Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Barkham’

Defra; a disgrace?

August 6, 2016

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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Badgers & Lost Fens?

February 26, 2016

Not quite the Humberhead Levels, but two topics which might be of interest to our readers, details of events in Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire?

The Lost Fens – England’s Greatest Ecological Disaster
By Professor Ian D. Rotherham

A LECTURE TO: LOUTH NATURALISTS’, ANTIQUARIAN AND LITERARY SOCIETY
(Ants and Nats) – OTTAWAY LECTURE

TUESDAY 1 MARCH 2016, 19.30 start 

all welcome, charge on the door or members
CONOCOPHILLIPS ROOM, LOUTH LIBRARY, LN11 0LY

This illustrated talk is by well-known researcher, writer and broadcaster Professor Ian D. Rotherham and based on his highly regarded books, ‘The Lost Fens’ and ‘Yorkshire’s Forgotten Fenlands’. It tells the remarkable story of the forgotten fens and their drainage – here in 1600 but almost totally gone by 1900!

Lost Fens cover.jpg

Ian approaches the drainage of these amazing landscapes in the manner of a ‘who dunnit’ – who, how, where and why did the fens go so dramatically. The story is neither so simple nor as obvious as you might think – but come along to find out more, and also, read the books.

The theme also resonates with environmental issues today as storms, floods, and inundations threaten to take back the hard-won fens from farming and settlement. The recent floods along the coast and then this winter, inland, are all part of this story as climate change and intensive land-use tip the balance.

What does the past tell us? What does the future hold?

There will be a bookshop selling all sorts of books on history, landscape and wildlife, and you can find out more on Ian’s informative, occasionally challenging and entertaining blog Ianswalkonthewildside
And on UKEconet website

Details of all the (Ants and Nats) talks for 2016 are on Louth Museum’s website

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

A reminder also that Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust are hosting a talk by Patrick Barkham author of The Butterfly Isles and Badgerlands.

The Badger: hero or villan?

Friday 4 March 2016 at the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre, DN22 8RQ

For satellite navigation please use the postcode DN22 8SG

Tickets: £10 & booking essential.  Or telephone IVRLC Tel: 01777 713 945 for more information.

Excellent home made food available in the cafe.

 

‘Moor’ campaigning?

January 14, 2015

Wow, who’d have thought when we started this blog that we’d pass the 10,000 views milestone?  Well amidst the recent hiaitus we did – thank you readers.  Today’s posts are a bit of a catch up of comings and goings and in the main linked to concern for the natural environment and wildlife.

Readers will have noticed that the Government released the results of the badger culls just before Christmas and it seems that the culls are scheduled to continue this coming year despite another season of failed and realigned targets dressed up by Ms Truss the Defra Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs when the Report was made public. The Yorkshire Post ran the headline (in the weekend farming section) Calls to extend culls after latest pilot hailed as a success.  Around the same time the Farmers Guardian reported on a failed appeal by a farmer found guilty of falsification of the results of a bTB test.   

  800px-Deceased_Meles_meles_-_head[1]

Of other persecuted wildlife, the Hen Harrier controversy continues.  Mark Avery in his Standing up for nature blog reports on the Mutch case.  The RSPB video  posted on another media site is sickening and one wonders if slowly there is a change in the attitude of the law around wildlife crime? It is to be hoped that it does not turn out to be like the MPs sorting their own expense scandal out?

Sightings of Hen Harrier on Thorne and Hatfield Moors appear to be down this winter but the Blacktoft roost is still attracting a handful amidst the good numbers of Marsh Harriers. One observer in neighbouring Lincolnshire commented of a coastal site “Having completed the winter roost surveys since 1982/3 this is the poorest year of any for Hen Harrier and Short Eared Owl”.

Readers might also be interested (but dissappointed if you’ve not secured tickets because I see that it is sold out) in the forthcoming Eyes in the Field Conference being organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime on 21 March 2015 in Buxton Derbyshire.  It is essential that we collectively continue to keep the issue in the public arena and the profile high, only then is there any chance of change.  Patrick Barkham (author of Butterfly Isles) writes in the Guardian of The mystery of the missing Hen Harriers.  The entrenched attitude of some has forced people like Avery to adopt a high profile stance by creating a GOV.UK epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.  

Greenblobpride

Another recent issue, well perhaps it would be better described as recently reported, are the stink pits full of Mountain Hares reported killed because of the need to eradicate disease which threatens bags of Red Grouse.  Readers might like to consider supporting another epetition Protect the Mountain Hare?

At least the Tawny Owls are still contentedly calling despite the cold winds outside as I sign off on another post.

Badgering away ….

