My petition calling on Natural England to stop sanctioning the killing of English Ravens has nearly 14,000 signatories to date, illustrating the strong public opposition to the cull.
Following two requests for a response from Natural England, I have finally received a lacklustre and curt reply which amounts to something of an insult to the thousands of people who have signed the petition and expressed their concerns.
In what appears to be a 'copy and paste' statement, someone simply calling themselves 'Jim' assured me that this 'is not a cull'. The statement referred only to licences that were issued in the Peak District. No mention at all of Lancashire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, the other areas where licences to kill these protected birds have also already been issued.
Such a lazy response has done nothing at all to address the very real concerns of a disgusted British public who deserve more than this discourteous message.
I am posting the entire statement here, just to illustrate that Natural England apparently do not hold the views of 14,000 compassionate and intelligent people in a very high regard.
A standard bland and trite statement is frankly not good enough.
The signatories of the petition require a respectful and full response to their enquiry.
This is not it.
The British Government has backed plans to allow nuclear waste to be buried underneath our National Parks, a decision that has caused alarm amongst environmentalists.
Now I'm very much pro-nuclear power, it seems to be the only practical method of producing energy that we currently have, especially when the alternatives are considered.... such as the looney wind turbines that literally cost the earth, polluting the environment and destroying countryside and coast - whilst producing precious little energy.
So, given that we need nuclear energy, we should fully support its further development.
I am however very unsettled by the plan to bury nuclear waste underneath our National Parks, the only remaining areas of protected countryside in our ever more industrialised nation.
Although we can safely assume that nuclear power is considerably more viable than other forms of energy production, nuclear waste remains something of a headache for the industry. With further investment in the nuclear industry - instead of pumping funds into faux-green crackpot schemes like wind farms - we might also assume that processing the by-products will become more efficient and that future nuclear energy production will result in much less waste.
Meanwhile, rather than desecrate what little of our countryside remains, I would propose that we store nuclear waste underneath our towns and cities, areas already desolate when it comes to nature and wildlife.
Human beings have all but eradicated everything natural from our cities by felling trees, exterminating any animal considered to be 'vermin', and concreting over habitat where once urban wildlife survived. And now we want to extend this decimation by burying our waste underneath the last remaining vestiges of wilderness, our National Parks, the final refuge of wildlife and nature in the UK.
I say NO.
It would be unbelievably irresponsible to dump man-made waste in the Lake District or the Peak District or any other of our National Parks.
We should take responsibility for our own waste, we should make sure that our rubbish, when it cannot be re-used, is stored within our own environment. That includes nuclear waste which should be disposed of within the confines of an already industrial landscape, our inner cities and towns.
If that doesn't sit well with the general public, then frankly 'tough'.
We have to be responsible for all the rubbish that we produce. Disposing of any kind of waste in our protected countryside is entirely unacceptable.
The sudden public awareness of our plastic-filled seas (in spite of our obvious decades-long total disregard for that environment) should have taught us something. There are consequences for dumping our waste irresponsibly. And we can no longer plead ignorance.
Governments publicly lament the fate of wildlife and solemnly make promises to protect the environment. But even now in spite of their earnest, but apparently empty, words they are actually considering a plan to dig up our National Parks and turn them into what could be described as huge nuclear landfills.
This is plainly wrong. Have we learnt nothing from the dying oceans? Or do we think that giving up plastic straws and re-using carrier bags is enough of a contribution to saving the planet....?
We need to manage our own waste not hide it in the wilderness, the territory of other species. Until such time as we have developed waste-free nuclear energy, we should be ready and willing to bury nuclear waste under our towns and cities - and certainly not in our National Parks.
It's time to stop investing millions in follies, those silly wind farms and the whims of the misinformed - and instead develop more sensible and long term energy solutions, including more advanced nuclear energy production. Perhaps then we will have no need to defend our last wilderness from the madness of politicians and the selfishness of the human race.
When I'm trying to make sense of life and death - (or as I prefer to call it: life beyond life) - sometimes words will present themselves.
This is a poem that arrived today.
My painting was inspired by a journey to my beloved St. Bees a few years ago. St. Bees is one of my spiritual homes and, as such, an otherworldly destination, much like that in the poem.....
