More illegal traps – another grouse moor. Whose side are you on?

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Another month, another illegal trap, another driven grouse moor in another National Park.

This trap, in fact these traps, found in the open by two walkers, were more easily located because they contained a severely injured Common Gull whose injuries were so bad that it was euthanised. The story is well told by our older brother blog at Raptor Persecution UK.

It’s ‘just a gull’ that died after hours of pain, and whose death led to the starvation of its chicks it seems; and it’s just one incident and nobody approves of it, we will, no doubt, be told.

But it’s another example of criminality on the grouse moors and those incidents that come to light are not the tip of the iceberg, they are the tip of the tip of the iceberg.  Driven grouse shooting depends on wildlife crime to rid the hills of predators, legally and illegally, and the collatoral damage to wildlife is just the price that we all pay for the pointless hobby of the few.  The public is fed up with wildlife crime emanating from grouse moors and in droves is signing this e-petition for the future of driven grouse shooting to be debated in the UK parliament.

Invercauld Estate, on which this incident appears to have taken place, must be mystified by how an illegally set trap appeared on its land so far out of the way from easy public access.  The Cairngorms National Park must be similarly mystified as well, although is probably getting tired of having to say how mystified they are by wildlife crime in their National Park.  No doubt the  Scottish Land and Estates will be mystified. I expect the Game and Wildlife lot will be saddened, cross and mystified too.  If anyone can help dispel the mystery then the place to phone is Police Scotland by dialling 101.

It’s all so mysterious…

Invercauld is the estate of Clan Farqharson. The Farqharsons are related to the van Cutsem family who were unlucky enough to experience a problem with illegal traps on their own grouse moor in Yorkshire earlier this year (see here and here). Lucy van Cutsem is photographed here with the former stalker from Invercauld, Peter Fraser, who was named as one of Prince Charles’s countryside heroes in Country Life in 2013, and who moved next door to become a ghillie on the royal estate at Birkhall (once owned by the Farqharsons).  It’s a terribly small world isn’t it?

You’d have to say that the royals have their holiday home at Balmoral in rather a rough area.  Illegal traps being found on their neighbour’s place at Invercauld, an almost complete lack of Hen Harriers nesting in the general area, hardly any Peregrines to be found, just around the corner from the Angus Glens where eagles die and in a National Park famed for dead raptors and culls of Mountain Hares.  That’s a lot of killing going on and most of it is illegal and all of it is unacceptable. As I say, it seems a rough area to me.

Prince William speaks out on foreign wildlife crime, and good for him for doing that, but is silent about that which appears to be happening in his family’s local neighbourhood around Balmoral. Surely it is time for the Royal Family to speak out against wildlife crime at home?

 

Whilst animals continue to be killed by criminals, whilst whole species are poached to extinction, we will join together to ask one simple question: Whose side are you on?‘ – Prince William

Good question! Whose side are you on, Prince William?

Please sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and help animals being killed by criminals.

 

 

 

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Truss’s troubles

An Environment minister who is ineffective. Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

An Environment minister who was ineffective.
Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

Schadenfreude is an unworthy feeling, but the fact that the Germans have a word for it and we do not is entirely to their credit, for it is a common human emotion.

I thought we had seen the end of mentions of the hopeless Liz Truss on this blog as she exited to the Ministry of Justice to become the first female Lord Chancellor but I cannot help but notice that her path has been a rocky one. Two ministers have resigned rather than serve under her, Lord Faulks and Anna Soubry, on the grounds that Ms Truss knows nothing about the law.

Blimey! We’d be pretty short of Environment Secretaries, in all recent governments (yes including Labour ones), if knowing about the environment were a necessary qualification for being in charge of it.

There are two serious points, somewhat contradictory, mixed up in all this. First, that the number of scientists or former conservation professionals in the House of Commons is almost vanishingly small and so from that perspective, the Secretary of State for Defra is almost certain to be a bit of a novice. The second point is that former ministers that I have known, of all ranks, have varied considerably in how well they have done their jobs but it has rarely seemed to be closely related to their initial knowledge of the subject. Good ministers have often been good ministers despite their lack of initial understanding of the subject.

