Difenacoum-based products labelled for use only in and around buildings have started appearing on the shelves of country stores, and bromadiolone-based products are expected to suffer similar restrictions later in the year.

After the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) decision to impose restrictions in February, there was outcry from gamekeepers, pest controllers, and fieldsports and conservation organisations.

The HSE imposed the restrictions despite there being no public announcement, and before it had finished a review on the risks posed by using the second-generation anticoagulant rat poisons (SGARs).

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) wrote to DEFRA minister Lord de Mauley in February, explaining that the compounds were vital to rat control in the countryside.

However, the minister responded by saying that the registration of “biocides” (chemicals that kill), as opposed to “plant protection products”, was a matter for the Department for Work and Pensions — that is, for Iain Duncan Smith’s jurisdiction.

The HSE has said that if it concludes from its pending review of the impacts of the ban that the restrictions are unjustified, it will reverse the situation.

A spokesman from the NGO told Shooting Times: “The more we learn about the way the HSE has acted on this issue, and the wider consequences of its restrictions for rat control and, not least, public health, the more serious questions emerge.”

“We are still campaigning vigorously to get the restrictions on outdoor use reversed, and that is the priority for our members. But there are also serious concerns about the HSE’s lack of due process, and we are now raising these with the secretary of state.”

The effects of imposing the restrictions on SGARs will be widespread and have serious implications for public health, food production and wildlife management, according to pest controllers and gamekeepers.

Research carried out for the National Pest Advisory Panel of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has found that more than 128,000 rat treatments would be affected by the restrictions imposed by the HSE, but that figure only includes rats in and around public areas.

The HSE has invited all the “stakeholders” to a meeting in Liverpool on 23 April to discuss the restrictions, and has published a summary of 50 responses submitted by those stakeholders.

According to the summary, 38 of the respondents believed that “both professional and nonprofessional use of SGARs should be permitted — half of those thinking that non-professional use should be restricted to indoor use.”

According to the paper, several of the respondents said that there was no evidence of problems or contribution to wildlife residues with nonprofessional use of SGARs.

To download the document, visit: www.hse.gov.uk/biocides/ news.htm

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) has published a new advisory booklet, Rat Control and Game Management, which was produced in collaboration with the NGO, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, BASC and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

It contains advice on achieving effective control with minimum impact on wildlife and the environment.

The booklet also aims to clarify the law in this area.

CRRU chairman Dr Alan Buckle said the best way of using rat poisons was in “a short, successful campaign, at the end of which any remaining rodenticide is collected and disposed of in an approved way. Leaving some rodenticide in place ‘just in case’ is simply unacceptable today.”

To download the new booklet, visit www.thinkwildlife.org.uk

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Restrictions put in place on rodenticides