Posts Tagged ‘Natural Engalnd’

After I’ve returned from my few days each week in the North Cots cull zone I take a little time to contemplate and analyse what has been occurring and see if I can make any sense of it. The last outing stood out due to two incidents, one which was hugely saddening and another which was just bizarre.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with things on social media you may be aware of the badger we found that have been caught in a snare. Now while the snare was of the free running type and thus technically legal they are still barbaric, indiscriminate and cause horrendous injuries to the animals caught in them. What was more insidious (and possibly illegal) in this case was its placement, no more than 20 metres from a sett and close to where badgers would access the nearby fields. Best practice (what a joke eh) guidelines state snares have to be checked every morning first thing and non-target species released although I doubt any gamekeeper would attempt to release an angry badger, it’s fate would most likely be terminal.

As is the case here these guidelines are often ignored which means any animal caught will suffer a drawn out and painful death. We cannot comprehend the suffering involved. The injuries suffered by this poor badger meant there was only one humane option. Thanks to everyone who came to our aid and the Vale Wildlife Rescue for compassionately ending it’s suffering. We are currently in discussion with Gloucestershire Badger Trust and the local police about the device although I doubt anyone will be brought to justice.

If you ever find an animal trapped in a snare please don’t attempt to free it yourself. We had the relevant restraining poles, cutters, covers and boxes needed to effect the rescue along with the relevant animal handling experience. Contact your nearest wildlife rescue immediately and stay with the animal. If possible try and cover it to keep it as calm as you can while you wait.

If you find any snares on your travels please make an informed decision on what you should do with them.

14522964_10154524201887230_4729001092660298818_n

Why aren’t snares banned?

Next up was a story broken once again by Stop the Cull (see here). It was predicted early on in the cull that the culling companies had limited resources at their disposal and this included the cages used to trap badgers. It’s been well publicised that activists are finding and neutralising cages in large numbers, but these numbers seem to have been dropping off over the last few days however the discovery of cages which had previously been ‘pixied’* and then crudely repaired perhaps sheds some more light on the matter.

wonkycage

Clearly not going to catch anything.

Are the culling companies so short of cages they are resorting to these drastic measures? Obviously these cages wouldn’t function as intended although they were still baited and set to trap. Some were held together with wire and bailing twine, some quite frankly looked so ridiculous one wonders why they bothered. Whatever the mindset of the person wasting their time with these devices they aren’t going to catch any badgers. As Stop the Cull say, it really is a tragic farce and time Natural England stepped in to end it.

stringcage

Well pixied, broken welds held together with string & wire.

We’re into the final days in the original cull zones but the new areas have no real time limit and can go on well into the winter. Our best hope now is the arrival of cold weather which will limit the badgers activity above ground. There’s still time for you to get over there and save lives. Shooters are still being found and seen off regularly and no doubt there’s probably a few more bits of metal for the pixies to reshape.

* Pixied is a term meaning the woodland dwelling forest pixies had found and squashed the cage.

You may be aware that Natural England, the so called governing body responsible for the protection of our wildlife have issued a license to “control” (that means kill) up to 10 Buzzards to a gamekeeper who complains that he is losing Pheasants to the predators. The full details of the license restrictions and further details can be found at Raptor Persecution UK.

I wrote to Natural England to complain.

It is with great dismay I discover you have issued a license to kill buzzards to protect game birds, as outlined in your statement below:

Natural England issued a licence last night permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.

The licence is time-limited with stringent conditions and is based on the law, policy and best available evidence. It follows rigorous assessment after other methods had been tried unsuccessfully over a 5-year period.

It is stipulated that the licence must be used in combination with non-lethal measures and only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens – not on passing birds. These conditions are designed to make the licensed activity both proportionate and effective and we will continue to work with the applicant to assess this.

Killing wild birds without a licence from Natural England is illegal.

I believe this decision is not only misguided but in fact disgraceful and clearly made under pressure from the shooting industry. Millions of non-native game birds are released into our countryside every year for the purpose of shooting. Many of these will in fact end up discarded and left to rot in a field or pit somewhere, perhaps used to lure foxes and other predators to their deaths. There simply isn’t the market for these unwanted birds and they serve no purpose apart from the enjoyment some people gain from killing them.

To allow the legal persecution of our native and protected raptors sets a dangerous precedent. Many birds of prey are struggling to exist in the face of intensive game birds rearing and shooting, the impact that Buzzards will have on Pheasants would be marginal at best. Even if they did predate a few birds I’m sure these could be spared in light of the millions that are released with little chance of survival.

I urge you to reconsider you decision and look forward to your response.

