Defra calls for more animal culling powers
23 August 2012
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has called for a change to wildlife laws which will make it easier to cull creatures considered pests.
New proposals currently under consultation by the Law Commission could make it possible for invasive species such as grey squirrels or muntjac deer to be annihilated en masse. While it is currently acceptable to destroy such creatures on an individual basis, new legislation would enable the systematic extermination of unwanted flora and fauna across a set area, even making it illegal for landowners to refuse to participate.
This would allow the government to enact wide-ranging schemes to exterminate undesirable species, with authorities able to encroach on the property of reluctant landowners and carry out culls themselves – maybe even charging for the privilege.
Defra argues that the moves are necessary in order to control the spread of plants and wildlife that do not belong in the country and in many cases are harmful to native species and the ecosystem.
But Andrew Tyler, director of the Animal Rights organisation Animal Aid, criticised Defra for acting exclusively on behalf of the farming, shooting and forestry sectors. “What they are looking at is to fix the law so that it would legitimise the demonisation of flora and fauna that has a place in our landscape,” he said.
A variety of other issues are under consideration. For example, short-term emergency licences may allow the killing of a certain species of animal if their presence is causing problems. In terms of animal protection laws, people could soon face penalties if they act in a reckless fashion which kills an animal, and there may be an evaluation of the appeals process for those who wish to challenge licences to kill certain animals.
The consultation from the Law Commission bemoans the current state of wildlife law, which is said to have “no homogenous purpose or theme”. Earlier laws regarding wildlife were mostly designed to protect the interests of landowners, with the welfare of the animals only coming into play in the twentieth century, resulting in a legislatory regime with what the report calls “varying, and sometimes conflicting, aims and roles”.