Primary legislation in England and Wales is made by the UK Parliament, in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament, and in Northern Ireland by the making of Orders in Council in the nature of an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Laws may be amended through successive legislation or specific Amendment Acts. As a result, laws relating to specific subjects (e.g. protected sites) are often found in more than one piece of legislation.

Although previous Acts of Parliament include provisions for nature conservation, the main piece of legislation relating to nature conservation in Great Britain is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This Act is supplemented, inter alia, by provision in the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (in England and Wales), and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (in Scotland). In Northern Ireland, the main legislation is contained in the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended), the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, and The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002. (Taken from

Please note that while the legislation is generally similar, there are differences between English and Welsh Law and wildlife legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland (eg the Hunting Act 2004 is applicable in England and Wales only, in Scotland the relevant law covering hunting with dogs is the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, and hunting with dogs is still allowed in Northern Ireland): we have tried to point these out where we can to help identify what is a crime across the UK.

Eire/Ireland has its own laws and in some cases there are very large differences – hare-coursing is legal for instance. Legislation in the Isle of Man is mainly covered by The Wildlife Act 1990 (and the (Variation Of Schedules) Order 2004). The Channel Islands set their own laws, though on the whole both Channel Island wildlife legislation and Manx legislation are broadly similar to those in England and Wales though in some instances relate specifically to their own native wildlife.

The UK and Eire are members of the European Union and are signatories to various European-wide laws such as EU Habitats and Wild Birds Directives. Member states can apply for a derogation, which is an exemption from or relaxation of a rule or law: Malta, for instance, argues it should be allowed to continue to hunt Turtle Dove and Quail (birds protected elsewhere in Europe) under a derogation.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004

Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011

Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985

Conservation and Habitats &c Regulations 1994

Animal Welfare Act 2006

Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006

Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011



Page updated May 2014.

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