lynx© Jurgen & Christine Sohns/FLPA / Imagebroker/Rex/ Shutterstock

Farm minister Michael Gove is considering fast-tracking a decision to release lynx into the wild in England, according to the National Sheep Association (NSA).

As a result, NSA chief executive Phil Stocker wants every farmer with an interest in the potential release to write to Mr Gove so that he fully appreciates the strength of stakeholder concerns.

The Lynx UK Trust submitted an application to Natural England earlier this year to release five lynx into the English countryside at Kielder Forest, Northumberland.

See also: Sheep farmers not reassured by lynx insurance scheme

The Defra agency is reviewing information, and last week the trust said it was hopeful of a decision before the end of the year.

Running out of time

“I know Mr Gove is interested in these proposals and I am certain now is the time for individual farmers, land managers and their representative organisations to make their feelings heard,” said Mr Stocker.

“A connected approach, but in an individual capacity, is what is needed if we are to relay the true scale of our concerns.”

The NSA has been working with the NFU, British Deer Society and several hundred local stakeholders involved in farming, tourism, field sports and land management to gather industry and local opinion over the past couple of months.

Last week, the Lynx UK Trust announced it had agreed an insurance policy covering all sheep against any losses, but the NSA rejected this as misunderstanding farmers’ concerns.

“It is not a simple matter of a compensation package putting everything right. We know from sheep farmers in Finland, Norway and elsewhere that losses go way beyond those predicted,” said Mr Stocker.

“I simply cannot accept that the conscious release of a high-level predator is compatible with the high level of animal welfare expected of British farmers.”

He added that he has been assured that any decision on releasing lynx must involve the relevant Scottish authorities as the proposed release site is close to the border.

A Natural England spokesperson said: “Any decision to grant a licence to reintroduce lynx into the wild in England will be based on the impacts on affected communities, the wider environment and follow international guidelines.”