Natural-England

Not fit for purpose

They responded thus:

In response to your enquiry on the issuing of a licence to control up to 10 buzzards, we are providing further clarification on the decision. For security and data protection reasons, we cannot give any details about the licence holder.

Wildlife licences are required from Natural England for activities that will disturb or remove wildlife or damage habitats and can be granted to prevent damage to agriculture, livestock, fisheries, property or archaeology. So far this year, we have received over 5500 wildlife licence applications covering a variety of species. In deciding whether a licence should be granted, all applications have to be assessed in the same way against the relevant policy and within the legal framework of the the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA). 

We discharge this role as a wildlife licensing authority alongside the range of our statutory responsibilities as government’s adviser on nature conservation. In assessing the buzzard licence application we took into account the legislative tests and policy guidance, the evidence received from the applicant, industry guidance and scientific literature. The application was rigorously assessed with input from specialists across our organisation.

The High Court has recently considered the issues surrounding the granting of a licence to kill buzzards in order to protect livestock and given clear direction on the decision making process. This includes the need to balance the protection of wild birds against the requirement to prevent serious damage to livestock and the need to adopt a consistent approach to the interpretation of policy which applies across a number of species.  Natural England has taken account of the court’s findings in reaching this decision.

The licence to control buzzards was issued to protect against serious damage to livestock. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 defines livestock as any animal which is ‘kept for the provision or improvement of shooting or fishing’.

Our guidance says that where birds are either in pens or are significantly dependent on people they are classed as livestock. For example, where a bird remains in close proximity to a release pen and will often return to it for shelter or to roost at night, and is dependent of food put out by the gamekeeper then we usually consider it to still be livestock even if it is free-living.  As pheasants are released at a relatively young age, they will be dependent on the gamekeeper for several weeks at least. Natural England revised this guidance to take account of the High Court ruling, having consulted our stakeholders.

As a public body, Natural England has to balance the public interest with the security of the individuals who apply for licences.  In the interests of transparency, Natural England will shortly be making documents associated with the assessment and granting of this licence publicly available. These also include details about control methods, assessment and criteria under which the licence has been granted.  Any disclosed documents will be released in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and therefore some details, such as personal information, may be redacted.

We would not consider licensing any activity which would adversely affect the conservation status of a species. Buzzards have increased dramatically in recent decades and are now common and widespread, with over sixty thousand pairs in the UK (British Trust for Ornithology). The loss of small numbers of birds in a small area will have no impact on conservation status.

It is illegal to kill wild birds without a licence from Natural England and anyone who suspects a wildlife crime should report details to the police.

dead buzzard

Is this a sight we want to see?

There are a couple of points worth noting however.

The person who was granted the license was the same Gamekeeper who applied and was denied several times in the past. This same person then took Natural England to court over their decision and it would seem this is the biggest single factor in them allowing the license this time round. As I specified in my complaint this does indeed set a very dangerous precedent. It pretty much opens the door for every gun-toting psychopath with a hatred for anything that kills game birds (Gamekeepers) to apply for licenses to legally kill raptors which were previously protected.

The fact that Buzzards are now relatively common really shouldn’t even be part of the thinking here. 50 million game birds are released every year, the impact by Buzzards would be minuscule at best, and remember, Pheasants are non-native. One also wonders how the license restrictions will be policed? Which Buzzards will be chosen to be shot? How will they distinguish between a transient bird and a resident one? Who will be there actually counting? The gamekeeper could be out there blazing away like a WWII anti-aircraft gunner at Pearl Harbor and no-one would know how many Buzzards he’d downed. It’s so open to abuse it’s ridiculous.

Further more it would seem anything reared for the purpose of shooting and fishing is considered livestock and thus can be protected using lethal means. Why do minority hobbies get so much protection? If game birds are considered livestock why is their killing not covered by the same legislation as regular farm animals reared for food? The reason is they have dual classification, when they are being reared they are livestock, when they are released they are classed as wild birds. Neat trick eh? Except Natural England also seem to regard the birds as livestock even if they have left the pens due to their inability to survive on their own. This blurring of the rules only goes to show how far Natural England are prepared to bend over and take one for the shooting lobby.

Interesting to note are Defras own livestock guidlines as stated in The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 (1968 Ch 34) – The definition of livestock given in Section 8(1) of the Act applies to animals being kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur on agricultural land. Ministers may, by order, extend this definition and this has been done in the Welfare of Livestock (Deer) Order 1980 (see section 2(b) of this summary). The definition includes cattles, horses kept for meat, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and other species, such as rabbits, mink, fox and deer. It also applies to a horse or a dog when used in the farming of land. As a guide to the application of this definition, rabbits kept for commercial production of food or fur are livestock, but pet rabbits are not, even when kept on a farm and neither are ornamental duck, nor pheasants reared for sport.

