I went out for a walk on Monday morning and as I parked the car at 0710 a large flock of pigeons flew past. Just Woodpigeons, nothing very special, but hundreds of them so quite interesting. And then another flew past, and another and I started counting. In 15 minutes c5000 birds flew past; and then in the next 15 minutes another c2000 flew past; and then in the next 90+ minutes another c500.
All of these birds, in flocks of a few to several hundred birds, were flying up the Nene Valley in a southwesterly direction. Some flocks were quite high – high enough that I might well have missed them if I hadn’t been in pigeon-spotting mode.
I’m not sure whether these were birds leaving a roost – must have been some roost – or whether they were immigrants from the continent. In fact, I know nothing about them except they were certainly Woodpigeons and I’ve not seen so many at Stanwick Lakes ever before. And there weren’t similar numbers on Tuesday or Thursday mornings.
It’s not quite like the flocks of billions of Passenger Pigeons seen by Audubon and Wilson in the early nineteenth century but it’ll have to do.
Bloomsbury do mention my Passenger Pigeon book on their website now. We are just finishing off the edits and the artwork for the cover is all done.
I think about Passenger Pigeons every day but it did strike me in the last week that there are an awful lot of US vagrants around – few of them in conveniently easy localities.
There have been American Robins, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Cape May Warbler, a whole bunch of ducks and waders, and even a Mourning Dove in Britain and Ireland.
When the Passenger Pigeon was at its commonest, when there were billions of them, it was thought that more than a third, almost a half, of all the birds in North America were Passenger Pigeons. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that some of them might have made their way across the Atlantic to Europe?
There are records of Passenger Pigeons in the British Isles but none of them look very convincing – we know that there were many captive birds and even that some travellers to and from the USA released Passenger Pigeons in Europe in the hope that they might breed. The great John James Audubon brought many Passenger Pigeons to the UK on his visit and gave them as gifts to rich folk whom he wanted to buy his work.
In my meanderings through the Passenger Pigeon literature I came across this record documented in Thompson, W. 1851. The Natural History of Ireland. Volume 3. Birds comprising the order natatores. Reeve and Benham, London.
A Mr Fitzgerald writes from Ireland of finding a passenger pigeon exhausted near Tralee and keeping it in captivity for two years. Its exhausted state led him to believe that it must have crossed the Atlantic ‘as a bird of its powers of flight would not have been exhausted unless it came from some very great distance’. No date is given for the capture.
That sounds quite promising (only promising) as a genuine record although it would be really nice to know the date and that seems to be unavailable. Tralee, Co Kerry, would be just the type of west-facing area that would be on your list of possible sites for a genuine Passenger Pigeon to be found. And in the period before 1851 Passenger Pigeons were still very numerous.
There’s a bit of me that wants the Passenger Pigeon to have crossed the Atlantic a few times (that’s from the heart) and there’s a bit of me that thinks that it must be quite likely that the strongly-flying Passenger Pigeon, the most abundant bird in North America by far, could have managed the journey (that’s from the head).
It is a matter of utmost triviality, but I wonder…
There were many very nice farmers in the room and I enjoyed talking to quite a few of them, and there were a range of interesting talks. I’d like to give you an insight into what one of the speakers said – Allan Wilkinson from HSBC itself. I choose this talk not because it was the ‘best’ (although it was very good) but because I found it very stimulating, and because the speaker had 10 points which makes it easy to summarise. Here are Allan’s 10 points, in bold, and my comments on them not in bold (how could I be so unbold?):
- few farms operate at their economic optimum – in other words, there are a lot of inefficient farms out there despite British farming often saying that British farming is the best in the world.
- the difference between the best and worst farms has grown and is now enormous.
- does expansion increase or decrease your farm profitability and cash?
- benchmarking and budgetting are vital – a good point for wildlife NGOs too?
- the biggest variable in your business is you – there are good and bad farmers.
- the customer and consumer are king – how many times has farming been told this? But it still needs telling.
- be adaptable.
- know who is your competitor – I believe, more generally in knowing your enemies.
- collaborate with your neighbour.
- volatility is here to stay.
I thought that these points, and others, were made clearly by the man from the ‘listening bank’ which I will now think of as the ‘listening and straight-talking’ bank. They come from someone with a knowledge of farming but not a farmer, and they may have relevance for your (and my) business too.
