Guest blog – Birders Against Wildlife Crime by Charlie Moores

d7Hev2TZ_400x400A little over two years ago I interviewed a certain Dr Mark Avery for a podcast.

Mark had prepared a list of ’10 things we can all do to become activists’, and it had some inspiring sentences written into it. Perhaps not ‘Ask not what your country can do for you‘ inspiring, but practical, sensible, achievable suggestions that resonated with at least one member of the audience (me). He didn’t actually say, ‘Develop a campaign group that will consume your every waking hour as you start to appreciate just how little you know’, but the seed was planted.

So when one rain-lashed crow-black evening I could still hear guns pummeling the local Wood Pigeons and wondered how they could possibly be certain they weren’t shooting Stock Doves and what the law might have to say about that, Mark’s words came back to me.

I had a thought that if I and close colleagues didn’t know the law, probably many other birders/countryside users wouldn’t know it either. And we should, because laws are there to protect our wildlife and to stop criminals from harming it.

A few (long) phone-calls and much writing/deleting/rewriting later, a new team and a new campaign group was born.

Yes, if you’re one of those people that don’t like Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) you can add that to your very own list of ’10 things that p*ss me off about Mark Avery’…

Having said that, what’s not to like about BAWC (or the genial grand-provocateur Mark Avery come to that)? We’re really a rather nice bunch. Passionate, committed, just doing what we can to raise awareness of the illegal persecution and unlawful coursing, trapping, shooting, and destruction of protected wildlife.

Which is a good thing, right?

Though I guess if committing wildlife crime is your bag, and you’d rather a poorly-informed British public remains in the dark when it comes to Recognising, Recording, or Reporting wildlife crime, then we might be – how can I put this, an irritant perhaps. If you’re someone with a vested interest in keeping Hen Harrier numbers in England artificially (and criminally) low you may not like us for initiating Hen Harrier Day (and I suppose especially dislike Mark for taking the idea into the heart of the moorlands). Perhaps if you’re someone who doesn’t want us to set up and run our ‘Eyes in the Field’ wildlife crime conferences (the first is in March next year) where we aim to really inspire people to get involved with tackling wildlife crime then there’d be a reason to want to stuff us down a fox hole or to hope we’ll just disappear into thin air like harriers and their satellite-tags.

The truth is that wildlife crime is a festering sore. It reeks of disrespect and a lack of imagination. It’s a primitive response to modern problems, and its stench has been tolerated for far too long.

Like any severe infection it won’t be beaten with kind words and a spoonful of sugar. It needs to be attacked hard, and we can all be a part of the cure. We public don’t even need much in the way of specialist training. BAWC is already building an information hub to help. Many of us are out in the field anyway; we have the optics; we have camera phones; we have nothing to fear because the law is on our side.

At this point perhaps I should ask you to join BAWC.

While we do have a Donate page if you feel like supporting us, we don’t have members so there’s no pitch coming. Everything on our website is free to access and always will be. You can subscribe to a monthly newsletter if you’d like to, but that won’t cost you anything either. And if you do follow us we won’t bleat about how unfair things are and ask you to pay us because we’re the only people who really ‘gets’ the ways of the countryside. And we certainly won’t be trying to convince you that it’s the ‘Sparrowhawk what done it guv‘ or that killing things is the only conservation worth funding.

No, we’ll just try and help us all to tackle wildlife crime. Doing what we can to support charity investigation officers and the police. Meeting people, developing partnerships and initiatives like the one that has led to the recently-launched ‘Wildlife Crime Aware‘. Oh, and coming up with Star Trek-based t-shirt slogans like, ‘We are BAWC, resistance is futile‘. Because we wouldn’t want anyone to think that BAWC doesn’t have a playful side.

Anyone except – well, you know who you are. And where you’re concerned we are never anything but serious.


31 Replies to “Guest blog – Birders Against Wildlife Crime by Charlie Moores”

  1. You and the rest of the BAWC team are doing a great job Charlie. Campaigns are well thought out and get straight to the point, you have one big supporter here. Looking forward to seeing you all in Buxton next March. Well done to all you.

    1. Thanks so much Stewart, and thanks so much for your comments on Facebook etc. Buxton will be a really thought-provoking day. Be good to meet up there. Thanks again.

