Category: Blog Posts

Botham declares war on the RSPB

The charmless ex-cricketer and now spokesperson for shooting ‘Beefy’ Botham (the nickname was apparently to do with his fighting physique when a professional player, but most of us now assume it refers to what’s between his ears) has stunned the world (not really) by announcing in the ‘irrelevant-out-here-in-the-real-world’ Daily Telegraph that the country’s shooting lobbyists, all of which sing roughly the same tune when it comes to blasting little birds out of the sky and destroying what they inaccurately refer to as ‘vermin’, are grouping together. Well, swipe me, we never saw that coming, what a masterstroke etc etc. Having been practically inseparable for years anyway, the lobbyists and the gamekeepers – presumably in the face of falling memberships – will be a mighty force (again, not really) loudly holding on to their anachronistic values of wildlife slaughter in the face of climate change, massive biodiversity loss, and a public that is realising just how important healthy ecosystems and nature actually are. It will be fascinating to watch this unholy alliance bickering amongst themselves as, for example, the CA says something so utterly stupid that even BASC can’t go along with it, or representatives of the Scottish Gamekeepers once again reveal their more thuggish and thoroughly unpleasant side on social media and threaten to drag the whole ship further onto the rocks. We’d feel sorry for them if – oh, strike that, there are no circumstances whatsoever where we wouldn’t enjoy watching this ‘alliance’ implode…Perhaps the most striking few lines of an otherwise forgettable and highly predictable run through of Beefy’s gripes is his declaration of war on the RSPB – a charity with more than a million members and (somewhat bewilderingly to many of us) a history of trying its damnedest to work with shooting. There could be any number of consequences of this ignorant attack. but here’s two to think about…

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Tom Langton | High Court Challenge and ‘Next Steps’ Policy

“It’s such a sad indictment of the current way in which science is conducted and vested interests have infected our society.” Ecologist Tom Langton has been looking at the scientific and legal aspects of the dreaded badger culls since 2016, and this summer represents his fifth year working on what is being described as the worst miscarriage of UK biological science for fifty years. In this ‘shortcast’ (=short podcast) recorded for Off the Leash Podcasts, Tom explains a bit about the new 2020 policy and what exactly was being challenged – a challenge which, incidentally, has taken over a year of battling to gain permission for.

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Interview | Nick Weston, League Against Cruel Sports

“..to do anything other than get rid of the licences would be bad for animals…which is ultimately why we’re doing this, it’s for the animals…” Nick Weston is the Head of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports. Like everyone else at the League (and at other animal welfare/animal rights organisations) he is passionate about animals. It seems an obvious statement to make, but sometimes even seasoned campaigners get so involved in the latest struggle that we forget to make it clear why we fight, why we protest and campaign. Without wanting to put words in anyone else’s mouth, it’s because we love animals. As Chris Packham has so astutely said, we are fuelled by a sense of injustice. We detest the bullies who hurt them and loathe the organisations that work to find ways to marginalise or demonise them because we are compelled by a need to help and protect. In the following interview Charlie Moores talks with Nick about the National Trust’s position on so-called ‘trail hunting’ and the work being done by campaigners to ensure that by the next AGM (this autumn) as many members of the Trust as possible know that their charity facilitates hunting on its land and that through its licences the Trust is not just risking damage to protected landscapes but allowing animals to be harmed as well.

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Vegan Society | Planting Value in the Food System

So much of the biodiversity loss we discuss on this site results from what we eat. That might seem an odd call to make, but food production is a vast driver of ecosystem change. Human demand for food impacts the rest of life on the planet through the land we take to grow our crops, the forests we clear for oils and soya, the rivers we’ve diverted to irrigate crops, the uncountable insects and plants we’ve destroyed with our pesticides – and that’s not to mention the trillions and trillions of animals we’ve taken from the oceans or locked into factory farms. As the Vegan Society says quite correctly, “our food system is broken”. Is there an alternative though? Published on the 12th July by the Vegan Society, Planting Value in the Food System presents an ambitious but practical vision for a fully plant-based food system with the ability to help achieve climate targets, reduce the impact on our health service, improve the experiences of farmers and farm workers, and ultimately save the lives of thousands of animals.

