Posts Tagged ‘rspb’

Parliament debates Driven Grouse Shooting : trick or treat?

October 30, 2016

The epetition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting reached the required level of signatories and then some.  The House of Commons Petitions Committee decided to hold an evidence session where the petitioner Dr Mark Avery and Jeff Knott of the RSPB answered questions from the Committee members.  Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Association and Liam Stokes of the Countryside Alliance had, according to some bloggers a much easier time from members of the Committee who had at least declared vested interest in pro DGS.

Inglorious front cover

Rob Sheldon offers us a view of the proceedings in “A grouse about evidence-based decision making”

Ollie’s Birdwatching Blog also provides a pretty good critique of the HoC Petitions Committee conduct?

But lest we be accused of bias, the readers are encouraged to watch and read the Parliamentary record

The Parliamentary website offers public access to the 477 submissions made as well as the Oral Evidence taken on 18 October 2016.  Parliament TV also makes available the proceedings and the nuances which cannot be as easily sensed from a written format are laid bare to the reader here?

Will tomorrow’s Debate in Parliament see Driven Grouse Shooting banned?  Here’s hoping for a more evidence based debate tomorrow, with MPs offering facts and not fiction.  To see the erroneous peddled as fact then read the series of submission critiques by Avery.  Of particular interest are submissions from ex-gamekeepers and local communities troubled by grouse shoots, there are some heart wrenching pleas to accompany the more academic critiques citing reports and papers.  The tragedy of the increase in illegal raptor persecution is offered by the dedicated raptor workers who have monitored the decline over decades.  Together it is a pretty damming indictment of a ‘sport’ and the submissions offer a compelling case for reform?

But this is Westminster, this is Parliament – will it be for the many or for the few?

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Henry wants to safeguard his pals future & we enjoy their visits to Thorne & Hatfield Moors, so let’s hope we’re in for a treat tomorrow?

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The first casualty is truth?

August 17, 2016

So says George Monbiot in yesterday’s Guardian and who describes the grouse shooters campaign against the RSPB as a shameful example of ‘astroturfing’. Adding that the public should beware.

It is certainly a hard hitting piece and well worth reading, one might wonder if it will now see Monbiot as a ‘target’ alongside Packham, Avery and other high profile campaigners?

Readers are asked to consider writing to their MPs ahead of the forthcoming debate in Parliament to “Ban driven grouse shooting”, Mark Avery provides a template via his recent blog post ‘Writing to your MP’.

Interestingly the Doncaster constituencies have increased steadily but haven’t yet achieved the campaign target for each of the parliamentary constituencies.  The only HHL constituency nearing the 154 target is Brigg & Goole with 140 as I write.

Don Valley, Caroline Flint MP : 124

Doncaster North, Ed Miliband MP : 95

Doncaster Central, Rosie Winteron MP : 125

To find how your area is doing click on the petition map link herePlease help push the word out so the numbers increase to the extent that when MPs are contacted by their constituents they can see how many have already signed it, there is still just a little over four weeks left to run, the closing date is 20 September.  It’s not just about the Hen Harrier but the land management practices associated with driven grouse shooting which have consequences and impacts on all of us through the public purse and increased costs to resolve some of the problems arising from ‘sporting practices’ not least illegal persecution of raptors.

For anyone considering a trip to the annual Birdfair at Rutland Water this coming weekend, there is to be a debate on the issue of driven grouse shooting on Friday at 16:45 until 17:30 in the main events marquee.  There is seating capacity for 500!

For some interesting videos outlining the issues surrounding driven grouse shooting see Chris Packham’s website here.  Judge for yourself who bowled the best over, Packham or Botham?  See also the BTO statement around the report cited by ‘Sir’, what an own goal?

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RSPB withdraws support for the Hen Harrier Action Plan!

July 25, 2016

There are various opinions as to why the RSPB supported the Defra Hen Harrier Action Plan in the first place and now there are a number of assessments as to the very public withdrawl from it.

