"We have reached the point.... where kindness is officially a crime...."
So Natural England have spoken (again).
2019 will be the year that they want to make criminals out of some of the most compassionate people in the country, those who rescue and rehabilitate wildlife.
No longer will wildlife rescues be permitted to ease the suffering of species which Natural England have decided are 'invasive' and therefore not worthy of compassion and kindness. In discriminating between animals, Natural England have perhaps reached an all time low - and as we know they have already sunk to some depths, such as when they gave the green light to killing native songbirds including the robin and wren.
Previously, laws were in place requiring wildlife rescues to apply for a licence to help injured and orphaned grey squirrels. Though restrictive, these licences allowed for the rehabilitation of limited numbers of the animals.
Now Natural England have sent an email to rescues advising them that their licences will not be renewed. From the end of March, any wildlife rescue or vet that is presented with an injured or orphaned grey squirrel, will, by law, be required to kill it.
"Absolutely Devastating" - Animal Aid
Jade Emery of Animal Aid said of the new rules, "To make rescuing any animal in need against the law is absurd and absolutely devastating. This new Order will do nothing but needlessly increase animal suffering and it is completely implausible that Natural England are unaware of this fact."
She called the new rule 'tyrannical' and added that "by implementing these new regulations, Natural England will be condemning these innocent animals to suffering and often death, and robbing them of any chance of rescue."
The same will apply to some other non-native 'invasive' species such as the diminutive Muntjac Deer.
Compassion Should Not Be 'Regulated' By Natural England
It shouldn't be Natural England's decision.
Wildlife belongs to nobody - and compassion should not be regulated by Natural England, an agency that clearly knows nothing about human-kindness.
It seems that we have reached the point where kindness is officially a crime.
Natalia Doran of Urban Squirrels, a London-based rescue, has started a petition which aims to stop the new regulation coming into force.
You can sign it HERE
"Where is the public fury over the deaths of hundreds of whales right here in the seas around the United Kingdom? "
The world was outraged - and rightly so - when Japan announced that it would resume commercial whaling, in the face of huge international condemnation.
But what has struck me since that news broke is the fact that we have such double standards when it comes to what we will and will not tolerate...
1000 whales dead in British waters: where are the activists and the politicians?
Where is the public fury over the deaths of around 1000 whales right here in the seas surrounding the United Kingdom? Where are the 'greens', the 'activists', the politicians?
All have been (justifiably) very vocal in condemning Japan, they claim to care about the environment and the welfare of wildlife and yet are strangely quiet over the issue of whale deaths here in the UK.
Perhaps it is because of their unwavering support for offshore wind farms, an industry which may be directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of whales, dolphins and porpoises around our coasts.
Wind turbines, which many erroneously see as the saviours of the planet, are actually damaging the environment irreversibly. As I've said many times, their manufacture, installation and operation results in massive harm to wildlife, habitat and ecosystems, whilst offering little in return.
Reckless: Labour's plan to 'increase offshore wind capacity seven-fold'
We have seen a huge, unprecedented, increase in deaths of marine mammals around the British coast in recent years, 2018 has been particularly devastating for the creatures that inhabit our seas. Yet the little research that has been published into this mass mortality has not ruled out a connection between wind farms and the catastrophic increase in whale deaths.
This week we heard the Labour party's shadow business and energy secretary, Rebecca Long Bailey promising to increase offshore wind capacity seven-fold should they come to power. The news was widely and publicly applauded by 'greens' everywhere. Can anyone be so utterly deluded or irresponsible as to announce such a plan without any thorough research having been carried out into the harm that offshore wind farms might cause to marine mammals and ecosystems?
Surrounding Britain with more vast wind farms would be completely reckless and would threaten the future survival of many species, including whales and other marine mammals, not to mention endangered sea birds.
Only the deluded and irresponsible would argue for more wind farms, surely?
We should universally condemn Japan for its terrible decision to resume commercial whaling.
But politicians and faux greens living in their own glasshouses should be wary of throwing too many stones whilst they are eagerly promoting wind energy on our doorstep.
Saving the planet is not a pick'n' mix ideology.
In the absence of proof to the contrary, we must assume that offshore wind farms might be contributing to the increase in whale deaths around British coasts. And that means we must resist plans to fill our seas with more turbines.
Only the deluded and irresponsible would argue otherwise, surely...?
"Vast arrays of massive industrial wind turbines are, to any rational mind, entirely incompatible with delicate marine ecosystems...."