What is more important in being a good minister is often that they recognise that they do not know much about the subject rather than that they do know about it.  Labour ministers (with some exceptions) and Caroline Spelman and John Gummer (and that’s as far back as I can comment through personal knowledge) have consulted widely and brought people in from many perspectives to advise them. Rather too many Tories (Owen Paterson, Richard Benyon, Liz Truss) have shut out inconvenient voices and shut down or gagged sources of independent advice.

Liz Truss, remember, sent a rather curt and ungenerous note to the Lead Ammunition Group rejecting their years of hard work and misled the public in doing so.  That’s a more damning indictment for someone to be taking on Justice than the fact that she is no lawyer.

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Guest blog – Otters are in trouble by Grace Yoxon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI studied Geology and Biology at Keele University and graduated in 1979.  My husband and I moved to Skye in 1980 and in 1984 we set up the Skye Environmental Centre to run courses in geology and wildlife.  We then started receiving injured wildlife and this was the start of the animal rescue and rehabilitation work.  In 1993 we set up the International Otter Survival Fund to help not only our own local otters but all species worldwide.  To date we have supporters in 26 countries and have helped with projects on all 13 species of otter in 34 countries.

IOSF_frank_logo with website

 

Otters are great ambassadors to a healthy environment – they are at the top of the food chain and use both the land and water, so both habitats have to be in pristine condition – this is important for all species, including our own.

And yet, otters the world over are being exploited for commercial gain and in some places hunted almost to extinction. Their habitat is being destroyed and fish stocks depleted.  And they are being killed on our roads.

As recently as 2012, the Japanese otter was officially declared extinct, and of the 13 species that now inhabit our planet, 12 are declining in numbers.  Indeed the only species which is classified as “Stable” is the North American river otter.  But even this is questionable when we consider that nearly 40,000 otters are legally trapped and killed in North America each year.  Of course, these figures do not take into account those animals which are caught by “accident” when trapping for other species – this must be quite high as in November 2015 one person caught two within 10 days in Indiana when trapping for beaver, and of course most animals caught “accidentally” are not reported.

In the United States otter numbers were so low that they had to be reintroduced into 21 states and in 14 of these they can now be legally trapped again.  In total 37 states allow trapping.  This trapping is supposed to be “sustainable” but there are no accurate population figures so if you don’t know how many you have, how can you say it is sustainable to “harvest” so many.

778 otter skins in Tibet medium

778 otter skins © Conservation International

One of the biggest threats to otters in Asia is illegal hunting as their fur demands a high price in the illegal wildlife trade.  They are also taken from the wild as pets, particularly in countries like Indonesia and Thailand.  They usually kill the mother to get the cubs which often die as they aren’t cared for properly, so they go for another one.  If they survive they may be kept until they are big enough to fetch a good price for the skin. This is clearly having a drastic effect on otter populations and more information can be found in the International Otter Survival Fund’s 2014 report.

Pest control and the valuable skin trade are the main driver of hunting.  Otters are often seen as pests by fishermen because they compete for fish and destroy nets. Many people are very poor and depend on fishing for their livelihoods, so such losses can have a serious impact on their lives. The killing of otters in the affluent west is very different to the situation in Asia, where the hunting is largely driven by poverty.  Yes, there is an economic aspect in North America but it is also very much regarded as “sport”.

And yet, no-one gives otters a second thought.  More and more effort goes into the conservation of large species and most of the major conservation organisations target high profile animals such as the panda, tiger, elephant and rhino, at the total expense of the smaller species.  And yet for every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otter skins and one haul in Tibet had 778 otter skins.

One of the problems is lack of awareness and that there are so few people working on otters in Asia and so the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) has been holding a series of training workshop for students, park rangers and government officials to encourage the next generation of otter workers.  In this way we can get reliable data on otters, encourage enforcement of legal protection and develop effective education/public awareness programmes within local communities.  One of the outcomes of the workshops is a network of local otter workers who can share information and advice and can develop otter conservation programmes together.  We now have Otter Networks in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam and these are all linked through the Asian Otter Conservation Network.  The next workshop will be held in China in September and a Chinese Otter Network will be formed.