Irrespective of the reasoning for either scenario, they may well have, at a very fortuitous point in the calendar dealt a considerable blow to the new politicians at Defra?  Erudite as ever, Avery ponders Ms Coffey’s capability to pick up the pieces left by her departing colleagues.  He reminds us that as Ms Truss departed Defra she rejected the findings of the Lead Ammunition Group and it is certainly worth readers recapping on that ‘saga’ and easy enough to by using the links provided in Avery’s blog posts on the various ‘chapters’ which can be found via the menu on the right hand side of his blog under the heading ‘Lead’.  He also asks us to remember the speech by Theresa May about being on the side of the many rather than the powerful few? Here’s your chance to live up to those fine words. [May et. al.]

Martin Harper suggests that by their withdrawing support licensing is the only viable option.  Many conservationists never believed the [In]Action Plan had any chance of success, despite as Harper writes the RSPB played a full part in the production of Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan and despite disagreeing with certain points (notably brood management), welcomed its publication earlier this year.  The RSPB appears to be supporting licensing despite many believing and providing some case studies as to why it is unlikely to work.  Are they following the previous model …. “I’m generally very patient.  My natural preference is to build partnerships and work to make positive change from the inside with those who want to abide by the law and deliver progress.”  Laudable but the decline continues apace for the magnificent Hen Harrier and other raptors.

But, let’s celebrate this announcement and let’s keep the momentum up that this carnage in the uplands must stop.

Please spread the word, persuade friends, family , work colleagues and anyone who loves wild places and wild things to join Avery, Packham, Oddie et. al. to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

See other assessments of today’s announcement

RSPB humming Shania Twain

RSPB walks away from Hen Harrier Action Plan

And from the metaphoric horse’s mouth, via Martin Harper’s blog:

Why the RSPB is withdrawing support for the Hen Harrier Action Plan

Another useful site to offer friends in order that they can understand some of the background which has brought us to the current situation is Raptors Alive UK

For more information on events and gatherings this year across the country see details via HHD

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Defra’s [In]action Plan for Hen Harrier recovery?

January 23, 2016

I was hoping to write a few words about Defra’s Action Plan when it was published recently, but I decided to comply with one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I spent the day on Thorne Moors instead.  The excursion lessened the variety of emotions the documents elicited, for a while ….

It was cold but who cares, the skies were clear and bright and the light just right for watching those magical ‘silver ghosts’ as they quarter the moor in search of a meal.  Also present was a female peregrine and Short-eared Owl, along with the usual supporting assemblage.

But it is the grey male with its white rump and black ink-dipped wing tips that generate emotions like wonder but also sadness as well as a degree of anger ….

To understand the ‘disquiet’ and disappointment about the “Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population” then you need to read it.  An erudite analysis of the document has been written by Dr Mark Avery via his blog Standing up for nature 

It is interesting too to read the comments made via that blog about the RSPB membership of the Upland Stakeholder Group, that is to say as part of the stakeholder group who have published this [In]action plan.  The RSPB’s response to the Action Plan can be found via Martin Harper’s blog.

Hen Harriers breed on upland moors, many managed for grouse.  Leeds University through its EMBER project found issues of water quality etc. This winter has seen astonishing levels of flooding in areas which are downstream of these [mis]managed moorlands.  An epetition to ban driven grouse shooting achieved 33,615 signatures, the RSPB and the WTs collectively failed to get behind this petition and similarly the RSPB have yet to encourage its membership to sign the Ban toxic lead ammunition petition, why?

But, with flooding topical then we should encourage people in power, Ministers, MPs and others that upland moor management needs to be reviewed and where necessary undertaken for the public good not private profit?  Is it right that large estates cause damage and receive public funds as part of land subsidies?  Perhaps the issue of flooding will keep the management of upland moors and public subsidies in the public gaze?  Ministers were quick to be seen out in devastated areas dishing out sympathies and promises, but time will tell if their flood of promises manifest any tangible benefit to the public who suffered from the consequences of failure to take a holistic approach to flood management?

