We've all seen the stomach-churning photographs of trophy hunters proudly sitting alongside a beautiful wild animal they have just killed, and we have been sickened that in the 21st century these cowardly acts of desecration still continue.
But you might be shocked, very shocked, to learn that this repulsive 'sport' is also thriving here in the UK.
Some dubious British companies are offering sadistic tourists the chance to stalk and kill our native wildlife – for 'fun'.
Described as a recreational sport, the practice is, bizarrely, not illegal but some of the animals being hunted and slaughtered in the name of recreation are amongst the rarest of our country's creatures including the endangered wild mountain goat, perhaps the most beautiful and elusive wild animal in Britain.
Mountain goats have somehow missed out on the official protection offered to other threatened species and this loophole is being exploited by the unpleasant companies who advertise the opportunity to stalk and shoot them for a fee.
Hunting mountain goats is openly advertised in Scotland and Northumbria, where numbers of this precious animal have been steadily in decline, and there are reports that the barbaric sport is also being pursued in Wales, where the population of these wonderful creatures is estimated to be less than 500 individuals.
Due to the fact that wild mountain goats are not officially classified as 'game', and because they are not protected by any formal laws, there is no closed season for hunting them which has left them wide open to a free-for-all abhorrent killing spree.
Frenzied carnage, carried out by vile individuals who get a kick out of slaughtering a rare and beautiful animal.
This cannot be tolerated in a country that is supposed to be leading the way in modern thinking with regard to conservation – it is at the very least an anachronism in the 21st century and is another shameful reflection on the human race.
I'll leave the final words to the Welsh Mountain Goats Facebook page, which in January issued this plea:-
“In the UK it is legal to kill any wild goat at any time of the year.
It is legal for companies to charge a fee if you shoot one.
It is legal for a shot goat's head to be mounted on a paying tourist's wall.....
Please please share this post.
Let the world know what is happening on [our] doorstep before every mountain goat is dead.”
I remember many things from the 70s, that fabulous technicolor decade when people walked around in flares and flowery hats, the sun always shined and the music was permanently groovy.
Well, as a youngster growing up in the 70s, it certainly felt that way.
Anyway, I was reminiscing about it all today and I astonished myself by finding that I could still sing the first part of my barmitzvah portion nearly forty years after I 'performed' it back in 1978. The sight of the packed congregation (or 'audience' as I preferred to call it) at the grand Princes Road Synagogue in Liverpool inspired me to believe that one day my dream of becoming a singing sensation might just come true. As I sang my heart out, albeit in a tiny voice shaking with nervous trepidation, I imagined that I was wowing my fans with a medley of Abba hits to rapturous applause. In my head I was a star. In reality I was just another barmitzvah boy with his whole life ahead of him. I never did make the big time – but I still harbor the dream.
Then along came Dean
At about the same time, another Jewish boy, just ten years my senior, from New Jersey, was celebrating the release of a record that was to become a landmark album, one that is still remembered fondly to this day. Indeed “Well Well Said The Rocking Chair” was singer songwriter Dean Friedman's second album, following on from the previous year's self titled release but his Rocking Chair album was to provide him with a clutch of transatlantic chart hits that would catapult him into the public psyche and turn him into a household name.
Such is the legacy of Dean's music that anybody who remembers the 70's will know at least some of the words to 'Lucky Stars' (“..did you see Lisa? Yes I saw Lisa...”), will recall the bittersweet tale of 'Lydia' (“...Lydia keeps my toothbrush in her apartment and she never complains...well hardly ever...”) and will quite probably have tried in vain to reach the highest notes of 'Ariel' (“...way on the other side of the Hudson...”).
With his iconic album celebrating its 40th birthday, Dean is touring again, as he does regularly, to connect with his huge following of loyal fans. With lots of UK dates lined up, he will be singing the entire album live for the delight of his audience. The quality of his writing, both musically and lyrically is the reason why his popularity shows no sign of waning even after all these years. Dean's talent for composing poignant, sometimes melancholic melodies, coupled with upbeat, hopeful, occasionally surreal lyrics, is the reason that his music resonates with so many people. Aside from the much loved hits, the Rocking Chair album itself contains some other real gems. 'Shopping Bag Ladies' is an incredibly moving example.
