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Representing Taxidermists across the UK

Taxidermy of Kestrel flying from a saddle

Taxidermy Law

Kim our past Legal Liaison Officer has written an important article below about the Guild and it's involvement in UK law taxidermy below.

The Guild was established in 1976 – in reality a few years short of 50 years ago. Its aims were, among others, to raise and maintain the professional status and standards of taxidermy and to promote public interest in the craft.

Another important target was to liaise with the law makers and understand the rules and regulations that were being brought in to govern the trade. An international agreement – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of fauna & flora (CITES) was entered into force in 1975 with the UK signing up in 1976.

Basically, it monitored the international trade in endangered species by way of export/Import permits.

Even at that early stage a few meetings were held between the Guild and the authorities, although at the time the restrictions were limited, licenses as we know them were basically non-existent and CITES was in its infancy. As far as UK domestic legislation was concerned the 1954 Bird Act ruled the roost, administered by the then Dept of the Environment.

The Guild had at least made its mark with the government authorities – a communication that fortunately remains today.

Five years later came the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and meetings were held around government tables to sort out possible ways of complying with the new legislation.

The Guild was instrumental in the setting up of the Registered Sellers of Dead Birds scheme (RSDB) – a system where all taxidermist and dealers were registered with the Department of the Environment (D.o.E) and issued with “DoE stickers” – a small numbered transparent label which we stuck on the base or case of each specimen sold – commissions not included.

Around the same time, the Guild also communicated with the RSPB, the then organisers of the annual Police Wildlife Officers Conference and after two or three attempts allowed the Guild to attend and finally give a presentation – this was due mainly to knowing the founder of the WLO movement Terry Rand, the DCC of Essex Police and the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) lead on wildlife matters. The Guild has attended ever since.

The Conferences are an extremely useful platform for networking with all the authorities both from the UK and abroad and giving presentations to get our points over.

Making inroads with such organisations has been one of the Guilds successes from the beginning and it has served us well. We are now in constant contact with DEFRA; APHA; Border Force; NWCU; JNCC; KEW; numerous Police forces and NGO’s. We are part of the Sustainable Users network (SUN) an umbrella organisation bringing together like-minded groups from the RHS to ornamental fish, the Hawk board to the Musicians Union. We attend quarterly meetings to discuss many subjects relating to legislation and these have proved invaluable. It is pleasing to find that an awful lot of the NGO’s have the same arguments as we do, so we combine and act as one.

At our own Guild Conferences, we have had presentations from DEFRA and the RSPB.

The Guild also agreed back in the early 90’s with DEFRA to set up the Guild of Taxidermists Approved Taxidermy Inspectors – a scheme which the authorities could call upon if expert knowledge was required. Members of the Guild have in the past assisted the authorities and members where necessary – even with court appearances for both the prosecution and defence cases.

Although the scheme is now rarely used, we still assist the NWCU on the odd occasion with matters involving taxidermy. We also have insurance cover for members should any point of law be recognised.

In the mid 90’s, due to Government cost cutting, the RSDB Scheme was discontinued and there were 2 or 3 years of no licenses at all. However, 1997 saw the introduction of EC Regs 338/97 and Article 10 licenses – a system that still runs today, even though we have left the European Union.

This major change at first caused much confusion among members as well as dealers; Auction houses etc, as it encompassed all aspects of Wildlife Trade. It brought CITES into everything we did – it covered not only Taxidermy specimens such as Birds of Prey or a Tiger skin rug, it also included Ivory; Tortoiseshell; Furniture (especially Rosewood); Musical Instruments; Coral etc.

The European Regulations in a way made things slightly easier when it came to importing/Exporting within the European Union with free movement. You could export something from London to Berlin without the necessity for International CITES permits – unfortunately, since Brexit, that is now lost to us.

Now it is necessary to obtain a UK Export/Re-Export permit from APHA (The UK CITES Management Authority) PLUS an EU Import permits from the destination member state in the EU and of course vice versa – something that even now causes confusion.

It is true, Brexit has caused a few headaches – especially with Import/Export permits needed when trading with the EU.

However, there may yet be some advantages to Brexit, some of those EU Regulations, although adopted by the UK verbatim can now possibly be “tweaked” to suit UK Law.

 We no longer need to sit around a table with 28 other countries trying to get an agreement – any one of them able to veto a proposal and leave it dead in the water. Now we just have the UK Government to deal with.

One such target is EU regulation (EC) 1523/2007 “the banning the placing on the market and the import to, or export from, the community of Cat & Dog fur, and products containing such fur)”.  This little known regulation in effect bans the sale; import & Export of taxidermy specimens of domestic cats & Dogs plus species such as Felis silvestris due to its similarity with domestic species.

The regulation is in fact unique in the fact that under para (13) it states “that it is appropriate to provide for the possibility of limited derogations from the general ban – such is the case in relation to Educational or Taxidermy purposes.” At present that is interpreted by the UK Government that it may be possible to introduce those derogations but as yet no member state has raised the request for such – therefore it is still illegal to trade in such items. Hopefully now we can discuss this with the UK Government and get this “tweaked” to suit UK Law. – watch this space.

Other possibilities are Import permits – why do we need them? The EU is one of the only Parties that requires Import permits on all listed species. Even the USA does not do this. If you have an CITES permit from the country of export, why do we need another permit allowing the import.

In fact, some NGO’s ask why we need A10 licenses at all. I don’t think we will win that one but others may eventually fall by the wayside – although it will take time.

With such complicated regulations surrounding the trade, it is absolutely paramount that the Guild remains abreast of changes in the law and policies and continues to communicate with the powers that be. If we don’t have a voice, then certain aspects of our trade could be in danger of being outlawed.

I leave that in the capable hands of Drew Bain, although due to business issues, I remain in contact with the authorities and will support the trade in any way I can.

Kim McDonald

Honorary Member

Past Legal Liaison Officer

Summary of Taxidermy Law Within the UK


Many are unaware that certain rules even exist. The odd person may mention something about a licence but are completely ignorant of the technicalities. It is more surprising, although in a way understandable, when the questions come from members of the enforcement agencies or a confused solicitor.

The laws concerning the purchase or possession of natural history specimens are confusing and those in the trade itself such as taxidermists are, more often than not, at a complete loss. Navigating their way around numerous Acts of Parliament, Regulations, Statutory Instruments and the like is not why they became taxidermists; they simply want to get on with the job they love. The great majority wish to abide by the laws but would rather leave the legal side to someone who can tell them in simple layman's terms what is necessary. Members of the Guild have been able to take advantage of this service for years but not everybody is a member.

Should you come across a dead wild creature and wish to have it preserved, you must consider how the subject met its death. Once you are satisfied that the cause of death was not illegal, make a note of all circumstances surrounding the death, then contact your taxidermist.  If you are unable to ascertain the cause, the information you have can help your taxidermist decide if your specimen can be mounted.  The taxidermist must have this information to hand if it is requested by an authorised person. 

For detailed information and resources on taxidermy law UK Guide of Taxidermists members can visit the member's area here

For more information please visit www.TaxidermyLaw.co.uk

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