As reports emerge to suggest the rewilding debate is actively widening to include wolves, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is raising serious concerns that this is happening while there are still big questions over the processes and proposals around releasing lynx.
NSA understands a pack of wolf cubs has been imported to a wildlife park in Devon as the first step in ultimately introducing the animals into the wild. The cubs are being monitored by scientists in captivity but, as with the lynx, no release license has been applied for.
It is still not clear if and when the Lynx UK Trust will make an application for a release licence for Lynx, but NSA feels the necessary consultation process to support such an application has not been adhered to so far. Communication so far has not been transparent and Lynx UK’s local consultation meetings not publicised well enough to allow all stakeholders to attend.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “In our opinion, the consultation process Lynx UK Trust has adopted is flawed and misleading. The purpose of this process is to give all stakeholders ample opportunity to have their say, yet NSA is led to believe the group has made inconsistent and selective efforts to publicise meetings. We also believe there should be considered weighting given to stakeholders in any national consultation. In my mind if lynx were to be released in Kielder, those living and earning from that area should carry far greater weight than someone living in a city 300 miles away. It is the local people that are the real stakeholders.”
“We have had first-hand experience of Lynx UK using inaccurate statistics and information to try and gain support for its proposals. The group has also attempted to misrepresent NSA’s position in suggesting the organisation had been involved in selection of the proposed release site, despite the fact we have never supported the proposed lynx reintroduction in the UK.”
Opinions from residents in Kielder were recently gathered by local MP Guy Opperman, with results of a small survey showing 97% of individuals in villages closest to the release site were opposed to the proposals. These results come as a stark contrast to claims made by Lynx UK Trust that businesses in the local area are supportive of its plans.
Mr Stocker continues: “NSA does not want to see lynx released into the UK and has concerns reaching far wider than the given increase in sheep losses it would cause. These include animal welfare and disease biosecurity as well as unconsidered changes in ecology if we were to see pastoral farming decline.
“The beauty of an area like Kielder already provides a stunning example of the countryside we enjoy in the UK that has been formed by centuries of farming, grazing and human activity. We stand to lose much more than just sheep if farm businesses cannot continue in the face of lynx introduction.”