Posts Tagged ‘Simon King’

State of Nature,who cares? Calling conservation campaigners?

September 29, 2016

The natural environment and wildlife seems to have had its profile raised recently if the upsurge in epetitions is anything to go by?

We had the “Ban Driven Grouse Shooting” one which is now scheduled for oral evidence session in Westminster on 18 October (deadline for submitting written evidence 5 October).

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Henry needs our help still – have you written to your MP yet?  See here for useful tips.

Then Simon King launched “End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas”, this petition is currently around 48,500 and has until 25 February 2017 to run, so it looks set to be another Westminster discussion.

Philippa Storey initiated “Suspend Natural England license to kill buzzards” currently around 13,350 with a deadline of 3 February 2017.

A lesser well known epetition was that launched by Zach Haynes “Protect UK Environment & Wildlife – adopt European environmental legislation” this will run until 6 January 2017.  Whatever our views of Brexit, I would like to think that readers of this blog are keen to see the natural environment and wildlife safeguarded, this petition recognises that “The vote to leave the EU could leave our wildlife at risk. The EU has developed a strong set of laws that protect the environment and our wildlife. As these laws will not apply when the UK leaves the EU we need new laws for the UK that give our precious wildlife and environment the same protection”.  Currently standing at around 5,750 signatures.

Wildlife champion and campaigner Chris Packham seeks to “Introduce a moratorium on the hunting of critically declining wading birds”this petition is scheduled to run until 23 March 2017 and currently has some 12,690 signatures.

“Woodcock, Snipe and Golden Plover are shot in the UK despite serious, ongoing population declines. A moratorium should be imposed to allow the impact of shooting to be established by independent scientific investigation and any necessary regulations introduced to ensure that shooting is sustainable.”

The State of Nature 2016 reports continuing decline in habitats and species in its usual almost apologetic way.  But just thinking over one’s own lifetime, the losses we mourn or at least those of us who can remember hedgerows, dew ponds, lapwing nests a plenty and flushing nightjars and woodcock from underfoot?  Where are the conservation champions?  Where are the challengers to the convention of constant compromise?  Should we just accept that development and private or corporate profits are more important than the natural environment?  If you subscribe to the notion that we all need clean air, clean water etc. then is it not incumbent upon us all to act responsibly, act with principles?  To engage, educate and empower others to help safeguard an environment which will still be there for future generations?  See also twitter.

Perhaps we might all consider signing the various ‘conservation’ petitions and then try to encourage others to do the same?  So, please share this blog blast amongst your network, family and friends.  Wildlife needs us today, tomorrow is too late and yesterday is like the Passenger Pigeon – gone!

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To cull or not to cull? 1

August 31, 2016

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Image with permission, courtesy of Tim Melling.

I wrote recently about the informative and inspirational talks at the Birdfair last weekend.  After hearing Dominic Dyer‘s passionate presentation about the history and ongoing politics which lie behind the Badger Cull I bought the book and would thoroughly recommend anyone wanting a ‘potted history’ of the politics behind the issue to consider doing the same.  Well written, readable and informative, my only slight grumble is that there is no list of reference sources or further reading.  Readable – if you can cope with being irritated and astonished by the utter incompetence detailed in its pages?

Whilst I’d not claim to be an expert on the subject matter nor the politics behind the issue I do consider myself to be a reasonably informed member of the public observing the astonishing debacle which is costing taxpayers monopoly figures and where frustratingly there appears to be no winners.  The losers are both the farmer and the badger.

