The National Sheep Association (NSA) has hit back at the Lynx UK Trust after it launched a brutal attack on sheep farmers.
The Trust accused the NSA of focusing all its attention on the possible release of lynx in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, while ignoring the plight of lambs lost to hypothermia or poor diets.
A spokesman told The Times: “We have had two years of the National Sheep Association’s reality-defying claims that six lynx will threaten the UK’s sheep industry and food security, but they have had almost nothing to say on the millions of lambs lost to welfare basics while they were busy doing it.
“I consider this extremely poor representation of the industry; sheep farming needs solutions to the problems it faces, not scaremongering.”
The NSA’s chief executive Phil Stocker slammed the attack, branding it ‘very unfair and inaccurate.’
He pointed out the organisation spent most of its time supporting farmers to improve productivity and the health of their animals.
“This is a damning indictment on our farmers”, he said.
“They are some of the highest welfare producers globally and they are struggling all the time with environmental factors such as weather conditions.”
Mr Stocker also took aim at the Trust’s proposed ‘sheep welfare programme’, which would use contributions from tourists at a visitor centre in Kielder to help farmers build lambing shelters and maintain fencing to reduce road kills.
He said: “Sheep farming is far from being a factory system where you can monitor everything going in and going out, so inevitably you are going to get some environmental losses from time to time, but to suggest farmers are going to make dramatic improvements just by taking up some scheme where they offer to put lamb shelters in a field is absolutely ridiculous.”
The NSA remains concerned about the long-term impact of the project if it goes ahead. Though the Lynx UK Trust has promised to pay compensation to sheep farmers who lose livestock during the five-year pilot, there has been no discussion about payment after the completion of the trial.
“They keep talking about this just being a five-year pilot, and if it does not work, everything will be put back. It will not be”, Mr Stocker said.
The NSA, NFU and British Deer Society are holding a meeting about the potential lynx release on Wednesday August 16 at 7.30pm in Elsdon Village Hall, near Otterburn, NE18 1AB.
The meeting will update farmers on what is being done to prevent the release taking place and gather further ideas and areas of activity.
All are welcome.