Category: Blog Posts

17 White-tailed Eagles killed ‘unnaturally’ in Ireland since 2007

The White-tailed Eagle – one of the world’s largest eagles with a massive average two metre wingspan – was once fairly common throughout much of Europe, and widespread in Scotland and Ireland in the 18th century. More than 100 eyries were known in Britain with at least 50 in Ireland in the early 19th century. By 1900 only a handful of pairs remained on the British Isles, all in Scotland. The last breeding record in Scotland was on the Isle of Skye in 1916, and the last British White-tailed Eagle was shot in Shetland two years later. As became so evident when reintroduction programmes began and pairs rapidly started to establish territories again, habitat loss or a lack of prey was not a factor. As the RSPB states unequivocally, “The species became extinct in the UK as a result of direct and sustained persecution by shepherds, gamekeepers, fishery owners, skin collectors and egg collectors“.

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Wild Justice | General Licence Reforms

The General Licence system is essentially a way for industries (especially agriculture and shooting) to get ‘permission’ from the government to step around the laws that protect birds in England. Nominally, all wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). You and I can’t simply go out and shoot or trap birds. It’s illegal. Unless of course you and I claim that the birds we want to kill are ‘pests’ or causing us economic harm, in which case Defra will let you wave a metaphoric piece of paper around and off you go. And these ‘licences’ are unbelievably easy to get hold of: in legislative terms they’re pretty much the complimentary peanuts on Natural England’s bar, and Defra the bartender who couldn’t really give a toss how many you take or what you do with them because peanuts are cheap and anyway they have better things to do like kill badgers for the dairy industry or defend fox hunters and ‘trail hunting’.

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Herald Scotland Poll | Grouse shooting in Scotland: Are you for or against?

The grouse shooting industry has been fighting a rearguard battle lately, attempting to sell its message of ‘Game is Good’ amidst a tidal wave of reports of raptor persecution, the widespread use of traps and snares, Mountain Hare culls, and burning moorland. Adding to their woes is an increasing backlash against killing hundreds of thousands of wild birds for ‘fun’ and arising awareness of animal sentience. It’ll be interesting then to see how the industry responds to a poll by The Herald (a Scottish broadsheet which is the longest running national newspaper in the world and the eighth oldest daily paper in the world) which has closed after asking its readers ‘Are you For or Against Grouse Shooting’ .

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Language Matters | Birders and ‘gamebirds’

Anyone who launches a campaign (any campaign) can be fairly certain that a) not everyone will agree with the campaign’s aims, and b) will tell you that ‘insert whatever it is you’re campaigning about’ is a waste of time. Sure, not everyone cares about (in this case) our wildlife, preferring to shoot it or ignore it rather than protect it. They’re almost bound not to agree. But ‘a waste of time’? Trying to change something you fundamentally disagree with is never a waste of time. Besides, it gives me a chance to explain in 1000+ words exactly why I think that raising a debate about the use of ‘gamebird’ is not a waste of time at all. I will say it again, in this birder’s opinion the term ‘gamebird’ has absolutely no place in birding, or in birding magazines, or in identification books. We’ll need to campaign more directly to get it confined to the waiting dustbin of history, but in the meantime fellow birders, fellow writers, and fellow activists let’s just please pledge not to use it anymore.

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Fox Hunting banned (again)

We’ve been waiting for an official update on fox hunting. No, sadly, not the one we all hoped for (that the government is finally cracking down on the myth that is so-called ‘trail hunting’) but an admission that this time the Covid lockdown rules apply to rural hooligans on horseback as much as they do to the rest of us. And given that most hunts seem to function only with multiple riders, multiple ‘supporters’ following them about, and multiple terriermen to dig foxes out of badger setts, the ‘You can only go outside with one other person’ rule should have made it abundantly clear that hunting has to stop. The wonderful Hunt Sabs released a tweet with what seemed to be official advice from the so-called Hunting Office almost a week ago, and we’ve been checking their website every day since. And finally there it was. In writing…

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Badgers not a key source of bovine TB

Back in 2016 a request was made by the University of Nottingham for dead roadkill badgers to test for BovineTB, the cattle disease that has ultimately led to more than 150,000 badgers being killed to protect the dairy industry. Teams from the Universities of Nottingham, Surrey and Liverpool wanted to find out whether badgers living in counties around the edge of the expanding TB epidemic in cattle were infected and were therefore important vectors in the spread of the disease. Whilst the study was launched in 2016 and was based on badgers found dead between 2017 and 2018, the results have only just been announced. Badgers are not a key source of bovine TB, just as conservationists have been saying all along…

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Huge majority of Scots opposed to grouse shooting

New data gathered by League Against Cruel Sports Scotland as part of its work with the Revive Coalition for grouse moor reform show that seven in ten of those polled are opposed to grouse shooting for sport. The figures will come as an unwelcome wake-up call to the grouse shooting industry which has relied for years on its ‘normalisation’ of slaughtering grouse and a supportive media trotting out the mantra of tradition, ‘sport’ and the (in)glorious twelfth and the importance to the economy of a relatively few minimum wage jobs. That was never sustainable under targeted analysis that has uncovered the truth about wildlife crime, raptor persecution, widescale trapping of snaring of native predators, and the burning of the uplands solely to support the intensive farming of Red grouse for the gun.

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The Langholm Initiative | Dare to dream the ‘impossible dream’

Well, well, well. The impossible dream becomes possible with imagination and hard work. Huge congratulations to the team at the Langhgolm Community Initiative who this afternoon announced that with just hours to go before the deadline was reached they’d succeeded in a buy out of a grouse moor, which they plan to turn into a potentially hugely important nature reserve – the ‘Tarras Valley Nature Reserve’, will see globally important peatlands and ancient woods restored, native woodlands planted and regenerated along river valleys, and open moorland protected for ground-nesting birds.

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