Petition | Call for nature’s recovery by 2030

Over 50 nature conservation groups have joined together to urge the Prime Minister to make sure this crucial change gets through. While the amendment would apply to England only (because the Environment Bill’s provisions are mostly restricted to England) a strong response to the petition will influence the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland too. You can sign this petition on behalf of English wildlife wherever you live and help to make a difference – so please do. As Mark Avery pithily put it in an email today “if you care for wildlife in England you should sign this petition, please, unless you fully trust this government and future governments to reverse the decline in wildlife without a legally binding amendment to this bill. Please add your voice on Day 1 of this campaign.

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Scotland | Mountain Hares are now a protected species

Today is being hailed as #MountainHareDay, the day that legislation comes into force which should be a huge step forward in the protection of Mountain Hares – native wild animals, let’s not forget, that only needed protection because gamekeepers on Scotland’s grouse moors were shooting so many of them (why? for the reasons they usually eradicate wildlife from the grouse moor farms of the uplands – to protect shooting profits). As of today new regulations mean that it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take Mountain Hares without a licence. The ‘without a licence’ clause is of course extremely important here. How easy it will be to get a licence and, crucially, how strictly Scottish Natural Heritage (the licence-issuers) will ensure that licence criteria are adhered to will be a vital measure of how seriously this legislation is taken. However, cynicism aside, this is a fantastic achievement by a large number of people, but Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, in particular, has been key to protecting this iconic animal. Our thanks and congratulations go to her…

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Massive thumbs-down to NI’s fox hunters

Another gratifyingly very bad day for fox hunting (to add to dire financials caused by lockdown, leaked webinars, media coverage of pets being killed and of hounds being killed on the road, landowners suspending licences for so-called ‘trail hunting’ etc) as figures released by the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday showed overwhelming support for a ban on hunting with dogs following a country-wide consultation. An Alliance Party member’s bill to ban hunting with dogs in Northern Ireland (where it is still legal) gathered a huge 18,425 responses – perhaps the largest response ever to a private member’s bill there: 78% of those respondents were in favour of a proposed law protecting wild animals from being killed by dogs. Which begs the question: for how much longer can the grubby hobby of chasing foxes around the countryside exist before it is properly outlawed altogether? Going by the panicked response to every ‘threat’ to fox hunting, and despite what they tell the media, deep down even the most aredent lobbyists must know that the answer is ‘not for very much longer’…

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Most pheasants sold for food ‘contain lead shot’

“Almost all pheasants sold for food in the UK contain toxic lead shot, scientists have found.” The quote comes from the BBC News website which is reporting this morning that – as most of us suspected all along – the voluntary five year phasing out of lead shot by the rapacious shooting industry was – well, five years behind schedule. At least that’s the obvious concluson when “of 180 birds examined by the scientists, 179 were shot with lead”. So shooting has done nothing about lead shot. That won’t be a huge surprise to anyone, but does it matter if ‘food’ repeatedly advertised and sold as ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ contains lead shot (and do read Rob Sheldon’s tireless questioning of Sainsbury’s on this very subject)? Of course it does, because, as we and countless others have repeatedly said, lead is toxic in even tiny amounts.

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BOFF! THWACK! KAPOW! The Golden Eagle Satellite Tagging Group sorts out the SGA

In a typically thorough and measured Raptor Persecution UK post, Ruth Tingay discusses the ridiculous PE01750, a petition submitted by Alex Hogg on behalf of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee. Ruth describes how papers have been published on the ECCLR Committee’s website, including a formal response to the petition by the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Group (GESTG), a research group established in Scotland by scientists as “a forum for data exchange, tagging coordination and general cooperation”. In her words the GESTG “takes apart the SGA’s petition pretty much line by line and eviscerates it “. Boy, do they ever…

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Hunting Office | No foxhunting before 29th March

The so-called Hunting Office (which ‘runs’ fox hunting out of its HQ in Cirencester, and which was burnt badly when webinars discussing how to use ‘smokescreens’ to avoid being caught hunting were leaked by the Hunt Saboteurs Association) has been quiet of late – presumably a combination of not wanting to mess up again now that one of its webinar guests is due in court for “intentionally encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act 2004”, and the welcome fact that hunting has been temporarily shut down during the current lockdown (something it inexplicably avoided last time around). However a 22nd February update on their website advises “registered hunts” that “hunting activities will not resume before 29th March.  We will keep all hunts updated regarding the evolving restrictions which will be in place after that date.”

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Lockdown: birding vs shooting?

An interesting debate is taking place on Twitter right now, discussing why it is that shooters are able to go out and kill birds during lockdown while birders (of all sorts from ‘I like to look at birds while I walk’ to ‘I want that Northen Mockingbird on my list and I want it now’) aren’t allowed to just go and look at them. We 100% agree that travelling hundreds of miles during lockdown to congregate somewhere just to see a rare bird is an undeniably stupid thing to do. We are birders ourselves (and used to twitch regularly) but there’s no excuse for breaking the law and risking spreading a dangerous virus like Covid-19 under any circumstances. But this isn’t about a handful of birders behaving irresponsibly. The larger and more pertinent question is surely this: why is there a seeming disparity between the way birders and shooters are treated? How do shooters (and fox hunters before them – they managed to circumvent the ‘Rule of Six’ back in the autumn remember) seem to usually get what they want (which with the best will in the world is simply to be allowed to kill even more wild animals)?

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(To the surprise of no-one) banned poison found on Leadhills Estate

To the surprise of almost no-one a large quantity of banned poison has been found on the Leadhills Estate, a South Lanarkshire shooting estate notorious for wildlife crime (though no doubt somewhere in the offices of the SGA they’ll be considering saying it was a plant). The poison was discovered by a League Against Cruel Sports investigator carrying out general field research in July last year on ‘Deadhills’ as it’s been dubbed (and anyone who’s visited this depressingly silent slab of grouse moor and wondered where the hell all the wildlife was, will understand why). Police Scotland has confirmed the poison was – again to the surprise of no-one – the ‘professional’s’ weapon of choice against birds of prey, a banned substance hazardous to humans and wildlife alike which is illegal to keep or use in the UK: Carbofuran. As we and countless others have pointed out, just a few grains of carbofuran sprinkled on to a rabbit corpse makes for an illegal but cheap and highly toxic bait.

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