Just asking…

Yesterday’s blog on the rather mindless comments of the NFU to the proposal to reintroduce White-tailed Eagles to the Isle of Wight attracted a lot of good comments. Thank you!

And of course I agree that any such proposal needs proper evaluation and that should include public consultation with a wide range of people.

How is it that reintroducing an extirpated English breeding species requires so much consultation and thought whereas the release of 44 million non-native Pheasants into the countryside each year requires no licence, no impact assessment and no consultation? Why is that?


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26 Replies to “Just asking…”

  1. Or for that matter covering the countryside in solar farms which have much the same impact as hard development. Even the tiniest land use change (Knepp estate for example) from intensive farming draws an immediate reaction from the farming lobby. For me, the best example was when we planted what is now Jeskyns Wood right beside Gravesend in Kent. Two Forestry Commissioners - the traditional landowning reps - were horrified 'you can't plant grade 1 arable land' they said - to which I replied, 'yes you can when its right next to 50,000 people'. I was too polite to add that you most certainly can when the project has been signed off by the Deputy Prime Minister personally.

    Yet a surprising number of conservationists seem to have been captured by the farming argument - Knepp in particular has drawn some quite extraordinary comments from the conservation community. Is it a case of 'Stockholm Syndrome', where hostages in close contact with their captors can come round to their captor's point of view and start arguing for them ?

    As I've pointed out before the roughly 5% of our land area recommended for changing land use by the Natural Capital Committee will have no measureable impact on our ability to feed ourselves - but a spectacular impact on some key areas of the collateral damage caused by current land use (not all by farming).

    If questioning how we farm today is anti-farming, then I'm anti-farming (which actually, I am most definitely not) but I'm afraid that as an agricultural science graduate I'm not going to be frightened off quite so easily by the 'you don't know what your talking about' arguments so aggressively deployed by 'traditional' land uses.

    1. Quite! If grade1 agricultural land is so precious for food production, why am I seeing so much of it used for elephant grass for power stations or maize for biofuels or farting cattle. (even if comments are a little off piste).

      1. Yes isn't it strange that the NFU argues we must subsidise farming even in the unproductive uplands to maintain our food security in the face of a growing global population, but doesn't seem to be bothered by land growing fodder for our wasteful use of energy. For that matter I can't remember them saying how our food security (and also wildlife) isn't helped by us throwing a third of our food in the bin, or farmland being concreted over. Surely the NFU isn't really just sticking up for the greedier section of the farming community to screw as much out the public and environment as possible are they?

  2. The answer is simple. The laws in the UK were written long before anyone considered reintroducing Sea Eagles. In fact, the removal of Sea Eagles and other 'vermin' was seen as a positive. The laws in relation to the release of non-native pheasants was written in order that those writing the laws could pander to those who released and shot pheasants. The fact that these birds go from farmed animals to wildlife at the whim of those who release them is a tribute to their closeness to those who wrote the laws. The government, then and now, is composed in large part from people who purchase, rear and shoot the darned things, and if one crashes into my car, I'm responsible, because it's a wild animal.

    1. I think part of the nonsense of the accursed pheasant or Redleg goes from farmed animal in pens to " wildlife" out of them is to do with killing them. I think you will find that you cannot kill farmed animals with a shotgun, but you can kill wildlife with a shotgun. ( lead ammo and all) When is this crassly ineffective government going to grasp the nettle and ban lead ammunition? the Danes did it over twenty years ago!

  3. And how come there is also no consultations nor planning permission needed if, in Scotland, someone decides to start using 50 calibre anti-aircraft rifles to go shooting with?

    If that sounds unreasonable to anyone, please sign and share the petition against it; because that is blighting the village of Eskdalemuir in the Scottish borders as well as drawing in the usual grouse moor crowd to do further damage to an already degraded ecosystem:

  4. I think 'those in the know' will tell you that pheasants create 'money' in the countryside and a figure will be brought out of thin air to show the amount plus the amount of jobs it creates. Turn to nature and there is no income from England and Wales but one from Scotland. Why is that?

  5. Because the lawmakers were landowning shooters? (and still are heavily influenced by landowning shooters)

    This is, in my view, at least in part why discussion on conservation in the uplands of Scotland at least, soon involve land reform.

    And why Revive (the grouse moors) is such a good step forward.

  6. I wonder how many in the farming community who object to raptor reintroductions have pheasant shoots on their land.

  7. Very good point Mark, Once again it shows up the vested interests of this Government and its supporters and the iniquitous situation that exists in trying to conserve our wildlife and biodiversity.
    As mentioned before, The Netherlands has plenty of White Tailed Eagles and forebids by law, the rearing of pheasants for release into the wild. As a result I am told the shooting industry in that country is in substantial decline (hurrah).
    It just shows how much more enlightened the Dutch are compared to our Government’s antedeluvian thinking.

  8. I think the answer is actually for pheasants the powers that made the laws were the people who shot or were friends/colleagues/ of like mind with people who shot pheasants. Also remember that the royal family and aristocracy are usually heavily involved in shooting and have been since the Victorian era.
    Re-introduction is much more science based to start with so we need to be able to justify it and show that we think it is a good thing and will work. Perhaps it is also because many of the things we have and hope to reintroduce are predators that the Victorian forebears of the above got rid of.
    Me, I'd not stop them shooting pheasants and red legged partridges or the few other exotic game birds that are released here-Reeves Pheasant, Turkeys etc. But I would ban the release of all none natives ( as have the Dutch) As to all our lost or restricted in number and range natives, I'd have them ALL back or give them a huge helping hand. And yes that includes Bears, Lynx and Wolf along with such birds as Dalmatian Pelican. We did also apparently once have Spotted Eagle but whether we still have the appropriate habitat in enough quantity I'm not sure.

  9. Rewilding needs careful consideration respecting others.A non league football ground near Forest Of Dean has been badly damaged three times by Wild Boar .
    The last time damage will take a £1000 to put it right.

    1. What, were you too cheap to put a fence up the first time they foraged? I've seen the way non-league players do tackles, and boar don't do worse than that.

  10. Yes, but, you need to feed Foxes with game birds, to boost the population, so at the end of winter and the shooting season, when the game bird numbers are lowest, the foxes turn to Curlews, so we can protect them.

  11. Over the last few years we have seen an explosion in plant based eating with the net impact a decline in animal agriculture (meat and dairy). Statistically this is too important to be called a fad or fashion and if the trend continues further animal grazing land will become available for far more efficient food production (arable crops for human consumption) or for returning to nature if unsuitable for crops. This trend will also reduce the already suspect market place for pheasant meat, highlighting that this industry is merely a sport for the rich and has no place if the human food chain.

  12. Dennis, the boar in the Dean have nothing to do with rewildling. They were illegally released from a trailer onto an FC campsite in the Dean. Had they been proper wild boar the problems might have been less - but these were semi-domesticated - I've even heard rumours they might have a touch of Tamworth - and aren't as scared of people as they should be. The likelihood is that they were released by a boar farmer for whatever reason - fencing too expensive, price of meat too low, whatever.

  13. Roderick, the result would be exactly the same if they were wild boar.I have seen the damage in Tuscany from Wild Boar.


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