Posts Tagged ‘NFU’

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.

Today, Thursday 21st July MP’s will debate a ban on the manufacture, possession and use of snares in the UK. The motion was tabled by Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge, Jim Dowd. The text of the motion is as follows:

“That this House notes the indiscriminate and cruel nature of snares, the failure of previous attempts at voluntary and self-regulation amongst operators, and the continued suffering caused to thousands of animals every year by these traps; and calls on the Government to implement a full ban on the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares at the earliest opportunity.”

Now regular readers of this blog will know of my personal hatred of these devices along with all the other cruel and indiscriminate devices of death in the arsenal of the gamekeepers employed by shooting estates across our green and sometimes not-so-pleasant land. The text of the motion is spot on. There is no self-regulation amongst the users and, by-and-large that’s because they are often well out of the way of prying eyes and there is little chance of discovery. And let’s face it, gamekeepers don’t do the job they do because they have concerns for animal welfare.

According to figures from Defra’s own studies 1.7 million animals fall victim to snares in the UK every year. 1.7 million, that’s a pretty bloody big number by anyone’s reckoning. Imagine all that wildlife that wouldn’t have to suffer . . . and it’s not only wildlife that suffers, domestic pets are often caught and, if not discovered will also end up on a stink pit or thrown away somewhere discrete so they aren’t discovered by their owners.

There are 2 types of snare, the self locking which is illegal to use (but still turn up) and the free running which is intended to only hold the victim until the keeper comes along and smashes it’s head in with a blunt instrument. The animals caught suffer huge distress, continually pulling against the device and causing themselves horrendous injuries, some animals will even attempt to gnaw their own limbs off in an effort to escape. They are so cruel even badger hater and previous Secretary for the Environment Owen Paterson MP (remember him?) said this: “I am completely convinced that trapping and snaring are hideously cruel”.

I almost had to have a lay down after reading that.

Animals at Risk Snaring Infographic

Graphic courtesy of LACS

Now no doubt there will be lots of shouting in their defence from the shooting industry along with bogus claims that they provide a service to the environment and in fact have a positive impact on biodiversity but we all know that is complete codswallop. Shooting estates, be they Pheasant, Partridge or Grouse are black holes for our wildlife, in particular mammalian predators and birds of prey. All these species are persecuted relentlessly and banning snares will be one small step in the battle to save more of our native species. Some species like the Hen Harrier are now virtually extinct from England, this is solely due to the persecution they face at the hands of the shooting industry, an industry which takes everything and yet puts back nothing. Here’s reminder from my own story, Woodland of Death.

 

I watched the debate, Jim Dowd put forward a compelling argument despite the best attempts from some parties who’s ignorance was beyond a joke. The new Parliamentary Under of Secretary of State for DEFRA, Dr Thérèse Coffey, responded by saying a new code of conduct will be published. Really? What’s the point in that? The old code of conduct was never adhered to and I doubt this one will be. So if you’re out and about in our countryside and you see one of these devices . . . well, you know what to do.

Petition to ban snares.

Petition to ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

Jim Dowd

Jim Dowd during the debate.

 

 

 

Everyone is no doubt fully aware of the political turmoil currently taking place in the UK. With the Brexit vote and the subsequent resignation of David Cameron we are left with the back biting and scheming which usually follows in the wake of the various leadership challenges. Personally I feel this is a massive missed opportunity by the opposition party to really put some serious pressure on the Government but it would seem they are too wrapped up in their own arguments and leadership squabbles to mount anything of substance.

So who are the current options for PM and their stance on wildlife?

The two main protagonists in the tory leadership contest are Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. It would seem that the main Tory media has come out strongly in favour of May and Leadsom’s recent gaff regarding motherhood making her a better option for Prime Minister has put a serious dent in her leadership campaign and she is no doubt feeling the pressure if her recent outbursts in her defence are any guide. So realistically speaking it would appear that May is pretty much going to be our next PM.

Initially this would appear to be a good thing, Leadsom is a supporter of the Grafton Hunt, a notoriously violent and racist bunch who like to attack monitors and describes foxes as “vermin that need to be controlled”. She also tries to justify her stance by misquoting the Burns Report or just singularly failing to understand the basics of ecology and the scientific facts contained therein. For some inexplicable reason she seems to think that fox hunting is good for animal welfare. I’m fairly sure being savagely ripped apart by a group of hounds couldn’t be classed as a welfare improvement but then again I’m not mentally deranged. Even if we ignore her militant Christian views on gay marriage, her hatred towards single parent & unmarried families and her proposed reduction in workers rights we are still left with a right wing, wildlife hating nut job who could pass for Nigel Farage in a dress.

