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Stop The Herping Ban

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Dear all, Discussions and preliminary consultations commenced midway through 2010 on the development of an EU policy on the issue of invasive or potentially invasive non-native (or alien) species – both plant and animal but from here onwards this summary will concentrate on animal-related concerns. Previous discussions had taken place between 2005-2010 but have become a lot more important because of the European Union’s stated intent to enact some form of legislation on the issue as part of their commitments on biodiversity. A consultation – not well publicised – took place over the summer of 2010 and according to EU officials most respondents were British (both from the pro-keeping and pro-trade side and from the animal protectionist & animal rights side of the argument). A stakeholder consultation meeting took place on 3rd September with attendance dominated by those opposed to animal-keeping and trade in animals. Although the legislation – likely to be either an EU Directive or Regulation – will consider aspects such as who pays for non-native species becoming established and how to eliminate or control species that have become invasive the biggest concern for animal keepers and animal traders is the area that will be covered by the Prevention Working Group. The heavy area of dispute - not surprisingly – will be focused on whether the legislation should have white or black lists for import and for home possession/trade. Those opposed to animal keeping have strongly demanded the use of very restricted white lists (of species ‘proven’ by risk assessment not to present a potential invasive species problem) with everything else banned. Those few on the Working Group supportive of animal keeping and trade have argued strongly in favour of a limited and focused black list that would require exemptions or licensing to import/keep/trade and everything else to be kept and traded. It is clear that at least some Member States support the idea of the use of white lists which, if implimented, would be a disaster for those keeping and/or trading in non-native species. There are also several representatives of Member States who have indicated no great enthusiasm for white lists. The other main threat – irrespective of whether white or black lists are used – is the EU’s consideration of whether or not the same lists should be used across all EU Member States or whether there could be separate lists by country or by biogeographic area. Having a single list for the entire EU would present keepers and traders with immense problems since clearly many more species could potentially become established in say the Canary Islands or Cyprus than could in Germany or Finland. Hence a single unified list could easily see the prohibition of a species like the Corn Snake across all EU countries because it might be potentially invasive in southern European areas. The pro-keeping side of the equation have secured two positions on the Prevention Working Group but it is very important that keepers organizations from countries other than the UK start to actively lobby their Governments (the animal rights groups in several EU Member States were represented at the 3rd September consultation meeting but, noticeably, not the representatives of the equivalent animal-keeping organizations). DG-Environment on behalf of the European Commission expects to pull-together the recommendation and option documents from the three Working Groups in the summer of 2011. The consolidated document will then be put out for public comment and any revisions made with the intent of a final recommended document to be presented to the European Commission and Council of Ministers in late 2011 with legislation being enacted sometime in 2012. This is in my view the single greatest threat to the keeping of reptiles and amphibians within the European Union that has ever emerged. Unless we, keepers, participate and represent our interests we face a very uncertain future! Regards, Chris Newman Federation of British Herpetologists Reptile & Exotic Pet Trade association

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