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....
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