Guest post by Wild Mammal Persecution UK, a new group monitoring and writing about the persecution of wild mammals in the UK (February 2020)
Wild Mammal Persecution UK (WMPUK) is a small group set up in 2019 to publicise and campaign against the persecution of wild mammals in the UK, hopefully following in the footsteps of Raptor Persecution UK.
We are entirely self-funded, and as such are restricted in the amount of time we can spend researching. The more information we get about wild mammal persecution the better we are able to draw the attention of the public to the problems. All the evidence suggests that politicians will not act without sustained public pressure. Sadly the passage of laws proscribing a particular course of behaviour does little or nothing actually to prevent it. Prevention requires enforcement which in turn means the funding to enable action and the will to act. In the UK these are rarely present.
There are currently 299 hunts in mainland UK. All claim to be operating legally, usually by trail hunting, many have been accused of breaching the law and foxes are frequently killed ‘by accident’. Politicians have variously supported tightening the law or repealing it currently leaving us with a situation which satisfies no one.
Decapitated Fox, credit Kent Hunt Sabs
Hare coursing, also banned by the so-called ‘Hunting Acts’, is rife on arable land at certain times of year. It is extremely difficult to get accurate figures on reports of this crime but a freedom of information request to some of the 43 regional police forces in England and Wales suggests that reported cases are well into their thousands annually. Police Scotland was unable to provide figures but the National Farmers Union Scotland suggests this is a serious problem in arable farming areas.
Hare courser, credit SSPCA
Badger baiting has been illegal since the 19th century but is still a frequent occurrence throughout the UK. Successful prosecutions are few and are usually undertaken following investigations by animal welfare charities which are in a position to devote more time and resources to these cases than the police can.
Badger baiting, credit Jean Thorpe
Many other species of mammal are at risk of persecution, frequently because of outdated, sometimes almost mythical views about the damage they cause to ‘land management’ interests. These views result in native species (like the Stoat in the Fenn trap and the Fox in a snare below) being referred to as ‘vermin’ and targeted for destruction in ways that have the potential to cause tremendous suffering and serious damage to populations. This passion for destruction can, in some cases lead to concerns for the survival of endangered species such as the mountain hare in Scotland.
There has been much concern recently about the death and injury to animals in the Australian bush fires but no mention of the animals killed in moorland fires started deliberately every year by land managers seeking to increase the numbers of grouse to kill. Bizarrely this practice has government approval.
Muirburn on grouse moor Cairngorms National Park, credit Revive Coalition
Without adequate laws and adequate enforcement, neither of which currently exists, decisions about our native wildlife will be left to the individuals managing the land. Some land managers are excellent but some self-proclaimed ‘guardians of the countryside’ are the successors of the folk who sought to eradicate anything with claws, canine teeth or a hooked bill. Their views are repugnant and their methods unlawful. How many formerly native species have had to be reintroduced because of the success of these ‘vermin’ exterminators in the past?
Convicted gamekeeper Alan Wilson, credit SSPCA/Daily Record
- Our blog can be found here https://wmpuk.home.blog/. Please give it as much publicity as you can.
- If you are able to help us by letting us know about concerns or individual cases you can do so here https://wmpuk.home.blog/contact/ (please note that all communications are treated in absolute confidence).