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California | Monarch Butterflies now rarer than Starbucks

We’ve posted several times about the plummeting numbers of Monarch Butterflies. Once an abundant species that wintered in vast numbers in Mexican pine forests (check out nature documentaries from just a decade ago that showed whole trees weighed down with hibernating Monarchs), the two populations (western and eastern, divided by the Rockies) are vanishing in an extinction reminiscent of the Passenger Pigeon or Buffalo. Once such an integral part of the landscape, literally billions of Monarchs were found right across North America. In 2020 the western Monarch was thought to be functionally extinct, and according to recent estimates just 2000 overwintering western Monarchs were counted this year. Eastern Monarchs are headed in the same direction and have declined by more than 80% over the past two decades. Most of us will have seen Monarchs at some point, or seen videos of them shimmering in shards of sunlight. It’s an incredibly depressing thought that if you haven’t and you want to, you really don’t have much time left…

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The National Trust and Trail Hunting 2021

There is no such thing as so-called ‘trail hunting’. It was invented by fox hunts after the passing of the Hunting Act 2004 (which banned hunting with hounds) and is a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting – even the Masters of Foxhounds Association seems to agree with that. Hunts up and down the country routinely break the law, cause chaos on main roads, use violence against monitors (who are only present to stop wildlife crime taking place), lose control of their hounds, and use terrier men to illegally block or interfere with badger setts. Hunting can sue us if it can prove otherwise – it can’t, and it won’t anyway because the last thing it wants is to have its filthy laundry dragged through the courts…So why does the National Trust, one of the nation’s most respected conservation charities and one of its largest landowners, allow so-called ‘trail hunting? Because its Chair (and soon to be former Chair) used proxy votes at the Trust’s AGM in 2017 to vote down a proposal that the National Trust should stop issuing licences to hunts to use their land. The Trust has been forced to explain its highly contrary position of protecting wildlife while facilitating hunting ever since, referring questions on social media to the disingenuous “Our position on Trail Hunting” page on its website.

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Update | Western Hunt and Mini’s Law

In mid-May we posted a ‘kudos’ to Keep the Ban, the excellent campaigning group fighting to stop illegal fox hunting. KKeep the Ban had been working hard to keep a petition in the news which had arisen from a disgraceful incident where out of control hunt hounds (belonging to the Western Hunt) had mauled to death a pet cat called Mini in a quiet residential street in Cornwall. A so-called ‘huntsman’ (you can draw your own conclusions about what sort of ‘man’ this was) was seen to throw the body of Mini into a neighbouring garden and walk off. Come forward to the present and some welcome news. A huntsman has been charged by Devon and Cornwall Police in connection with this incident. John Lanyon Sampson, aged 55, of St Buryan, is due to appear before Truro Magistrates’ Court on 22 July where he will face charges of criminal damage and being the owner/person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control in a private or public place.

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Tree feller fined for destroying an active bird of prey nest

A ‘tree feller’ and a ‘bird of prey nest’. The headline from the Stroud News today tells just half the story, because the bird of prey in question was a Goshawk (one of the country’s rarest birds of prey – and a species loathed by shooting estates) and the ‘tree feller’ (or ‘agricultural labourer as he’s described in the report) took out just one tree in the wood, and that one tree contained the active nest. It’s hard to miss a large raptor’s nest (and female Goshawks are the same size as Buzzards). They are a massive pile of sticks, the ground below is spattered with ‘whitewash’, and Goshawks are noisy birds. Anyone from a tree feller to an agricultural labourer to a shooting estate manager will know damn well there is an active Goshawk pair in a woodland if they spend more than a few hours in the locale. It is inconceivable that just one tree could be cut down without the individual knowing that it contained an active nest. The RSPB Investigations Team clearly think so too, and are quoted saying in an exasperated tone, “It appears that this was the only tree in the wood to be felled and then completely removed at a time when it contained an active goshawk nest” adding that raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority and the Goshawk a priority species.

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