But Dean has not rested on the success of that legendary album. He is still writing and performing today with the same honesty, zest and humour. And it is because Dean writes from the heart that his music speaks to us of shared experiences and real lives. It's affecting and moving.
Deano in our front room...
So approachable is Dean Friedman that we nearly had him perform in our very own living room last year. In response to my tentative email enquiry, Dean agreed to come to our house and sing for us. Laid back Dean said something like “yeah, sure, why not, just get about 40 people round and we'll do it”. After the sad realisation that we didn't know 40 people (and subsequently vowing to revive our lacklustre social lives), my partner and I also came to the conclusion that our front room would not accommodate even that size of audience anyway. Filled with disappointment, I had to contact Dean and tell him that we would have to wait until we moved to a bigger house. “Hey no worries, see you on the road” was his cheery reply.
What a genuinely nice man.
And on the road he is, right now, marking forty years of making quality music that has influenced more than a generation.
“Well Well Said The Rocking Chair” is available on CD and details of Dean's touring dates and other albums can be found on his website:
So today I received a communication from DEFRA (the British Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) in response to my petition calling on local councils to stop imposing fines on people feeding birds.
Although the response I received contains much information that we generally knew already, it is nevertheless encouraging to have in writing the following statement, which I quote directly from the communication:-
“It is not illegal for people to feed wild animals.”
(I have underlined the 'not'!)
That in itself should give confidence to those kind people who feed our native birds.
The statement is qualified however with the following:-
"However, local authorities have the right, under local government and public health legislation, to put in place local bye-laws preventing the feeding of specified animals on public land in their areas."
This might sound less encouraging but at least it appears to imply that feeding birds on private land is certainly outside of any council jurasdiction. This is interesting because there have been reports of fines being imposed on private householders who feed birds in their own gardens following complaints from intolerant neighbours. In these cases, any action taken by a local council (providing the property is not council owned) should definitely be disputed since feeding birds on one's own private property would appear to be entirely permitted.
Challenging a fine
According to the message I received from DEFRA, any complaint for a fine that is considered unfair should be taken initially to the local council: “Local authorities have complaints procedures and use of these should be the first step for anyone who feels dissatisfied with the way in which the authority has dealt with an issue.”
But another piece of good news is that, should the council fail to address the complaint, then it is not the end of the line: “they can ask for the matter to be investigated by the Local Government Ombudsman”.
I consider this response to our petition to be a result. Bringing the matter to the direct attention of the Government could only have happened with your support and help. And with so many signatures it is clear that this issue is important to very many people.
Thanks so much for your help with highlighting this problem.
We can confidently continue to feed urban wildlife, at the very least within the above guidelines, safe in the knowledge that should a local council or anybody else object then there are ways to challenge both the objection and any fine that is imposed.
Feeding birds on private land should present no problems based on the information I received from the Government today.
The Local Government Ombudsman can be contacted via http://www.lgo.org.uk/
Meanwhile please continue to share the petition far and wide! Petition can be found HERE
With sincere thanks,
Ahh....imagine that headline......well, if only....
I was musing on this fantasy during the past few days in a week that marked both the 44th anniversary of Abba winning the Eurovision Song Contest (yes it is that long ago) and group member Agnetha's 68th birthday.
Time surely flies and the passing years bring with them a nostalgia that only grows stronger and ever more poignant as we grow older. Memory, especially when it is musical memory, seems to carry a great weight of yearning that sits somewhere between the soul and the heart, connecting both in a longing for what was and what might have been. And, to an extent, what still might be, even if that probably doesn't include a reunion of the pop group that brightened up our 1970's and informed the youthful musical taste of a generation.
