Buzzards are now fair game for gamekeepers

One man in England has been given a license to shoot 10 buzzards which, he claims, are interfering with his pheasant-shooting business. That one license will enable others to seek licenses to shoot legally protected species in this country, and it makes a mockery of the huge conversation success that was the protection of the buzzard.

Birds of prey have been legally protected in the UK since 1954, but just one license will undermine that; not only will it set a precedent for more licenses, but it will make the continued illegal killing of raptors by gamekeepers even easier.

Buzzards were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century and, although there are now around 30 to 40 thousand in the UK, there are still reports of illegal killing and they are still a recovering species. You can read about the buzzard’s story on the RSPB website here.

Once again, economic interests have been placed before the survival of a species, despite the evidence that buzzards pose very little threat to pheasant populations. Those that escape the barrel of a gun are usually discovered squashed by the roadside.

45 million gamebirds are released into the countryside every year for the sanguinary enjoyment of those who pay to kill animals for fun. Some of those birds will inevitably meet their fate instead at the claws of a bird of prey. BECAUSE NATURE.

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And where does it end? Licences to shoot hen harriers and peregrine falcons? This is the precedent that will open the floodgates to allowing further licenses that could threaten the buzzard with extinction yet again, or decimate struggling populations of other birds of prey.

Will the post-Brexit apocalypse enable thousands of EU environment-friendly laws to be crossed out? This is the first step.

Angry? You should be. I know how you like to sign a petition.

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I’m worried about the new Environment Secretary

If you’ve been too absorbed in Pokemon this week, you may be forgiven for missing the disastrous appointment of Angela Leadsom as Environment Secretary. Newly ‘crowned’ Theresa May (she has not actually been elected) has selected one of the least appropriate people to this position.

Are we being hilariously trolled?

Sadly not. Our new Environment Secretary wants to see the return of fox hunting for animal welfare reasons, and has voted to oppose climate change prevention measures. Perhaps I am an idiot to assume that not hunting a species might be in its interests? Leadsom thinks that the ban on fox hunting is “absolutely not proven to be in the interest of animal welfare whatsoever.”

A few years ago, Leadsom backed the government’s proposal to sell of Britain’s forests, so why on earth does she know have their future in her greedy, carbon-loving, oil-dripping hands? I would have thought that as a mothershe (and only she and other mothers) could appreciate the importance of protecting our planet for our children’s future?

Her appointment is part of wider, more insidious threat to environment protection; gone is the Energy and Climate Change department, and in its place we have the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This represents a clear and defiant shift from climate change anxiety to a focus on business and industry (to the detriment of all else?)

 

The EU Referendum and the Environment

You’d have to have been living under a rock the past few months to fail to notice that Brits are facing possibly the most important decision of our lives – to Brexit or to Bremain?

I still don’t know, and I don’t have long to make up my mind. Facts and statistics are constantly being presented, but most of them are contradictory or misleading. And anyway, it’s more of an abstract question we’re being asked: is this undemocratic institution worthwhile?

Given the focus of this blog on wildlife and the environment, I’m going to examine the EU as an organisation that serves to protect the environment and how effectively it functions. Perhaps this will help me decide!

Friends of the Earth have produced this helpful document that outlines some of the main reasons to stay:

  • EU rules forced Britain to clean up its sewage-filled beaches in the 70s and 80s
  • Restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides
  • EU laws prevent industries from gaining profit through reducing environmental standards.

However, (there is always a ‘However’): FoE also point out that the EU’s focus on economic growth and free trade jeopardizes its protection of the environment, and believes that the negotiations for TTIP should be abandoned.

What about the much-maligned agricultural and fisheries policies of the EU that lead to massive produce waste and over-fishing? Well, there have been some reforms recently, I guess. Absolutely NO ONE on either side is saying the EU is entirely perfect (or even remotely efficient.)

But what is the point of subsidizing a dying rural industry – subsidies, which, by the way go mostly to the landed gentry and agro-business rather than struggling rural communities? Then again, the alternative is to import more and more food and export less. Furthermore, the CAP gives more money to farmers who maintain boundaries as hedgerows and use fewer harmful chemicals.

Despite over forty years of the Common Fisheries Policy, designed to manage fish stocks and support fishing communities, three out of the four main commercial fish stocks are over-fished and the EU fleet is double the sustainable level. But perhaps we need to be more patient? Wouldn’t things be even worse if fishermen were left to their own devices? A common policy to manage European marine life sounds like the best way to protect fish stocks – IF it worked.

In theory, a lot of the EU environmental policies sound ideal and absolutely essential to protecting wildlife and reducing the impact of climate change. In practice, some policies have been disastrous, especially to developing “partner” countries.

It seems to come down to whether or not you think the ‘failing EU project’ can be reformed, or if indeed things would be worse without a common environmental goal. Would the UK’s moral backbone suddenly collapse without the parental guidance of the EU and we forget or lose interest in protecting the environment?

 

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