Category: Blog Posts

Happy Second Birthday Wild Justice

Personally I find what might loosely be called ‘conservation’ to be disappointingly staid and risk-averse. So many decisions about how our countryside should be run are being determined by a handful of environmentally-damaging industries, and conservation doesn’t seem to know how to respond. The shooting industry, for example, has normalised killing on an enormous scale and has gone virtually unchallenged for far too long. Our larger, flatter-footed organisations are reactive, determinedly neutral even when they are being scavenged on by the likes of BASC (or indeed the NFU). It’s rare that something like Wild Justice comes along that is straight away so instantly appealing and that ‘feels’ like a new approach to old problems (rewilding is another, perhaps, which similarly seems to look at things differently and say, ‘There are better ways of doing this‘). Challenging bad wildlife and environmental law (which is what Wild Justice does, rather than, as those industries allege, take an oppositional stance just because they’re ‘antis’) is simple enough that it makes you think ‘How come that’s not been done before‘. But while Ruth Tingay, Mark Avery, and Chris Packham make what they do seem easy, it’s really not.

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‘Trail-hunting’ – following the trail all the way to court…

The fall out from the leaked Hunting Office webinars (an online meeting discussing how to avoid being caught foxhunting leaked by the Hunt Saboteurs Association) continues with some remarkable news that broke today: Mark Hankinson, the Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA – the Governing Body of sticking two fingers up to the law whoops, we mean of course “for registered packs of Foxhounds”) will be charged in court in March with intentionally encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act 2004, contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crimes Act 2007. Foxhunting is a stubborn little virus, but this is, without doubt, a massive blow to a group of people who have routinely and deliberately broken the law every week since the Hunting Act came into force. It’s too early to say hunting won’t recover, of course, but kudos to the police for taking the investigation seriously and – of course – kudos again to the Hunt Sabs for getting these highly-incriminating video files online in the first place.

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Petition | Ask Duke of Westminster to ban ‘trail hunting’

Cheshire Monitors, the group that works to expose cruelty to wildlife in and around Cheshire and the North West, including fox and hare hunting, badger baiting and their related crimes, have launched a petition asking the Duke of Westminster to honour his late father’s wishes and ban so-called ‘trail hunting’ on his Cheshire estate. Cheshire Monitors write on their Facebook page that, “…in 2004, before the enactment of the Hunting Act, which banned the hunting of wild mammals with a pack of hounds, the then Duke of Westminster, who owned the 11,000 acre Eaton Estate in West Cheshire, vowed to stop hunts using his land if they broke the law: “I respect the law and if the law of the land comes in in February I will stick to it.” However, the current Duke of Westminster (Hugh Grosvenor) has continued to allow the Wynnstay, Cheshire Hounds and Cheshire Beagle hunts access to land at Eaton Estate.

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Foxhunting | Shut the door on your way out…

It appears that foxhunting is nowhere near as resilient as its been trying to appear. As many campaigners have suspected (and we ourselves have pointed out recently), hunts have been hit hard by lockdown. Without the fees collected for hunts and point to point meetings, but with the hounds and infrastructure to maintain, many hunts are facing financial ruin according to the excellent new website Hunting Leaks (whose expose has now been covered by ITV News). While we would never use the term ‘sport’ to describe the actions of rural hooligans on horseback breaking the law, the phrases ‘in trouble’ and ‘running out of money’ will be music to many of us. The acknowledgement that hunts are also ‘running out of country (to hunt in)’ is also extremely good news and shows how important the pressure to suspend ‘trail hunting’ licences on organisations like the National Trust and Forestry England has been. It must continue.

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Australia | Wildlife rebounds (temporarily?) on Lord Howe Island

One of the more important ethical discussions in conservation has to be whether the large-scale eradication of non-native predators (or opportunist generalists) from islands where native wildlife has been terribly impacted by their presence can be justified. All across the globe wildlife that has evolved on islands – often in predator-free ecosystems – are being decimated by non-native invasive species. Typically though those species have been accidentally introduced (mice and rats perhaps); deliberately introduced to control rats attracted to crops which (predictably with hindsight) go on to live off the easily captured native animals instead (Javan Mongoose is an obvious case); or were brought to islands as companions or to control ‘pests’ and which have gone on to cause extinctions (cats that have become feral would be a prime example). In all cases there is a common factor: those non-native animals arrived in the same way – through us.

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Wild Justice | Badger petition tops 100,000

“Shooting is poorly monitored and Wild Justice believes it has never met the animal welfare standards recommended by a 2014 Independent Expert Panel, whose recommendations were accepted by DEFRA. This method of culling is inhumane and should be banned immediately.” Congratulations Wild Justice. After some very focussed work on social media (we should now start calling the three founders and Directors – Drs Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, and Chris Packham – ‘social media influencers’ though thankfully it’s doubtful we’ll ever see any of them lording it over the rest of us by mailing in their blogs from Dubai) their epetition to get a government debate over the shooting of badgers has reached (and passed) the requisite 100,000 signatures (10,000 signatures gets you a government response, 100,000 triggers a debate at some future date).

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Cambridgeshire | Buzzard shot dead

Yet another Buzzard shot dead – this one found in rural Cambridgeshire around fifteen miles southeast of Cambridge. As Cambs Police point out all birds of prey are protected by law. Everyone knows that. Peppering a Buzzard with shotgun pellets will always be a deliberate act. There has been a speight of Buzzard killings in the last few months (this is the fourth we’ve written about since mid January). For many of us seeing a Buzzard is a thrill. They have returned to areas that they were persecuted out of, but there have been dark mutterings from pheasant shoot operators about there being ‘too many Buzzards’ for years – that of course despite the industry releasing around 60 million non-native pheasants and partridges every year, while there are less than 100,000 pairs of native Buzzards across the whole of the UK, with their numbers apparently declining slightly in Wales.

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The War on Wildlife | It’s time to talk food

‘Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss’ “explores the role of the global food system as the principal driver of accelerating biodiversity loss” and the authors explicitly state that “food production is degrading or destroying natural habitats and contributing to species extinction”. They go on to explain how what they term the ‘cheaper food paradigm’ has driven the expansion of agricultural land and intensive farming. Failure to account for the environmental cost of food production has led to habitat destruction and pollution, driving wildlife loss”. Essentially, our global food system is a vicious circle of cheap food, where low costs drive a bigger demand for food and more waste. More competition then drives costs even lower through more clearing of natural land and use of polluting fertilisers and pesticides. Agriculture is now the main threat to 86% of the 28,000 species known to be at risk of extinction.

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