Lynx debate threatens livestock and livelihoods – NSA

Further recent discussions on reintroducing lynx to the Scottish countryside have prompted calls to protect diverse farmland habitats, livestock and the people that manage them.

Picture of a Eurasian lynx sat on a log in woodland
Stock photo for illustration only.

A potential reintroduction of lynx was recently debated in Scottish Parliament, after a motion by SNP’s Kenneth Gibson received cross-party support.

Those in favour of the moved argued that a managed return of the species could make Scotland’s natural world ‘richer and stronger’.

Grace Reid, National Sheep Association’s Scottish Region coordinator, argues: “NSA Scottish Region advocates for a diverse tapestry of habitats and biodiversity across farmland. Protecting these habitats that exist, the species that are at risk right now, and the people managing them should be the priorities for the government.

“However, NSA members across the UK and notably Scotland have been at the sharp end of species reintroductions, from poor consultation processes, illegal releases, no management strategies, and no mitigation, exit or recognition of the impacts to farming businesses and livelihoods. We are increasingly concerned around the contradictions which could arise in government policy.”

The NSA said that in a time of new UK farming policies to incentivise habitat creation and improving animal welfare standards, it is “short sighted” to consider the release of a species that could “severely damage” the biodiversity of existing habitats, as well as animal welfare and sheep farmers’ livelihoods.

Ms Reid continues: “The argument that Lynx will only feed on deer is not acceptable. There is no doubt sheep will be an easy target for predation and it is a major concern for those who farm in Scotland. Evidence has shown that some European sheep flocks continue to suffer disproportionately great losses due to lynx predation.

“Those in favour of a reintroduction argue the UK has fallen behind in terms of species diversity but there is a history of greater land use and land use change in Scotland than Europe has seen and therefore comparisons cannot be made between the UK and Europe due to the vast land scale and landscape differences.”

The NSA concluded that it is “absolutely imperative” that there is a clear plan in place for the responsibility of the reintroduced species. Particularly when it comes to maintaining the sheep industry the natural environment, potential increased footfall, and consequences including traffic, litter, fencing, pathways, gates, crop damage, fields and livestock attacks.

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