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Farmers vent their anger over sea eagle plan

PUBLISHED: 09:35 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 09:04 01 August 2010

Signs bearing the slogan Say No To Sea Eagles have appeared in many fields next to main roads in north Suffolk.

Signs bearing the slogan Say No To Sea Eagles have appeared in many fields next to main roads in north Suffolk.

Hayley Mace

Livestock farmers who fear that controversial proposals to release sea eagles on the Suffolk coast could damage their livelihoods have made their views clear with new signs along the area's roads.

Livestock farmers who fear that controversial proposals to release sea eagles on the Suffolk coast could damage their livelihoods have made their views clear with new signs along the area's roads.

Signs bearing the slogan Say No To Sea Eagles have appeared in many fields next to main roads in north Suffolk, including the A12 south of Lowestoft and the A146 near Beccles, in a bid to raise public awareness of the proposals ahead of the first preliminary meeting between farmers and Natural England this week.

Natural England had considered introducing the birds, also known as white tailed eagles, to north Norfolk, but after a wave of anger from farmers, the government body announced in September last year that it had changed the proposals back to the original idea of locating the eagles on the Suffolk coast.

Andrew Blois, who owns hundreds of acres of grazing marsh and farmland in Walberswick and Blythburgh, near Southwold, said that introducing a large predatory bird could cause problems for his free-range pork business.

He said: “My main problem with the idea is that such a large bird could easily spook a sow, causing her to roll onto her piglets, or even take or kill a piglet itself.

“It's not just my livelihood which I'm concerned about, but also the 42 people I employ. There are also 50 or 60 butchers and restaurants who buy our meat, so damaging the industry will have widespread effects and the impact could be huge.”

He already has Say No To Sea Eagles signs on his land next to the A12 Lowestoft to Ipswich road. “Hopefully these signs will raise public awareness and allow people to debate this issue properly so that we can come to a sensible resolution,” he said.

Nikki Currie, regional director at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “We have grave concerns that we are not getting all the information. Farmers feel they are being left in the dark. As well as free range poultry businesses, we have one quarter of the nation's outdoor pig herd in Suffolk and no work has been done to assess the impact on these industries.”

Richard Rafe, Natural England's white tailed eagle project manager, said: “Natural England and the RSPB have been looking at the feasibility of re-introducing the white-tailed eagle to the Suffolk coast. As part of this work we are in discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, local landowners, livestock farmers, conservation organisations, experts and the general public.

“Organisations such as the CLA and NFU are, and will continue to be, included as part of that process and there is another meeting with them this week as part of that process.

“It's essential for us to have information from interested parties in detail so that we can discuss and consider any concerns. The task now is to ensure an open and informed debate about whether, and how, to move forward. Decisions about whether to proceed will not be made until all the evidence has been gathered and carefully considered.”

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