I’m not sure that LEAF’s Chair, Stephen Fell, had completely incorporated Point 6 when, in a recent blog, he had a go at the London left-wing intelligentsia. If we take London=urban; left-wing= not Conservative or UKIP; and intelligentsia=brighter than average, then that only leaves about 5% of the population to whom farmers can sell. Nor, am I sure that Mr Fell had completely got his head around the State of Nature report which showed that 60% of (enclosed) farmland species (for which data exist) are declining – and 34% of them are declining strongly – when he wrote that ‘the same weary suspects still trot out their mantras about intensive farming ruining the environment…and farmland bird populations reaching dangerous levels’. Some of us will not weary of mentioning declining farmland wildlife until it has recovered.
We should, probably, take LEAF’s Chair’s dyspeptic remarks as a momentary lapse but I fear that they might also indicate that LEAF has not yet decided what its role is to be. If it is to be just an occasionally slightly nicer version of the NFU then there really isn’t much point in LEAF and we should simply ignore it. LEAF should be standing up for stewardship, an old-fashioned concept I know, and facing up to farming’s environmental challenge. If it does then it is worth supporting, as a customer and consumer. Then, I hope that it would be encouraged and championed by the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB and their millions of consumers – a collaboration worth having.
The LEAF Marque is miles and miles better than the Red Tractor Logo, in my opinion, as a marker of good British farming. With continuing evolution this is a label that the ‘London-based left-wing intelligentsia’ could get behind. This could deliver a market-based incentive for the rural, right-wing and left-wing, ignorati and intelligentsia who work in farming.
If LEAF is serious about stewardship, and I know lots of individual LEAF farmers who are, then it has to accept that there are problems that need solving. It needs also to read that list of 10 points above and realise where its best chance of collaboration lie. I’ll watch this space with interest. Turn over a new LEAF.
Review from Ornithos, the magazine of the French Birdlife partner (soon to be known as ‘donnant une maison a la nature‘ – peut-etre?
‘Vivant, concret, souvent instructif et parfois captivant‘.
21 5-star reviews on Amazon – still makes a great Christmas present for the committed birdwatcher, nature conservationist or environmentalist. Buy here.
All comments on this post to be in French s’il vous plait.
Last Saturday I drove into Wales, to Monmouth, to spend the day at the meeting of the Welsh Ornithological Society. I gave a talk and listened to lots of others.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Gwent Ornithological Society so it was fitting that we were in Monmouth.
I enjoyed hearing from Al Venables about the birth and growing up of the Gwent Ornithological Society (by way of a couple of name changes) – I hope the GOS enjoy their 50s as much as I am enjoying mine.
There were some awards to some old people and a young person. Former colleagues of mine at the RSPB, Roger Lovegrove and Graham Williams were rewarded with lifetime achievement awards and Stacey Melia received the first WOS Student Research Award.
I enjoyed Steve Roberts’ talk on Honey Buzzards – just as much as I enjoyed it the previous weekend at the SOC Conference. And I am looking forward to hearing it again at the BTO Conference in December too. It really is a very good talk and if you are at Swanwick then look out for some superb photographs and some video footage that will blow you away. I won’t say more now.
Jerry Lewis gave a wonderful talk about a wonderful bird – the Hawfinch. I don’t see these birds very often and I enjoyed learning how they can be caught, a bit about their movements within this part of Wales but also further afield. It’s clear that there is, at least in some years, an influx of Hawfinches to the UK from Scandinavia. And they are gorgeous-looking birds.
Nigel Clark from the BTO talked about the Severn Estuary and ideas about barrages. It was interesting that he tended to favour tidal stream turbines as the way to harness the Severn’s tidal power that might, if done in the right way, be less damaging than the old-fashioned barrage proposals. This chimed with what Bob Furness said at the SOC Conference last weekend. It made me look up the study of one such tidal stream turbine that was put into the narrow entrance to Strangford Lough in Northern Irleand. This account, seems to suggest that it was quite a success. Maybe the Severn will be the site of hundreds of underwater turbines in a few decades time.
Tony Fox talked about the slightly complicated fate of the Greenland White-fronted Goose. Here’s an interview that Tony did with Brett Westwood that covers much of the ground. Apparently, it is only in England (where hardly any occur) and Wales (where there is an important wintering site on the Dyfi) that it is legal to shoot this bird. I’ve signed the petition to the Welsh Assembly to ask them to ban shooting of this species.
Thank you to WOS and GOS for a wonderful day.
