Farm groups have slammed a Defra plan to establish a rewilding forum, branding it an idea ‘straight out of the Mad Hatter’s tea party’.
According to reports, the Prime Minister has asked officials to set up the group to test the appetite for reintroducing lynx, wolves and sea eagles, among other species, to England.
Defra confirmed Natural England is looking to get the forum up and running later this year, though it remains unclear how members will be chosen.
A number of powerful figures in the department, including Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith and non-executive director Ben Goldsmith, are known to be enthusiastic about rewilding.
The Prime Minister’s partner, Carrie Symonds, is also a proponent of the idea, recently taking up a job at the Aspinall Foundation which reintroduces species to the wild across the world.
But Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn told Farmers Guardian the idea of a rewilding forum was ‘just crazy’.
“Rewilding may have a role to play in very individual circumstances, but we should avoid using it as some sort of magic wand for both climate change mitigation and biodiversity improvement,” he said.
“The reintroduction of top predators such as lynx and wolves would be reckless in the extreme. We already have a major problem in trying to control domestic pets around livestock, without adding further pressures.
“Those unelected influencers at the heart of Government should be setting their sights on helping to resolve more immediate issues such as hare coursing, fly tipping and dog attacks on livestock, which would have far greater beneficial impacts on our countryside than some misguided idea about returning Britain to a sort of medieval wasteland.”
In the west of Scotland, where white-tailed sea eagles were reintroduced more than 30 years ago, crofters have said the birds of prey have made sheep farming all but impossible, with adult sheep weighing up to 60kg being snatched from hill sides.
A Defra group spokesperson said: “We continue to support the creation and enhancement of wilder landscapes as part of our broader approach to nature recovery including, where appropriate, species reintroductions.”