Dear Andy – letter to my MP

photoDear Andy

I hope you are well.

I’ll be coming to parliament a week today on a rally organised by the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the League Against Cruel Sports, and supported by some other countryside organisations too. If you are around and could spare a few moments to talk then I’d be very grateful.

But I know you are busy so I thought I’d put some thoughts down here.

What we are calling for is basically that the next government, and I do hope it is a Labour government with you as a minister in it, should do a good job for wildlife in England.  We are calling on the next government to:

  • bring in a Nature and Wellbeing Act
  • stop wildlife crime which affects protected and threatened species like the Hen Harrier
  • ensure that the protection given to our wildlife through the EU Nature Directives is neither watered down nor lost completely

The outgoing (I hope) coalition government has been inactive and inept on wildlife conservation and so there is plenty of catching up to be done.

You know you can count on my vote next May but if you have glanced at my blog recently you will have seen that there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with Labour from wildlife enthusiasts and environmentalists like myself.  I can understand that frustration and I share it myself. See these two blogs but also the comments attached to them (here and here).

But Labour has a great opportunity to win back the enthusiasm of some faltering supporters by ensuring that the election manifesto contains measures such as these:

  • promise to put in a complete network of marine protected areas – Labour started this off with the Marine Act, the ConDems have completely failed to make progress, and it’s a job that needs to be finished off
  • ban lead ammunition following the Quito agreement a couple of weeks ago (supported by the UK as part of the EU delegation) – and this is also unfinished business for Labour as Michael Meacher brought in the initial ban of lead ammunition for wildfowl in England
  • ban driven grouse shooting – we now know that grouse moor management puts up the water bills of the many, and increases the insurance bills of the many, and worsens the climate for all, and deprives the many of the chance to see ‘protected’ wildlife and all for the profit of the few. Come on – whose side are you on?
  • introduce vicarious liability for wildlife crime – it takes the pressure off the working class gamekeeper and distributes some of that pressure to the rich and powerful so they cannot avoid the consequences of crime on their land and on their behalf
  • commit to reducing bovine tb in cattle by all means necessary, even killing badgers if necessary, but with the emphasis on improvements in biosecurity and through vaccination of cattle and badgers
  • ensure value for money for the taxes of all when agri-environment funds are spent on rewarding the few – why does Labour always bend to the will of the NFU’s self-interest?

Maybe we’ll get the chance for a quick chat next week but I’d be very grateful if you could promote my general concerns to those most closely concerned with the section on the environment in the Party’s election manifesto. I shall be reviewing all the political parties’ election manifestos on my blog. I hope I will have plenty of good things to say about the Labour manifesto.


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18 Replies to “Dear Andy – letter to my MP”

  1. well said Mark I hope the Labour Party listen to the voice of
    Many that share your concern, and while they are at it stop HS2
    It will decimate the country I live in, cutting through a large
    Part of the Wildlife Trust's land and an ancient woodland

  2. Unfortunately, my Conservative MP will not be available on the 9th December. I have written, more than once, to the Labour party asking for their stance on nature and wildlife protection. I have received no reply. The silence says a lot.

  3. We live in an urbanised society, the reality is that apart from small vote catching ideas like the Hunting Act no one in Westminster takes the countryside and conservation seriously. Countryside and Wildlife issues are only used if they further the ends of another arguement (like HS2).

  4. I wrote to my MP as well and got a fairly prompt reply as follows:

    Dear Mr Ebbs

    Thank you for your recent email about the Rally for Nature, which I read with interest.

    I am delighted to say that I am committed to protecting our natural environment, as is the Conservative Party.

    I'm proud that this Government published the first Natural Environment White Paper for 20 years and established a proper strategy, Biodiversity 2020. £7.5 million has been provided to establish 12 Nature Improvement Areas, providing space for wildlife to thrive; 148,000 acres of priority habitats and 20,000 acres of woodland are also being created, plus another million trees planted in towns and cities. England's woodland cover is expanding at a rate not seen since the fourteenth century.

    Like you I value the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives, and in my view the best way to defend them is to ensure that the obligations they apply are being discharged. That's why the Government reviewed the way these Directives are implemented in England: it found that generally they are working well, but identified 28 measures that would make compliance simpler, 25 of which had already been implemented as of last summer.

