SHEEP farmers are bracing themselves for an expected bloody slaughter of their soon-to-be born spring lambs by ravaging foxes.
They say that the growing number of killer foxes is adding to the strain of farming life – and hitting their pockets.
And with lambing due to start on Border farms next month, the NFU Scotland has again said that farmers must be allowed to use snares, provided those setting them are properly trained and that the snaring is operated under a strict code of practice.
The Scottish Government is currently debating the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill which has again ignited a controversial debate on snaring. But union leaders say snaring is essential to control predators which are responsible for what they describe as significant lamb kills each year. The union’s head of rural policy, Jonnie Hall, has just addressed Holyrood’s cross-party working group on animal welfare issues.
He told MSPs: “Every lambing time, farmers face an annual threat of having their hard work undermined when newborn lambs are taken and killed by foxes. With fox numbers growing, lamb losses continue to present the potential for emotional stress and an economic burden on the business.” But he stressed it wasn’t just a problem at lambing time.
He went on: “While the lambing season highlights the danger to lambs from foxes, it is important to bear in mind that there is a year-round threat from predators to other livestock such as poultry and outdoor pigs. For a significant number of Scottish farmers, snares are an important and necessary tool for controlling such pests.”
And he told the group firmly what farmers expected: “We want the important role of snaring in humanely controlling predators to be retained. In addition, all those involved in snaring must be properly trained in the use of snares and operate to existing codes of practice and legal requirements.”
Mr Hall said that by operating to professional standards, snaring should remain the most effective and practical means available to farmers to prevent costly livestock losses through predation.