Petition | Defend the right to protest

The government has published a new Policing Bill that threatens the fundamental rights of citizens and communities to have their voices heard by the powerful. It increases sentences and fines for protestors and makes it easier for the State to prosecute. The government is trying to rush this 307-page bill through without any time for MPs, their staff, or the communities that will be most impacted to understand its consequences. The creation of a new trespass offence targeted at Gypsies and Travellers will also restrict protest camps and deter access to the countryside. This bill would significantly restrict the kind of peaceful protest that was essential in communities resisting – and defeating – fracking. Note that deterring access to the countryside could also be used by the police to stop monitors and sabs protesting illegal fox hunting or the badger cull.

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Northumberland | Hen Harrier ‘disappears’ next to grouse moor

Another week, and yet another Hen Harrier has ‘gone missing’/’disappeared’/’been killed’ near the now-traditional sinkhole for ‘lost’ Hen Harriers: a grouse moor. Grouse moors, those inhospitable, largely barren grouse farms where traps outnumber native predators and birds of prey (protected by law for decades) are routinely killed by the ‘professionals’ who insist we take them seriously when it comes to the future of the uplands. This (according to Raptor Persecution UK) takes to fifty-two the number of Hen Harriers that have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances (ie ‘we know you did it, we just can’t prove it’) since 2018. Let that sink in: 52 Hen Harriers have been put down in three years. The latest, Tarras, a young satellite-tagged female less than a year old, spent her short life “hunting on [a] grouse moor and roosting either on it or just off of it” when her tag was silenced less than month ago.

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Ireland | Zero tolerance approach to hedge-cutting

We have never really appreciated hedgerows. Wildlife corridors, nesting areas, larders in the winter, refuges and places of safety, according to “Hedges’ by Pollard, Hooper and Moore, hedgerows were perhaps grubbed up or cut down at a rate of some 3,000 miles per year in the immediate post-war period (1946-63). The RSPB say that “since the Second World War, hedgerows have been removed at a much faster rate than they have been planted. In some parts of the country 50 per cent of hedgerows have gone, while others are so badly managed that their value to wildlife is much reduced”. The loss of managed hedges appears to have been halted by the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations Act. Nevertheless, as we have reported on this site many times, hedgerows are still being ‘de-natured’ by ‘tidying up’, extensive flailing or even being ‘netted’ by developers to prevent birds from nesting so they can avoid potential prosecution under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. The problem (as so often) is lack of enforcement – Unless, that is is, you live in Ireland, where (on the surface at least) protecting hedgerows seems to be taken far more seriously…

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BTO | Bird Trends 2020

The latest BirdTrends report from the BTO provides an early indication of one of the periodic revisions of the UK’s Red List (species with the highest conservation priority and needing urgent action) due to be published at the end of this year. Essentially, the report is a one-stop-shop for information about the population status of familiar breeding birds across the UK – a region already identified by a previous report as one of the most nature-depleted in the world. And it is very, very bad news indeed. Many of the highlighted species would once have not only been familiar to pre-war generations, they would have been everyday companions. Prior to the industrialisation of agriculture, their pastures would have been flower-rich meadows with massive insect communities providing seeds and protein for countless Cuckoos, Corn Buntings, Lapwings and Grey Partridges. Our woodlands, now often neglected with (in the absence of apex predators) unsustainable numbers of Roe Deer, were once composed mainly of native tree species and edged by scrub. They would have been bursting with Nightingales, Willow Tits and Spotted Flycatchers. Many of us now go all year without even seeing a single individual of any of them.

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Wales | Hedgerow netting that stops birds nesting

Another Spring, another use of netting to stop birds from nesting so as not to inconvenience (or cost) a developer – this time from Powys in Wales. Why would anyone net a hedge? Because while active nests of almost all bird species are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (see Nesting birds and the Law), stopping them from nesting in the first place is not. So, as a pre-emptive strike (and often even before the development has been given permission to go ahead) developers are putting up nets (or recommending others do it). And what a handy excuse it’s becoming. Note in the article below the either breathtakingly ignorant or breathtakingly mendacious claim that netting a hedgerow “should not be interpreted as pre-empting the planning process”. Over-use of pesticides, intensive agriculture, an obsession with ‘tidiness’, massive habitat change, and now determined efforts to stop our birds from nesting. Little wonder why we are living in one of the most nature-depleted regions on the planet…

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Petition | No fun for Nature – Save Swanscombe Marshes

The Swanscombe Peninsula is home to a remarkable mix of habitat of high value to wildlife – these include grasslands, coastal habitats, brownfield features, scrub and intricate wetlands. Known as Swanscombe Marshes, this urban wilderness is home to thousands of species, including over 250 invertebrate species which are rare or under threat. As well as abundant bees, butterflies and beetles, Swanscombe Marshes is one of just two places in the UK where you can find the Critically Endangered Distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus). It is home to Nightingales, Cuckoos, Marsh Harriers and a thriving population of Common lizards, thanks to its array of rich habitats. But all of this is now threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park.

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Petition | Protect Mountain Hares under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981

On March 1st this year Scotland’s Mountain Hares received protection (on paper anyway). Thanks to the efforts of Green MSP Alison Johnstone, new regulations mean that it is ‘illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take Mountain Hares without a licence’ (as we pointed out in Scotland | Mountain Hares are now a protected species 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 (SNH, the licence-issuers) will ensure that licence criteria are adhered to will be a vital measure of how seriously this legislation is taken). The actions in Scotland now leave the isolated populations of Mountain Hares in England and Wales unprotected. Especially unprotected on grouse moors in the Peak District where the hares there survive under the same gamekeeping regime as their Scottish counterparts. Mountain Hares could easily be given adequate protection by an amendment to the Wildlife & Countryside Act, the primary legislation which protects animals, plants and habitats in the UK. Which is exactly what the Hare Preservation Trust is asking for in a new petition launched yesterday.

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Gamekeeper filmed using Eagle owl to lure Buzzards to their deaths

The remarkable RSPB Investigations Unit has – as the title of this post – states, filmed a gamekeeper on a grouse moor using a decoy to shoot two Buzzards. Just say that out aloud: a professional hired by a shooting estate has been filmed using a tethered owl to shoot two protected birds of prey. Two crimes in one short sentence: using a tethered bird as a decoy is illegal, and – oh, yes – so is killing Buzzards. Gamekeeper. Grouse moor. Wildlife crime. And trolls on this site wonder why we and others are so outraged by the mindset of shooting and its employees. If they haven’t quite got it yet, it is because driven grouse shooting is underpinned by criminality and that criminality is undertaken by gamekeepers…

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