    Lastly I share your concerns over crimes harming birds and naturally I would encourage anyone with information about it to report what they know to the authorities. I believe that the Government's commitment to tackling wildlife crime was highlighted in February, when £500,000 of funding was announced for the National Wildlife Crime Unit to help secure its future.

    I will certainly attend on the 9th of December if my diary commitments permit it. Please can you let me know where the rally will be taking place and at what time?

    Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact me.

    Kind regards


    I look forward to meeting him and discussing some of the points he 's raised. It all sounds so reassuring.

        1. Apparently so. The conversion of forests to arable to feed the burgeoning population, combined with the renewable housing, shipbuilding and energy policies of the time resulted in massive loss of forests and the culling of the population by disease had a very positive effect on natural regeneration.

      1. The reply I got from my Conservative MP to my letter to her about driven grouse shoots was also pretty much the same as the other two mentioned by Richard and David. Except she wrote that she was not aware of the research published from the EMBER study. However here is a reply I got from the Labour candidate in my constituency. Sounds a bit more promising to me.

        Dear Wendy,

        Thank you so much for your email. I was mortified to read that you have written to me and not had a response. I really couldn't recall seeing your email first time round, so I have had a good look in all of my email files and have finally found your October email. I am so sorry that I did not spot it first time round and have not therefore replied until now. It looks as though I mistook your email for a general circular and had filed it accordingly. I do apologise. It is really important to me to respond fully and in good time to people, so I am particularly regretful about this delay - as well as now relieved that you took the opportunity to resend your message and rightly draw my attention to it.

        I am, as your have deduced, passionate about protecting the natural world. I have been a supporter of WWF and the IFAW for as long as I can remember - certainly since my teenage years.

        Only this evening, I was discussing the plight of the Hen Harrier with a Labour Party colleague, Nick Revell, who happens to be a keen member of the RSPB. He too was exercised about the apparent flouting of the law to protect hen harriers by gamekeepers. It is shocking that the hen harrier population is now endangered, and indeed thought to be close to being extinct as a breeding species in England. As you say, whatever difficulty hen harriers may pose to Red Grouse shoots, it does not justify the vitally important Wildlife and Countryside Act being broken, especially when other methods of reducing hen harrier predation on red grouse are available.

        I was much encouraged to read about the hen harriers breeding in the Peak District National Park this summer, though the life of some of them was short. There is clearly much, much more that needs to be done to foster the growth in numbers of this bird.

        Thank you for making me aware of the EMBER project, which I must say is news to me. The research evidence of the environmental impact of heather burning on the water table and therefore on the composition of the soil is significant and serious for us all in terms of climate change - which, incidentally, I believe to be the biggest threat to mankind and one which must command much more attention in the next Parliament. I believe that under a Labour government it will. Ed Miliband is personally very concerned about climate change and has committed to creating 1,000,000 more new jobs linked to the 'green agenda' between 2015 and 2020.

        From all that I have heard and read only today, I absolutely agree that we must take action to protect the Hen Harrier and we need to put measures in place to prevent the decimation of our moorlands heath for all of the reasons you have cited. I have a libertarian streak and would not personally like to see grouse shooting outlawed, However, the land used for driven grouse shooting must be better managed, and this change needs to have urgency about it. You have my full support in this.

        Please do feel free to contact me on this or any other issue. And thank you again for taking the time to resend your email. I really shall, pardon the pun, be watching like a hawk for any further emails from you to ensure that they are filed correctly for a prompt response.

        Kind regards,

        Trudie McGuinness
        Labour's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
        07780 003798

  5. If one definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result, then banning grouse shooting is quite clearly stark raving bonkers:

    'In 1994, there were 10 active grouse moors in Berwyn but following the loss of driven grouse shooting in the late 1990s, surveys revealed that lapwing had disappeared from sample plots; golden plover had declined by 90% while curlew had declined by 79%. Even numbers of hen harrier, that most iconic species, whose decline has been frequently blamed on gamekeepers, suffered a decline of 49% since management for red grouse was abandoned.'