I suspect amidst all the managed media reporting of the cull, the public forget that after the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001.  Six million cows, sheep and pigs were slaughtered to halt the spread of the disease, whose epicentre was in Cumbria.  The crisis was estimated to have cost the UK taxpayer more than £8 billion.  But that is only part of the picture because the restocking of cattle to replace the huge numbers that had been slaughtered as a result of F&M, brought a new problem in the form of a wave of bovine TB that was sprayed across the country.  Dyer informs us, and it is on public record, at Maff’s Chief Vet made it clear to Nick Brown and Tony Blair that key steps should be put in place before any cattle restocking.  It included a rigid testing and movement control system for cattle.  The NFU priority was to get the farming industry back on its feet as soon as possible, that is understandabale as farmers lives and businesses had been devastated by the crisis.  Their President put huge pressure on Tony Blair and Nick Brown to override the concerns of the Chief Vet and to allow rapid restocking, including many from the south west of England (a TB hotspot).  As a result over the next 12 months hundreds of thousands of cattle were moved across the country, many from TB hotspot areas in the south west, particularly Devon and Cornwall, without any TB testing or movement controls.  Many were moved through markets with poor biosecurity, many of which according to the Chief Vet should have been closed down to prevent further disease outbreaks.  

This resulted in the largest increase in boveine TB in cattle ever recorded in the UK.  From 2001 – 2002 the number of cattle slaughtered for TB increased by 300%.  By the time TB testing had been restored in 2003, the figure slaughtered was 25,000. 

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So, have the politicians learned anything since then?  It would seem not as the Minister has recently announced an extension to the cull zones.

Since the culls commenced no badgers have been tested by Defra for bTB after being shot, why is this?

I recall a politician recently asserting that there would be evidence based policies?   One might ponder accountability for ‘breach of promise’ in such situations?

Will readers consider supporting Simon King’s petition:

End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas.

Only into its second day it has already doubled the required signatures to receive a reply from Defra, let’s help it get to …. 100,000 signatures, when the Parliament website tells us…. “this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament”.

Wildlife (abuse) is well and truly on the political agenda?  Please, consider writing to your MPs about the mis-management of upland moor land and the illegal persecution of raptors, the lack of science behind the expanded badger cull as well as the significant cost for no gain to either farmers or badgers.

 

 

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.

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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Celebs & call to arms …. Birdfair 2015

August 23, 2015

Today is the final day of the annual Birdfair at Rutland Water and if Mark Avery’s blog is anything to go by Henry is having a great time meeting up with and getting lots of hugs from conservation ‘celebs’.  This year was the 27th and was significantly different to the first back in 1989.  The weather has thus far been kind, Friday saw a few spots but n’owt to deter folk and the marquees were within easy distance of each other, but over far larger acreage and a far cry from the very first BF which Bill Oddie described as a boy scout camp in his reminiscing on page 8 and 9 of this year’s programme.

This year Iolo Williams made his debut appearance, alongside a cast of other ‘celebrities’ from the environmental conservation sector.  His presentation, as expected was an excellent call to arms similar in some respects to his introduction at the State of Nature Report launch in 2013.  His charasmatic Welsh charm was wonderfully refreshing to hear and his honesty despite his frustration with statutory failure to address the loss and ongoing decline of habitats and species was evident, yet there was also a ‘can do will do’ proactive passion still there.  Red Kite is the Welsh national bird, but he admitted when asked by a member of the audience that his favourite was the Hen Harrier and one of his favourite memories was that of finding his first nest of the species.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

The next ‘celeb’ up was Simon King, he is clearly passionate about educating the next generation and to this end has recently established a new charity, the Simon King Wildlife Project which is using a 10 acre meadow to restore wildlife and in so doing create inspiration for young people through education and engagement.  It has to be said that he did a wondeful job persuading people to experience the true aroma that is otter spraint.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the 'educational engagement experience' offered.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the ‘educational engagement experience’ offered.

Another speaker who has created a haven for wildlife and alongside a fantastic education facility at Aigas in the Highlands, Sir John Lister-Kaye also spoke of statutory procrastination and the need for nature in all our lives.

The irrespresible Bill Oddie 'Unplucked'

The irrespresible Bill Oddie ‘Unplucked’

The wonderfully provocative Mark Avery offered and advocated an ‘Inglorious’ challenge to the ‘grouse-industry’ much to the delight of the audience in another packed marquee and risked writers cramp by signing copies of his book Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands. 