I remember the thrill of seeing Abba live in concert in 1979, something which now seems so very far away from the place I find myself in 2018. Although the actual feeling of being at that concert has been lost somewhere in time, the nostalgia for it has grown ever stronger. Now I feel an urge to re-live the musical awakening from that time in my life. And thanks to the absolute miracle of recorded sound combined with the wonders of the internet, I can press a couple of buttons and hear the same music right now in the same way that I did then - even if it doesn't have the immediacy of a live performance.
Whether or not Abba will ever sing together again, many of the other artists I recall fondly from my youth are still touring and performing today. Older versions of themselves of course, perhaps unable always to reach the high notes – but with the same stage presence and an extra wave of poignant nostalgia thrown in and sweeping over the whole audience, imparting something really very magical, if occasionally bittersweet, as we share with them the intervening years and our changing lives.
Nostalgia might be big business but it is much more than that. The music that we grew up with carries with it a whole load of baggage, some good, some not so good, and it all pours out when we hear it again, especially when it is performed today by the people that brought it to us the first time around. Then it becomes something overwhelming, it is a shared emotion and a realisation that, although time takes its toll on each and every one of us, we're still here, alive and singing, often tearfully, now at a place in our lives that once lay somewhere beyond a distant horizon.
It seems alas that an Abba reunion is not going to happen. Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Bjorn have said they won't perform together again. That's the Name Of The Game. But we can still wonder at what it would be like if they did. The first few notes of Dancing Queen or the wistful introduction to Fernando might prove too much for many of us. Can you hear the drums? Carried away into a nostalgic whirlwind of memory, our feet would never again touch the ground, we would meet our Waterloo and, like Napoleon, we would surrender.
But what sweet surrender it would be.....
In a baffling turn of events, the idiot tree cutters of Bristol will face no punishment for their crime. These are the plonkers, you'll remember, who illegally had trees chopped down on a railway embankment to 'improve the view' from their homes.
In an age when those with power claim to care about the environment, this sends a contradictory message that will only encourage other crimes against nature.
One has to wonder at the thinking behind the decision of Network Rail to let these environmental thugs off the hook without so much as a slapped wrist or a telling off. The irresponsible residents had not only encouraged trespass on to private property to chop down the trees, but had also, in a highly damaging act of vandalism, destroyed valuable habitat for birds, bats and other wildlife. Now they face no repercussions at all for their reckless action.
Sad times when this kind of destruction is tolerated and goes unpunished.
We live in a country that sometimes appears to nurture cynicism, apathy and complacency. Some of those claiming to 'really care' jump on bandwagons of 'fashionable' environmental trends when it suits them, such as the current obsession with plastic packaging. While we must be grateful for any progress in addressing such important concerns as this (it's a problem which has actually been worrying real environmentalists for years), one might do well to question the motives of some companies, organisations and groups whose rather sudden concern for popular issues must fit nicely with the huge publicity they garner from 'caring'.
I digress a little, but when in a country such as the UK, it is decided not to punish the kind of vandalism we saw in Bristol, then can we really believe that the current vogue for environmental action is genuine? We see careless destruction of precious resources all around us. It's hard to keep up with the wanton dismantling of our own local natural environment.
With HS2 ploughing its way through pristine countryside, wind farms destroying coast and country (while being labeled 'green' and 'ethical') and the ridiculous trend of local councils slapping fines on people who feed wild birds - turning honest citizens into criminals in the process - we are finding ourselves smothered by skewed thinking that can only lead to more destruction, a lack of empathy and understanding - and even less connection with nature.
So the lack of any punishment at all for the Bristol tree killers is a worrying sign. In spite of all the pious declarations of environmental concern that we hear from those who pull the strings, perhaps for the majority nothing could be further from the truth....
An ill wind blows as 'green' turbines continue to kill rare Sea Eagles...
"and I find for the first time in my life that I turn away from the sea. Where once a soul could seek peace in the infinite view and find refreshment in the constantly playful breeze, now it is ill winds that are blowing around our coasts from the menacing turbines."
We were strolling with our new pooch today along the coast of the Wirral Peninsula (in North Western England).