What a shame then that so many places ideally suited to Golden Eagles lack their presence. Only three of 14 regions that have held Golden eagles in Scotland are regarded as having eagle populations in favourable condition according to a 2008 report from SNH. In nine of the other 11 regions persecution was regarded as an important factor in limiting eagle numbers and in seven of these illegal persecution was regarded as the most important factor.
Here is a quote from the report: ‘A number of lines of evidence indicated that illegal persecution of eagles, principallyassociated with grouse moor management in the central and eastern Highlands, is the most severe constraint on Scottish golden eagles.’
Scotland’s favourite wild animal is rarer than it should be, across much of its range, because people kill it. Think what happens to less favoured wildlife!
In a little discussion on this subject on Twitter the Chief Executive of the Scottish Land and Estates organisation, Doug McAdam, was very keen to point me in the direction of this paper on the impacts of catching at the nest on Golden Eagles – I am grateful to him for it is an interesting paper, and a subject about which I have always had concerns. The SLE are so concerned that they feature this paper on their website!
I sometimes worry that the enthusiasm for tagging birds may sometimes lead to harm to those birds and so this paper is absolutely what responsible scientists should publish as a cautionary tale. Researchers should always consider any potential harm of their studies on the species that they study (and mitigate it, and, if possible, measure it). There may be some danger that the keenness to have a sexy, interesting study might sometimes lead to needless harm to the study animals.
However, the Scottish population of Golden Eagles is not constrained and limited by radio- or satellite-tagging activities! We might have a few Golden Eagles nesting in North Wales and northern England if Scottish grouse moors would let a few through to us.
The current situation is totally unacceptable – and again grouse moors seem to hold a large portion of the blame for the widespread absence of a protected bird. Is grouse shooting really a legitimate field sport these days?
If Doug McAdam would like to write Guest Blog on what the SLE is doing with its members to address the findings of the SNH report and conservation framework for Golden Eagles I’ll be happy to have a look at it.
This book is another one about being an ‘avid’ birder in a world of experts who are better at identifying birds than are you.
It’s a somewhat engaging journey around well-known birding localities seeing and missing birds. I was pleased every time that Andrew Fallan saw his target species and he does collect a fairly impressive list of rarities – Grey-cheeked Thrush, Pallas’s Warbler and Red-flanked Bluetail for example. We don’t get that much of a description of each occasion as we are carried off to the next bird.
It didn’t grip me.
Westminster Hall debates are important ways by which Parliament can discuss matters of importance outside the House of Commons chamber. Earlier this month there was a Westminster Hall debate on Wildlife Crime sought by the members of the Environmental Audit Committee to give the Government a nudge after the EAC published their excellent report on the subject.
The whole debate (it’s a discussion rather than a debate) is worth reading but here are some particularly striking excerpts. Joan Wally is the Chair of the EAC (and a Labour MP), Simin Hart is a previous Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance (and a Conservative MP), Barry Gardiner is a former Defra Minister and currently a shadow minister (and a Labour MP) and George Eustice is a new Defra Minister (and a Conservative MP).
Joan Walley: I could talk at length about the different views that witnesses who gave evidence to our inquiry had on the cause of the decline in hen harriers. We felt that persecution is a key factor in the decline of the hen harrier. I draw the Minister’s attention to five academic studies, by Redpath, Natural England, Summers, Etheridge, and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The JNCC found that the most common form of persecution is deliberate nest disturbance, which is why, after a lengthy discussion, we felt that the Government should evaluate the effect of an offence of vicarious liability in relation to the persecution of birds of prey, as the Scottish Government did in 2011, and consider introducing such an offence in England and Wales, to make landowners responsible for the activities of their gamekeepers. The Government said that they would review the matter as soon as statistics were available, and I can tell the Minister that when the Select Committee visited the Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh, we had a brief discussion with MSPs and put that on their agenda. Are the statistics on the impact of the offence of vicarious liability in Scotland available? Will the Government look at the Scottish experience and report back?
Barry Gardiner: On the subject of birds of prey, I want to echo the wise words of the Chair of the Select Committee about raptor persecution and vicarious liability. No one should underestimate the true effect of raptor persecution on some of the UK’s most endangered species. According to the Government-sponsored joint nature conservation committee report on hen harrier conservation, 2013 was the first year in which there was not a single successful breeding pair in the UK. That is extraordinary, and I know that the Minister, although new to his position, will take the matter seriously. There is enough appropriate habitat in the UK to support 324 to 340 breeding pairs of hen harrier. Today, we have zero breeding pairs.