295_ew4wkk6hkz

So it would seem Theresa May is better of the two options, it certainly couldn’t get any worse. Or could it?

The thing with self serving politicians is that they’re always keen to give a sound bite or quote, they can pander to their lobby group chums in high places in return for promises of votes. It came as no surprise then that my friends over at Stop the Cull produced this little snippet.

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So once again we can see that May is openly in favour of a return to the cruelty which hunting with hounds, without question, commits. Like Leadsom she also seems ignorant of the facts and I wonder, given the recent expose of hunts rearing foxes and throwing cubs to the hounds, would she like to reconsider her statement?

I have no doubt both contenders would support the further expansion of the pointless and cruel badger cull as they want to court the NFU vote, an unelected corporate identity so deeply entrenched within Defra they virtually dictate Government environmental policy and have strong ties with the Countryside Alliance, another insidious organisation with too much power and influence for the benefit of a small minority.

And herein lies the problem with these people and politics in general. In a democratic society we vote for the person we believe will represent our best interests. The Prime Minister has not only his or her constituents to consider but also that of the whole nation. Personal opinion shouldn’t come into it, they should listen to the people and do what they want. We’ve been forced by referendum to leave the EU. Whatever your views on the subject you have to respect that the decision was democratic (even if a large percentage of the electorate didn’t seem to know that they were voting for) and we have to accept that.

Perhaps we should have a referendum on hunting, I’d bet my mortgage that the result in favour of a complete ban would be more than 52/48.

UPDATE: It would seem that Leadsom is now no longer going to challenge for the Tory leadership so we can safely assume May will be the next PM and fast tracked into number 10.

 

If you’re a follower of my regular ramblings you’ll be wondering why it’s been so quiet over the last few weeks. I’ve been on my holidays watching Eagles, Otters and Pine Marten on the West coast of Scotland and after the shambles that is Brexit and English politics in general I put some serious consideration in staying north of the border and ordering a kilt. But I’m back and what a busy news time it’s been so I’ll get right on it.

SHH_cub

First up was the investigation and subsequent arrest of members from the South Herefordshire Hunt for their unimaginable cruelty to the fox cubs they threw to their hounds. We’ve always known hunts breed foxes but this is the proof of the brutal levels to which they’ll stoop. This was a fine job by the Hunt Investigation Team in difficult circumstances and hopefully these savages will face the full force of the law although I suspect any sentence, once proven guilty won’t be enough. The pro hunt side have been very quiet on the issue with some mutterings from the Countryside Alliance using words like “isolated incident” but then we all know the reality and with any luck the hunt will now cease to exist and vanish under it’s own cloud of disgrace.

Then hot on the heel of this revelation was the release of footage gained from another independent investigation centred around the Pytchley Hunt. Many hours of undercover work and hidden cameras proved once again that hunts were far from providing some sort of wildlife management service. Again fox cubs were removed from the vixen (who was most likely killed) and kept in a secluded location, fed and watered, although caged for some time. Once the hunting season came about these same foxes were to provide the sick enjoyment hunters demand. Terriermen can be seen sending dogs down and flushing the foxes so they can be hunted.

cub

Full video can be seen here.

These incidents completely explode all the myths hunters and their supporters constantly spout regarding their legality and justification. Further to this you may wish to contact the BBC and ask why they are featuring hunts on their Sunday evening prime time TV show Countryfile. You can sign the petition and find out more here. To be honest the BBC should have named the show National Farmers Union Weekly and it covers little of what really occurs in our countryside and the promotion of the illegal activities carried out by hunts is not what I pay my TV license for.

And finally if you needed any more proof of the mentality of these people here’s a lovely post from the Ban Hunt Saboteurs facebook page regarding the announcement that Bill Oddie is the new President of LACS.

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Making fun of mental illness is neither big nor clever but then I’ve come to expect such vitriol from these vile people. I’ve met Bill several times and he’s a champion for our wildlife and certainly not afraid to tell it like it is. Our wildlife is under threat now more than ever, be it raptor persecution by shooting estates, the continued needless slaughter of our badgers and the organised crime that is hunting with hounds. It’s time to get involved.

UPDATE: It would seem the Pytchley Hunt have withdrawn from Countryfile Live. Well done to all those who contacted the BBC. There will be more revelations regarding the Pytchley revealed in due course.