  2. Well done BAWC. There does truly seem to be momentum (at last) about wildlife crime issues – not just within conservation, but the wider public generally. Time for the big conservation bodies to press home this issue even harder than they are. We appear to be approaching an attitudinal “tipping point” within the UK.

    1. John, thankyou very much. Yes, there is a momentum building – carefully nurtured by leaders like Mark Avery of course. We think getting the ‘general public’ onside will be key and hopefully our approach helps with that! Thanks again for your support.

  3. BAWC’s potential to do good is significant and it’s clear its time has come. Birders have contributed much to conservation campaigns in the past so it’s great to have a sort of ‘one-stop-shop’, straight talking and informed focus point. Keep at it.

    1. Des, thanks very much. A ‘sort of one-stop-shop’ sums us up perfectly (we might have to use that in the future)! And thanks for you support on Twitter and facebook etc. As we like to say #weseeyou and we appreciate it 🙂

  4. A brilliant blog Charlie, very passionate and inspiring. Together as one we will stop the rot and put an end to all wildlife crime. Go BAWC go!!!

    1. Thanks very much Ross. The calibre of guest blogger on this website is incredibly daunting, but hopefully I got our message across okay! ‘Together’ is what it’s all about, and we all can – and we all will – stop the rot. In fact, I quite like the idea of maybe using the phrase, BAWC – part of Team ‘Stop The Rot’ from now on 🙂 Thanks again for your support and encouragement, Ross, it’s appreciated.

  5. Excellent Charlie, Looking forward to the Conference. Can I just add how nice is it to see the guest blogger answering every comment.

    1. Many thanks Bob. Re answering every comment, Mark’s blog is such a great way to communicate with people I’m just grateful for the opportunity… Looking forward to seeing you at the conference: it’ll be wonderful to meet up with everyone’s who’s been so supportive of us in our ‘fledgling’ stage!

  6. Great stuff! One issue that has come to me recently is while trying to spread the word by writing to a outdoor recreation mag about their recent article on mountain biking in Bowland, I realised that there is no one online repository that the unknowing can be pointed to.

    This one is a good start, but things are spread about a bit and that’s an obstacle to spreading the word to those ‘innocents’ out there using the countryside and who don’t know what they are missing.

    Any thoughts on a single point repository of information that we can direct people like chefs and restaurateurs, tourism operators, B&B owners, walking guides, magazine editors etc., etc?

    1. Hi Bimbling. Thanks for commenting. We’re certainly trying to create a repository or hub to help all of us understand what wildlife crime is and what our response to it should be. We’ve tried to make that as accessible as we can: I’d be very interested to hear what we could do better in terms of helping people find the info they need? Your suggestion re B&B owners etc is an excellent one: we’d really like our information being disseminated by the people who are coming into contact with what we loosely refer to as ‘countryside users’ and that’s certainly something we can work on, so thanks for the highlighting that.

  7. I would agree with the other comments above, great blog. An inspiration for collective action. I do have one question / suggestion?

    Do you have a wildlife crime reporting form on your website? I had a look on your website and could not find one. You may have taken a decision not to. I agree the first priority is to report to the police, however, I do think it worthwhile collating and analyzing reports to build an overall picture of wildlife crime in the UK. I see you have various links to other organisations that do. I’m unaware, and correct me if I’m wrong, of any collaboration between the different NGOs to create a common reporting system or database? Perhaps this could be a topic for discussion at your wildlife crime conference.

    I briefly read the NWCU 2013 Strategic Report, which probably gives the best overall picture, but even they admit “despite the exceptionally high levels of intelligence from UK police forces, there are still several Force Intelligence Bureaus (FIB’s) in England, Wales and PSNI who have disseminated very little”. I see that 7.5% of the intelligence reports came from NGOs, so maybe forming a common reporting system would help the NWCU get a measure of and help prevent wildlife crimes in the UK.

    1. James, thanks for the kind words and for commenting. This is an important issue for us and one the team did discuss, yes. We have always said that we don’t want to copy or duplicate the work that NGOs are doing – we wanted to point people towards them instead. NGOs like the RSPB, LACS and others do invest a lot of effort in collecting information and I can assure you that NGOs do talk to each other and with the NWCU as some notable convictions attest. That hasn’t always been the case, but everything is moving towards greater co-operation which is really important of course. Another consideration for us was that on a purely practical level, running a system like that is very labour intensive: information needs to be checked, and more importantly followed up on (if it’s not word soon gets around and people stop using it). We simply don’t have the capacity at the moment to do that. Would we like to cooperate on a common recording database in the future? It’s a very tempting idea and if we had the capacity and could do so in a way that enhanced the work that’s already being done, then we would certainly be interested in discussing it. Thanks again.