As for the peregrine falcon, the goshawk and other raptors, it is absolutely clear that someone is more likely to see a peregrine falcon from the terrace of the House of Commons than they are on a walk through the north-west Peak district. Why? That is a question that the Minister should ask himself. The Committee was entirely right to focus on vicarious liability, because without vicarious liability we will lack a key piece in the puzzle—highly intensive, driven grouse moors with irresponsible owners. At this point, I will say that there are many grouse moors that are sensibly, properly and responsibly managed. However, we all know that there are also irresponsibly managed moors, and the evidence shows that they are having a devastating effect on the populations of some of Britain’s most iconic birds of prey.
The EAC report shows a clear understanding of that problem. Of those convicted of raptor persecution, 70% are gamekeepers. There is no getting away from that fact and it is something that the Department must address by looking seriously at vicarious liability.
Simon Hart: I take very seriously what the hon. Gentleman says, but I hope that he will also recognise that the population problems—particularly with regard to hen harriers, which he referred to—is not restricted exclusively to areas where there are either amateur or professional gamekeepers. Indeed, I also hope that he will concede that even RSPB reserves have failed to establish any breeding pairs of hen harriers. So, I hope that he is not implying that this problem is purely down to one cause, and when the Minister responds to the debate I hope that he, too, will take that point on board and recognise that the problem is a little more complex than that.
Barry Gardiner: I am very happy to accept what the hon. Gentleman says. He is, of course, right that there are many and complex reasons why a species may become extinct in the UK. However, the fact is that the species that I am talking about is on the brink and is being persecuted by some irresponsible gamekeepers. That is absolutely clear.
I welcome all that the game industry is doing in terms of distraction feeding and so on; it is making serious efforts. However, some irresponsible gamekeepers shoot raptors and they have a vendetta against hen harriers in particular. That must stop and the way to achieve that is through vicarious liability.
George Eustice: Given the strength of feeling on this issue—there are Members who have already made that point—we will indeed look at that and we will get back, in detail, on it.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North talked about problems of raptor persecution. A number of hon. Members mentioned hen harriers in particular and problems relating to those. The persecution of birds of prey is of grave concern. Although many of our birds of prey are doing well, their persecution is not acceptable. We remain committed to addressing the illegal killing of birds of prey. Persecution can take many forms, such as poisoning, shooting and deliberate destruction of nests, and it is totally unacceptable.
Bird of prey persecution remains one of the UK’s wildlife crime priorities and we will continue to work to ensure that we take the right steps to take enforcement action in respect of any offences being committed. DEFRA is working with the police and other stakeholders who are best placed to help facilitate a reduction in bird of prey persecution. The group working on this has been looking at types of offence that occur and, earlier this year, established maps that show where incidents of bird of prey poisoning have taken place. This will help detect to trends and inform decisions on where action might be targeted.
A main focus of our efforts will be the hen harrier, populations of which in England are critically low. No nests appear to have been successful this year. Hon. Members commented on the number of hen harriers. There are some breeding pairs in Scotland. Although full details are not available, there are apparently 12 breeding pairs in England and many more in Scotland and Wales. Persecution is regularly cited as a reason for failure for the hen harrier population to grow, so considering how enforcement tools can be best used to protect it is an important strand of work in assisting its recovery in England. Let me assure hon. Members that there is a robust legal framework for protecting birds of prey in England, with penalties including imprisonment for offenders.
There is almost universal agreement—the Committee’s report contained a strong recommendation for it—on recognition for the important work of the national wildlife crime unit. I recognise and appreciate the huge contribution that the unit makes to wildlife law enforcement, both in the UK and internationally. The unit is small, but its impact is big. It has helped raise awareness of wildlife crime and provided professional expertise and support for wildlife law enforcers across the UK, enhancing their ability to identify and tackle wildlife crime. It has also played an important part in a number of Interpol initiatives targeting particular species groups and has lent its expertise to and assisted in global efforts to conserve those species most at threat from illegal international trade. It clearly has strengths and expertise that would contribute to the UK’s response, which is another reason why we need to reach a decision on the future of the unit as soon as possible.
The Committee recommended that long-term funding for the unit should be secured and the Government have confirmed that funding will be provided until the end of March next year. Many hon. Members agree strongly with the Committee—I have listened carefully to the points made, including by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner)—about the importance of securing funding for it. I understand the frustration with the fact that it has not been possible to do that so far.