The Welsh government has, some might say, gained a reputation for something of a 'gangster' approach to industrial wind farm development, riding roughshod over the land, ignoring the wishes of local people, whose lives are being adversely affected by the industrialisation of their timeless landscapes.
Take the debacle at the Hendy wind farm site at Llandegely. This is a farce of the highest order. But a farce might imply comedy - and there is nothing remotely funny about the vandalism of the wonderful Llandegely countryside.
The Hendy wind farm was strongly opposed by the local community, and the local council too rejected the plan. But the government overturned both decisions and the development is sadly now progressing. With concrete being poured into the pristine landscape, local people are utterly dismayed that their treasured countryside is being ruined forever.
But they are still fighting, determined to resist.
'Protected' Seas At Risk Of Industrial Development
Speaking of Wales, it's worth noting that the Welsh government is perhaps not even satisfied with ruining the beautiful Welsh countryside with onshore wind farms.
Ministers seems likely to pursue plans for more offshore wind farms in spite of the fact that 69% of the seas around Wales are classed as Marine Protected Areas and of international importance to wildlife. Marine Protected Areas constitute a combination of: Special Areas of Conservations (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ), Nature Conservation MPAs (NCMPA), Marine Nature Reserves (MNR), and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The reason for the existence of such designated areas is to protect the unique natural environment and delicate ecosystems that are covered by these classifications.
But a report for the Welsh Government, produced by Carbon Trust suggests that this protection may not necessarily be a major barrier to new projects, provided that Habitat and Environmental Impact Assessments can demonstrate 'no significant adverse effects'.
The problem is that such assessments tend to be led by the Crown Estate (who claim ownership of the sea bed to 12 nautical miles) and the wind farm developers themselves.
Dolphins, Whales, Turtles - All At Risk
The development of more offshore wind farms will present a significant threat to birdlife of course - we know the effects of turbine strike on birds - but there are major concerns too over their impact on marine mammals such as the Harbour Porpoise. This species is thought to be especially vulnerable to wind farm development, especially in the construction phase, and has been the subject of strict European protection laws in recent years.
Many other legally protected species are present in the waters of the Irish Sea, around the Welsh coast.
These include Bottlenose dolphin, Short-beaked common dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Minke whale, Sturgeon, Loggerhead turtle, Green turtle, Kemp’s Ridley turtle, Hawksbill turtle and Leatherback turtle.
In order to carry out work that might affect these vulnerable creatures, it would be necessary to apply for a licence. Unfortunately for the animals, the licences are issued by Natural Resources Wales, the same body that thought it was acceptable to hand out licences to shoot some 20 endangered species of birds....
New laws that came into effect in 2017 (Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations) (CHSR) prohibit, among other offences, 'disturbing' whales, dolphins and porpoises.
I suggest that the installation of industrial scale wind farms would, without doubt, 'disturb' such animals.
Vast arrays of massive industrial wind turbines are, to any rational mind, entirely incompatible with delicate marine ecosystems.
Worldwide Problem - And Worldwide Protests
Wales currently has three offshore wind farms, and although there are no confirmed plans to further industrialise the Irish Sea around the Welsh coast, it seems likely, in the wake of the Welsh Government report, that there is an intention to develop wind farms in the area.
It would of course be wrong to single out Wales in this matter.
The UK as a whole has the dubious reputation of possessing the biggest offshore wind farms in the world. It's nothing of which to be proud. In a recent article, I put forward the theory of a possible correlation between the proliferation of wind farms around the UK and the huge number of cetacean deaths in seas around Britain in recent years. Not enough research has been carried out into the plausible and potentially catastrophic effect of wind farms on marine life and yet we find ourselves having already filled the seas with industrial turbines on a massive scale.
Ireland too is exploring the possibility of industrialising its seas.
In France, communities are fighting projects that include building large wind farms off the beautiful Atlantic coast much to the chagrin of those living on the region's beautiful islands.
And further afield, worried residents of coastal United States are fighting their own David and Goliath battles against big wind companies who want to monetize the ocean.
Wind Energy - The 'Quack Cure' Remedy For An Environmental Crisis
This voracious appetite and fashionable trend for wind energy is so misguided.
It isn't, and will never be, the solution to climate change, global warming, whatever label you'd like to place on the crisis facing this amazing world that we share with so many other forms of life.
Pursuing wind energy, as I've said many times, is adding to the chaotic damage that the human race is wreaking on our planet and is putting even more of our wildlife and its habitat at risk.
It's all bad.
