On Today on Saturday morning (in the last 10 minutes of the programme) Mishal Husain described Wild Justice as a campaigning organisation, and we wouldn’t disagree with that, but our victory in this matter is not a campaigning victory it is a legal victory. We have not persuaded government to change their policy or the law, we have shown them that their behaviour has been unlawful (for years) and that they must change to be within the law.
Maybe you think this is a fine distinction which isn’t worth making but I think it is. Campaigning, of which I have done quite a lot, is difficult because whilst you are campaigning for change of one sort there are others who are campaigning for change of another sort or for nothing to change at all. Government might listen, or pretend to listen, but then do the opposite of what you want them to do. You can’t win them all and one usually doesn’t win very many.
But using the existing law to show that a statutory body is behaving unlawfully is very different. If you are right about the law then they have to change – there is no acceptable ‘Yes, you’re right but we don’t care’ answer. And a consequence of that is that yelling off-stage by interested parties who don’t like what the law says is irrelevant – the law is the law.
Wild Justice won a legal victory last week. We didn’t change the law and we didn’t change government’s thinking, we just showed DEFRA that they would be in big trouble if they didn’t change their ways, because of the law. At a time when we have a government highly unsympathetic to the natural world then a close attention to the law can sometimes achieve more, and more quickly, than years of campaigning.
But there is plenty of campaigning to do too, of course. Most things that are wrong with the way that we manage the natural world are not illegal, they are often completely legal but completely destructive. In those cases the law may not be any use at all – until your campaigning has changed the law.[registration_form]