Eurasian Otter_Maureen Hadert-Matthew Steer

© Maureen Hadert & Matthew Steer

And what about our own otter in the UK, the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)?  Surely this species is ok.  The Eurasian otter has a worldwide range from Ireland in the west to Russia and China in the east, and down to south-east Asia and north Africa.  This all sounds very positive and yet it is classed as “Near Threatened” and in Asia it is believed to be “Critically Endangered”.  In parts of China it is almost extinct and in the Changbaishan Mountain Reserve numbers went down from 1.2 million in 1975 to just 4 in 2012 – that is a decline of over 99%.  There have been no sightings of this species since the early 1990’s in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam and most of India.  We also have to remember that Asia forms about 80% of the geographical range of the Eurasian otter.  People may consider it “safe” in Europe but it is declining in some areas here too, so there are very serious problems.

If we really want to conserve otters we have to create a greater awareness of otters and their importance in the ecosystem and demonstrate how vital they are in wetland habitats.  This is the reason IOSF has declared 2016 “THE YEAR OF THE ASIAN OTTER” to draw awareness to the plight of the world’s otters.

It is essential that governments and other conservation organisations take more notice of otters, consider them in their conservation programmes and enforce legal protection.  It is our responsibility to preserve otters, wildlife and the environment for our children.

For more information on the work of the International Otter Survival Fund go to www.otter.org

IUCN Otter Red List Status

IUCN Otter Red List Status

 

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#notsoglorious

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Sign here please – and join 62,000 others on the race to 100,000 signatures and a debate in parliament.

 

 

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Are you in the new chapter?

The paperback edition of Inglorious has an extra chapter which covers events in 2015 and the very early parts of 2016. It will be in shops very soon – official publication date is a week away but somehow they seem to slip out earlier.

Who gets a mention in the new chapter?

Inglorious PB loHawk and Owl Trust, Philip Merricks, Chris Packham, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, The Bird Fair, Chrissie Harper, John Armitage, Andrew Gilruth, GWCT, Defra, The Labour Party, Natalie Bennett, Baroness Parminter, The Green Party, The Lib Dems, Lord de Mauley, Rory Stewart, Liz Truss, George Eustice, Conservatives, Henry the Hen Harrier, Sandringham, Balmoral, Buckingham Palace, Eddie the Eagle, Gilbert the Gull, Ossie the Owl, Harry the Harrier, Rules restaurant, Scottish Lands and Estates, RSPB, Game Fair, Bird Fair, CLA, Countryside Alliance, Bill Oddie, Nick Baker, Mark Carwardine, David Lindo, Simon King, Simon Barnes, Martin Hughes-Games, Findlay Wilde, Harley Wilde, Ruth Tingay, Susan Cross, Rosemary Cockerill, Rebecca Walton, Brian Egan, Raptor Persecution UK, Dick Potts, Tim Bonner, Birdwatch magazine, League Against Cruel Sports, Andy Wightman, LUSH, Ecotricity, M&S, Marc Bolland, Iceland Foods, Malcolm Walker, Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, YFTB, Ian Botham, Crispin Odey, The Daily Telegraph, Mark Cocker, Jeremy Deller, Mike Clarke, Amanda Miller, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Mark Oddy, George Monbiot, Kerry McCarthy, Barry Gardiner, Committee on Climate Change.

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Guest blog – We forgot to tell the fish by Carrie Hume

CAHCarrie Hume is Director of Conservation & Campaigns at the Marine Conservation Society. She grew  up in the seaside town of Lowestoft, with a long family legacy of entrepreneurial fisherman, who were ultimately doomed by the early-twentieth century collapse in the local fishing industry. Currently land locked in Herefordshire, a committed environmentalist, she is coming full circle back to her marine roots to help recover our great British seas.

