Defra; a disgrace?

Defra; a disgrace?

Many blog posts have been written by far more erudite scribes than I about the role and remit of the government department responsible for nature conservation.  Defra are also responsible for agriculture.  Some might see those two aspects as incompatible, others would seek the ideal where they work together for the best interests of the environment and the public interest.

Other examples of Defra failing to heed the public mood were the ‘forest sell off’ and particularly the debacle that was and continues to be the badger cull.  The science has been challenged, the significant costs are met from the public purse (estimated to be in the region of £6,775 per animal, with the BBC reporting in September 2015 that the cost had reached £16m) and yet appear to have made little impact?   Irrespective of robust science the new Minister is to carry on regardless?

The Hen Harrier [In]Action Plan and the associated failures to uphold the law in regard to illegal raptor persecution could be offered as another failure?  Its last thread of credibility was surely lost when the RSPB withdrew support for it?  Land management issues relating to the uplands where sporting interests receive public funds  and where management is reported to exacerbate flooding, water quality etc. is surely something which needs closer scrutiny?

We now have a situation where Natural England have granted a licence for a shooting estate to cull (up to 10) buzzards.  It is unlikely to come as any surprise to regular readers to be made aware of an epetition on the Parliament UK website calling for the suspension of that licence?  Background information on the matter can be found here along with some 175 comments!  Some readers will recall that back in 2012 a ‘trial’ was proposed, a subsequent public outcry saw a u-turn.

Patrick Barkham expresses a view on The Guardian’s website (444 comments) “With business interests being prioritised over wild birds, a deadly precedent has been set. The natural world is under assault and needs all our help”.  Sadly I don’t think business interest is restricted to avifauna but anything environmental which has the potential to impact upon the bottom line of their balance sheets?  However, we remain agnostics ….

Natural England is a Public Body and as such accountable to its public paymasters, but they have refused to release information so have failed the transparency test?  This sounds oh so familiar, it is a repeat of the badger cull saga.  It gives the public no faith in them as an agency of government, but then are government using them as a shield for the Ministers?

If pheasant shooting is seen as important then it seems reasonable that the thousands of birds adorning road side verges or mangled on busy roads should be ‘accountable’?  Such losses would form part of a ‘risk assessment’ and as such then they might be insured?  They are reared as a business enterprise, so if they cause damage or worse to motorists and passengers then it seems only reasonable and fair that their owner is accountable and claims allowed against them?
Dogs are now chipped and if they attack people then their owners face prosecution, pheasants can be ringed or tagged and ownership traced.  Other livestock reared as a business have ‘passports’ in order to track and trace their movements.  Why not game birds raised as a business enterprise?  As we understand the present situation they are deemed to be wild birds once released from their rearing pens.  How can this artificially high population be regarded as wild birds?  To then seek dispensation to maintain that artificially high population by culling birds of prey is reminiscent of a bygone era and Barkham provides interesting background around how one high court judge has caused British wildlife fear for its future.
So, if you like Barkham and others believe that this is the thin end of the wedge and will set a precedent then please consider signing Philippa Storey‘s epetition

Suspend Natural England licence to kill buzzards.

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