Farming bodies urged to unite over lynx concerns

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has raised concerns over the rumoured “blasé attitude” of the environment secretary  over the potential release of lynx into the Kielder Forest area of Northumberland, England. 

The concerns were raised comes amid rumours that Michael Gove could fast-track a decision to release the predator. At the moment, the Lynx UK Trust is awaiting approval from Natural England to release a small population of lynx for a trial period.

In response, the NSA is calling on representative farming bodies and individuals to act as one uniformed body in voicing concerns over the proposals and ensure Gove understands the potential impacts the release of the animals could have on farming communities.

“I know Mr Gove is interested in these proposals and I am certain now is the time for individual farmers, land managers and their representative organisations to make their feelings heard,” commented Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, in a statement headlined ‘NSA fears rumoured blasé attitude of top decision maker could influence lynx outcome’.

“I would go as far as urging every farmer, who has views over this, to write to the Secretary of State to he can appreciate the strength of stakeholder concerns, which go way beyond the losses that will be suffered by sheep farmers.”

A decision as to whether lynx are allowed back into the British wilderness is expected to be made in the coming months.

The NSA has been gathering industry and local opinion on the proposed reintroduction by working alongside the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Deer Society, as well as several hundred stakeholders involved in farming, tourism, animal welfare, land management, field and sports and conservation.

“A connected approach, but in an individual capacity, is what is needed, if we are to relay the true scale of our concerns,” added Stocker. “The risks to landscape and wildlife, heavily invested in for years, are real. Alongside disease and welfare risks, coupled with concerns around whether any lynx population could be genetically sustainable on our heavily populated island. This is of course in addition to the resultant losses and stress of farmers.”

The Lynx UK Trust recently reached an agreement with Lloyds of London that will insure all sheep, pets and humans against lynx attacks. However, the NSA and NFU claimed that this will present challenges, as the farmer will need to prove that the animal had been attacked by the lynx.

“It is not a simple matter of a compensation package putting everything right,” said Stocker. “We know from sheep farmers in Finland, Norway and elsewhere that losses go way beyond those predicted. I simply cannot accept that the conscious release of a high-level predator is compatible with the high level of animal welfare expected of British farmers.”

No agreement will be made on the reintroduction of lynx without the consent of the relevant Scottish authorities, as there is the possibility the animals could wander into Scotland due to the close proximity of the release area.

“There can be no unilateral decision taken on this matter,” concluded Stocker. “With concerns in the devolved nations around a ‘power grab’ being brought about by the Great Repeal Bill, it would be unbelievable if the devolved powers of Scotland were challenged in this way.”

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