Waterlife Recovery Trust to exterminate American mink by trapping and shooting

Posted on the 19th January 2024

Once again, a wild animal has been scapegoated as a conservation villain and blamed for a problem created by humans. Labelled as a ‘humane’ cull, the Waterlife Recovery Trust (WRT) plans to trap the American mink in river raft cages and then shoot them in the head – at a potential cost of several million pounds.

American mink were first introduced into the UK in the early 20th Century to be exploited, imprisoned in cages and brutally killed by the fur farmers. Many escaped from the numerous fur farms in the 1950s and established themselves in the surrounding countryside. Mink are predators so have naturally fed on small rodents, including water voles.

The WRT now plans to totally obliterate these poor animals, stating it wants to “eradicate mink before they wipe out the last of our water voles and drive the final nail into the coffin of seabird colonies already hammered by avian influenza.”

Avian Influenza (AI) has, in fact, been transmitted widely to bird populations via the intensive and cruel factory farming of chickens and other birds by the meat industry – so to scapegoat the mink is to, once again, turn a blind eye to a situation which has been caused by, and perpetuated by, the mass production of animals by the meat industry.

Whilst it is true to say that mink do predate on water voles, they are not the only threat to water voles. Water vole conservationists will explain that one of the biggest threats to water vole populations and other river wildlife is disturbance by humans, and in particular by dogs encouraged into the water.  Keeping dogs out of the water would remove a huge stress on riverine wildlife. The atrocious state of our rivers is also impacting hugely on wildlife and must be addressed as a matter of priority.

By way of comparison, whilst the mink have been blamed for wildlife crimes, the shooting industry is still perfectly content to release some 60 million pheasants and partridges into the UK countryside each year, despite the ecological impact these non-native birds have on the environment due to them killing and eating native reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

The WRT’s headline-grabbing extermination programme is likely to cost several million pounds. It has already been reported that Natural England – which has a stated objective of “using public money safely” –  has given funds of £500,000 to WRT’s eradication programme.

Worryingly, the WRT’s website contains a DIY section informing people how they can trap the mink and “shoot it through the head”. However, mink are quite small animals so to shoot them through the head must be very difficult, especially bearing in mind that the killing of the mink can be undertaken by anyone – trained or untrained – with a shotgun licence. There is no humane way to kill an animal who doesn’t want to die.

The major cull of mink to save water vole is not only cruel, but is poor science and far too simplistic a solution to a much wider human-caused problem. Humans created this problem, so it is up to us to take responsibility and not cause even more suffering to mink who we have used and abused for decades.

Take action:

  • If you make a regular donation to Waterlife Recovery Trust, please withdraw your financial support
  • Send a polite message to the Trust letting them know that you oppose their plans to exterminate innocent animals
  • Sign our petition against the shooting industry

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