Petition Add hedgehogs to Schedule 5 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

I have supported and rescued hedgehogs in my Norfolk garden for 11 years. There are too many cases of hedgehogs being killed or injured, including intentionally. Adding hedgehogs to Schedule 5 would give a species in serious decline additional legal protection

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Hedgehogs are listed as vulnerable in Natural England's IUCN-compliant red list. They are subject to intentional and reckless killing and injury as well as damage and disturbance to their habitat. The RSPCA found that incidents of abuse, including beating, improper killing, mutilation, and neglect increased from 2011-15 and 2016-20.

Adding hedgehogs to Schedule 5 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 would provide additional legal protection for an iconic species in serious decline.

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Government responded

This response was given on 24 November 2023

There are no plans to add hedgehogs to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

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Where there is evidence to show that it is necessary and effective to do so, the Government may consider providing protection through legislation to regulate activities impacting on our native species.

In doing so it is important to consider whether the legislation will deliver the intended effects or whether there are more appropriate routes to delivering the same outcomes. With respect to hedgehogs, the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996 already prohibits action which would cause unnecessary suffering to a wild mammal, including hedgehogs. However, while we are concerned about their conservation status, there is no clear evidence to indicate protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 will be effective in supporting recovery of the species. It does not regulate the activities linked to its decline. Rather than intentional or reckless killing, the decline of the hedgehog is primarily caused by habitat loss and fragmentation due to removal of field margins, hedgerows and scrub; the use of herbicides and insecticide; and road traffic.

The Government is committed to taking further action to recover our threatened native species, to include hedgehogs. In England, we have set four legally binding targets; to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030; then to reverse declines by 2042; to reduce the risk of species extinction by 2042; and restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat, also by 2042. We have set out our plan to deliver on these ambitious targets, along with our other environmental targets, in the revised Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP23). The EIP23 revises the 25-Year Environment Plan as part of our ongoing obligations under the Environment Act 2021.

The Environment Act 2021 introduced a number of policies that will support the restoration of habitat. Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) and a strengthened biodiversity duty on public authorities will work together to drive action, including to create or restore habitats that will enable wildlife to recover and thrive, while conservation covenants will help secure habitat for the long term. LNRSs will bring local authorities, communities, landowners and conservation groups together to agree priorities to help nature and protect locally and nationally important species. They will also map specific proposals for habitat creation and improvement such as woodland, heathland and species-rich grassland, all of which will benefit vulnerable species including hedgehogs.

In addition, agri-environment schemes have provided a significant source of funding for habitat creation and management for threatened species. Our new environmental land management (ELM) schemes will provide farmers, foresters and other land managers with an opportunity to secure financial support in return for delivering environmental benefits.

Hedgerows are an important habitat for hedgehogs and their food source. Actions to fund the creation, restoration and maintenance of hedgerows are available through the Countryside Stewardship and Sustainable Farming Incentive schemes.

Defra has worked with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and Peoples Trust for Endangered Species to provide advice on five easy ways everyone can help hedgehogs thrive in back gardens. This can be accessed at: Five simple steps to transform gardens into ‘hedgehog havens’ - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/five-simple-steps-to-transform-gardens-in-to-hedgehog-havens. In combination these actions will support our legally binding targets for nature recovery, including the recovery of native species such as the hedgehog.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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