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Comment and Environment

The rules protecting UK wildlife still allow horrifying practices

Wildlife management laws in the UK are riddled with indefensible exemptions and must change, says former UK deputy chief veterinary officer Alick Simmons

By Alick Simmons

27 September 2023

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Michelle D’urbano

WE TREAT our animals inconsistently in the UK – no official oversees the inhumane poisoning of wild Norway rats, for example, but step outside the law when using the same species in research and you risk prosecution.

This isn’t because of any material differences, but because of tradition, prejudice and ignorance. We create arbitrary categories: farmed animals, wildlife, research animals, pets, “pests” and “game”. These are perpetuated through regulations providing wildly different levels of protection and care. At one extreme, the UK has the toughest regulatory environment in the world – for animals in research – and at the other are its laws ostensibly protecting wildlife, a dog’s dinner of outrageous omissions and egregious practice. This, despite …

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