Posts Tagged ‘BAWC’

Updates & Volume 10 of T&HM Papers

September 5, 2017

Apologies for the lack of posts but things have been very busy recently, not least the days & nights with [fantastic] Fern-owls.  Also things like the great turn out to the Hen Harrier Day in Sheffield, and indeed elsewhere over the weekend of 5th and 6th August.  Congratulations to the organisers BAWC, Sheffield Environmental and Sheffield WT.  Pleased that the Sheffield event attracted around 350 people to listen to (image below right) l-r: Liz Ballard (S&RWT) Dave Dickinson (Sheffield Environmental) Dr Ross Cameron (Sheffield University) Dave Wood (Sheffield Bird Study Group) Dr Mark Avery (author of best selling Inglorious: conflicts in the uplands), Blenaid Denham (RSPB Skydancer Project Officer), Natalie Bennett (Green Party) and Iolo Williams of Springwatch fame question the impact that driven grouse shooting continues to have on upland moors.

Then there was the Birdfair 18 – 20 August at Rutland Water, another fantastic opportunity to acquire some bargains, to network and to hear some excellent talks as well as the great debates around the future for the environment and wildlife.  “The Politics of Wildlife Protection in Britain” and “Brexit and the Environment: the way forward” were both excellent but it was a shame that the MP scheduled to appear had to send apologies.  The debate would might be better described as a discussion around how the speakers thought that we (yes, that’s all of us) could contribute to raising the profile of wildlife and the natural environment amidst the plethora of other (rightly) high profile topics such as the future of the NHS etc.

Then there’s the fieldwork to continue and the ongoing issue of trying to understand the issues around the local badger populations which continue to receive unwarranted attention.  Is it because Government are sending out an unsavory message through rolling out extensions to the badger cull in the south west counties (and the Welsh Government too have decided to cull in some areas despite the previous successes without culling)? It is interesting that there are people who have cancelled family holidays to areas where culls are being rolled out, likewise people are beginning to look closely at animal welfare issues around the dairy industry.  None of this is helpful in so far as farmers or poor brock are concerned.

Amidst all this we’ve managed to get Volume 10 of Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers in print and in no small part down to the tenacity of our Editor Dr Paul Buckland.  In keeping with tradition it has a wrap round photographic cover, comprises of some 140 pages with 10 papers (containing colour photographs), a short note and a book review.  The Executive have decided to offer the latest volume at below cost, and are offering it at £5 plus £1.70 s/c p&p.  If readers would like a copy then please send a cheque made payable to T&HMC Forum for £6.70 to Publications, PO Box 879, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 5WU.

Volume 11 is already in hand and will focus on Hatfield Moors so if any reader has any research or observational note relating to Hatfield Moors then please give thought to submitting it to the Forum’s Editor for consideration.  Guidelines to Authors are available upon request or can be found in the various Volumes of the journal.

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Missing again?

August 19, 2016

Just a quick post, to recognise today’s Birdfair contribution to the debate about the future of the British Countryside, and for facilitating a debate on the topical issue to “Ban driven grouse shooting”.

Conspicuous by their absence were the Moorland Association, the GWCT and the Countryside Alliance.  No sign either of YFTB spin bowler Botham either, perhaps still licking his metaphoric wounds from recent radio debates?

Simon Lester (retired Langholm Project gamekeeper) did his best to defend the indefensible?  He received a welcome and due acknowledgement for his attendance, and it was refreshing to hear him acknowledge publicly that grouse shooting walked up / over dogs is not economically viable.

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It was great that the leader of a political party also attended and did an excellent job in advocating for the wider public interest in the issue of upland land management, Natalie Bennett was very well received by an appreciative audience who realised that she had a good grasp of the topic, the Green Party is the only political party to have made a Manifesto commitment to Ban driven grouse shooting.  She certainly held her own when it was inferred that because she’d not worked on grouse moors, she couldn’t understand or appreciate the complexities of the issues.

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Panel left to right: Mark Avery, Natalie Bennett, Chairman, Simon Lester & Stuart Housden.

It was an inspiring day with some excellent speakers and if the Ban driven grouse shooting debate attendees all 500 each went away and did write to their MPs, did talk about the issues around upland moorland management with family, friends and colleagues then the panel did a great service and are thanked for their motivational offerings.

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Chris Packham and Tim Appleton enjoy a lighter moment. 

