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Norwegian Lessons on Dangers of Predation

Study trip hears more than 20,000 sheep lost to predators in 2016

NFU Scotland remains crystal clear that any proposals to re-introduce predators such as lynx or wolves are of huge concern to Scottish farmers and crofters.

On a recent study trip to Norway, an NFUS delegation heard that, in 2016, Norwegian authorities paid out compensation on nearly 20,000 sheep lost to predators.  Of the total amount of sheep killed in Norway, wolverine accounted for around 34 per cent of losses with the lynx, bear and wolf accounting for 21 per cent, 15 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

Feverish press coverage of the proposals to reintroduce lynx to Kielder Forest on the border between Scotland and England saw a welcome commitment recently from Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing that he would never support such a reintroduction in Scotland.

Through its membership of the National Species Reintroduction Forum (NSRF) in Scotland, NFU Scotland has sought and received assurances from Natural England - the body currently assessing the application for a trial reintroduction of six lynx to Kielder - that the NSRF would be kept informed and be consulted on the proposals.

In early 2018, NFU Scotland will be making its views known directly to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP. He has decided that he, rather than Natural England, will make the final decision on the current trial reintroduction application.

Commenting after his Norwegian trip, NFU Scotland Vice President Martin Kennedy said: “Easily the biggest challenge Norwegian sheep farmers face is predation by large carnivores.

“Although sheep are housed for at least 6 months of the year, depending on which part of Norway you farm, when they graze up through the trees after lambing then they are extremely vulnerable.

“Predation has reduced over the past 10 years, but this isn’t because of fewer predators, but more to do with the fact that a number of hill farmers have simply stopped keeping sheep.

“The Norwegian NFU believe that around 1,000 hill farmers have given up keeping sheep in the last decade as they simply cannot carry on at the levels of predation.

“It's all very well receiving the compensation but that doesn't allow for the psychological impact that this scale of losses has on farmers. Putting myself in their shoes, I can understand why they've given up.

“We are in this business to produce good quality food and looking after our animals is a priority, so to see a healthy breeding animal being taken out by a predator early in her life would be horrendous.

“The Norwegians told us that to reintroduce predators into our country would be an absolute catastrophe.  Their experience has simply strengthened our resolve to ensure that any proposals to do the same in Scotland receive rigorous scrutiny.  If they will have an unacceptable impact on farmers and crofters, the Union will act accordingly.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 187/17


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