According to George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian  This flood was not only foretold – it was publicly subsidised.

 

 

 

Reflections, accountability & action?

September 5, 2015

Wednesday’s Guardian sees Chris Packham slaming “shameful silence of Britains conservation charities” and particularly asking serious questions about the disappointing performance of the large and affluent NGOs on the issue of illegal persecution of raptors, most especially Hen Harriers.  There is also much discussion about this ‘deafening silence’ in terms of organisational support on the popular blog site Standing up for Nature.

The Hawk and Owl Trust are insistent that to Ban driven grouse shooting would be counter productive, but fail to mention the amount of public money large shooting estates receive and how heather burning or predator management provides (or not) public benefit.  Inglorious on the other hand provides an excellent resume of the issue.

The September issue of BBC Wildlife magazine also sees Packham saying that “It’s shameful that some conservation charities won’t stand up for foxes, badgers and hen harriers”. 

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Perhaps their senior staff and maybe trustees will be wincing at his words?  Hopefully some of their members will, prompted by Packham ask questions about the failure of the affluent almost quasi quangoes to challenge and to champion the cause for wildlife conservation?  The National Trust too does not escape comment, partricularly in respect of the upland moors it owns and manages.  Peak Malpractice was an expose of raptor persecution back in 2007 but what is perhaps more astonishing is the fact that the situation has worsened, hence the Ban driven grouse shooting epetion as well as a range of other actions designed to raise the profile of illegal persecution and wildlife crime.  Readers will recall that Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) was a ‘community’ reaction to failure by various organisations who conservationists might reasonably have expected to champion such cause.

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One might comment that it is hardly surprising therefore that despite austere times, new conservation charities are still being created?  Simon King, the President of the Wildlife Trusts, has set up one such venture with education at its heart, the Simon King Wildlife Project.  One might wonder why after all, with a link to a network of 47 charities across the country he has done this?  It seems reasonable to assume that the county trusts ought to be able to engage, educate, enthuse and empower local actions?  The RSPB too has local member groups but their primary purpose appears to be fund raising with ocassional coach trips, nothing wrong with such aims but where do people turn when they want to protect their local woodland or heathland from threat of development?  The march of metal monsters creating rings of steel and the recent government push for fracking are other issues which have mobilised local action.

There are perhaps good reasons for the affluent NGOs to sit on the fence, but after a while the splinters must start to sting from uncomfortable squirming?  Accountability to members or to tax payers in the case of Public Bodies appears not to be a popular element of the government promoted ‘open and transparent’ or conduct in public life agenda?

How does the community, collectively challenge actions it might perceive to be at variance with the public interest?  How many of the large membership organisations offer infrastructure support for grassroots conservation?  FOE and CPRE are a couple which spring to mind, TCV offers help for groups involved in practical conservation but there appears a gap in the market?  Voluntary Action and CVS groups can help small local groups but they are more geared up to working with health or social care groups, luncheon clubs and the likes.  If local action groups as described above were ‘fundable’ then the chances are that it would be offered, but would government want to empower local action?  Local action opposing fracking has exposed the reality of the promise of local decisions on local issues when central government has over-ruled local planning authorities to approve developments and promote fracking, how do local communities challenge multi-million corporations when they have such support?

There are tools to help, there is an amazing choice of epetition options that community campaigners can use.  The government website option petition.parliament.uk is certainly worth considering, if it achieves 10,000 signatures then the department or government agency it involves is required to provide a response.  If it reaches 100,000 signatures then the issue it raises is discussed in Parliament.  2015 saw the time that epetitions are allowed to run on the site reduced from 12 to six months.  Mark Avery elected to use this option to Ban driven grouse shooting.  There are 38 degrees, Avaaz , SumofUs , Change.org and many other web options available.  They are easy to use, the effectiveness in combination with social media has been demonstrably efficient and such examples would be the government u-turn when the ConDems tried to sell off the public forest estate.  Elsewhere on this blog and on others there has been examples offered where the disposal of public forest has been achieved through other options, but that is another issue and should not distract from the value of collective and collaborative critical mass challenging for the public interest?

