We own around 57,000 hectares of land in North West England which is used primarily as drinking water catchment. Much of this is moorland and substantial areas are designated as sites of special scientific interest (SSSI). As a result, any activity on these areas requires the consent of Natural England in accordance with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981). This includes consent to carry out activities such as shooting, maintenance of grouse butts and vegetation management.
In addition to the SSSI’s there are Special Protection Areas such as the Bowland Fells. These are home to species such as hen harriers, as well as other raptors who breed on the moorlands and are protected as a schedule 1 species under the WCA 1981. The control of predators on the moors is necessary to enable these protected species to breed successfully.
Given the nature of the land we own, our tenants do need to be able to control predators. Where some form of control is considered to be necessary then an assessment is made of the most appropriate method to use, with careful consideration given to the best forms of predator control to balance effectiveness and animal welfare. We liaise closely with our shooting tenants on their operations, and expect them all to act in accordance with the WCA 1981 and related legislation, including the 2012 Defra Code of Practice on the use of snares and the Fox Snaring and Lamping Codes of practice, as issued by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
As such, it is not appropriate for us to ban the use of snares as this is still a valid and legal method of predator control when carried out appropriately, which can be useful in certain circumstances, such as control around the dozens of farmsteads on our land.
We have recently reviewed how our tenants comply with the terms of our leases and their use of snares. This has identified the use of a number of snares which are all legal and being used in accordance with the relevant code of practice. We are going to work with our tenants to consider alternatives where appropriate.
We continue to encourage anybody who has evidence of unlawful practice to report it to the police and we will facilitate any investigations that follow.