When discussing the extension of the concession with the Environment Agency, the following points were made:
Most on-farm pest control has traditionally been carried out by farmers and gamekeepers but rural pest controllers are increasingly becoming involved. This is because the requirements of the Food Standards Agency and their farm to fork policy, together with the increased implementation of farm assurance schemes has resulted in a greater amount of on-farm pest control by professional pest controllers Official and industry surveys have highlighted a growing rat problem, partly through climate change and partly because of cutbacks in local authority rodent control. Very few pest controllers have contracts with waste disposal firms. They do have disposal arrangements in force where necessary but traditionally rodent carcasses have been dealt with by burning or burying.
There is a realistic chance that pest controllers will be tempted to dispose of small numbers of rodent bodies by hiding them in undergrowth or hedgerows On the other hand, professional pest controllers are likely to follow good practice if allowed to bury or burn a body as it would be part of the service they are supplying We are presently educating pest controllers that they now need to search for and collect rodent bodies after a treatment. This is to prevent raptors and small mammals from taking the bodies and being affected by secondary poisoning. This will increase the need to dispose of bodies responsibly.
Research has shown that there are widespread instances of residues found in raptors and small mammals; although these residues are considered low and there is no evidence that any non-target populations are being adversely affected. However, the industry is not satisfied with even this level of contamination and wishes to take steps to minimize the effects of secondary poisoning through better environmental measures.
The body quantities that are actually found above ground are minimal when a contract with a pest controller is in place. This is because their regular monitoring visits highlight problems before they get out of hand, whereas treatments by the other users are often a reaction to a sizable infestation that has been allowed to occur Few potential customers will call in large national or regional companies for their pest control and pest monitoring services. They will look for a local individual or firm that can offer a quality service at competitive prices.
Pricing of these contracts must be competitive if the work is to be carried out by a professional company. A typical disposal system available in the Cotswolds consists of buying a burn bin @£8.00 each, a collection charge of £25.00 and a charge of £25 for the actual burning. One burn bin will hold approximately 7 adult rats giving a total charge of £58. This level of cost puts great pressure on rural pests controllers to operate outside the law.
These businesses are dairy, beef, cereal, poultry, pig farms, shoots, private estates, rural bakeries, small food production set ups etc. Many of these businesses will be located on farms that have had to diversify; very few will have an incinerator on site that is suitable or approved for burning wild animal carcasses. This is especially true of cereal farmers, few of whom will have incinerators because they may not have livestock.
The best way to ensure that rodent bodies are disposed of safely and without causing an unnecessary risk of secondary poisoning to non-target wildlife is to allow limited burning or burying of bodies in small numbers.
Alternatively, disposal of small numbers in domestic waste, provided that the local authority permits this, would also allow pest controllers to fulfill their responsibilities properly and in a manner that would not have an adverse environmental impact It is accepted that burning or burying would need to be in a controlled manner. For example, burning would need to be in a manner which avoids contaminating the atmosphere and burying would need to conform to good practice, such as burying at a depth of 18 inches in a manner that does not contaminate watercourses. It will only be possible to control these if suitable disposal is permitted.
If burning, burying or disposal in domestic waste is permitted, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, through its National Pest Advisory Panel, will ensure that agreed standards of disposal are publicised and adequate training is available to pest controllers to meet their responsibilities.