GOV.UK also provides information on how to make a Freedom of Information request, but another excellent tool available is the Freedom of Information website “whatdotheyknow“.  Public Bodies are required to provide responses to requests as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.  The Information Commissioners Office is also an option where requests have been declined for what might be perceived as no valid or justified reason.  FoI or EIR requests can be addressed directly to the Public Body, agency or authority through a dedicated office(r) or via “whatdotheyknow“.  This option is one by which other campaigners can benefit through open access.  It is a useful resource as researchers can gain connsiderable intelligence on topics or on particular organisations in receipt of public funds.

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Defra & badgers …. can costs like these be justified?

September 2, 2015

FOI REQUEST REVEALS TRUE COST OF BADGER CULLS IS EVEN HIGHER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT AT £6,775 PER BADGER

DEFRA has finally been forced to reveal the true cost of their disastrous badger cull policy in a Freedom of Information request brought by the Badger Trust. The final bill for the taxpayer (including policing costs) is just under £16.8 million, which works out at £6,775 per badger killed.

The DEFRA figures show:

2012 badger cull postponement costs – £2,500,000

2013 badger cull cost – £9,818,000

2014 badger cull cost – £4,459,000

Total costs – £16,777,000

The Badger Trust has pursued the government relentlessly over the actual costs of the badger cull policy but DEFRA fought hard not to reveal them. So in November 2014, the Trust went public with its own estimate of £6,100 per badger for the first two years of the culls, a figure derided as ‘inaccurate and alarmist’ by pro-cull politicians and the farming lobby, who also accused the Trust of inflating the costs to ‘fuel public opposition’ to the policy.

Reacting to the latest figures released by DEFRA, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said, “Despite the best efforts of the government and the farming lobby to discredit us, our cost estimates were, if anything, too low.

“Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer. When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.

“If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”

Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin added, “It’s time the government stopped pandering to the irrational sentiments of the farming lobby by playing the badger blame game. We live in a world of science and facts, and DEFRA’s own data show that even in TB hotspot areas 85% of badgers will not even have the disease and 98% are no risk whatsoever to cattle. Killing badgers that don’t have TB cannot possibly help the situation for farmers or for cows. This indiscriminate slaughter is not only irrational but hugely wasteful of public money at a time when key services are being axed, including 40% cuts at DEFRA.

“The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.

“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”

Thanks to the Badger Trust for sharing these eye watering figures with us.

See also a new nature blog

Miles King has also written an excellent post “Badger Cull Circus comes to Dorset”.

Given the above astonishing figures, then perhaps some more questions need to be asked about the funding for this continuum?  The agri-industry receives substantive ‘welfare’ payments simply for land ownership, these CAP payments are we understood supposed to support wildlife friendly management …. continuation of an unscientifc practice is hardly likely to gain public support for British farmers?  The approach adopted by Defra and or government Ministers appears akin to that for Hen Harriers?

DEFRA

…. seem to be taking quite a bit of criticism lately, Mark Avery has contacted them again to complain about the way in which a FoI was handled.  He has also sought an update on the Walshaw complaint to Europe after the RSPB had to take up the case after Natural England dropped it., see Wuthering Moors 49 & 51.

Perhaps we should revisit an issue we had with two Defra agencies, then again maybe they have enough on their plate already?

Rally for Nature to Westminster & the case for Fracking in Haxey?

