At last! Something to celebrate. From today, Saturday 1st October 2022, the Eurasian Beaver has finally gained protection in England. It has been added to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, legislation that now makes it illegal to:
- deliberately disturb a beaver – this includes any action likely to impair their ability to survive, breed or rear their young
- deliberately injure, capture or kill a beaver
- damage or destroy the breeding site or resting place of a beaver
- possess, control or transport a beaver
- sell a beaver
You might reasonably ask why it was ever legal to do many of these things, but given that beaver’s dams can flood good farmland, even this level of protection was opposed by the National Farmer’s Union.
But the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations is legislation enacted under EU laws and the other thing we’ve learned this week is the new Government’s commitment to removing any impediments to economic growth, including (you might even say particularly ) EU laws and environmental laws, which must surely make EU-based environmental laws high on the target list. There are many who would agree that removing, or preventing the introduction of, environmental controls in order to stimulate growth is a price worth paying. But similar arguments were once used against the removal of slave and child labour. It is lazy thinking and lazy economics, discouraging people from taking the time and the effort to find innovative solutions.
I came across an example of such an innovative solution to beaver problems in Scotland earlier this year. It’s a tube. When beavers build a dam, and the water level gets too high and risks flooding farmland, the water level simply overtops the tube, which ducts it away downstream, maintaining the benefits that beavers bring without the unwelcome damage to farmland. It is this kind of innovation that the Government’s simplistic stance discourages.
And so, sadly, the beaver’s long-overdue protection may not last for long. But for now, let’s welcome the fact that these placid vegetarians are finally enjoying some level of protection.