Into The Light (Nothing Is Lost Forever) - A Poem
Sometimes he had closed his eyes
and said a prayer as if he knew
that prayers, like hopes and spirits, rise
in streams of conscious déjà vu.
His life, at times a silent scream;
A butterfly with broken wings,
he lived and died within a dream,
of bittersweet imaginings.
But then he would recall the day,
a morning sun brought sweet release.
The very life that ebbed away
had ushered in a world of peace.
A new existence, nothing's lost,
he knew this place and felt no pain.
He didn't stop to count the cost,
But ran into the light again.
© Jason Endfield 2018
As many of us are currently enjoying the sight of young gulls finding their feet (and wings!) in our towns and cities, this time of year also brings reports of human intolerance and animosity towards these beautiful birds.
In Filey on the Yorkshire coast, not only are police investigating the shooting of several Herring Gulls by some gun-touting idiot, but the local RSPCA had to step in to prevent careless contractors from killing (apparently inadvertently...) dozens of gulls which were inhabiting a derelict building that they were in the process of demolishing. Distressed members of the public had reported seeing dead gulls amongst the rubble.
But the problem is not confined to Yorkshire, nor is gull intolerance only a trait of individuals.
Whole town councils too are becoming hysterical over what they call the gull 'problem'....
Dundee - The Most Hysterical City In The UK?
Dundee appears to be amongst the more absurd parts of the UK when it comes to persecution of urban wildlife. There, fuelled by farcical reports of gulls 'terrorising' the apparently panic-stricken residents, the council have deemed it appropriate to cull nearly 200 gulls. Figures obtained by Dundee's Evening Telegraph show that 174 gulls have been killed so far this year with the number likely to rise.
Dundee council is reported as saying that they are not carrying out a 'cull' but are rather "exercising rights under the Wildlife and Countryside Act".
Hmm. The dictionary definition of 'cull' is " to reduce the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter".
So, in spite of their protestations to the contrary, it seems that Dundee council are indeed carrying out a cull. Why try to dress the slaughter up as something else? Their claims that the gulls pose a significant risk to public safety would be frankly laughable - only there is nothing funny about the mass killing of a supposedly protected species whose population is in steep decline.
Hope Through Education
If incompetent councils continue to act on the demands of a few ridiculous residents then we might as well resign ourselves to a future devoid of urban wildlife.
There is hope, some more enlightened councils have refused to kowtow to the irrational minority.
Meanwhile we as individuals can educate others in our communities to delight in, and respect, these most impressive and misunderstood birds.
Long ago, I wrote a series of diaries in which I observed everyday life from the perspective of my youth.
Though I hadn't seen the diaries for years, I knew I wouldn't have thrown them out (unlike some of my other early attempts at writing which mercifully didn't survive to embarrass me in adulthood...).
So, a few days ago, after several fruitless searches through boxes of memories, some best forgotten and others fondly revisited, I uncovered them, ten volumes of tiny notebooks tied neatly together and wrapped in a polythene bag.
Tentatively I unwrapped them and began to revisit those long ago days from the first half of my life.
I thought I'd take the bold step of sharing some of those very private diary entries on here because, far from being embarrassing ramblings, I am actually quite proud of the young man I find in those dusty old pages....
Lonely but hopeful
I expected them to be the naïve, probably angst ridden, writings of a troubled young man because that's how I think of my young self. I remember being mostly unhappy. I was lonely, that I do know, and the diaries confirm this.
One entry says: "I could do with some friends I think...I can live without people but I think in doing so one can lose touch with reality...."
I wasn't sorry for myself but I was scared and full of self-doubt. I was socially awkward (still am) and trying to find a place for myself in what must have seemed like a very odd world. I did, however, appear to be doggedly 'hopeful' and optimistic: "...anyway things aren't so bad, tomorrow could be the best day of my life, who knows!"
But as the years went on, I can see, through reading the diaries, the point that I eventually spiralled into depression much of it no doubt stemming from being unable to 'come out' as gay. This was the eighties and, although attitudes were changing, being openly gay was still not an option for me, so I found making friends difficult. I acted 'straight' and became quite good at it, convincing both family and friends (and even myself at times) in the process, but I can see now from this distance and with the benefit of hindsight that it was destroying me on the inside and something would have to give eventually. It did - but it took several more years.
