Farming UK news reports the sector wants reassurance that any formal application by the Lynx UK Trust to introduce up to ten Eurasian Lynx into Kielder Forest will trigger a full independent impact study and consultation.
Lynx UK is currently exploring the possibility of an introduction program, but has not submitted an application to the licensing authorities in England and Scotland: Natural England and the Scottish Natural Heritage.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) in England and National Sheep Association (NSA) in England and Scotland are working together to represent farmers, who the sector say would “bear the brunt” of any introduction program.
They say the “justified concerns”—not just of farmers but others in the rural community— “must be taken seriously.”
They disagree with the suggestion that ‘consultation’ work carried out by the organization committed to achieving the introduction of lynx would meet the legal requirement for an official and independent review.
NFU and NSA also stress the importance of an application being made to the licensing bodies in both nations, saying it is unacceptable for any release to go ahead without the people and businesses on both sides of the border being given chance to participate in the decision making process.
“A thorough, independent evaluation of any proposals put forward is what farmers in the local area expect,” said NFU Regional Director Adam Bedford.
“This is an area almost wholly dependent on sheep farming and times are tough. Any unnecessary additional pressure on these fragile businesses is simply unacceptable and the government must respond accordingly. Scottish farmers already have the commitment of their government to carry out a full consultation in the event of a formal application by Lynx UK. We now need Natural England to follow suit in England. The truth is we don’t know how these animals would behave in an environment that is very different to the last time they lived in the wild in England. What is clear is that they would prey on sheep and in particular the lambs so readily available on local farms. Surely our efforts and finances would be better focused on retaining current biodiversity.”
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says sheep are an essential part of the economic, environmental and societal “jigsaw” in rural areas. “Put this one vital piece at risk and the whole structure is threatened, biodiversity is reduced, cultural and heritage is lost, and the rural landscape changes,” said Mr. Stocker.
“We are concerned that lynx will negatively impact sheep farming businesses without being guaranteed to bring any gains in terms of environment or tourism. Lynx are not considered to be an at risk species on a global scale and we would do better to concentrate on the iconic landscapes and incredible biodiversity that we already have in the UK. The level of risk has been emphasized by the recent escape of a lynx from a Plymouth zoo. It killed a number of lambs in a short amount of time and was recaptured with the knowledge it would return to the site of its last kill.”
“Official guidance from the police was for the public to stay away from the animal as it could be dangerous if startled or cornered,” concluded Mr. Stocker.