot or a little, what’s frequent and what’s infrequent.

What we’re about to see is DEFRA trying to rush AAL through into the statute book – that’s why the blanket application to include hobbyist bird breeders has just been sprung on our dedicated representatives in the Sustainable Users Network.

This is going to be write-to-your-MP time. More on the same subject next week, I have no doubt.

Cage & Aviary Birds has just learned of the recent passing, after a long illness, of the well-known British bird and colour canary breeder Gary Cheeseman, of Aylesford, Kent. A full obituary will follow next week, but please note that the funeral will take place at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Church Walk, Aylesford, Kent ME20 7BB, on Thursday, March 29 at 2pm. Sincere condolences to Mr Cheeseman’s family and many friends.

At C&AB we’ve enjoyed our 6,000th birthday (if you see what I mean). However long you’ve been at it – have a great week!

Rob Innes