The National Sheep Association is warning against the reintroduction of wild lynx into the UK.
The move comes after the release of The Lynx and Us, by ecologist Dr David Hetherington, which is published by Scotland: The Big Picture.
The NSA’s statement also comes a year on from the initial licence application by the Lynx UK Trust to reintroduce cats to the British countryside.
NSA has been countering the debate brought by Lynx UK since its licence application, and during the many months previous to that, pointing out that the debate must be heard from both sides.
They say releasing lynx would have many negative consequences, not just for sheep but also for other wild species and the lynx themselves.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker says: ‘If those raising the debate from the side of the lynx were more open to discussion and willing to hear counter points, they might understand the problems that reintroducing this wild cat would bring.
‘UK farming is not set up to deal with this kind of predator, and we feel very strongly that its reintroduction would be hugely damaging.
‘This doesn’t just apply to livestock and the livelihoods of those who make their living on the land, but to all wildlife and ecosystems. The lynx has been extinct in the UK for more than 1000 years and the UK’s natural life would not be prepared for this level of new predator.
‘While Kielder and north west parts of the Scottish Highlands may provide suitable habitat and sufficient food sources in theory, they are isolated from other such areas of habitat meaning we’d never get to the minimum population of lynx needed to avoid the welfare issues of in-breeding and genetic deformities.
‘In addition, lynx are known to feed on red squirrels and ground nesting birds such as the curlew.
‘The bare fact of the matter is the lynx does not belong in the UK wildlife ecosystem anymore.’
NSA also stresses that other countries, such as Norway, are struggling to cope with the cats.
Mr Stocker continued: ‘Unlike in the UK, sheep are regularly housed or penned at night-time in Norway and are often herded by shepherds by day. Even then, we hear of lynx clearing a six-foot gate to kill and take sheep. With UK sheep roaming freely and unattended for most of the day they are highly likely to be even more at risk.’