I love a coastal ramble but in this part of the world, where once was a vast open vista of sea and sky that refreshed both the senses and the spirit, there is now a horizon entirely dominated by terrifying wind turbines, some of the tallest in the world.
Regular readers will know that I detest these things, inefficient monsters that destroy our environment and harm wildlife. And that is aside from the fact that they are a horrible blot on our precious seascapes (and landscapes where they appear onshore). Once it was possible to look out to sea and imagine infinity, to allow the mind to contemplate unlimited possibilities; now the view has been sullied and that spirit of inner peace and freedom quashed.
Instinctively I knew these turbines were a harmful development in the world as soon as they began to raise their ugly heads, and this feeling was borne out by reports of the horrible side effects that came along with the folly of wind energy. Detrimental to environment and life, the destructive machines masquerade under a sinister cloak of good intention. It is the very thing we were warned about in folk tales, the proverbial wolf dressed as a sheep.
Sold to the world as a force for good, wind farms are but a dark tool of those who would wantonly destroy the natural wonders that we treasure.
It was with dismay that I heard this week of yet another very rare eagle being killed by the blades of a turbine. Such happenings are common though rarely reported.
This time it was in the Netherlands at a wind farm in Lelystad. The site of the wind farm is close to a nature reserve that has, with tragic irony, been a safe refuge for the endangered Sea Eagles since they were reintroduced to the country a little over a decade ago. The female eagle was believed to be around five years old and had collided with the fast spinning turbine blades at a height of 100 metres. According to experts at Wageningen University, she had broken legs, a broken wing and multiple internal wounds.
A sad end for a majestic creature.
Hundreds of thousands of eagles and other birds are being killed by wind turbines and with most of the deaths being undocumented, the general public remain largely unaware of the destruction caused to bird life by the banks of turbines which are heavily marketed as being 'green' and 'environmentally friendly', clearly a deception. The desperately threatened Sea Eagles in Europe are one of the biggest casualties.
The development of offshore wind farms around our coast, and the coasts of many other countries, is causing huge environmental harm as massive wind turbines are installed in vast 'farms' out at sea. It's nothing less than large scale industrial development and would be never be tolerated onshore. Yet we are allowing it to happen in the last wilderness on our planet – the ocean. In fact many governments are actively promoting this industrialisation of our seas - without our consent. Energy companies, and suspect environmental lobby groups with an interest in the wind industry, employ celebrities to endorse their spin, their intention being to mislead the public into believing that wind energy is a force for good, while pollution and a serious threat to wildlife are just two reasons to suggest that it isn't. Another is that once our coast is blighted by turbines, much like the vandalism that has already been caused by onshore wind farms, there is no turning back. The damage will have been done.
Meanwhile when I walk along the coast here, I find for the first time in my life that I turn away from the sea. Where once a soul could seek peace in the infinite view and find refreshment in the constantly playful breeze, now it is ill winds that are blowing around our coasts from the menacing turbines.
"Like kindred spirits, the birds and I, we sheltered together from the rain."
It was a particularly busy day in town, the kind of day when you are suddenly aware that something is awry with the world.
I felt detached from that world as I watched people scurrying about, clutching carrier bags bursting with stuff they had bought but didn't need. Such is the power of advertising and consumerism.
While the chaos of life rushed by me, through the haze of people I spotted an elderly man sitting on a bench under a tree on the main street that passes through the town centre. I'd seen him before, he was often there.
He was holding a bag, but his bag wasn't full of shopping on this cold October day, it was filled with bits of brown bread and other treats for the birds, mostly pigeons but also a few sparrows, that were flocking around him on the pavement at the base of the tree and perching on the arm of the bench on which the old man sat.
The world weary man smiled at the birds as they eagerly scrambled for the crumbs that he was throwing for them.
I went and sat down on the bench and the old man nodded to me. I watched a bird land and another one fly away with a piece of bread. The old man offered me a few crusts to throw for the pigeons. I took some. The birds, deciding that I could be trusted, began to take the food from me, some of them bold enough to snatch it from my fingers. It made me smile.
