Grey squirrel rehabilitation – Press release

EU rules sound death-knell for British wildlife

The Wildlife Aid Foundation is calling on MPs to reject new EU rules which will sign the death warrant for many of the UK’s best loved wild animals. The British wildlife rescue charity has added its weight to a joint statement (attached) issued on behalf of wildlife centres and vets concerned by the potential impact of the proposed legislation.

If adopted into UK law, the regulations will force wildlife centres and veterinarians to kill healthy animals such as grey squirrels and muntjac deer. They are due to come into force the day before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. The rules will replace a current licensing system, which allows rescue centres to treat and care for specified numbers of animals classified as invasive species.

Under EU Regulation 1143/2014 of the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019, any animal taken to a vet practice or wildlife hospital that is covered by the directive will have to be euthanised, no matter how healthy it is. The majority of the ‘victims’ are likely to be grey squirrels. MPs will have an opportunity to raise objections to the legislation before it passes into law, although rescue centres with licences have already been notified by Defra that their permissions will be revoked.

Each year, concerned members of the public find orphaned squirrels which they take to experts where they are professionally cared for and legally released. WAF believes these animals are just as much a part of our ecosystem as any other and deserve the chance for life. The current system has worked well for many years and we believe that the proposed replacement will have several negative consequences:

  • It will cause unnecessary suffering to wildlife.
  • It will force the practice of animal rescue underground and inexperienced, well-meaning members of the public will try to look after animals in circumstances that will do more harm than good.
  • It will have no impact on numbers, as the amount of animals it covers is insignificant in terms of overall population.
  • WAF believes the grey squirrel is now an established part of the UK fauna. They were introduced to these shores and have thrived because they are highly intelligent and adaptable. People love them and enjoy watching them and feeding them.
  • The policy will create public disaffection at a time when wildlife needs to be protected, not persecuted. In just a few weeks in December 2018, over 20,000 people had signed a petition opposing the regulations.

At the Wildlife Aid Foundation, we believe we have a moral obligation to treat our patients humanely, no matter what species, because all animals are equal and should be treated equally. The new rules force us to discriminate and euthanise unnecessarily.

WAF founder and CEO Simon Cowell said: “The proposed regulation sends the wrong message to a public which is more engaged and concerned about the state of the natural world than ever. It is saddening to see such ill-informed policy at a time when great strides have been made in raising awareness of environmental issues.”

For more information contact: Nick Harding. 07717 760714,

EU Regulation 1143/2014 the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 will come into force on 28 March 2019, a day before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. This Regulation will prevent the keeping and release of non-indigenous ‘Alien Species’ such as grey squirrels and muntjac deer.

At present Natural England issues licences to allow for these animals to be kept and released in areas of England where they pose no threat to native species. This system has worked well for many years. Most large wildlife rescue centres in the south of England are licensed to treat and release, once healthy, set numbers of these animals, many of which are orphans, rescued by concerned members of the public. At the end of March however, under the new EU system, all rescue centres and veterinary surgeons in the UK will be required to euthanise animals bought to them. The result will be that any member of the public who finds a grey squirrel, muntjac deer or other ‘alien species’ and takes it to a centre will either be turned away, or the animal will be euthanised, no matter how healthy it is.

As wildlife rescue practitioners, veterinarians and animal welfare advocates we are asking MPs to reject these regulations and continue the current system for several reasons:

  • They are detrimental to the welfare of established British wildlife and animals will suffer unnecessarily.
  • The policy will drive the treatment and rehabilitation of grey squirrels and other non-indigenous species underground, forcing amateur animal-lovers to keep the animals themselves, rather than risk them being euthanised. Consequently, there is a real risk to animal welfare.
  • The policy will have no impact on populations of non-indigenous species, as the number of animals released under the current licensing system are insignificant in terms of overall numbers.
  • The policy will create public disaffection at a time when wildlife needs to be protected, not persecuted. In just a few weeks in December 2018, over 20,000 people had signed a petition opposing the regulations.
  • Enforcement of the regulations will be a waste of public resources. The current licencing system works well and should be continued.