 

 

 

If you were a fish in UK waters right now, you might want to reconsider where you swam. Because according to some, after leaving the European Union we are going to have more fish and chips for British gullets. That place where you thought you could safely hide out, feed, and have your fishy ways with each other, well that might be up for grabs too. Because although we do safeguard parts of our UK seas for you through domestic site protection and other seasonal closures, the majority of this (at least via protected areas) comes from places set up through European law. And, the reason you’re generally not fished to smithereens is because we took it on the chin long ago that we needed to work with our neighbours to ensure a share that was fair and didn’t drive you to extinction. That was called the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and it took a while to sort it out, but we eventually got there.

There are only so many ways to divvy up the fish in the sea and only so many fish in the sea. Outside of the EU this simple conundrum remains. We could try to lure more fish our way from elsewhere, but fish rather stubbornly like it where they do and have millenia-old migrations patterns. There will be no stealing fish away that way. Maybe by protecting and restoring some of the British seabed (a habitat once as interesting as any rainforest), we could offer better places for foraging and reproduction and therefore more fish for domestic consumption. Perhaps we would also be better able to keep out foreign fleets once we’ve left the EU. A win-win?

So how would that work? We’d need to fully look after the protected areas that we’ve already established so that damage and over fishing doesn’t take place within them. We’d need to bring the sites currently

set up through the EU into domestic protection, emulating their reason for being which is ecologically sound. We have made great progress putting in good protection for many of our sites, but there is a way to go. Maybe bringing those sites into domestic protection would give us more control over what goes on in them? We already know however, that not enough of the sea is protected, even with the sites that already exist – more areas are needed to make sure fish and other marine wildlife can do all of the things they need to do in all of the right places – no point giving you a feeding larder but no sexy boudoir. So, we’d have to protect even more of the sea, and we’re obliged to do that under international obligations that have nothing to do with the EU anyway. So, safeguarded sites, fish feeding and spawning away, free from interference, and then swimming into our nets fat and happy – and your fish and chips assured! There is still a bit of a problem there. What? …..

Photo: Paul Kay

Photo: Paul Kay

Well there is this tricky little problem called historic rights. You fish are valuable, and correspondingly many nations have secured rights to fish in other parts of the world and in some cases these rights go back hundreds of years. There exist somewhat ancient, but still entirely legal laws of the sea that precede the CFP and allow other nations to fish in our waters. And, we Brits in our great exploration of the seas also secured similar rights. Many of our current rights are set out in and negotiated through the CFP. We leave the CFP, and those rights need to be negotiated all over again. Do you think our bargaining position is strong? So Mr Cod, Haddock and your friends, it’s not going to be as easy as some might think. We might well end up with something a few years down the line that looks and feels a lot like the CFP. But in some ways that’s a distraction from the real issue of marine ecosystem collapse. Maybe we can instead have something that performs the same function as the CFP in terms of assuring sustainable fish stocks, but which also facilitates and further crystallises the need for a transformation of the marine environment in our domestic waters. This is so dearly needed and would put us on a world leading platform.

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Dear Minister

Dear Minister

Therese Coffey

Therese Coffey Photo: Defra

Welcome to your new role in Defra following in the rather small footsteps of Rory Stewart. It is to be hoped that you will be able to do more good for wildlife and the environment than your predecessor.

You have a wide range of jobs to do but may I point you in the direction of a couple of them please?

As the implications and detail of the Brexit vote become clearer over time, you may think, or possibly be told by your colleagues or by civil servants, to leave agriculture policy to them.  You must not!  The future agriculture policy of England will have as major an impact on our threatened wildlife as any other area in your brief.  You, as biodiversity minister, must ensure that the needs of wildlife are taken into account as well as the needs of farmers and taxpayers.  And you should realise that the only place you can get decent advice on these aspects is from the wildlife NGOs and occasionally from Natural England.  What is decided over the next few months will determine the amount of bird song, the number of wild flowers and the intensity of the hum of insects in the countryside to which all our taxes make such a huge contribution.