Killing wild birds without a license is illegal, as they constantly like to remind us. It hasn’t stopped the persecution of our raptors be it licensed or otherwise, but then again what should we expect from an organisation which licensed the slaughter of thousands of our badgers simply on the whim of the NFU?

Ban driven Grouse shooting.

Withdraw the license to kill Buzzards.

Support Chris Packham.

ADDITIONAL: The Gamekeeper in question, Richard McMorn (48) of Ancroft Town Farm near Berwick was previously arrested following a joint investigation involving Northumbria Police, the RSPB and Natural England, [for possession of banned pesticides and poisons] amid fears that the toxins were being used to kill wildlife.

A slight change of tack for me this week and hopefully there’ll be more in the future. I’ve invited some guest writers to put their thoughts and ideas out there, it’s a chance for some new points of view to be aired so I hope dear readers you’ll enjoy and maybe learn something new. First up we have the man behind Stop the Cull, badger warrior and general thorn in the side to the Government and NFU . . . Jay Tiernan.

Jay is going to explain how you can get active without getting muddy.

I’m a keyboard warrior, and you should be too.

“..yet my mind was not at rest, because nothing was acted, and thoughts ran into me, that words and writings were all nothing, and must die, for action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing,” – Gerrard Winstanley

What could be better than words that highlight how useless words are? Well I’d suggest petitions, one step up from a motivational quote and one step below a letter to an MP. There they sit on our stalls and littering facebook, but are they really any good and if so how can we best make use of them? Love them or loathe them there is no denying that they can be used to make people aware of a specific campaign.

They are frequently used by activists doing stalls on our high streets. When asked “do they make any difference?” I’d always reply “No, we quite often just burn them. The only use they serve is to get you to chat to me and maybe give me some money, if you want to change the world then you have to physically do something, talking about it won’t do it”. I still believe that action is the only way forwards, but my view that petitions actually work has recently changed.

Online petitions frequently don’t by themselves achieve very much, but in tandem with actions they are a useful device to raise awareness and are a key tool for modern day online activism.

stop the cull

Indeed there are a number of petitions I can think of in the last year that have done really well, that have raised awareness on an issue which has then gone on to win. Most recently was the wildlife officer who was outed as a hunt supporter. Another petition campaign that also won that comes to mind is the demand for the huntsman who rode over a sab having their charges dropped then brought back by the CPS. In both cases the petitions alone did not work, they worked side by side with other actions, with the wildlife officer there were a number of blog posts and social media posts exposing other elements of police collusion with hunters and with the hunt sab being ridden over there was a demo which gained a lot of media attraction.

So what else can we do from the comfort of our own homes that will work effectively at changing the world besides petitions?

Writing an email to your MP can be frustrating but it’s worth doing if for no other reason than to get MP’s aware of the issues that concern their constituents, you can combine any response from your MP along with the issue you are raising with a letter to your local paper and to national press. These letters are read by potentially tens of thousands of people. A comprehensive list of national press letters page contacts here: http://www.mediahell.org/letters.htm

Twitter can be great for directly contacting people, whether it’s the chief of police to let them know about an officers behaviour or to publically shame an animal abuser. Twitter trends can often be easily used. For instance #dorsethour trends every week and it’s a good time to let people in Dorset about the upcoming badger culls.

Facebook posts that highlight an issue can have a huge reach, including contact details for the people who can make a change are an important part of this, so highlighting a managing director for their companies involvement with their contact details means that the problem is quickly being addressed by a key decision maker. It can also create controversy which in turn may get picked up by main stream press. A useful resource for finding CEO’s is here: http://www.ceoemail.com/

Many people wrongly assume that it is illegal to publicise contact details for businesses or people, it isn’t and a recent industrial tribunal looking at why Natural England decision not to release certain information with the defence that it would be unsafe for those involved to be revealed was overruled. Specifically the tribunal said that it was part of the democratic process for protesters to contact by mail and phoning those who are involved in the badger cull. Big national waged animal rights groups are often afraid of any adverse publicity, we should not be.

jay

Another easy way to get a companies attention is by highlighting their Facebook page, many small businesses have FB pages as well. Hunt Sab groups often post links to pubs where hunts meet, by giving the pubs 1 star reviews on Facebook and any other review website many pubs have very quickly decided to no longer host meets. Phone calls are also very important, I once rang up a pub that had just had press off the back of a hunt meet and was quoted as being delighted to be hosting the hunt meet. I informed the owners that I’d be organising an on-line boycott of the pub, they immediately decided to never host a hunt meet again.

