A guest blog this week, written by Tom Fitton.

“I like Mark Avery…he doesn’t sit on the fence, and he doesn’t pull his punches…If only significant others were of the same ilk – but they’re not. In these risk-averse, politically correct and cowardly times they are responsible for putting the ‘con’ in conservation”. – Chris Packham 2014

Let us set the scene: “With the shooting season over, we hunted three days in the first week of February, and from our meeting at Throwley on the 3rd to Plumford on the 24th we accounted for one hare each on nine consecutive days, the best of which were Throwley, Betteshanger (more dreadful weather) and Barfrestone, where we had a superb hunt from Barfrestone almost to Knowlton and back, then towards Elvington and back before accounting for her in Fredville Park. This fine sport must in part be attributed to the hard work of Stuart Sillars, our huntsman, whose many hours of hard work with the hounds throughout the year has certainly paid off this season” (2004).

hare

The Brown Hare – Hunted by the Blean Beagles

Michael Bax was elected as a trustee at Kent Wildlife Trust in 2013 and subsequently, to the prestigious position of Chairman at the same organisation the following year. The account quoted above is taken from the Blean Beagles end-of-season report, 2003-2004 and published in Horse and Hound magazine. There is no debate that Michael Bax was still ‘Joint Master’ of the Blean Beagles in 2003, a position he held since 1991, having served as ‘Huntsman’, prior to this from 1971. If we take Kent Wildlife Trust’s word, rather than the official documentation that is Baily’s Hunt Directory, ‘the hunting fraternity’s bible’, as Dave Wetton puts it (Wetton, 2017), Bax left the Blean Beagles in 2005, whereas Baily’s state he only left in 2016; eleven years after the Hunting Act, which prohibits the hunting of hares with hounds, came into force.

Bax1

Stuart Sillars, mentioned at the end of the article, continues to serve as not only Huntsman for the group, but also Joint Master and ‘Hare Conservationist’. He also happens to be a colleague of Mr. Bax’s at the business run by Bax, BTF Partnership.

Whether or not, Bax left the Blean Beagles in 2005 or 2016, he continues to support bloodsports despite leading a conservation charity he allows a driven-pheasant shoot to take place on his land (Young, 2017). Pheasants are a non-native species to the UK. They were introduced by gamekeepers in the 17th century for so-called ‘sport’. Native wildlife often suffers on land in which a driven-pheasant shoot takes place due to the style of land management used by gamekeepers.

Bax also fundraises for the slaughter of birds across Kent, all whilst serving as the Chairman of a wildlife conservation charity. In 2014 and while Chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust, BTF Partnership sponsored an auction for the shooting of birds and also personally donated a ‘tide flight’ (the shooting of wading birds and ducks at the changing of the tide, when they are most active) (BTF Partnership, 2014). This shoot was donated to an area in Kent known as ‘Greenborough Marshes’. Greenborough Marshes is an environmentally-sensitive area of land and disturbance to this area has been well-documented by both Medway Council (Medway Council, 2015) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC, 2001). Disturbance to this area has also been reported by ornithologist, Tony Prater, during the ‘Birds of Estuaries Enquiry’, sponsored by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildfowl Trust. ‘Shooting [is] excessive in some areas…of the Medway…Greenborough Marshes [is] continually under threats of reclamation’ (Prater, 2010). At the same auction, Bax’s business partner at BTF Partnership, Richard Thomas, donated a pheasant shoot with the statement ‘Expected bag 50-75 pheasants and possibly an unlucky duck’. Whilst Britain still uses toxic lead shot for ammunition, as well as being terrible for the conservation of threatened species (many amber-listed and red-listed species live on the Greenborough Marshes), it is also terrible for the environment, polluting our waters and effecting further water-based creatures on top of the birds that are shot. Lead, as well as preventing the growth of both plants and animals, has a terrible effect on human health. Exposure to lead can lead to problems with the nervous system, kidney function, the immune system, the reproductive system and can also cause cardiovascular problems.

In 2016, Bax personally conducted an auction in order to raise funds for the shooting of ducks on the Isle of Sheppey, with the highest bid reaching £1,600 (2016).

mike_bax_0

Mike Bax

 

BTF Partnership also sponsor the Ashford Valley Tickham Fox Hunt (Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt, 2017). A terrierman for the Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt was caught on film disturbing a badger sett in 2013 (North West Hunt Saboteurs, 2013). Also, in 2013, one of the Joint Masters of the hunt, Brian Fraser, a neighbour of Bax’s, was jailed for the possession of a shotgun without a licence (BBC, 2013). It is likely that the Ashford Hunt killed a fox with hounds in September 2017 (East Kent Sabs, 2017). Another fox-hunting group sponsored by BTF is the Southdown and Eridge Hunt (The Pony Club, 2017). This hunt has a conviction for the stabbing of an anti-hunt protestor (KentOnline, 2015).

