Roman Snails (Helix pomatia) have, at last, been added to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

From 6th April 2008 wild caught Roman Snails Helix pomatia will be protected from intentional taking, injury or killing, as well as possession and sale.

This whole saga started way back at the end of 2001 when JNCC invited the Conchological Society to submit proposals regarding the fourth review of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. After consultations the proposal was sent for the addition of the two species H. pomatia and the freshwater bivalve Sphaerium solidum together with the removal of two others, Paludinella littorina and Thyasira gouldi.

In December 2002 it was learnt that the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) were recommending that H. pomatia be added to Schedule 5, although they rejected the addition of Sphaerium solidum (pleasingly it now has BAP Priority status as a result of our BAP campaign!) and had also decided to avoid the removal of any species from the Act.

All seemed well until, following a long wait; we learnt in early 2005 that DEFRA, whilst not rejecting Helix pomatia, had nevertheless placed it into a ‘neutral’ category pending wider consultations. Apparently they were concerned about the commercial impact upon the restaurant trade. Informed opinion was of the belief that this would rapidly lead to Roman Snails being dropped from WCA consideration. At this point an urgent fact finding exercise was undertaken to see exactly what ‘top’ restaurants actually served in the ‘escargots’ line, who were their suppliers and where did they get their snails. The results are very interesting and did not involve the use of any ‘native’ wild-caught H. pomatia.

As a result, a robust defence was sent to DEFRA together with the first proposal documents. We were also given valued support from Buglife. Then we waited for another 3 years until last week’s good news.