Natural England (NE) has enraged landowners and farmers by scrapping legislation that enables them to order their neighbours to cull rabbits if their crops are threatened.

For the past 60 years, as part of the 1947 Agriculture Act and the 1954 Pests Act, all landowners had a duty to keep down rabbit numbers on their property to protect crops. If a neighbour failed to do so, aggrieved farmers could apply to NE for an Agriculture Act Notice which ordered the despatch of the rabbits.

According to NE, in the past three years a total of 61 complaints were made where neighbours could not agree on the control of rabbits, and in only three cases was an order issued. A spokesman stated that this change “will not have a signifi cant impact on reducing levels of rabbit control. In the vast majority of cases, problems concerning rabbit control are dealt with satisfactorily as a result of neighbouring landowners agreeing on appropriate action between themselves.”

Rural organisations are angered about the change. The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner told ST: “When it continues to act in such a ludicrous way without consultation or logic, the Government can’t escape the criticism that it has no understanding of rural issues or interest in the views of the countryside. There could not be a better example of how the Government and NE are infested with a ‘bunny hugger’ mentality.”

The rest of this article appears in 4 December issue of Shooting Times.

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