December 8, 2014

Readers unable to visit Westminster tomorrow to connect with the various parties and politicians and ask them to “Rally for Nature” have hopefully dropped them a line asking them that they take a little time out from their hectic schedules to listen to erudite “Conservation” party people who have, the day before the end of the inglorious grouse shooting season felt compelled to travel to London to ask them to act in matters crucial for the wellbeing of the natural environment and the wildlife which is there (or should be) for all to enjoy.

Interestingly I received a request to validate my standing as a constituent and I was provided with a link, where I was told I could find out who my MP was.  It didn’t work!  I suspect that even if it had it would offer me a neighbouring MP (someone I generally get on with ok), oh the joys of Government funded software?  Anyway, let’s see what replies or excuses we get and let’s see what the media make of the “Rally” – good luck all and I wish I could be with you!

In the interim, another reminder that what looks like an excellent film is scheduled for local screening at Haxey Memorial Hall tomorrow evening at 7pm.  As with all propoganda pedalled by private companies whose principle motivation is profit I recommend that we should look behind the promises and seek out the facts, robust scientific evidence and then – ever an agnostic, analyse it and make up our own minds on the merits of any case.  Let’s hope that there are representatives of the fracking industry present to answer questions and provide assurances, after all both sides deserve the opportunity to present their case ….

Haxey Fracking Poster

I look for information through trusted sources and the October edition of British Wildlife magazine had an excellent item in its ‘Conservation News’ columns.

Apparently, according to recent research the UK holds enough shale gas to supply its entire gas demand for 470 years, promising to solve the country’s energy crisis and end its reliance on fossil-fuel imports from unstable markets. University of Manchester scientists say that they have now conducted one of the most thorough examinations of the likely environmental impacts of shale-gas exploitation in the’ UK in a bid to inform the debate surrounding fracking.  The paper Life cycle environmental impacts of UK shale gas by Laurence Stamford and Adisa Azapagic is available via Science Direct Applied Energy as a download.

As any reasonable person would expect, there  are pros and cons.  The review of recent research also identified an American study presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society in August.  The American study raised concerns over several ingredients of fracking fluids. The scientists say that, of nearly 200 commonly used compounds in fracking, very little is known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals. Among the compounds used are gelling agents to thicken the fluids, biocides to prevent microbes from growing, sand to prop open tiny cracks in rocks, and compounds to prevent pipe corrosion. The researchers state that there are a number of chemicals, such as corrosion inhibitors and biocides in particular, being used in reasonably high concentrations that potentially could have adverse effects, and some are of known toxicity to aquatic life. For about one-third of the approximately 190 compounds which the scientists identified as ingredients in various fracking formulas, very little information was found about toxicity and physical and chemical properties. 

Ready, steady ….

July saw the opening of the bidding process for companies seeking licences to explore for onshore oil and gas, with a very large proportion of England, and lesser areas of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, on offer. The primary intention of this licensing round is to enable companies to apply for licences to explore for shale-gas extraction. The Department of Energy and Climate Change will require detailed ‘Statements of Environmental Awareness’ to be submitted with licence applications covering National Parks, The Broads, World Heritage Sites and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ‘to demonstrate applicants’ understanding of the environmental sensitivities relevant to the area proposed’ – but there is no mention of SSSls or European Protected sites. This the government should urgently review, so say The Angling Trust, National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon and Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.  Earlier this year, this coalition published a major review of the risks that shale-gas extraction could pose in the UK, which concluded that fracking includes a range of significant risks to the natural environment and that government policy to address these risks was not fit for purpose.

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In the report, Are we fit to frack? the group put forward a number of other recommendations that dealt with how the fracking industry needs to be regulated.  These include, for example, the requirement that all applicants for fracking developments undertake a statutory environmental- impact assessment, and independent monitoring of key environmental risks such as methane leakage.  Not all of these recommendations have been addressed by the planning guidance issued on the launch of the bidding round.  Thus, the ‘conservation’ coalition [as oppossed to the political ConDem coalition] is calling again for all protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks to be frack-free zones, for full environmental assessments to be carried out for each drilling proposal, and for the shale-gas industry to pay the costs of its regulation and any pollution clean-ups.  It is worth reading the coalition’s response to the government’s planning guidance.   Another report, providing the evidence base for the coalition’s standpoint Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the UK: Examining the evidence for potential environmental impacts’ is another document worth examining.

