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Buying and using rodenticides in the UK
What the new law means
In 2016 new legislation known as ‘The UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime’ came into force, limiting the
sale of many rodenticides (rat and mouse poisons) to people who are in possession of a certificate indicating that they are
competent to use these substances.
What follows is my summary of the situation, but for full details
and the technical and legal aspects please refer to the many websites that you will find if you do an internet search using
the term rodenticide.
What does the new law say?
new legislation states that packs of rodenticide which carry the label ‘For professional use only’ can only be
sold to a member of the public who is able to produce the relevant certificate of competence. This label is found on most
of the larger tubs of poison of the type that poultry keepers, smallholders and similar will probably have been in the habit
of buying. Only very small tubs or other small amounts of product, such as mouse poison blocks, do not carry this label. This
means that if you need to regularly eradicate rodents, especially rats, you may not be able to obtain the necessary type and
quantity of poison that you need.
Why has this law been introduced?
The driving force behind the introduction of this new law was concern about the increasingly high levels of poison
found in a number of species of wild birds and mammals, with barn owls being particularly badly affected. The level of poison
in these non-target species may be sufficient to kill them directly, or it may simply reduce their fitness and ability to
breed, ultimately resulting in death and a decline in overall numbers.
There are two main ways
in which non-target species can absorb poison. Mammals such as voles and field mice will take and eat the poisoned bait, whereas
in predatory species such as foxes and barn owls or scavengers such as red kites, poisoning can occur indirectly either by
them catching poisoned rats and mice that have not yet died or by eating dead rodents. These may be rats and mice that we
have deliberately poisoned, or they may be wild animals that have found and eaten the bait as described above. Rodents that
have been poisoned may behave erratically and move slowly so they make an easier target for predators than a healthy animal.
Bodies of rats that have been poisoned may be found up to 100 metres away from their nests, and so make for easy pickings
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who were instrumental in introducing this
law (together with the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU)) have warned that if, in the next few years, they do
not see a significant reduction in the level of residues from these poisons found in wildlife, that even more stringent measures
will be introduced to further limit the use and availability of rodenticides. This means it is up to all of us, farmers, gamekeepers,
poultry breeders and others, to use these products more wisely and more frugally.
to control rats and mice on my property, how can I buy poison that works?
In the short
term, if you are part of a Farm Assured scheme you will be able to continue to buy rodenticides as before. However this is
just an interim concession that the NFU were able to negotiate, further information is available from the NFU and other websites.
If you are not part of the above scheme, or you do not already hold an appropriate qualification or certificate in the use
of rodenticides, you will need to take a relevant course and a test in order to become certified. You will need to show your
certificate at the point of purchase.
A good website for details of accepted qualifications and
available courses is http://rodentcontrolonfarms.co.uk/. They also provide online training courses which lead to a suitable LANTRA qualification. The course itself
is free, but you will need to pay £60 to take the online exam (multiple choice questions) and obtain the certificate.
If you prefer you can take a course at a training establishment. For details go to the LANTRA website https://www.lantra.co.uk/ .
I know how to use rat poison so why do I have to take a course?
The main aim of the course is to enable users to develop a strategy for dealing with rodents that reduces the amount
of poison used. This in turn reduces the amount that goes into the wider environment including wild animals and birds and
occasionally into domestic animals. By using a carefully thought out approach, which includes understanding rodent behaviour,
cleaning up and changing the environment to one they are less comfortable with, the use of trapping, and other possible methods
of eradication such as dogs, users should see a reduction in pest numbers before starting poisoning and so less poison will
be required. The course also teaches the most effective locations and methods of baiting and poisoning.
A further concern is the number of rodents that are now showing resistance to currently available rodenticides. By
using less of these products we can help slow down the spread of resistance.