A wildlife campaign group has challenged the government over the release of game birds in what has been called an “extreme attack” by the shooting industry.

The group Wild Justice, which made headlines recently after it launched legal action against Natural England in April resulting in the three general licence revokes, has challenged the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over what is calls its “failures” to asses the impacts of releasing non-native game birds on grounds for shooting.

Wild Justice said this went against the provisions of the European Union Habitats Directive, including “the release of non-native gamebirds on, or affecting, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.”

It raised concerns over the impact these non-native birds were having on Britain’s plants and the wildlife which they fed on.

In response to the campaign group, which is headed by BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said that the Wild Justice case was “weak, misinterpreted European law and ignored the benefits of shooting to the environment.”

Caroline Bedell, BASC’s executive director of conservation, said: “This is another extreme attack on shooting that ignores the well-documented evidence of the benefits of shooting to conservation and the wider environment.

“The core of good shooting practice, which sets out the framework for sustainable shooting, includes reference to game and wildlife conservation trust research which sets out figures for sustainable game bird releasing that do not damage the environment.

“Without driven shooting our rural environment and economy would be significantly poorer.”