Posts Tagged ‘Eyes in the Field Wildlife Crime Conference’

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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Partially eclipsed …. eyes to the sky and in the field?

March 20, 2015

A very bright morning early on but as the hour approached it became decidely dull and overcast with grey clouds.  These drifted across the sky allowing intermittent glimpses of the much heralded solar eclipse as the moon came between us and the distant sun.

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The image above, something akin to a black hole or tunnel just manages to capture the lead up to the eclipse and light burst.  If your imagination were to be allowed free reign, then perhaps it might resemble an eye?  It’s one of those events that perhaps reminds us of our place and insignificance in the grand scheme of things?  Of eyes ….

Tomorrow is the Eyes in the Field Wildlife Crime Conference in Buxton, speakers include Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Dominic Dyer amongst others.  Tickets sold out very quickly but that’s no surprise is it?  Birders Against Wildlife Crime are to be congratulated in organising this conference and keeping the fate of ‘skydancer’ in the public’s eye and maintaining it as a high profile campaign.

Greenblobpride

The natural environment, wildlife and nature conservation sadly appear to be very low on the political agenda at the moment.   One might suspect it will feature highly throughout tomorrows event and that is to be applauded.

Draining, badgering & harrier (ing) …. ‘moor’ calls for action?

November 24, 2014

DRAINING ….

Readers may recall that the Forum have an interest in the workings and particularly the open and transparent conduct of business by Internal Drainage Boards, public bodies who receive substantive funding through Special Levy collected by the Local Authorities.  Regular readers will also be aware that the Forum’s area of geographic interest is in the main, the peatlands of the Humberhead Levels, principally Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI.

Danvm Drainage Commissioners have recently been subject of a Governance Audit, the published report is hard to locate but to the determined it can be found on the Shire Group of IDBs website through the Danvm Drainage Commissioners page.

Linked to this Audit, an investigation into the modus operandi of the DDC, the Forum have also submitted a follow up Freedom of Information request to DMBC / DDC via the WhatDoTheyKnow website.  A response is advised as 4 December.  On the previous occasion we submitted a request, the refusal to release was five days overtime and further to the response we requested an Internal Review – we have heard nothing since!

The Shire Group of IDBs also provide management services to a number of other ‘Humberhead’ IDBs, including Doncaster East IDB and Black Drain Drainage Board.  Both Danvm DC and Doncaster East IDB were formed through amalgamation of a number of smaller boards in 2012, Black Drain DC is one of the last remaining smaller boards operating in the Humberhead Levels principally funded through the public purse.

The DDC Audit was not as damming perhaps as that which saw the demise of the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Drainage Board, but it was a revelation of current practice of a recently formed amalgamation of smaller Boards.

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A Hatfield Chase drainage channel …. debris first noted 28 September, still there despite more recently mown drain sides.  This despite an understanding that there are inspections carried out ahead of regular maintenance works.

Late maintenance can cause slumping.

Late maintenance can cause slumping.

Land worked right up to drain sides, another example of Hatfield Chase ditches.

Land worked right up to drain sides, another example of Hatfield Chase ditches.

BADGERING AWAY STILL ….   

The Badger Trust is still very active, quite rightly in our opinion, with events and activities which are keeping the issue in the public domain.  If you have an interest in the issue and the views of those listed then click on their names and assuming that the technology co-operates you will be taken to a UTube video with some excellent statistics offered in relation to the failure by Defra to undertake science and monitoring to validate the Badger Cull policy.

Chris Packham       Dominic Dyer       Pete Martin     Adrian Coward

The crucial message is that as well as caring people should also DO.  So, as winter draws in and the General Election looms get the pens out or better still a series of emails or start or join a social media campaign and play a part in raising the profile of unecessary and expensive cruel acts devoid of any credible scientific foundation.    The Badger Trust and Birders Against Wildlife Crime  websites are excellent source of ideas.

 

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The recent badger cull has reputedly cost in the region of £5,200 per badger, they must be moving the goalposts again?  Weren’t we told it would only be a few hundred pounds per animal when OPatz initiated the trial? 

 

Birders Against Wildlife Crime: Recognise, Record, Report‘Eyes in the Field’ Wildlife Crime Conference, Buxton, Derbyshire Saturday 21st March 2015 has an excellent line up of speakers – limited places so get on and book yours.

The call for making wildlife crime a performance measure for the Police will bring resources to the issue.  With the illegal persecution of birds of prey particularly Hen Harriers, it is difficult to gather evidence to secure a prosection so Dr Mark Avery has set up an epetition calling for the Banning of driven grouse shooting which he suggests would be more effective.  It has certainly been a blue touch paper in terms of igniting a concerted effort to raise the profile of nature conservation, long may the debate continue ….

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter? Image: Tim Melling

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter?
Image: Tim Melling

Raptor politics, another campaigning website is also a valuable source of information.

In the words of Ghandi:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win!

Greenblobpride

 

 


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I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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