Frontline Wildlife Crime Unit could face axe from Defra and Home Office in Government cuts
Caroline Nokes MP met World Animal Protection at the Houses of Parliament this week to support their campaign to save one of the world’s leading police departments – the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) is dedicated to supporting wildlife crime investigations and is fundamental to providing and analysing national wildlife crime intelligence across the UK. Without them, a huge number of wildlife crime cases would not be successfully investigated or prosecuted.
In the UK our native wildlife is targeted for profit and entertainment, with animals being harmed and persecuted in devastating ways. Rare bird egg theft, illegal deer poaching, hare coursing and indiscriminate cruelty to wild animals are just some of the problems faced by wildlife crime police around the UK.
But, following the Spending Review the future of the unit is under threat. Ministers have confirmed a decision, either way, will be made by the end of January, meaning in only a matter of weeks their work could face complete collapse.
Many Ministers repeatedly use the work of the Unit to demonstrate the Government’s successful commitment to tackling wildlife crime, yet they won’t confirm that the NWCU will be saved with money from their £13 million pound budget.
Head of Public Affairs at World Animal Protection, Josh Kaile, said: “The Government has made much of their £13 million package to combat the illegal wildlife trade internationally. The National Wildlife Crime Unit only requires a fraction of this budget every year, with Defra and the Home Office currently paying £136k each. This continues to be a small amount to pay for such a vital unit, particularly in contrast to the millions being spent on global projects.”
“Police forces up and down the UK rely on the specialist knowledge of the NWCU in order to tackle wildlife criminals. It is time for the UK Government to step up and save the National Wildlife Crime Unit.“
For more information visit worldanimalprotection.org.uk/NWCU
Notes to Editors
Earlier this year in June, much attention was given to the successful six-week operation by Border Force and the NWCU resulting in the seizure of more than 300 animals, plants and derivative products in the UK.
The NWCU have also been fundamental in providing the intelligence and warrants leading to the seizure of more than 400 items in violation of CITES since April 2016. These seizures would not have been possible without the NWCU and so World Animal Protection have serious concerns about what will happen to this vital work if the unit folds beyond March 2016.
The Government has previously been very clear in its support of the NWCU. Following the previous funding agreement up until March 2016, Defra Minister George Eustice said:
“The Government takes the matter of wildlife crime very seriously and appreciates the important contribution the National Wildlife Crime Unit makes to tackling wildlife law enforcement both at home and internationally. Further to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), announcement to the House last week about the Home Office’s commitment to continue funding the Unit, I am delighted to announce that DEFRA and the Home Office will together be providing more than £500,000 of funding until 2016 to help secure the future of the Unit.”
About World Animal Protection (www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk):
World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA) seeks to create a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty has ended. Active in more than 50 countries, we work directly with animals and with the people and organisations that can ensure animals are treated with respect and compassion. We hold consultative status at the Council of Europe and collaborate with national governments and the United Nations.