Lundy rats – stop the slaughter

Posted on the 1st March 2003

A wildlife cull is currently underway on the Isle of Lundy in an attempt to eradicate all of the rats on the island. They are being blamed for the declining populations of puffin and Manx shearwater. However, scientific studies suggest that the decline is likely to be due to over-fishing of sand eels (the birds' staple diet) or inaccessibility of breeding sites.

Rats are mainly herbivorous and have lived on the island for more than 400 years: the seabirds have only begun to decline over the past 60. There has been no significant increase in rats during this time.

To ‘solve’ the rat problem, a coalition has been formed between four major conservation organisations – English Nature, Landmark Trust, National Trust and the RSPB. Their aim is to make Lundy rat-free by Easter. Bait was laid in early January so the cull is now well underway. Their method is poison by a second generation anti-coagulant called difenacoum. This causes the rats to die by internal bleeding – almost certainly an extremely painful death. There is also a very real possibility that non-target species could consume the poison either by direct contact or via rat carcases.

The coalition justifies the killing on the grounds that the rats are not native to Lundy, since they were brought in on ships more than 400 years ago. But Animal Aid sees that there is an increasing trend by top-table conservation groups to eradicate species in order to create their own conceited view of ‘ecological harmony’.

Moreover, even their claim that killing is justified to conserve endangered species is flawed. Lundy is home to one of the only remaining colonies of the black rat (rattus rattus), which has been described as ‘one of the rarest mammals in the UK’.

Animal Aid has campaigned against the cull since October last year. We have received positive media coverage and, although we have been unable to prevent the start of the killing, we have raised awareness and caused embarrassment to the organisations involved.

It is not too late to write to the coalition to register your disapproval. Their addresses are:

English Nature
Dr Andy Brown, Chief Executive, Northminster House, Peterborough, PE1 1UA.
01733 455000, email

The Landmark Trust
Peter Pearce, Director, Shottesbrooke, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 3SW.
01628 825417, email

The National Trust
Fiona Reynolds, Director General, 36 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AS.
0207 222 5097, email

Graham Wynne, Chief Executive, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL
01767 680551, email

Keep in touch with the campaign – click here for the Lundy rats campaign index.

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