The funding is not as straightforward as it might appear. Hon. Members will be aware that the unit is currently co-funded by DEFRA, the Home Office, the Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland Government, ACPO and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland. All these bodies are considering their position on the future of the unit and recognise how important it is that we come to a decision as soon as we can. We will advise the House as soon as a decision has been made.
The shadow Minister mentioned possession of pesticides, particularly in the context of harrier populations. The Committee raised this concern in its report. Specifically, there is concern about possession of carbofuran and other pesticide ingredients and whether we should follow the Scottish example and the approach taken there. The Committee recommended that possession of such chemicals should be an offence. I am grateful to hon. Members for raising this today, as it gives me an opportunity to clear up this matter.
The hon. Gentleman says that it is legal to store these chemicals, but not to use them. However, the advice that I have been given is that approvals for the use of pesticide containing carbofuran were revoked in 2001, which means that the advertisement, sale, supply, storage or use of carbofuran is already a criminal offence under existing UK legislation. Therefore we do not need to change the law. We simply need to recognise that it is already illegal to store it.
Barry Gardiner: Of course, this is not only about carbofuran, but about a range of other chemicals that can be used to poison wildlife, not just hen harriers. I agree that it is not necessary to change the law. There is a perfectly sensible provision, under the NERC Act, that would allow a list of chemicals to be drawn up that can be, and are being, used in this way. The Scottish experience shows that by putting chemicals on that list and applying the law, and then successfully enforcing it and prosecuting people, it is possible to target the criminals who are doing this.
George Eustice: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point—I probed it when looking into this issue—but approval for the majority of pesticides linked to wildlife poisoning cases has been revoked, or they have never
been approved for use. Carbofuran tends to be, as it were, the weapon of choice for those who want to poison these birds. It is already illegal under existing pesticides legislation. This legislation, together with the use of amnesty initiatives in place in some areas, already addresses this issue. Therefore there is no need to create a new offence.
Barry Gardiner: I appreciate the Minister’s engaging in a dialogue on this point. If prosecutions were taking place under the existing proscription of these chemicals, we would be more confident that the law was effective in stopping their being used for poisoning wildlife. Given that that is not so, and that the Minister will accept that they are still being used to poison wildlife—not just carbofuran, but the other ones I listed—perhaps it does make sense to put them on the list under NERC.
George Eustice: If, as the hon. Gentleman says, there is a low conviction rate for the illegal use of these chemicals, that suggests a difficulty in or lack of enforcement, not that the law is falling short in allowing prosecution. There is no material difference between being able to find that somebody is storing a chemical or having it hidden away in the garage or a farm shed and their having possession of it. Therefore that would not change the ability to get convictions on this front.
The Committee recommended that the Government introduce a new offence in England of vicarious liability—mentioned by the shadow Minister and other hon. Members—following the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce the offence in January 2012. The Law Commission has been considering the issue further as part of its wildlife law project. I understand that the commission will publish a report shortly setting out its conclusions following consultation, which will include its views on whether to introduce an offence of vicarious liability. It would probably be prudent to await that report before commenting further.
The Committee also recommended that the national wildlife crime unit be directed and funded to develop a wildlife crime database of incidents reported to the police and of prosecutions. Although I can see why the Committee made that recommendation, recording that information alone is not the answer. To better understand the nature of wildlife crime being committed across the UK, the unit works with Government Departments, police force intelligence bureaux and scientific and other organisations to produce an intelligence-based assessment of current, emerging and future wildlife crime threats, with recommendations for action. That approach ensures the best use of the unit’s time and resources and focuses attention firmly on intelligence, which is consistent with modern policing procedures and practices. I am concerned that if we diverted the unit’s efforts into developing a database, it might take effort and resources away from intelligence and the pursuit of leads.
The unit launched a new website in June 2013 that contains lots of useful information and background, and it is already proving to be a useful resource and source of information. I hope that hon. Members who take an interest in wildlife crime will look at that website, because it helps to share information.
As I draw to a close, I once again thank the hon. Lady for introducing this debate. I also thank all the hon. Members for their thoughtful contributions. Wildlife law enforcement is of course a wide-ranging issue. The law is sometimes complex and overlapping, arising as it does from international, European and domestic legislation. There will always be a balance to be struck, for example, between what we can achieve and where best to focus our combined energies and commitment to deliver the greatest benefit, and I suspect we will never all agree on where our activity should focus. I am absolutely convinced, however, that this is an area where we cannot reduce our effort and where we must continue to work together in partnership.
