We have responded to the DEFRA consultation on Conservation Covenants highlighting the inclusion of keeping native breeds as a conservation purpose within the statutory scheme.

The Government should encourage people to give land and other property to organisations, community groups, etc. to provide ongoing conservation of the full range of UK genetic diversity of farmed animals, cultivated crop plants (including trees and crop wild relatives), private wild nature reserves, etc. This would be of great and lasting benefit to the nation and also help the UK to demonstrate international leadership in respect of its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The JNCC recently reported that the UK is failing to meet its target for conserving the genetic diversity of livestock under The Convention.

Christopher Price, RBST CEO says:

“Simply relying on the goodwill of individual landowners providing parcels of land for various periods of time is not enough to achieve this.  If we are to turn around the fortunes of our native breeds we need a dedicate range of sites available over the long term.

Conservation Covenants are a way of achieving that.  If people thinking of conserving important examples of native breeds can be sure that appropriate habitats will be available to sustain them, they will have greater confidence in going ahead.”

Many conservation-worthy living assets (for example native breeds of farm animals, traditional orchards, nature reserves etc) need a physical place in which to be conserved. For example, UK native breed farm animals and traditional varieties of orchard cannot be sustainably conserved in situ or ex situ unless the land) can be held in long-term conservation protection and management.

With native livestock the need is for a range of different habitats, in different locations, so that the breeds can grow in number in a way that ensures a sufficient degree of genetic diversity to provide a sustainable future.