New report on wildlife crime reveals lack of progress by Government

Wildlife & Countryside LINK, a coalition of 67 wildlife organisations, including Wild Justice, has today published its 6th annual report on wildlife crime.

The report, covering the year 2021, reveals that wildlife crime has soared and the Government has made little progress on tackling it. The wildlife crimes covered in this report cover a range of species including badgers, birds of prey, bats, amphibians and reptiles, hares, foxes, marine mammals plants and fungi, as well as crimes associated with hunting, fisheries and the international trade in wildlife.

Dr Richard Benwell, chief executive of the Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “Wildlife crime soared during the pandemic and remained at record levels this year. Progress on convictions is positive, and we welcome Defra’s efforts to stiffen sentencing, but overall that is of little use while the rate of successful prosecutions remains so low.

The snapshot in our report is likely to be a significant under-estimate of all kinds of wildlife offences. To get to grips with these cruel crimes, the Home Office should make wildlife crime notifiable, to help target resources and action to deal with hotspots of criminality.

The Retained EU Law Bill threatens to be a serious distraction, and could even lead to important wildlife laws being lost. Instead, seven years on from its publication, the government should implement the Law Commission’s 2015 wildlife law report.

Surely it is better to spend time and money improving laws that are as much as two centuries old, than wasting time reviewing effective environmental laws under the REUL bill.”

Martin Sims, chair of Link’s wildlife crime working group, said: “We must empower police forces to act on wildlife crime.

We already see how, with proper resources and training, a real difference can be made in the work against awful crimes like hare coursing. It’s the counties with well-funded and resourced projects in place where we’re seeing the most positive progress.

Also essential to efforts to better protect our wildlife is making wildlife crime notifiable, and recorded in national statistics. This would better enable police forces to gauge the true extent of wildlife crime and to plan strategically to address it.

The Wildlife & Countryside LINK 2021 wildlife crime report can be downloaded here