The UK has a good story to tell on its approach to wildlife law enforcement, and our general approach is widely respected across Europe and internationally. We absolutely cannot be complacent, however, and although the Government cannot accept all the Committee’s recommendations, we welcome the Committee’s interest and engagement in this matter.
Joan Walley: I would briefly like to say how valuable this debate has been. I am grateful to everyone, not just to members of the Environmental Audit Committee but to other Members, for contributing. The debate shows that Parliament has a role in dragging up the Minister’s trouser legs to push the agenda further forward. That was the original intention when the Environmental Audit Committee was set up, in the words of my noble Friend Lord Prescott. The strength of feeling this afternoon shows that this debate is not simply a question of there being a Select Committee report and a Government response—that is it, the matter is closed. What we want to get across is that the agenda is fast changing, and we would welcome the Minister, perhaps in informal discussions with us, reconsidering not just the Government’s response but where we might make further progress. I hope that that can happen.
I welcome the contribution of my colleague on the Front Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner). He rightly raised the issue of carbofuran, to which the Committee gave a lot of attention. The Government’s response has been to dismiss the issue out of hand, and they have been unwilling to consider introducing an order under section 43 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. As in Scotland, we believe there should be an order of possession. Is it all right for a gamekeeper to have carbofuran in his pocket? Will that protect raptors? That is worth revisiting.
I welcome many of the Minister’s responses to our recommendations, but the Government have not considered the matter in the cross-cutting way that is now needed given the urgent threat to endangered species. I wonder whether there is a small opportunity prior to the 2014 summit for the Minister, once he is into his new role, to bring together Ministers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office to thrash out how the Government are to show true leadership.
I understand that funding for the national wildlife crime unit is contributed by many different parties, but should it not just be in the basic line of Government spending? The funding should be automatic. Perhaps that needs to be revisited.
This debate has been useful, and I say to everyone who has contributed that the Environmental Audit Committee will not just leave the matter here. We will keep following up. The sooner we start working together on those issues, with Parliament having a say and having influence, the better.
I was heartened by the quality of the debate. Joan Walley and Barry Gardiner really know their stuff on this subject. If either is your MP you should drop them an email to praise them for raising these issues so well.
It is unlikely that this government will move on vicarious liability – particularly as the Law Commission interim report is not keen on the idea. While I was in Scotland over the last few days I had a couple of conversations on this subject and the gist of those was that people thought that this provision is already making a difference in Scotland even if actual prosecutions may be rare – prevention is indeed better than retribution. With the Labour Front Bench so keen on vicarious liability then we should expect to see it, or something even better, set out in the Labour manifesto before the 2015 General Election. I will be writing to my MP to ask him to promote this idea within the Labour Party.
Why not write to your MP on the subject of wildlife crime? Why will the government not proscribe carbofuran in the same way that it already is in Scotland – it requires little more effort than an email! The value of that move is all to do with the matter that prosecutions are dealt with by the police and the courts, and somewhat complicated, but nonetheless real. Why is the Conservative Party 9for I’ll give the LibDems the benefit of the doubt here) so stubbornly against a minor but important administrative change?
What is this government doing about hen harriers in England – nothing it seems? Why is it not publishing the locations of the final resting places of hen harriers tagged by Natural England using public money, which would illuminate their frequent demise in or near grouse moors? What is the Government’s plan to conserve this endangered species in England? Does it have one?
Why is the funding for the NWCU left to be an annual decision made across several government departments and administrations? This is simply poor administration – we need to see a long-term commitment to this funding.
Those are some questions you might ask your MP – if you do then you will be helping to keep the issue ‘live’ and doing your bit to help those parliamentarians who are doing the right thing, and helping threatened wildlife too.
Today Animal Aid is calling for public subsidies to be withdrawn from millionaire grouse shooters.
In its new report on grouse shooting, Calling the Shots, the UK’s largest animal rights group sets out its case. It contains extensive reference to the Walshaw Moor affair as well as to persecution of birds of prey and the climate change impacts of grouse moor management.
A few days ago, when I wrote that the RSPB was leaving a vacuum into which others would step on the issue of bird of prey persecution and grouse moor management I really didn’t know this report was even coming, yet alone imminent.
It seems that there is something of an alliance being formed between animal rights campaigners, those opposed to shooting in any form, conservationists, environmentalists and local residents; as all are losing patience with the way that driven grouse shooting is practised in the UK.
Grouse moor managers may begin to wish that they had stirred themselves to clean up their act a little before the world lost patience with them.