Following the announcement of plans to release lynx into the UK countryside, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has contacted Natural England and a leading UK peer to voice its opposition.
NSA believes reintroducing lynx after more than 1,300 years of extinction will pose a real threat to British livestock, and even trial work with the wild cat will lead to predation of livestock, in particular, ewes and lambs.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, has written to James Cross, head at Natural England, and also Lord De Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defra.
“Our primary concern is that the lynx will threaten livelihoods and businesses within the farming industry. Ewes and lambs would be much easier prey than deer because they can’t get away so quickly,” says Mr Stocker.
Sheep farming members have expressed concern to NSA since the conservation charity, the Lynx UK Trust, announced plans to submit an official application to Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. The charity hopes that, if successful, the lynx would then be reintroduced into three regions in Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Suffolk.
“We were heartened to receive a speedy response from Natural England, assuring us that, if and when it receives an application from the Lynx UK Trust, it will consult ‘all relevant parties’ and consider the socio-economic impacts of the reintroduction, as well as impacts on the environment and the animals themselves,” says Mr Stocker.
“This is vitally important, as the project will disrupt vulnerable ecosystems and challenge the viability of sheep farms. This will, in turn, have a damaging impact on farmers’ livelihoods and businesses if the lynx prey on sheep.”
He believes that the charity hasn’t considered the long-term implications of the project. “It’s all very well to talk about the release of six or eight lynx, but how do you control them in the years to come when numbers get to a point where they threaten sheep in the area?
“The Lynx UK Trust is going to try to soften the blow by talking about a five-year project, but I think putting a stop to it after five years will be very difficult.
“I understand people’s interest in reintroducing extinct predators back into the countryside, however, we have to be practical and realistic, and look at how things have changed in the last 1,300 years.”