BTF Partnership also publish an ‘Events Calendar’ on their website, with a list of all kinds of hunting events (BTF Partnership, 2017). Whilst several hunting events are listed in this calendar, the one that stands out to me is ‘Woodcock shooting season’. The Woodcock is an amber-listed species. The Chairman of a Wildlife Trust, should be calling for, at the very least, a moratorium on the shooting of birds such as Woodcock, not advertising their shooting. For the Trust to appoint Bax to their board of Trustees, they legitimise and endorse the activities that he promotes, contrary to the conservation of wildlife.

Kent Wildlife Trust have received thousands of complaints with regards to Michael Bax, whether that be via email, social media, or telephone and that is not including the signatories to my petition (see here). 

They have also received complaints from conservationists such as Chris Packham who said:

“Come on Kent Wildlife Trust join us in the 21st century and employ people who truly wish to preserve wildlife, rather than those who ever found joy in killing it”.

 (Packham, 2017). As well as Packham, politicians, animal welfare organisations such as PETA, members and conservationists, including the Hare Preservation Trust and Anneka Svenska, have all called for Bax’s removal. Unfortunately, for Kentish wildlife and those who wish for wildlife to thrive, these calls have been disregarded by CEO John Bennett and his board of trustees. One of the two Vice-Chairs of the Trust is Charles Tassell, who also happens to be Michael Bax’s business partner at Rural PLCWhen articles appear in papers criticising Michael Bax, another Trustee, Martin Garwood, writes in to attack those who democratically and peacefully oppose Michael Bax’s Chairmanship. I suppose, as the Board of Trustees elected Bax in the first place, this should come as no surprise. For any healthy organisation to be successful, opposing views are imperative. This is not the case with Kent Wildlife Trust, in which they are shut down. The trustees are showing their unsuitability to be holding positions of trust, which is exactly what their job title implies. Unfortunately the twenty or so nineteenth-century minds that head the Trust are tackling twenty-first century problems. The twenty have overruled the 160,000. Hunting has never been more unpopular, as shown by the results of a 2016 poll taken by IPSOS MORI (2016), yet Kent Wildlife Trust hold a ‘neutral’ view on the subject. Neutrality is not acceptable when it comes to the Trust fulfilling its mission statement and neutrality over hunting will not benefit wildlife only the continued slaughter of it. However, the Trust’s appointment of a lifelong bloodsport enthusiast to Chair their board of trustees and their subsequent stubborn defence of him, puts their neutrality into extreme doubt. As a side note you may not be surprised to learn that Kent Wildlife Trust took the side of the hunter over the red-listed and protected hen harrier, during the 2016 debate over the future of driven-grouse shooting, fuelled by ornithologist, Dr. Mark Avery’s petition to have the environmentally destructive bloodsport banned. In simpler terms, the Trust sided with a bloodsport enjoyed by c. 15,000 people, over science-based conservation (in contrast to their mission statement).

For those of us who oppose bloodsports and oppose the Trustee’s running of Kent Wildlife Trust, I implore you, to stand up for nature, for wildlife and for twenty-first century wildlife conservation. Do not be silent. Be loud, be proud and let your voices be heard, just as Joe Hashman, of Hounds Off did at the Trust’s 2017 AGM.

 

References:

‘Foreword’ in Avery, M. (eds), Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands, London, Bloomsbury, p.7.

(2004), ‘Blean Beagles’, Horse and Hound, p.47

Wetton, D. (2017), ‘Wildlife Trust’s ex-Huntsman boss’, Kent Messenger, 20 Apr [Online]. Available here.

BTF Partnership [Online]. Available here

Young, M. (2017) ‘Thousands call for wildlife chief to be sacked for letting bird killers shoot on his land for 10 years’, Daily Mirror, 2 Jun [Online]. Available here

Medway Council (2015) Bird Disturbance in North Kent’ [Online]. Available here .

(2016) ‘Record numbers are game for challenge’, Kentish Express Ashford & District, 21 Jul [Online]. Available here.

BTF Partnership (2014) Kent Game Bird Challenge Shoot and Sporting Auction [Online]. Available here.

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (2001), Medway Estuary and Marshes [Online]. Available here.

Prater, T. (2010) ‘Eastern England’, in Prater, T. (eds) ‘Estuary birds of Britain and Ireland’, London, Bloomsbury, p.160.

Ashford Valley Tickham Hunt (2017) Local Businesses [Online]. Available here.

North West Hunt Saboteurs (2013), Man accused of badger sett disturbance to appear in court following investigations by the League [Online]. Available here .

BBC (2013) Kent huntsman Brian Fraser jailed for gun offences [Online]. Available here

East Kent Sabs (2013) [Online]. Available here.

Pony Club (2017) Eridge Hunt Branch of the Pony Club Annual Show [Online]. Available here.  

KentOnline (2015) Saboteur ‘stabbed’ at Southdown and Eridge fox hunt near Tunbridge Wells [Online]. Available here.

BTF Partnership (2017) 2017 Events Calendar [Online]. Available here

packham

 

Comments
  1. KWT should be more careful who they select as chairman

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