Second, an issue of lesser, but still great, importance and one that will certainly come across your desk, is that of the management of the uplands for intensive grouse shooting.  Driven grouse shooting needs unnaturally high densities of grouse to pay its way and is underpinned by wildlife crime (the killing of birds of prey which eat grouse) and unsustainable land management that increases flood risk, water treatment costs, greenhouse gas emissions etc etc. It’s a long, but fascinating story, and I have sent you a copy of my book on the subject (Mr Stewart asked to see it too). You will find grouse moor management cropping up in your discussions over flooding, National Parks, agri-environment funding, wildlife crime and water quality.  You’ll be surprised.

You would be very welcome to attend the Hen Harrier Day rally at the RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve on Saturday 6 August – and I’m sure we could find you a space to speak at the event. There should be over 300 pairs of Hen Harrier nesting in England and this year there are just three pairs – because of the levels of criminal activity by those involved in the grouse moor industry. Your predecessor published a completely useless Hen Harrier plan that is widely derided across the conservation and birding world.  You may also have to speak on this subject in a Westminster Hall debate if my e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting reaches 100,000 signatures by 20 September – it is currently on 62,232 so it is a quite close call whether we will reach 100,000 or not. Your predecessor signed off an inaccurate and inept government response to this petition with whose consequences you will also have to live.

Yours sincerely

 

PS It would be nice of you to acknowledge receipt of your free book – Mr Stewart failed to do even that, despite asking to be sent a copy.

PPS I have also sent a copy of my book to the Secretary of State but I’d be very surprised if she reads it.

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Photo: Gordon Yates

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The science about which Truss misled us

An Environment minister who is ineffective. Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

An Environment minister who was ineffective.
Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

In a slightly shocking move last week (though I am not easily shocked) Liz Truss (formerly of Defra) announced she was not taking any notice of the report of the Lead Ammunition Group report (now published in full).

She announced this after sitting on the report for 14 months, on the day a PM resigned and another was appointed.

One of her reasons was that there wasn’t any evidence of a population impact of lead in the report. Well there is plenty of evidence of impacts that would be likely to have a population level effect in the report but more importantly, Defra knew perfectly well that a paper giving such evidence was about to be published – and now it is.

800px-7.5_CartridgesYou can read the abstract online but you can also pay, as I have, $6 (plus tax!!), to get the whole darn shooting match.

The study looks at a range of duck species (eight species) which differ in their population trajectories (1990-2013) and differ in the amount of lead that they typically ingest (using either of two measures).  It looks like a decent study.

Guess what? Those species with high lead ingestion rates are declining whereas those with low ingestion rates are increasing.

Look at Table 1 and Figure 2 to get the clear view of what’s happening (either by waiting until your, or your library’s copy of Ibis arrives or buy a 48 hour view of it if you can’t wait). All this was made available to Defra ahead of Truss’s misleading announcement.

The species declining the most, and globally threatened these days remember, is the Pochard, which has the highest lead ingestion rate. Go figure!

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New M&S nonsense

Mon 20 July CopyM&S keep digging a hole of ignorance and you can hardly see the tops of their heads now.

In their current stock answer to customers concerned about the origin and lead content of the grouse meat that they might or might not sell to the general public they have a new phrase ‘all M&S game products, and this would include Red Grouse if we took the decision to stock it, are hand inspected to minimise risk of excessive shot and any risk to our customers’.

So, M&S tell me how inspecting a grouse carcase from the outside tells you how much lead there is on the inside?

800px-7.5_CartridgesYou cannot tell how much lead there is in a game carcase by looking at it and the variation in lead levels is huge and only loosely related even to the number of lead shot inside the carcase – so X-raying it wouldn’t help that much either.  The graph below shows that lead levels (although uniformly high in grouse meat shot with lead ammunition)  can vary over more than two orders of magnitude (ie a hundredfold) with the same number of lead shot in the carcase.

As I have told you before, if you sell grouse meat in your stores the first customer will be me and I will get your meat, knowingly sold in your stores, independently tested in a laboratory. And then you can explain to your customers why they have very high lead levels and why you have ignored all the evidence on this subject.

The sad thing is, that M&S is beginning to look as though it is run by fools.

