The National Sheep Association (NSA) has written to the Lynx UK Trust this week rejecting an invitation to join its Project Advisory Group, which has been tasked with designing the pilot project to introduce the high level predator into the countryside.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “Our understanding is the Project Advisory Group will design the trial that will only go ahead if Lynx UK is successful in gaining a licence from Natural England and/or Scottish Natural Heritage. We feel it is inappropriate for NSA to provide guidance to Lynx UK ahead of that licence application, as we remain opposed to any pilot taking place. In addition, we are not prepared for someone from NSA to be part of the group when the terms of reference state members would not be there to represent the views of any particular organisation.”
The invitation to join the Project Advisory Group was given at a meeting held at Cumbria University earlier this month, which brought together various stakeholder groups in response to concerns raised during Lynx UK’s initial consultation.
Mr Stocker continues: “NSA does not feel the meeting with Lynx UK adequately responded to the concerns of sheep farmers, which are not limited solely to the predation of lynx on sheep. We continue to have genuine concerns about the wider impact lynx would have on the delicate balance of food production, environment and rural communities in the countryside, as well as implications for animal welfare and disease control. We remain opposed to the pilot and do not agree with Lynx UK that we should help design the trial in order to determine the criteria by which it would be deemed a success or failure.
“In the event of an application for a licence being submitted, NSA would expect all stakeholders to be involved in discussions with the relevant licensing authority over the many reasons why the UK is unsuitable for this pilot and the conditions that would need to be in place in the unlikely event of a licence being granted. Lynx UK has suggested involvement in its Project Advisory Group would be the only way to air these views, but NSA will continue to use any mechanism we choose to make our concerns as widely heard as possible.”
While NSA is strongly opposed to the impact such a reintroduction would have on the welfare of sheep, it has also raised concerns about the welfare of lynx being released within Great Britain, which is a small, heavily populated island with massive urban and transport infrastructures. NSA believes this is why the Lynx UK Trust has been forced to remove two locations from its original list of five suitable sites for the pilot.
Mr Stocker concludes: “NSA has been active in highlighting the many reasons why the UK is unsuitable for this project and is pleased that these reasons have forced Lynx UK to discount the Lake District and Thetford Forest as potential release sites. Our work will now continue to highlight issues with the three sites in Northern England and Scotland still under consideration. It is unacceptable to threaten the welfare of sheep and the livelihood of farmers with this scheme and it is NSA’s aim to ensure Lynx UK and its supporters cannot continue to ignore the vital role of sheep in underpinning countryside management and supporting rural communities.”