The National Sheep Association (NSA) is concerned to hear rumours that Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove may be prepared to fast-track a decision on lynx release. It is calling on representative farming bodies and individuals to unite and take action to voice unanimous concerns over the proposals.

While Lynx UK continues its campaign for release NSA feels it is essential Mr Gove appreciates the concerns rural communities have around the proposal.

Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: “I know Mr Gove is interested in these proposals and I am certain now is the time for individual farmers, land managers and their representative organisations to make their feelings heard. I would go as far as urging every farmer who has views over this to write to the Secretary of State so he can appreciate the strength of stakeholder concerns, which go way beyond the losses that will be suffered by sheep farmers.”

A verdict on whether lynx should be released in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, is still pending after Lynx UK Trust submitted a formal application to Natural England earlier this year. The government advisory body is currently reviewing information and is expected to announce a decision in the coming months.

NSA has been gathering industry and local opinion at a series of meetings in recent months, working with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and British Deer Society (BDS) as well as several hundred local stakeholders involved in farming, tourism, animal welfare, land management, field sports and conservation.

Mr Stocker said: “A connected approach, but in an individual capacity, is what is needed if we are to relay the true scale of our concerns. The risks to landscape and wildlife, heavily invested in for years, are real. Alongside disease and welfare risks, coupled with concerns around whether any lynx population could be genetically sustainable on our heavily populated island. This of course in addition to the resultant losses and stress on farmers.

“It is not a simple matter of a compensation package putting everything right. We know from sheep farmers in Finland, Norway and elsewhere that losses go way beyond those predicted. I simply cannot accept that the conscious release of a high-level predator is compatible with the high level of animal welfare expected of British farmers.”