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EU rules sound death-knell for British wildlife

09 January 2019, at 3:06p.m.

The Wildlife Aid Foundation is calling on MPs to reject new EU rules which will sign the death warrant for many of the UK’s best loved wild animals. The British wildlife rescue charity has added its weight to a joint statement (attached) issued on behalf of wildlife centres and vets concerned by the potential impact of the proposed legislation.

If adopted into UK law, the regulations will force wildlife centres and veterinarians to kill healthy animals such as grey squirrels and muntjac deer. They are due to come into force the day before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. The rules will replace a current licensing system, which allows rescue centres to treat and care for specified numbers of animals classified as invasive species.

Under EU Regulation 1143/2014 of the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019, any animal taken to a vet practice or wildlife hospital that is covered by the directive will have to be euthanised, no matter how healthy it is. The majority of the ‘victims’ are likely to be grey squirrels. MPs will have an opportunity to raise objections to the legislation before it passes into law, although rescue centres with licences have already been notified by Defra that their permissions will be revoked.

Each year, concerned members of the public find orphaned squirrels which they take to experts where they are professionally cared for and legally released. WAF believes these animals are just as much a part of our ecosystem as any other and deserve the chance for life. The current system has worked well for many years and we believe that the proposed replacement will have several negative consequences:

  • It will cause unnecessary suffering to wildlife.
  • It will force the practice of animal rescue underground and inexperienced, well-meaning members of the public will try to look after animals in circumstances that will do more harm than good.
  • It will have no impact on numbers, as the amount of animals it covers is insignificant in terms of overall population.
  • WAF believes the grey squirrel is now an established part of the UK fauna. They were introduced to these shores and have thrived because they are highly intelligent and adaptable. People love them and enjoy watching them and feeding them.
  • The policy will create public disaffection at a time when wildlife needs to be protected, not persecuted. In just a few weeks in December 2018, over 20,000 people had signed a petition opposing the regulations.

At the Wildlife Aid Foundation, we believe we have a moral obligation to treat our patients humanely, no matter what species, because all animals are equal and should be treated equally. The new rules force us to discriminate and euthanise unnecessarily.

WAF founder and CEO Simon Cowell said: “The proposed regulation sends the wrong message to a public which is more engaged and concerned about the state of the natural world than ever. It is saddening to see such ill-informed policy at a time when great strides have been made in raising awareness of environmental issues.”