It was suggested and clearly supported by the 500+ audience that the Birdfair organisers having, in the words of Mark Avery ‘dared and won’ should make this kind of event / debate a regular feature – I agree, to have this debate and to hear Simon King‘s talk “Enough” is good; people were engaged, they were educated and they were empowered so well done Birdfair!

Charlie Moores and the BAWC team, Dominic Dyer (Badger Trust), Simon King and Chris Packham and not least Mark Avery – thank you.  As was recognised, the hard work is just beginning.

WCU funding under threat again?

February 1, 2016

It doesn’t seem that long since we reported that the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s funding was under review and that it was at risk.  Well, here we are again with much the same issues.  Ministers have failed to confirm it will be funded after March this year.

It’s not a great amount of money, considerably less than the annual alcohol subsidy in the Houses of Parliament.  Public funds for public benefit?

Wildlife crime might not be the top of the ‘green c**p cutting’ politicians agenda but there are links with animal cruelty and unregulated illegal gambling.  Significant sums are wagered on the outcomes of badger baiting with dogs and with hare coursing, and it is the profits which fund the trade and practice of digging.

According to James Fair in the February edition of BBC Wildlife, “The government has made much of its £10m package to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.  The public deserve to know whether the NWCU is to be a part of that.” 

The role of NWCU is more than just about wildlife crime, recent conversations with a local Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) revealed the astonishing links with other crimes, with wildlife related aspects simply a piece of a much larger jig-saw.  Criminals will deal in whatever they can that will make them easy money, be it poaching, baiting, illegal raptor persecution or trespass to undertake any of the activities mentioned.  Poachers might partake of celebratory drink after a successful ‘action’ in a local hostelry and mention of unprotected vehicles and machinery in isolated barns might see the next job is being lined up?  We must all be vigilant and work collaboratively for the benefit of the community and nature conservation.

Perhaps we might also consider that the New Year’s Resolution of a monthly letter to a Minister, MP or other worthy recipient might be one which asks that the NWCU funding is assured for the remainder of the current political term, that is to say, 2020?

If you want to help IFAW in the matter then sign up to their action to Rory Stewart MP Parliamentary Under Secretary Environment & Rural Affairs, asking for continued funding for NWCU.  Remember though, lots of separate letters carry more weight than a campaign, that’s not to say you couldn’t do both?

If you see wildlife crime, then report it. 

Call 101 to speak to a local Wildlife Crime Officer.

 

Useful information about reporting wildlife crime can be found on a number of web sites, for example (but not exclusively):

Birders Against Wildlife Crime

Government Advice  Published in 2010, updated 2014 so a little out of date.

RSPB

League Against Cruel Sports

PENTAX Image

Hen Harrier Day 2015

June 7, 2015

CONFIRMATION THAT A HEN HARRIER DAY EVENT

WILL BE HELD

ON SUNDAY 9TH AUGUST 2015

IN THE PEAK DISTRICT

2015 HH Day logo

Negotiations are ongoing for the venue, but it will be within easy travelling distance of Buxton, Derbyshire.

Also, there will be an evening event to celebrate the Hen Harrier on Saturday 8th August 2015 in Buxton. A host of celebrities will be involved including, we hope, Chris Packham, Jeremy Deller (Turner Prize winner), Mark Cocker (author), and Mark Avery. Last but by no means least, Henry the Hen Harrier will appear live (unlike many others) on stage. Details to follow, watch this space and save the date. Tickets to go on sale soon.

Other events on Hen Harrier Day will be held across the country. If blog readers are organising one and would like details to appear here, please e-mail us at info@henharrierday.org

Make sure you bookmark this site and return to it regularly, as we will shortly be posting full details of the Peak District Event, Saturday Evening Celebration and the other Hen Harrier Day related activities.

Our friends will also have news and announcements. Links to their sites, blogs and Twitter streams are below.

Finally, we still need help to keep @HenryHenHarrier flying, publicise the plight of the Hen Harrier and advance BAWC’s 3Rs campaign. Please click on the “Donations” button, to see what’s on offer in exchange for your support.