  8. That was a brilliant blog Charlie. With your input, and that of Mark and Chris, I am sure we can bring this terrible situation to an end. Myself and my wife were in Derbyshire in August for the hen harrier day and you can be assured of our continuing support.

    1. Many thanks Chris, that’s very kind. You were part of the ‘Sodden 570’? What a great day and what a fantastic effort by Mark and Chris! I don’t want to speak for either of those two illustrious conservationists, but I’m sure they’d agree that this is a collective movement, and every single one of us contributes to it. We’re changing the landscape together, and that’s something we can all be very proud of!

      1. Charlie – absolutely true!

        Hundreds in person on Hen Harrier Day, millions reached through social media on that day and 18,000+ signing the e-petition to ban driven grosue shooting. Watch this space for news, soon, of another opportunity to show that you care…

  9. A superb blog, by turns funny and serious. Well done Charlie, and thanks for the nod to Swansea’s favourite son, who had his birthday this week.

    I’ve subscribed to the newsletter, and a donation will follow. And as someone married to a trekkie, one of those t shirts would make a great Christmas present!

  10. Many thanks Andrew – and thanks for signing up for the newsletter and in advance for any donation: that’s very kind of you. You know, we may just have to print a few of those t-shirts – to be honest, I’d quite like one myself: maybe we could start a trend!

  11. Heart warming stuff from Charlie and fellow commenters. Keeps your faith in human nature alive and kicking. I too was one of the sodden 570. I think that dear old Hurricane Bertha only served to hi light our resolve and determination. In fact during a moment of what could only have been boredom I suppose, it struck me that an anagram of Hen Harrier Day is Hey rain harder. Keep up the great work one and all. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

  12. Thanks Paul, and yes, it is heart warming. There are clearly a LOT of people wanting to stop illegal persecution and it’s very special to be a part of what’s going on. One thing: how did I never hear about that anagram. Brilliant! Mind if we pinch that for another tshirt slogan – too good just to fade away…And in case I don’t get another chance to say it again (and to the tune of AC/DC), ‘The Sodden 570 – We Salute You’.

  13. The Badger Trust have been collecting information [report forms] on crimes against badgers – in particular snaring – for many years and I wonder if having a meeting with them on the subject might be of value. Someone mentioned a central database for reported wildlife crime, which I think is a good idea but Charlie is right, its a huge task. I guess few wildlife crimes ever get reported to the Police and that if all were [however minor] we would all be shocked by how widespread wildlife crime is. But if it shocks us, then it might also shock the general public, Police and Government – who may then take the issue more seriously. Whilst seriously unfunded the Partnership against Wildlife Crime initiative was a good idea – this ought to be the starting point for a central database, the Police must surely have the IT facilities to handle it.
    As a birder – I’m also against wildlife crime and congratulate Charlie and co for getting this campaign going.

    1. Stella, thanks for commenting. I’m sure you’re absolutely right about the amount of wildlife crime that goes unreported – we’d add that there must be a huge amount of crime that isn’t even recognised as such at the moment as well (from ripping up hedges or tree surgery during the nesting season and potentially impacting nesting birds, disturbing Schedule 1 birds, disturbing bats, using snares illegally etc etc). And yes, we agree too that were all that crime reported it would overwhelm the current capacity of police and charity investigation officers to deal with it. That should – provided enough of us were pushing at the same time anyway – create enough of a wave to at the very least cause a serious debate about resourcing and capacity. On a separate note we’re aware of PAW of course, and there are some excellent groups working under the PAW banner, but we don’t feel in a position to make an informed comment on how well it does or doesn’t work at the moment: another thing we would like to look at properly when we have the time!

  14. Brilliant, inspiring words. This thing is gaining momentum and just as happened to the small beginnings of Emily Williamson it will grow into a force to be reckoned with which will have far reaching benefits to our wildlife. The people who have got away with this for so long will now have to keep one eye over their shoulder at all times because we are coming to get you. Well done Mark and well done us.

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