February 23, 2014

The weather was pleasant, the kind of weather you feel like rambling around the moors.  But, a gathering was calling …. what is the collective noun for a group of naturalists?  In the interim of discovering the noun, a distinguished collection had gathered for Sorby Natural History Society’s fifth South Yorkshire Natural History Day.  We set up the Forum’s display – I have to say the new roller banners look great but the invertebrate exhibits that Peter and Paul brought along go a long way to evidencing what science the Forum has been undertaking.

There was a crammed programme of talks, all the kind that leave you feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what you’d really like to do.  Garden acculeate hymenoptera, which illustrated opportunities which might exist on your doorstep.  Odonata target species towards the atlas in prepThe state of scientific collecting in Yorkshire was an interesting presentation following analysis of a survey undertaken amongst Sorby NHS members.  Somehow it fell flat for me and that was in no way down to the speaker who was quite rightly a justified enthusiast for the practice of collections and voucher material accompanied by accurate data.  Is it a sign of age when experience acknowledges that the area where you live (or rather pay Council Tax to) has no real interest or enthusiasm for its Museum service?  Doncaster Museum for example houses some significant collections including George Hyde’s substantive series of Large Heath Butterflies.

The real passion verging on understandable anger came from the South Yorkshire Badger Group’s speaker who provided an update on the ‘badger debacle’.  You only have to look back over the last four decades or so to realise what started out as a disease of cattle has now been media managed by the agri-industry to become a badger problem.

Badger & mayweed

Badger by Tatterdemalion.   Image courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons license.

It seems astonishing that it is the country’s badger groups who are funding vaccination programmes in hot spot areas.  Owen Paterson prefers a cull despite the fact that the Kreb’s trial tested some 11,000 badgers and found that only 166 animals were infected.  I reckon my calculator must be dodgy because it makes that 1.5% of a pretty significant sample!  What more recent independent science had been commissioned?  David Miliband commissioned the following: Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB Presented to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs The Rt Hon David Miliband MP, June 2007

An interesting quote by Professor John Bourne (Chair of Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bovine TB) who said “I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said ‘fine John, we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot.  And the only possible carrot we can give them is culling badgers’. 

When you start researching the various arguments it is absolutely astonishing to discover the facts and the fiction.  How many readers are aware of which way their MPs voted, for or against the cull?  When did the incidence begin to reach the plague proportions we hear reported in the media, why did poor ‘Brock’ become the scapegoat?  I can offer no better background reading than ‘Badgerlands’ a well researched book by Patrick Barkham (also author of The Butterfly Isles).  The book takes the reader through the centuries and mans relationship with the badger.  Barkham explores and appreciates the complexities faced by farmers whose livelihoods are impacted by the disease but equally he delves into the politics of the problem and here you sense frustration.  Barkham’s style is enthusiastic and infectious at times and if it achieves readers actively engaging in the debate then that is an added bonus.

Brian May championed the call to the Coalition Government to rethink the cull, that petition is now closed having reached a staggeering 300,000+ signatures which requires a response from the Backbench Business Committee (BBC).  Mmmh, call me a sceptic (although I’d prefer realist) but I shan’t be holding my breath for anything positively proactive or pragmatic from many of the incumbents in the Westminster penthouse.  But at least that action sparked a chain reaction which has seen groups work collaboratively and that is people power promoting change, let’s have ‘moor’?  Team Badger for example is an interesting mix who champion the case for that crepuscular and enigmatic black and white icon of the British countryside.  It supports vaccination as an alternative to culling.  According to the tbfreeengland website 213,799 cattle have been slaughtered since 1 January 2008, from 8 million animals tested, that represents 2.67% of the test sample which was a considerably larger sample than that of the Kreb’s trial.

If the Wildlife Trusts and Badger Groups are funding vaccinations in hotspots why haven’t the NFU assisted?  Damien Carrington’s Environment Blog reports on an interesting NFU approach to opposition.

Katy Brown writes for Ethical Consumer magazine and asks “Why are the supermarkets keeping so schtum about the badger cull?”

Surely, it is not beyond the wit of man if there is a will there is a way forward?  We can fly a man to the moon, why have successive Governments failed to find a scientific solution to this disease?  But, whilst this is not a new problem clearly it does need a new approach.  Dump the polarised views, the black and white exremes and collectively collaborate?  Now that really would be something?   If we subscribe to the view that we all share this planet and it is on loan from future generations, the we need to leave it rich in wildlife not depleat ….

Rethink the badger cull is an epetition still running by 38 degrees.  See also Petition against badger cull.  Another HM Government epetition, initiated by Nigel Ross is still running here.  It runs until 09/09/2014 and currently stands at 7,618 signatures.  It needs a bit of help to reach the required 10,000 to ensure that the Government’s BBC discuss it!

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

Quintisentially a charismatic character of the British countryside, but also if you’re lucky a garden visitor!  Image: Tim Melling.


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Mark Avery

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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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