2015 HH Day logo

The BAWC 2015 Conference in March was a sell out and an excellent event which saw the creation of a network which will work to address all wildlife crime including the illegal persecution of raptors, especially the Hen Harrier.  For a more detailed analysis of losses to this magnificent icon see Standing up for Nature.  Raptors Alive, Raptor Persecution Scotland and Raptor Politics websites all provide lurid detail of the persecution suffered by these fabulous birds.  Even BBC Springwatch reported on the illegal persecution, much discussion was had following this recent episode and even if it was not as strong as many would like it did raise the issue to viewers who may not have been aware of the issue and that can only be good.  Investigative journalism was suggested, Panorama was mentioned so perhaps readers might consider writing to the BBC promoting such an investigation?  One of the key messages coming from the recent BAWC Eyes in the Field Conference 2015 was the need to have wildlife crime as a reportable and recorded crime.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit struggles to address the increase in case work. Wildlife crime is a relatively low priority for most police forces, this may well be be because wildlife crime is not a reportable crime and so resources are focused elsewhere.  Killing of protected species is illegal and should be reported and recorded.  Perhaps that is something readers might like to consider encouraging their MPs to look into?  Perhaps a letter to Defra Ministers?

Don’t forget that this coming week, Wednesday we learn the result of the Vote for the National Bird, David Lindo aka ‘The Urban Birder’ will appear on Wednesday’s Springwatch to reveal the winner.

Will it be the Hen Harrier?  Expert commentators on these matters suggest that the general public will choose a well known, popular easily recognised species like the Robin or Blue Tit.  Ok, nothing wrong with the species but the ambition behind the drive to get the HH into the ‘top ten’ and higher was that by raising its profile and its fate that it would benefit from the media coverage.  Makes sense?  All will be revealed on Wednesday ….

 

#HaveYouSeenHenry …. Wildlife Crime continues …. keep on badgering away?

March 29, 2015

Who was it said that a nation should be judged by the way in which it treated its animals*?  The same wisdom which provided us with the view that:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win*.

Recently, I had cause to report an incident of badger digging where the sett had been dug out.  This is the second such visit already this year I’ve made to assess damage and potential wildlife crime.  What is it which motivates people to destroy or bait such mammals and inflict unimaginable cruelty?  This sett was nowhere near livestock, the animals were no threat to anyone or anything.  Neither was the earlier incident.  Both incidents were at rural locations one on agricultural land the second on public land.

There is a reported culture that sees baiting badgers as a right of passage in some parts of our region, apparently it is seen a ‘manly’ thing to do with ‘well bred’ dogs?  Recent reports seem to indicate that there has been an increase in incidences involving badgers and there is a view that this is consequential of the governments authorisation of a badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset.  Badgers are being promoted as ‘vermin’ by some elements of the agricultural industry so it appears acceptable in some quarters that they can be used and abused in other regions for ‘sport’.

First capture your badger(s) by digging out, collect in a sack and transport to a remote area where it / they can be pitted against dogs bred for the pupose, not forgetting to pull a few of its teeth first – after all a badger against dogs needs to have the odds ‘balanced’ in favour of predicable outcome?  Is it the associated gambling which fuels the commercial practice of digging?

PENTAX Image

This badger, caught in a snare would have suffered a painful and lingering death.  This type of incident needs to be reported as well as dead raptors and dug setts etc.

What deterrent is there to any wildlife crime?  What are the chances of being caught?

It was Chris Packham who recently summed up well the issue at the excellent BAWC Eyes in the Field Conference in Buxton.  Whilst we (society) continue to allow the species which are protected in law to be killed, whilst the purpetrators continue to either evade the law or receive lenient sentences then the view that wildlife crime is not a ‘real crime’ will persist.

Whilst this attitude prevails, and laws offering protection are seen by some as “green c**p” then the loss of biodiversity will not be stemmed as reported by Lord de Mauley, who assured an audience that Natural England’s Chief Executive was confident that the ‘no loss of biodiversity’ 2020 target would be met.  Whatever happened to the much heralded “Making Space for Nature”?  It seems to be gathering dust in the Defra archive …. Whilst The State of Nature is probably a little more up to date but still in need of serious delivery not to mention a government prepared to sign up to its recommendations.  If the rate of decline is to be believed and this is mirrored across the planet, then we seriously need Noah in forty days time?

In the interim, readers are asked to be vigilant when out and about in the countryside.  Excellent advice is to be found on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime website, where they advocate the 3 Rs.  Recognise, Record and Report! 

If you witness a wildlife crime taking place then ring 999 immediately, if you recognise signs of an incident having taken place then the number to phone is 101.  In either situation it is important to record as much detailed information as you can and to then report this to the Police.  Statistics are important if we are to improve wildlife protection.