Pb shot grouse 1

Lead levels in grouse carcases bought in Iceland Food stiores and analysed for lead content. The dotted line shows the Maximum Residue Level allowed for beef, chicken etc – no MRL exists for game meat. Note the scale on the Y-axis is logarithmic.

See the Chris Packham video on why he will boycott M&S if they sell grouse meat in their stores.

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Two whole months to go

62,000!  And two whole months to go (with July and August both having 31 days – these things matter you know).

We are two thirds through the time so we ought to be on 66,667  – but we are not too far off on 62,000+ and we certainly have plenty of momentum.

 

Here are the leading constituencies over 200 signatures:

  1. Calder Valley Craig Whittaker MP 351 CON
  2. Ross, Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford MP 253 SNP
  3. High Peak Andrew Bingham MP 246 CON
  4. Isle of Wight Andrew Turner MP 240 CON
  5. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Drew Hendry MP 235 SNP
  6. Skipton and Ripon Julian Smith MP 228 CON
  7. Bristol West Thangam Debbonaire MP 225 LAB
  8. North Norfolk Norman Lamb MP 221 LIBDEM
  9. Derbyshire Dales Patrick McLoughlin 220 CON
  10. Brighton, Pavilion Caroline Lucas MP 217 GREEN
  11. Argyll and Bute Brendan O’Hara MP 213 SNP
  12. Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron MP 212 LIBDEM
  13. Torridge and West Devon Geoffrey Cox MP 202 CON

And here is the list of newcomers to the ‘100 club’:

  • Preseli Pembrokeshire Stephen Crabb MP
  • Stratford-on-Avon Nadhim Zahawi MP
  • Great Yarmouth Brandon Lewis MP
  • Glasgow Central Alison Thewliss MP
  • North Ayrshire and Arran Patricia Gibson MP
  • Tewkesbury Laurence Robertson MP
  • Dwyfor Meirionnydd Liz Saville Roberts MP
  • Cardiff West Kevin Brennan MP
  • Ribble Valley Mr Nigel Evans MP
  • Pudsey Stuart Andrew MP
  • Mid Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries MP
  • Southampton, Test Alan Whitehead MP

 

We have, so far, added 15,000 signatures in July. We have momentum.

 

Here is a simple reminder of what we have, together, achieved so far.

epet

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting – the more signatures, the more chance of change.

Progress so far:

Launched 20 March 2016

1000 – 20 March

2000 – 20 March

3000 – 21 March

4000 – 21 March

5000 – 21 March

6000 – 21 March

7000 – 22 March

8000 – 23 March

9000 – 23 March

10,000 – 24 March

11,000 – 26? March

12,000 – 28? March

13,000 – 31 March

14,000 – 31 March

15,000 – 2 April

16,000 – 6 April

17,000 – 9 April

18,000 – 13 April

19,000 – 14 April

20,000 – 15 April

21,000 – 15 April

22,000 – 15 April  My (our) first e-petition reached 22,399 in c10 months

23,000 – 15 April

24,000 – 16 April

25,000 – 16 April

26,000 – 16 April

27,000 – 17 April

28,000 – 18 April

29,000 – 19 April

30,000 – 21 April

31,000 – 23 April

32,000 – 26 April

33,000 – 27 April My (our) second e-petition reached 33,655 in 6 months

34,000 – 2 May

35,000 – 6 May

36,000 – 13 May

37,000 – 15 May

38,000 – 22 May

39,000 – 2 June

40,000 – 4 June

41,000 – 9 June

42,000 – 14 June

43,000 – 16 June

44,000 – 18 June

45,000 – 22 June

46,000 – 26 June

47,000 – 29 June

48,000 – 1 July

49,000 – 2 July

50,000 – 3 July

51,000 – 3 July

52,000 – 3 July

53,000 – 5 July

54,000 – 9 July

55,000 – 11 July

56,000 – 13 July

57,000 – 15 July

58,000 – 15 July

59,000 – 15 July

60,000 – 16 July

61,000 – 17 July

62,000 – 19 July

This e-petition closes on 20 September – two months to go.

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