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Tucked away in a corner of a marquee was a ‘Lush’ species created specifically to raise the profile of the issue around illegal persection and loss in our uplands of the spectacular Hen Harrier.  It was great to be able to secure a HH bath bomb and to thank Mark Constantine in person for Lush’s support of the Hen Harrier campaign.

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It was great too that the guys from Birders Against Wildlife Crime had a presence.  Charlie, Phil & Lawrie have worked hard to raise the profile of the Hen Harrier issue and in collaboration with Mark Avery and Chris Packham have run a seriously successful Eyes in the Field Conference in March 2015 in Buxton, two fantastic Hen Harrier Days in the Peak District and an evening of talks ahead of this year’s HH Day.

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It is great that as well as the expected ornithological related stands and the astonishing array of travel offers, the latest optics to test out that other natural history disciplines were represented.  The British Arachnological Society had a presence and Dr Helen Smith was present with some of her fabulous study species Dolomedes plantarius or fen raft spiders. They really are a fabulous beast, well they are in the author’s opinion and it was a delight to be able to see some first hand.  “On the margins: The fen raft spiders of Redgrave and Lopham Fen” is superbly illustrated by Sheila Tilmouth and is an account of Smith’s studies and work on the species.  There is a dedicated FRS website Dolomedes.org.uk

Atropos, the journal for all butterfly, moth and dragonfly enthusiasts was present and subscribers were able to collect the latest edition of the journal ‘hot off the press’.

One pleasant surprise was the service received from the guys at the Leica stand.  Now my trusty 8×42 Trinovid’s are admittedly in their early 20’s but they are still in very good condition and optically as one would expect provide Leica excellent views but they were in need of a new rainguard so I enquired if they had any to purchase.  Half an hour or so later I came away with a new rainguard and they’d stripped the eyepieces down and performed a very professional clean of some two decades or so of accumulated ‘dust’.  All part of the Leica lifetime guarantee, now that is what I call service!  Thank you Leica team.

So all in all an excellent event and here’s hoping they reach their target for this year for ‘Protecting migratory birds in the Eastern Mediterranean’.

 

Signs of winter.

December 5, 2013

WILDLIFE

Winter is with us?  The herds of winter swans graze the low lying fields on the periphery of Hatfield Moors.  Amongst the Mute and Whoopers, moderate numbers of Bewick’s can be found.  At the moment there are in excess of a 100 Whoopers and amongst them a handful of Bewick’s present in an area known locally as Alderfen, on the eastern edge of Hatfield Moors.  See here for a more detailed account of numbers.

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Other signs of winter aside from the obvious shortening of daylight hours and increased visitors to garden birds tables are the geometrid moths fluttering across the tracks alongside  Hatfield Chase drains where hedgerows and trees are still extant as field boundaries.

BADGER UPDATE 

I mentioned in a recent post that Natural England had revoked the licence to cull badgers, but all the signs are that there is still intent to reconvene and revisit the killing fields.  So, can I ask readers to spare a thought for the ongoing ‘battle for the badgers’?  I am prompted to raise the matter again, in part, because I recently received a link to watch a u-tube upload of Bill Oddie  and Simon King at the recent Bristol badger march.  Bill’s was well, just what you’d expect from good old Bill, Simon’s erudite and eloquent but between them they pretty much summed up the situation.

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Further to the videos might you consider ‘badgering your MPs’ if you’ve not already done so, would you ask them to sign EDM 661 ?  Interestingly it is sponsored by MPs from four parties!  Congratulations, does that means that common sense does exist in ‘the House’?  Conservation does not have to be party political …. it is good for all aspects of society, everyone benefits from a health environment and we are but one species in the mix that inhabits the planet.

WILDLIFE MP of 2013?

Mark Avery has posted an interesting survey on his excellent blog Standing up for Nature”, he asks readers to vote for the Wildlife MP of 2013, there are quite a number of comments and some quite interesting ones.  He has nominated six, and whilst these might be subjective choices they do make you think about what MPs do actually deliver for the environment, and surely that can only be good?


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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.

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