Lundy rate slaughter sparks outcry

Posted on the 11th December 2002

The UK's largest animal protection organisation, Animal Aid, has condemned four national conservation organisations, namely English Nature, National Trust, RSPB and Landmark Trust, for their planned cull of rats on the isle of Lundy.

Lundy is a small island, just 11 miles off the Devon coast and is home to one of the only remaining colonies of black rats (rattus rattus). The partnership claims that the rats are threatening the existence of the puffin and the Manx shearwater. However, a number of scientific studies have suggested that the seabirds are not at risk from the rats.

The black rats have lived on Lundy for over four hundred years, and are an important part of the island’s biodiversity. Incidentally, it is only during the last sixty years that seabird numbers have begun to decline. It is possible that the decline in seabirds could be due to the over-fishing of sand eels – part of their staple diet. Additionally, they are mainly herbivorous animals, who will not actively predate on other species.

Rattus rattus has itself been described as “one of the rarest mammals in the UK”, therefore it is absurd that one rare species are killed in order to save another. Neither shearwaters nor puffins are endangered species worldwide and their decline on Lundy does not threaten the overall survival of the species. An argument the partnership has used is that the black rat is not indigenous to the Lundy isle – however, neither are the soay sheep or the sika deer – two of Lundy’s most treasured mammals.

The cull method to be used is poison by a second generation anti-coagulant, difenacoum. This will be placed in bait traps which will supposedly lure the rats. However, there is the very real possibility that other mammals and birds could be drawn to the bait or dead rats, and inadvertently become poisoned themselves. Even the most rigorous of checking procedures could not prevent this from happening.

Says Animal Aid Campaigns Officer, Becky Lilly:

“There is a growing tendency amongst top-table conservation groups to attempt to restore ecological harmony through wholesale slaughter. This is not the way forward. In this case, more controls on commercial fishing, management of pollution and protection of breeding sites would help boost the seabird population.”

Animal Aid has called upon all the organisations involved to end the cull, but as yet have received no reply.

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