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A sceptic might be forgiven for enquiring if the failure to require full open transparent conduct of business be another item on the catalogue of concerns that we need to issue to anyone interested in our vote come the General Election in just 149 days time?

 

 

 

 

‘Moor’ politics & petty politics, so let’s keep on ‘badgering’?

October 27, 2014

It’s interesting to observe the tactics of the various ‘political parties’ ….

There appears to be a new breed of political animals assembling with agendas which seem to assist the traditional two party system masquerading as democracy?  Government are manouvering to prevent lobbying by charities.  It appears to be accepted practice that corporations can, but that charity activity in such matters should be curttailed?  There seems to be a view offered that ‘green blobs’ should stick to planting a hundred saplings in an ancient tree’s stead ….

Sadly, the majority of the population have little say in how their taxes are spent but we can, if we so wish, donate to charities or organisations who might champion or defend the countryside we love and cherish against rampant capitalism?

Martyn Howat, former Director of Natural England, said: “While parts of the RSPB do much good, overall it has become the great vampire squid of the charity world, hoovering up conservation funds on the premise that it’s going into creating homes for birds. It’s creating homes for office workers instead.”

That is an absolutely astonishing claim from a natural bureaucrat who we met but never received any useful response to our enquiries and concerns about the effectiveness of his team of staff (office workers and the majority nowhere to be found on Friday’s).  Howat visited Hatfield Moors when NE held another party to celebrate the extension of the National Nature Reserve in 2005.  Since retiring on a comfortable civil service pension it appears his true colours and sympathies are emerging?

 

Elliot Morley MP, Sir Martin Dougherty (Chair of NE) and Martyn Howat with Dr Henry Chapman at the site of the Neolithic Trackway on Hatfield Moors, October 2005.

Elliot Morley MP, Sir Martin Dougherty (Chair of NE) and Martyn Howat with Dr Henry Chapman at the site of the Neolithic Trackway on Hatfield Moors, October 2005.

 

A new website has been set up “You Forgot the Birds” which challenges the RSPBs spending priorities.  There are reports that there are groups who are turning their attention to the Wildlife Trusts too.  Whilst all charities are accountable, quite rightly for transparency in their conduct, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could also easily access Government Department spending priorities, detailed actual spend and source and governance structure of the think tanks who make claims of public benefit?

We had considered posting a link to the yftb website but for some reason the group (?) wishes to hide behind a website where the only option to contact them is via a pseudonym email address.  Vote for Bambi (the alternative vote for Bob) has thus far received a massive 41 votes, good on ‘beefy’ et.al.?  Most legitimate organisations offer various contact options, but then c’est la politics?

The Field magazine asks its readers …. If you would like to join this germinating group of conservation charity monitors then drop them (yftb) an email.  It might be that such embryonic groups are as a consequence of recent media coverage around bager culls, illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and other raptors on upland grouse moors subsidised from the public purse  through agri-welfare payments to wealthy industrialists?  To us that is a sign of  ‘green blob’ success?

To our mind’s Howat’s comments might well act as a good recruitment mechanism for the RSPB?  There are also signs of a more recent emergence and assembling of people disillusioned with mainstream capitalist politics, people want more and given they fund the extravagances of the Westminster village and invited clique then there could well be a day of reckoning ‘germinating’?

Miles King’s excellent blog on the emergence of yftb is worth a read, he illustrates the gullability (?) of Sir Ian Botham but I remember him when he presented our school colours …. Miles has done some background research on this germ(inating) group.   King may not be as well read or have as many followers as Mark Avery but in my opinion he is every bit as astute in his observations and comments.