It’s not just pubs that host hunts, mostly it’s farmers and those farmers are probably the weakest link in the hunting world. Whilst a number of them are die hard hunters, many farmers have no interest in having hunts rampaging over their fields and being highlighted on social media and getting calls of complaint could well be the excuse they need to pull out, meaning that they never allow the hunts to hunt across their land again.

To find phone numbers and contact details there are a number of on-line resources you can use to find out more contact details for a person or company, 192.com is probably the best but isn’t free. Google is my usual first stop, using “ “ helps refine searches. After I’ve searched a name and an address and found a land line number I’ll search that again using quotes and that will give much more accurate results. The land registry office will tell you who owns land, you can get some free information by using their map search facility.

Once you have a postcode you can start searching any planning permission requests, which in turn can give you a map of the property boundary, very useful for shooting estates or farms that allow hunting.

If a hunt loses farmers and land to hunt on, then a entire neighbouring areas within their country can also become inaccessible making the future of the hunt harder and harder. This is one of the reasons that an Essex hunt closed down in the past weeks.

To expect sabs who have been out in the fields and who are also holding down full time jobs to do all the research and run an ongoing campaign is probably expecting too much, all the supporters of sab groups can do more than just ringing up or writing reviews, we can also help out with research and exposing those involved with hunting.

Words mean nothing, action is everything.

Stop the Cull

As the NFU’s badger killing exercise draws into it’s final phase we’re reminded that the guidelines drawn up by Natural England are being constantly flouted by those doing the killing. Of course when there was an independent expert panel and monitoring taking place then one would hope that these bad practices would be kept to a minimum but of course the Government sacked the panel when they didn’t provided the kind of conclusion they were hoping for. This of course gave carte blanche to the cull contractors to break any rules they see fit to get their numbers killed however due to some great work in the fields by sabs fighting the cull in all the zones these examples have come to light in a big way, one even making the front page of a national newspaper and another video getting over 50,000 views on social media. We can only assume that these will be the tip of the iceberg.

Gloucestershire badger killer and member of the Ross Harriers Hunt.

Gloucestershire badger killer and member of the Ross Harriers Hunt.

Nottingham Hunt Saboteurs did a fine job in locating and identifying two killers although they had already killed a badger. The shooters had also failed to follow many of the bio-security measures outlined in the best practice guidelines issued by Natural England, notably that the body of the badger wasn’t double bagged but merely stuffed into the back of a rucksack while the cull contractor wasn’t wearing gloves when he handled the animal either. Obviously bio-security is a serious matter however the complete lack of it in the video shows again it’s nothing more than a random killing exercise, they just want the numbers and any relation to bTB is largely being ignored, or of course they know the badgers don’t have TB in the first place. It also wouldn’t surprise you to know both the shooters were identified as members of the Ross Harriers Hunt. Killing is a way of life for these people, it’s not “just a job” as they claim, they love it or they wouldn’t do it.

The second incident occurred when a mixed group of sabs located a badger in a cage trap in the Dorset Zone. This of course shouldn’t be that surprising (although why they need to cage trap when the pilots are about free shooting is another matter) however the most important factor here is the time of day it was discovered. Once again Natural England specify that traps should be inspected and any badger caught must be killed before midday. There are clearly welfare issues involved here and time spent in the trap should be minimised regardless of the final outcome. The time the badger was found in the trap was 2:45 pm. Potentially that animal could have been in there for well over 15 hours. It had certainly made a significant effort to dig it’s way out. Luckily this badger would live to fight another day and was safely released, somewhat stressed and no doubt in need of a drink but otherwise unharmed.

This one had a lucky escape. Note the trappers spade leaning against the fence.

This one had a lucky escape. Note the trappers spade leaning against the fence.

Natural England should be looking at this and at the very least suspending the licenses of the culling contractors involved and holding any payment. Personally I believe the cage trapper should be prosecuted under animal welfare laws as well. How the NFU and Defra (I think they’re one and the same now) can still claim what they’re doing is based on science is quite frankly complete buffoonery. They’re also conspicuous by their silence on these matters. Their arrogance in not even attempting any sort of damage limitation only serves to highlight what they think of the general public at large.

They’ve paid for a cull, they’ll kill what they can, in any way they can and to hell with the licensing.

Email Natural England and ask them if they’re going to enforce their own best practice guidelines: btb@naturalengland.org.uk

LATEST NEWS

It would seem that the killers have reached their minimum targets in Gloucestershire and Somerset. This was to be expected given the randomly selected and low numbers required however they are some way off in Dorset. The NFU will be pulling out the stops and sending their Gloucestershire killing teams to Dorset in an effort to bring the numbers up. We’ll be matching them with more personnel to hopefully neutralise their efforts. More people will always be welcome. Come and do your bit.

It’s national badger day today, it doesn’t feel like something to celebrate.