#HaveYouSeenHenry

Greenblobpride

* Mahatma Ghandi.

Reflections on day(s) out …. road casualties & the taxing issue of grouse?

March 23, 2015

Spring is here, certainly as far as some of the wildlife is concerned.  Primroses are in flower in sheltered riverside woodland, Wild Arum leaves are well advanced and I even managed to find Lesser Celandine in flower, but the most unexpected observation of the day was a pair of Mandarin duck.

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If I’d been in a local park, perhaps then not totally unexpected, but along the River Wharfe?

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Other indicators of Spring were Grey Wagtails nest site prospecting, Dippers dashing up and down stream and Goosanders are paired.  The anticipated Kingfisher posed obligingly, albeit distantly after the usual fly past low over the water.

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Plenty of Oystercatchers also prospecting the rivers and a party of 16 on the banks of the Strid.  The evocative bubbling song of the Curlew is just a joy to hear and four Red Kites en route home was a wonderful sight too.  One of the birds was perched a top a large tree in someone’s roadside garden, now that some garden tick!   Sadly though the roads are littered with avian casualties …. pheasants!  That set me thinking about Saturday’s BAWC Conference again and an interesting point made by one of the speakers about Pheasants and taxation.

A bit of research and one could not help but wonder why the current state of confusion is allowed to persist. For example the definition of pheasant rearing, sounds simple enough?  Defra regard it as a ‘sporting activity’ or business. On the other hand HMRC regard it as an agricultural operation.

Customs has determined that pheasants are ‘commonly used as food for human consumption’ (VAT notice 701/37/94) and so pheasant rearing operations enjoy a zero VAT burden: they can reclaim any VAT that they pay on their outgoings and do not have to charge VAT when selling bulk consignments of their seven week old birds to shoot operators.

But while Customs & Excise considers the pheasant producers to be agricultural enterprises – thus freeing them from the standard VAT rate of 17.5% – the agriculture ministry (DEFRA) more often than not defines them as ‘primarily sporting’ businesses. This means that they are exempt from the basic welfare laws that apply to all other farmed animals. These include the 1968 Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. Nor do the relevant Welfare Codes apply.

As if that is not confusing enough the Valuation Agency Office, responsible for compiling business ratings sides with DEFRA rather than Customs & Excise in determining that pheasant producers are in the sporting rather than agricultural business.

This turns out to be bad news for the producers. For while farmers are exempt from paying business rates, virtually all other businesses – sporting included – are not.

Another important reason why pheasant producers have not been listed for business rates is that the industry has promoted the Customs & Excise line that rearing pheasants is an agricultural activity and therefore non-rateable.

DEFRA, the agriculture ministry, has contributed to the confusion over whether the pheasant industry is about food or sport. As we have seen, it exempts pheasant rearing from the farm welfare laws because such businesses are ‘primarily sporting’. Yet it recently awarded the industry a financial grant of £150,000 to help market ‘game’ on the grounds that pheasant meat is ‘a quality agricultural product’ (16 March 2002 letter from Elliot Morley to Animal Aid). It is worth noting here that neither game rearing nor shooting are included in the definition of agriculture in the Town and Country Planning Acts.

One might be forgiven for wondering if all this could be reviewed and revised that there would be clarity and potentially more revenue into Government coffers?

The ongoing persecution of raptors and notably the plight of our magnificent ‘skydancer’ is causing scrutiny of wider business interests than might otherwise have been the case had the shooting industry sorted itself out?  We accept that to gain concensus amongst any group of people can be nigh on impossible but the incalcitrance evident in some quarters can only fuel determination for accountability across the piece?

Pheasants like grouse and other game are shot, they are often marketted as healthy and organic yet they can have been fed medicated grit and shot with lead pellets. A report by the Food Standards Agency explained anyone who frequently eats game shot with lead should cut back on their consumption but pregnant women and small children are particularly vulnerable.

According to the FSA, eating lead can harm the developing brain and has been linked to lower IQ in children while adults can suffer from kidney and heart problems.

Mark Avery has recently had reason to enter into correspondence about the health benefits of game, notably and perhaps not surprisingly grouse.  It would seem that his forthcoming “Inglorious” might make interesting and maybe even uncomfortable reading in due course?

Dare we contemplate researching the financing of moorland managed for grouse …. ?

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Mark Avery

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