Of Dr Avery’s popular blog, his most recent Guest blog is well worth a read and has received a record number of ‘likes’, it’s a good green read and offers food for thought and may germinate on fallow fields?  A reminder, just in case …. have readers considered signing Avery’s epetition “Ban driven grouse shooting”? 

 

Greenblobpride

Badgering Defra & Natural England

August 21, 2014

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

The Badger Trust are to be congratulated ….

Badger Trust High Court legal challenge over monitoring of badger cull

The Badger Trust will be in the High Court on Thursday 21 August for a Judicial Review challenge against the DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss and Natural England on the Government’s highly controversial badger cull policy.

The Judicial Review will argue that Liz Truss and Natural England have unlawfully failed to put in place any Independent Expert Panel for the continued culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2014. The Trust contends that the use of such a Panel to oversee the design of data collection, its analysis and interpretation was promised by the Secretary of State. Without such a panel, there can be no proper assessment of the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the culling operation, something that would be needed before any lawful decision could be taken to continue with further culls around the country.

The Badger Trust legal challenge has received strong support from some members of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) set up by the Government to monitor the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the badger culls carried out in 2013.

Commenting on the Judicial Review challenge, Professor Tim Coulson a member of the IEP who has confirmed his support for the challenge, said:

“The Independent Expert Panel’s report states clearly the rationale for ensuring that independent monitoring and the use of the statistically robust sample sizes and analytical methods, as used in the 2013 culls, are followed in further culling exercises. If this scientific advice is ignored then the data collected during the proposed 2014 culls will be insufficiently reliable for assessment of humaneness and effectiveness. This means that farmers, veterinarians and scientists intimately involved in controlling bovine TB will be denied the information necessary to allow them to assess whether the IEP’s recommended changes to the culling process have corrected the failings identified by the pilot culls.”

Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Care for the Wild commented on the Judicial Review challenge saying:

“The refusal of the DEFRA Secretary of State to put in place any independent monitoring of the badger culls due to commence in Gloucestershire and Somerset over the next few weeks, against the advice of the Independent Expert Panel which DEFRA set up, is a national disgrace.

“The caring, compassionate British public will not remain silent whilst NFU contract gunmen move through our countryside at night shooting badgers with rifles and shotguns despite serious concerns regarding the levels of training, monitoring and scrutiny. We know from recent reports in the Sunday Times that contractors employed by both the NFU and Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory Agency were alleged to have regularly breached operating procedures by falsifying hair trap data, stalking badgers outside designated cull zone areas and using firearms in a way that put public safety at risk.

“I am very pleased to see that we have strong support from members of the Independent Expert Panel for the Judicial Review challenge brought by Badger Trust.

“We expect to see hundreds of people outside the High Court during the hearing on Thursday supporting the challenge, for what could be one of the largest wildlife protection protests in its history.”

Supplementary snippets ….

Coincidentally The Wildlife Trusts have just published their Badger Vaccination Progress Report 2011 – 13 and this in conjunction with the findings of the IEP puts another metaphoric nail in the coffin of the ‘cull’ argument?

Natural England appear to be failing the nation’s wildlife and special places? They dropped the case against the Walshaw Estate and made an astonishing agreement which effectively funds grouse moor management. Thankfully the RSPB have subsequently taken the case to Europe.  Their ‘Briefings’ of October 2012 and March 2014 can be found here and here.

Why is it that NE appear to fail to ensure robust science where badger culling is pushed through?

In 1997 their predecessors (English Nature) were described in a WWF Report as “A Muzzled Watchdog”, they morphed to become Natural England and one wonders what of the future for them with an ever changing climate around government attitude to environmmental conservation and wildlife?