    'Curlew, golden plover and lapwing all bred in good numbers on the moor through the 1990s but appear to have declined after the gamekeeping stopped in 1998.'

    'Numbers of hen harriers rose rapidly during the Joint Raptor Study (1992-7) but declined back to earlier levels afterwards (2 pairs)'

    1. Monro - very poor stuff, Monro.

      Let's just take Wales, since I was watching a Hen Harrier there yesterday evening and was standing on Ruabon Moor at dawn today.

      i haven't read the birds in Wales paper as i don't subscribe to it. Do you? Or are you just cutting and pasting from the GWCT newsletter?

      Dr Siân Whitehead, Terrestrial and Freshwater Ornithologist from Natural Resources Wales said, “The wader declines observed in this study reflect wider population declines being seen throughout Wales. This study, and observations from nearby Ruabon, emphasise the need for us all to work together to deliver sustainable moorland management which can balance the needs of our wild bird populations, the habitats that they depend on, and management of other resources that our uplands can provide.”

      The Berwyn study by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust was funded by the Moorland Association and its director, Amanda Anderson said, “This study does reflect the urgent need to learn important lessons from the management and investment being carried out on our members’ moors in northern England, where grouse shooting is the key driver for managing these important habitats and is helping these moors buck the national trend in terms of supporting significant numbers of waders as well as other priority birds and habitats.”

      Hen Harriers are increasing in Wales as a whole - there are more than 10 times the number of nesting pairs in little old Wales as in the north of England. And your point is?

  6. Ten times very little is still very little.

    The point is that once grouse shooting is gone, most of the upland ground nesting bird population goes with it, as evidenced in Wales, Langholm, Exmoor, Dartmoor etc etc.

    Annual surveys of hen harrier populations are hopelessly inaccurate.

    '''scarce and elusive birds like Hen Harriers are not reliably detected during timed Atlas fieldwork that is used to derive measures of change in abundance'

    The BTO also makes the point that a cessation of grouse shooting is unlikely to benefit the hen harrier:

    'Stopping management for grouse has been suggested as a means of improving the fortunes of Hen Harriers (Thompson 2009). However, although this would remove the main proximal constraint on populations in some areas, it might not translate straightforwardly into increases in Hen Harrier populations. In areas currently dominated by grouse-moor, a shift to alternative land uses such as forestry or high-density stocking with sheep or deer, could diminish the value of the land for harriers by decreasing food availability or nesting success.'

    I'm not quite sure what your point is but it certainly does not support the idea of banning grouse shooting or provide any evidence of the illegal killing of hen harriers in England by grouse shooting interests, the sole premise of your maladroit petition.

  7. Why waste time voting for Labour?

    Yet more of the same.

    I understand you write a "political" column in Birdwatch Mark? It seems to me that you have eschewed politics and are almost fully bought into the quasi-American style system we have - no matter who you vote for, the policies are essentially the same.

    If you agree with Green policies - economic AND environmental - and wish to see green decisions being taken, rather than see another free market serving party that foists austerity on us, while making it easy for big business to avoid paying its due etc, then vote Green.

    Very depressing, very limited in outlook and extremely uninspiring.

    1. Steve - have a listen to Natalie Bennett on Any Questions (Radio 4) last
      Friday. From her responses to several questions it would seem that a vote for the Green Party is a vote for habitat destruction on a huge scale. My guess was that she holds shares in the major house builders!

      It seems to me that there is not a single mainstream political party that can see anywhere beyond economic growth to secure political power. Until that changes, environmental concerns will always be pandered to but largely ignored.

      1. Richard

        How many houses are the Greens proposing and where?

        Your glib dismissal of the only true environmental and socially responsible party is as disappointing as this post's overall message

        1. I'm not being at all glib; I'm entirely serious and considered in my post. In fact, I was verging on voting green having become disenchanted with the Conservatives, my natural choice. But Natalie Bennett, frankly, left me cold.

          So, I think we'll have to agree to disagree. What we actually need is a new brand of politics, different from anything in the current spectrum.

          1. So you're not going to answer the question of home many homes the Greens are planning to build then?

            Or howabout identifying some of those areas that will be "destroyed" by the Greens, and for what purpose?


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