Wildlife criminals can’t wait for April

Posted on 15 February 2016 by

Alyx Elliott

in the Animals in the wild blog

Cuts to our National Wildlife Crime Unit will give them a free pass...

Over the past few weeks, World Animal Protection has been calling for a decision to be made about the future of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). It’s funding is due to come to an end on 31st March, but the UK Government still hasn’t announced whether or not they will be renewing their funding for it.

Both Defra and the Home Office give just £136,000 a year towards the Unit. Combined, this provides the majority of their funding and without it, the NWCU may as well not exist. In return for their contribution, the UK Government has a specialist police team that delivers countless investigations and prosecutions every year, deterring and punishing criminals who are getting involved in everything from hare coursing and deer poaching to selling endangered species online. 

It’s a hugely varied and demanding job that depends on very particular expertise due to the complex nature of the relevant laws. And because most police forces across the UK don’t even have one single full-time Wildlife Crime Officer, they also spend the majority of their time travelling up and down the country to try and keep on top of all the cases that crop up but can’t be dealt with adequately by local officers. 

Impressed? I certainly am. Unfortunately, the UK Government doesn’t seem that bothered. They are leaving it right to the last minute to make a decision about whether this Unit’s funding should be protected. This has happened before, and the Unit has lost specialist staff who couldn’t take the risk of waiting to see whether they’d lose their jobs.

Not only is this a slap in the face to the hard-working staff in the NWCU; it makes you wonder whether our Government cares at all about our wildlife. Because without this team in place, they will basically be giving criminals free rein to poach, bait, shoot, trap, smuggle, torment and exploit British wildlife however they like. 

Want to help us ensure protection for our National Wildlife Crime Unit? We are going to be at Parliament every week demanding that they make a decision.

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