The State of Nature

May 27, 2013

With the window of opportunity that a Bank Holiday Monday provided how many of you were out there benefiting from the experience of interacting with our declining wildlife?  How many of you later in the evening tuned into Springwatch to learn what many of us have been recording?  At least Chris Packham recommended viewers download and read The State of Nature Report and for that he is to be applauded.  I’d be curious to learn how many ‘hits’ the RSPB website got subsequent to his ‘plug’.

It makes pretty depressing reading, one of the report’s headlines reads …. We have quantitative assessments of the population or distribution trends of 3,148 species.  Of these, 60% of species have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly.

One might wonder what the Government response to this will be, denial or a public relations exercise rolling out case studies of funded ‘biodiversity building’?

What the report and programmes like Springwatch should encourage us all to do is to get out there and record the biodiversity then the evidence is there for those who write such ‘natural history obituaries’.  It might also encourage those who pproclaim themselves as guardians or champions to try a bit harder and actually safeguard and protect declining habitats and species.

There is certainly some stunning invertebrates about at the moment for those with patience to capture on camera.

The hoverfly Dasysyrphus albostriatus (another stunning shot captured here at Crowle by Phil Lee) is a woodland edge species and widespread throughout much of the UK.  With around 276 species known to Britain, they make a good group to study.  There is a Hoverfly Recording Scheme and more details can be found here.

Dasysyrphus albostriatus 2 Crowle Moor 12.5.13

This superb image of the wasp beetle Clytra arietius was taken by Steve Hiner on Thorne Moors recently.   A long-horn beetle whose larvae feed on the wood of deciduous trees which have an association with fungi.  The adults feed on pollen and females supplement their protein intake by taking smaller insects as well.

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One of the earliest butterflies to emerge in spring is the stunning sulphur Brimstone, another of Steve Hiner’s Thorne images.  I suppose the four peacock butterflies sunning themselves on 4 January don’t really count as they would have been tempted out of hibernation.

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So, get out there before it’s too late.  Get out there and make a difference.  Despite the depressing reading to be had, the interaction with the natural world always re-invigorates determination to challenge and change when opportunities present themselves.

The culls continue ….

May 24, 2013

The UK Government agency responsible for nature conservation appears to be attracting a lot of press coverage recently. Sadly, it is for all the wrong reasons. I seem to recall that Natural England once had a strap line describing themselves as being the guardians of the countryside but I may be mistaken. There are a few rare species, gems within their ranks but they are in decline and as difficult to save as the nations diminishing wildlife. Three quite damming articles have appeared in the last two days.

On the 22 May Tony Juniper writes about the anti nature narrative being hard to fathom. Juniper like many hardened campaigners and advocates for environmental conservation, is not expecting the ‘ConDem’ Government to strengthen wildlife protection after the reveiew of EU environment laws. Given the language used in the Terms of Reference it’s easy to see how anyone could fail to draw the same conclusion.

Then on the following day, 23 May Damien Carrington writes about Goverment licensing to cull raptors, a historic precedent without any public consultation.

Then the other item by Leo Hickman reveals more wildlife culls.

Much of the information upon which the articles are based has been secured through Freedom of Information requests made by the media or the RSPB. It may be that if this continues, that FoI legislation might be the next target for review and reform, perhaps it already is?

Clearly the role of Natural England is already seeing a change of emphasis ahead of any formal announcement of the outcome of the recent Triennial Review. The jury is still out (perhaps), but interim indications can be found on official Government websites.

There is also some excellent opportunities for business to negotiate favourable outcomes if they make early approaches to the Governments advisers, ‘discretionary advice’ comes at a price but its all relative if it avoids a costly EIA required under EU regulations. NE will advise how to mitigate first which will avoid, in the words of the Chancellor George Osbourne “ridiculous burden on business'”.

If there were a referendum, a public vote, would the “Muzzled Watchdog” be put out of its misery and culled? Its certainly a good lapdog these days, helping developers, assisting landowners – I must look up its statutory duties, unless they too have been culled?


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Hatfield Moors Birding Blog

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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

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.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

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