First Wales Wildlife and Rural Crime Strategy to be launched

June 2023 | Rural policy

a herd of sheep standing on top of a lush green field

Wildlife and rural crime can come in many forms such as the theft of agricultural equipment, devastating livestock offences and the destruction of wildlife and their habitats.

According to information outlined in the strategy, the cost of rural theft alone in Wales in 2021 has been valued at £1.3m but rural crime levels were overall lower at that time due to Covid-19 restrictions. Early indications from 2022 suggest rural crime is on the increase with the potential to resume to pre-pandemic levels. One survey reveals 89% of people are concerned inflation and the cost of living will result in further increases in incidents of crimes affecting rural communities.

Rural crime is defined in the strategy as specific offences that predominantly occur within the countryside, affecting farming and more sparsely populated communities, or our wildlife, habitats, and heritage.

Wildlife crime is any activity that contravenes the legislation which protects Wales’ wild animals and plants. A species may be endangered to the point of extinction, many animals suffer persecution and cruelty as a result of a wide range of criminal activities including poaching, coursing, hunting, trading, poisoning and the destruction of a habitat.

Rural crime can be difficult to define as it includes a broad range of crimes some of which are also found – and can be more prevalent – in urban spaces, for instance such as domestic abuse. The circumstances surrounding the incidents of crime in rural areas, the response to those crimes and the access to support for those individuals and communities can, however, be very different. The crimes more unique to rural communities include farm, equines, and heritage. Crimes affecting the environment include fly-tipping and pollution, which also affect agriculture along with theft and livestock worrying, can all have a significant impact on food production. Heritage crime relates to those offences which affect the value of Wales’ heritage buildings and sites such as damage to ancient monuments and illegal metal detecting

There is no doubt there are significant challenges when considering the scale and breadth of wildlife and rural crime. The joint strategy, between the Welsh Government and Wales’ four police forces, will be key in the fight against such offences.

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