“Do you sit here and feed them every day?” I asked the man. He nodded. “Yes, the birds need me but...”, he hesitated, “you know I need them more...”.
“I'm curious”, I said, “as to why you would think that”. His answer startled me. “Souls of the dead”, he replied without looking up; he spoke quietly as if he were telling me a secret, “birds are the winged spirits of those who have passed on, that's what I believe and that's why I come to feed them, it's like seeing old friends again, every day. It's like they never went away.”
I didn't quite know what to say. I carried on throwing food to the birds. Then one of them, a brown and white pigeon, landed on the bench and walked across to the old man. “This one,” he said, “this one I don't know, but she seems to know me. I can't remember who she is. Perhaps I don't even know her, but that's okay, it's always good to meet new friends, isn't it?”
“Yes,” I answered, “it really is”.
We chatted a little more, he told me a few things about his life. He was lonely.
I had to go but I decided that I would buy some food for the birds and return the next day to feed them and to see my new friend, the old man. I didn't know his name but I would ask him many things when I saw him again.
I said goodbye and he waved to me as I disappeared into the swirling crowds.
The next day I went to a pet shop and bought some wild bird seed. I separated it into two bags, one for the old man and one for me, so that we could feed the birds together and chat some more. I felt happy as I walked through town to visit the old man and the birds.
Through the surging hordes of shoppers, I could see the bench. But the old man was not there. My heart sank as I noticed that neither were there any birds. A sign had appeared on the tree next to the bench “Do not feed the birds – penalty £100”.
I never did see the old man again. And the birds had gone too but I found them in another part of town, away from the frenzy of shoppers, near a railway embankment that was strewn with litter, blown there from the overflowing bins in the town centre. The brown and white pigeon, the one that had made such an impression on the old man, was there too. Although there was no bench, I found a tree stump and sat down while I threw the seed to the birds. One of them hopped up on to my lap and took some of the food from the palm of my hand.
The old man's words came back to me. “It's like meeting old friends again every day”. It started to rain and the birds flew away. I could see them under the eaves of a derelict building nearby. I stood in the doorway of the building. Like kindred spirits, the birds and I, we sheltered together from the rain.
That was many years ago. Now I'm an old man and I feed the birds every day, though there aren't as many as there used to be. As it is with all friends, the circle grows smaller with time. Funny though, the brown and white pigeon still comes to see me. The sight of her gives me comfort. It brings to mind something I once wrote....
A soul in such a humble dove,
the harbinger of peace arrives.
she speaks with me of hope and love,
the universe and many lives.
And if my world should fall apart,
my days and years should go awry,
though heavy rocks might still my heart,
In her, I hear a lullaby.
If you enjoy feeding wild birds, please sign my petition: HERE
story and poem © Jason Endfield 2018
In a bizarre move, Regents Park in London is to 'ban' Canada Geese because it claims that the geese pose a danger to the public.
London's royal parks have become notorious for their callous treatment of wildlife which has included mass culling of the animals that inhabit these popular oases of calm in the city, 11,000 animals slaughtered by park authorities at the last count...
Now it seems that the 400 geese which have been regular summer visitors to the park for years will no longer be welcome due to the 'danger' posed to the general public by the birds' droppings, which the park authorities claim make surfaces slippery.
But rather than tackle the problem, they have decided that banning the birds entirely will be the most sensible solution. Hmm. One really has to marvel at such intellect...
The geese arrive annually in order to spend a few weeks at the park's boating lake while they moult. Most people enjoy watching their characterful antics and might well be nonplussed at the park's baffling decision which will involve fencing off the lake to prevent the geese from taking their annual summer holiday. There is no mention as to where the geese will go when they find their usual destination closed to them....
Surely one of the primary reasons people visit parks is to encounter wildlife and it is often the only opportunity for town and city dwellers to enjoy nature in urban environments.
This stupid decision is just another reason to question the competence of the Royal park authorities and one wonders where the nonsense will end.
Perhaps only when they have eradicated all of the wildlife for which the parks are justly famous.
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