Though reading some of the diary entries makes me a little sad, seeing that young man trying to make sense of a life that had as its foundation pretence, misconception and uncertainty, I am nevertheless pleasantly surprised to find that, not only were the private thoughts of my young self fairly mature, but often upbeat and sometimes very funny. It was also good to discover that even then I was aware of the environment and troubled by the destruction of nature that I saw happening around me.
This entry related to a field behind our house: "went for a walk around the housing estate that used to be 'our' field. So very very sad. I used to watch kestrels, frogs, voles and see wild flowers and blackberries and elder trees - and so much more. All of it has gone. The awful part is that all that wildlife had nowhere else to go, it simply 'went'..."
But throughout my diaries there was always that thread of hope. That same day's entry ended with: "there's always some good if one looks for it, our garden is erupting in wild poppies, nature will always have the winning hand".
I was always taking little journeys of discovery - and self discovery - even whilst still at school when I would 'bunk off' and walk for hours by myself, a trend that continued into my late teens and early twenties.
I came across an entry describing a solo trip I'd made to North Wales. "Got on the train to Betws-y-coed and broke the journey at Llanrwst. Beautiful there, really beautiful. I walked perhaps five hundred yards out of the little town centre and gasped at the simple beauty of the autumn wooded hillsides.... I sat for over an hour on the banks of the lovely river and ate sandwiches. Brown trout leapt out of the water, having evaded an angler or two further upstream..."
It wasn't all nature and (borderline twee) observations on my surroundings.
Home life was sometimes very challenging but the people around me were often inspirational and the source of humour. Humour, I've discovered since re-reading my diaries, was the way I got through my loneliness and the heartache of a troubled and closeted youth.
My grandmother appears frequently in the diaries, as do other members of my immediate family. I hadn't however realised just how much the wider family had influenced me. Elderly relatives, Great Aunts and Uncles - now long gone - were often around and provided stability, wit and wisdom.
I'm enjoying thumbing through the diaries now, I'm dipping in and out of the ten volumes so there's plenty of reading to do. The diaries ended abruptly in December, 1990 but there were two further entries three years later where I spoke of the changes in my life. The first reads: "my family continue to provide stability in my confused life though I fear becoming a burden to them. I know I need to change some things and to face up to what is all too 'real'."
That thinly veiled reference to my sexuality shows that I was ready to take a leap of faith and embrace change. It seems I had emerged from my lowest lows and was ready to find a brighter way forward.
The very last entry was 24th September 1993. I wrote about having witnessed a butterfly being attacked by a wasp and it had obviously affected me. I wrote: "I saw how fragile life is. Why though do some butterflies fall victim to wasps while others survive? Is there, as some would have me believe, a karmic law in effect? Or is this life just chaos?"
In the twenty five years since the diaries ended, I did manage to turn my life around. Many challenges came along but, as most of us do, I survived. The family circle has grown smaller but is still central to my life, a very few good friends remain and I was eventually honest with myself in acknowledging my true identity - and living it.
The final words of the diary are some that I can still say with honesty today, all these years later:
"some truths will always remain constant in my mind. There is God and all is well"
It's a shocking figure isn't it?
In addition to this, more than 4 million pigs are also killed every single day and millions of other animals in the nightmarish world of factory farming*.
Although I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan, I do recognise that these figures are unacceptable and so I have been making efforts to cut down on meat consumption as part of a plan to implement a more responsible diet. It's a moral conflict I have to deal with but we have to be realistic, there is no sign of the wider world turning vegan, let alone vegetarian, and so we need to find a way to end the terrible over consumption of meat - and more importantly to stop the abominable treatment of animals that has become part of the whole unpalatable process.
The Way Forward: Cultured Meat
If there were ever an argument for cultured meat - the mass production of real meat grown without animals - then the mind boggling numbers of animals killed each day should be enough reason to embrace the 'meat without animals' ethic.
Because the truth is that people are clearly not going to give up eating meat any time soon - and meanwhile 180 million chickens and many millions of other animals are being slaughtered every single day to feed gluttonous human beings.
Cultured meat, also known as 'lab meat' and 'clean meat', is real meat grown from animal cells but without the need for animals.
It's undoubtedly the way forward.
