Yesterday, the Wildlife Trusts awarded Simon Barnes (pictured right) their Rothschild Medal. this is a richly deserved honour in recognition of Simon’s campaigning journalism and beautiful writing – it probably deserves a mention in The Times. This year Simon has been closely associated with two issues that will be familiar to regular readers of this blog: the successful battle to save the Sanctuary LNR and what will be the ultimately successful battle to end persecution of Hen Harriers. Congratulations! Simon, and Well Done! Wildlife Trusts.
When I was reading about the Protection of Birds Act (1954) I came across one MP who spoke about one species of predatory bird, one that occasionally takes gamebirds apparently, thus: ‘I rather regret the complete protection of **** ‘ and ‘…where the **** is doing damage on sporting estates, it will I’m afraid, be shot, irrespective of the provisions of this bill’ and ‘It is the bird which I dislike the most’. Any idea what voracious predator he meant? Answer at foot of this post.
I used a spare pair of binoculars to look at a swirling mass of, say, 40,000 Starlings, at RSPB Otmoor yesterday as the birds poured, liquid-like, into the reedbed to roost. A great sight.
Some of the summing up of District Judge Peter Veits in the Lambert case: ‘It is clear to me that such deliberate poisoning of birds of prey deserves custody, the issue therefore is whether that should be immediate or suspended.
Mr Lambert is 65 and has not troubled the courts before. He has worked all his life in farming and then game keeping, but never received any formal training for this role. As a result of the prosecution, he has lost his employment, although his employers allowed him to take early retirement, and as a consequence lost his home and his good name. Mr Lambert, no doubt like many in his position, appears to have largely been left to his own devices is his day to day duties. There is some disagreement as to the level of supervision given by his employers but even if he was subject to some form of annual appraisal that was clearly not enough.
Those who employ gamekeepers have a strict duty to know what is being done in their name and on their property. They also have a duty to ensure that their gamekeepers are properly trained and capable of keeping abreast of the complex laws relating to the use of poisons. In other industries employers as well as the employee could be facing prosecution in such cases and I hope therefore that this case can serve as a wake up call to all who run estates as to their duties.It is clear that the buzzard population in Norfolk is increasing and this is something that is to be applauded and not something that is seen as an inconvenience to those who chose to run shoots. Nature must be able to live side by side with such activities. I do not believe immediate custody in Mr Lambert’s case is warranted and am therefore prepared to suspend my sentence to reflect the ongoing implications for him and his family.‘
That seems a pretty clear call for vicarious liability.
I hear, from shooting friends, that the GWCT staff were shuffling with embarrassment when Mike Clarke was given a tough reception at their annual meeting last week by some of their members. Of course, we’re all on the same side really…. Here is a link to Mike’s speech where he hardly gave his audience a hard time, so one wonders why they were a bit unfriendly.
And, sticking with GWCT, you could almost believe that the GWCT were appalled by the case of the Norfolk gamekeeper Allen Lambert – but they somehow fail to say so themselves in a blog of their own writing. They quote others, in the way a journalist might, but they fail to lay out their own thoughts. An opportunity missed.
I’m talking at a BTO regional conference in Nottinghamshire on Sunday.
I spoke at the RSPB Oxford Group yesterday – and a very nice bunch they were too. And excellent questions, and a rich source of further signatures for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.
I saw my first Fieldfares of the year at Otmoor yesterday too – they made me smile.
Here is a link to the WWT’s Dr Debbie Pain speaking about lead poisoning at the Convention on Migratory Species in Quito – worth a listen (it’s just 3 minutes long). Let’s hope the UK takes a helpful line – and I shall be asking them about this at the end of the conference.
The Defra Hen Harrier sub-group met this week and, I gather from a variety of sources, that nothing was agreed – not even a date for their next meeting – not even whether there would be a next meeting. Sounds to me as though the long grass is about to be cut.
…and that voracious predator? Not the Hen Harrier; not the Goshawk; not the Peregrine, but, the Little Owl.