A Matter Of Education
People consume far too much meat, a trade fuelled by advertising, the trend for fast food and a gross lack of education. When my generation was growing up, we ate chicken perhaps once a week. We ate lots of vegetables and many meals were produced using humble ingredients. It's not only healthier but more economical - but that way of approaching food has been lost and has given way to pure greed, a trend symbolic of the 21st century and all that is wrong with the world.
Many young people, at least in the western world, are fed a diet that is far too meat centric. The rise and rise of fast food chains illustrates this. It is seen as a treat to make frequent visits to unhealthy fast food chains where high fat, low quality food like burgers or vile chicken 'nuggets' are consumed in vast quantities. One wonders whether many of this generation would even be able to prepare a meal from raw ingredients, let alone one that contained any kind of useful nutrition.
It's unhealthy, unsustainable and unethical.
Shameful Disregard For Animal Welfare
But the biggest shame - and it is very shameful - is that figure.
180,000,000 chickens killed every day to satisfy human greed.
The sooner cultured meat reaches the marketplace the better. The unimaginable cruelty that animals suffer at the hands of humans to satisfy selfish gluttony is frankly disgusting.
Many times when I advocate the merits of cultured meat, I am met with a less than enthusiastic response. Claims that the process is somehow 'unethical' or that it smacks of sinister Frankenstein-like meddling with our food, are spurious. It is less 'meddled with' than all the mass produced supermarket meat that is consumed today, some of which has been pumped full of Lord-knows-what to make it bigger and heavier than it would naturally be - and filled with chemicals to counteract the disease that would normally occur under the cramped and unnatural conditions under which the animals are raised.
An Ethical Way Forward
Israeli company Supermeat are one of the pioneers in the production of cultured meat. I've written about them before but it seems apt in the light of these appalling figures to reference them again. It's not only the fact that switching to cultured meat will mean an end to the immense cruelty associated with factory farming but, as Supermeat's website points out "according to research, switching to clean [cultured] meat will allow a reduction of up to 98% in greenhouse gas emissions, 99% in land exploitation, and up to 96% in water usage."
That is why I support the efforts of companies such as Supermeat and others who are striving towards a world where factory farming will be a thing of the shameful past.
Many will call me a hypocrite for eating meat whilst criticising the meat industry but to be honest, that's not the point. I see and acknowledge all that is wrong with factory farming. It is symptomatic of a world where ethical thinking is fast disappearing. Greed and gluttony are becoming acceptable traits.
Cultured meat would provide the solution to at least one of the world's problems.
And to those who remain sceptical I ask: can you live with the knowledge that 180,000,000 chickens lose their lives each and every day to satisfy your craving for a cheap meal?
My petition to save English ravens from being culled is getting lots of support from the public - showing quite clearly that we will not tolerate the persecution and extermination of a rare and protected native species.
As the number of signatures approaches 3,000 we are sending a clear message to those in power that giving a green light to kill these majestic birds will not be tolerated.
When we get to the 5,000 mark, I'll contact Environment Secretary Michael Gove and try to persuade him to revoke the licences and to stop the issuing of any more.
Please continue to sign and share the petition - and sincere thanks again for all of your fantastic support.
Farmers will be allowed to shoot protected Ravens in England it has been announced. Natural England, the Government sponsored wildlife agency, has issued licences for the cull in spite of widespread public outrage when similar permissions were given to kill Ravens in Scotland earlier this year.
The birds, which are only now beginning to recover from long term decline, remain a very rare species with an estimated population of less than 8,000 pairs in the whole of the UK.
According to farmers, the Ravens attack lambs and piglets which they say justifies the new move to shoot the birds.
Although it is clearly terrible to hear accounts of Ravens killing lambs, one does have to point out the hypocrisy when the same lambs are destined to suffer a similar fate at the hands of humans a little further down the line anyway....
The move to cull these magnificent birds raises many questions about the government's commitment to conservation and preserving wildlife. They point out that the numbers of birds shot will be "strictly limited". Of course that will depend on the integrity of the farmers.
A statement issued by Natural England (quoted in the Sunday Times) claims that "The number of birds killed......won't harm the improving conservation of this species." They are either so naïve as to believe their own claim or they are attempting to pacify an already furious public with hollow reassurances that will do nothing to improve their already tarnished reputation. They are, after all, the same people who sanctioned a free-for-all nationwide badger killing spree.
I've set up a petition to persuade the government to think again and revoke the licences.
Please sign and share widely.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN
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