Trashing the seas, killing the creatures that inhabit our oceans. Humankind has learnt nothing. How many windmills will it take before the idealists realise the gross stupidity in believing these monsters to be some miracle that is going to save our world?
It's not a solution, it is nothing more than the old remedies peddled by quack doctors that were claimed to cure all ills and yet contained nothing more than a spoonful of sugar mixed with a dash of gullibility.
It didn't work, it didn't cure the problem - and neither will wind turbines.
We have an environmental crisis and they are trying to make it better with a sugar pill. But it's a sugar pill dipped in poison - because while the wind turbines spin, they are potentially killing the oceans.
Worshipping false idols and believing them to be the saviours of the world.
It's an age old story - and still it is being proclaimed as truth.
It seems that humankind will never ever learn.
Wales: Licences Granted To Kill 100 Linnets and 19 Other Red/Amber List Species : 2448 Birds At Risk
Twenty Threatened Species On Welsh Hit List (01/17 to 09/18)
In the wake of the shocking news that both Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England have been issuing licences to shoot some of our most treasured birds, come more awful revelations, this time from Wales.
Many people have been in touch with me, lamenting the apparent decline of birds in Wales, so it is with a heavy heart that I share with you these statistics.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the body that claims to 'maintain and enhance biodiversity', has been busy issuing its own licences to kill.
Figures from a FOI request* show that in less than two years (01/17 to 09/18), 73 licences were issued covering a staggering 2,448 birds of at least 20 species.
All of these birds are on the RSPB Red and Amber lists.
Some might say that it makes NRW's slogan of 'Looking after our environment for people and nature' seem a little spurious.
NRW issued licences that permitted the killing of a diverse list of species that included Linnets, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Meadow Pipits, Lapwings and Skylarks. Though a number of the individual licences ultimately resulted in no reported deaths, many more do not detail the number of birds actually killed as the figures had not yet been submitted by the time the information was collated. That in itself might make one wonder just how NRW monitors the culls once permission has been granted. They say in respect of the unknown totals "we have not received licence reports for some of the licences listed on the attached spreadsheet. This is because most of these licences are still either current or have just recently expired."
Hundreds Of Birds Confirmed Killed
But some figures are confirmed and are very worrying.
In the case of Gulls and Starlings at least, it appears that a very high number were taken while many more are likely to have been killed by the time the final figures were logged.
NRW issued licences to kill up to 617 Herring Gulls, 499 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (mostly to 'preserve public health and safety'), and a staggering 1022 Starlings (some of the allocation to 'preserve air safety' but also bizarrely to 'prevent serious damage to cattle feed').
(...killing birds because they are damaging cattle feed? Makes no sense to me)...
Another reason given as justification for culling both Starlings and various species of Gull was (bizarrely) to prevent 'serious damage to livestock' including chickens, cattle and lambs.
(How, one might ask, does a Starling carry out serious damage to a cow?)
All in all it seems that randomly allocated reasons are given as justification for issuing licences to kill some of our most threatened species.
One of the saddest statistics from the list is that of two licences to kill a total of 100 Linnets for being a threat to air safety. While we all appreciate that ensuring the safety of air traffic is essential, one has to wonder whether permitting the extermination of 100 Linnets is entirely necessary, or indeed appropriate, in order to maintain public welfare. One of the Linnet licences resulted in no reported birds being taken but the outcome of the second licence, allowing for a further 50 birds to be killed, is not confirmed.
Other permits enabled applicants to kill Curlews, Oyster-catchers, Stock Doves and Kestrels (also for 'preserving air safety').
Remember the Passenger Pigeon.....
So, there we have it. The full tally of birds is below.
ALL of these are red/amber listed species.
Only birds on the red and amber conservation lists are included, so there will be many many more birds killed under different licences which do not appear on this list, for example ravens and pigeons.
The long term survival of our struggling birds appears to be in serious doubt while these public bodies are in charge of 'protecting' our precious wildlife. Unless this changes, we will surely see many more extinctions reminiscent of the Passenger Pigeon's infamous demise during the 19th century when a population of 5 billion was reduced to zero in a hundred years because humankind found reasons to 'control' these beautiful creatures.
It seems that little has changed.
An urgent and widespread shift in attitude towards wildlife is needed.
The issuing of licences to kill threatened birds - just because they are are in conflict with human activity - needs to stop.
Otherwise, make no mistake, they will be gone. Forever.
Totals of birds permitted to be taken by NRW between 01/17 and 09/18 (bird numbers associated with each individual licence have been added together)
* I am extremely grateful to Mike Bosley for providing these statistics, the result of his Freedom of Information request to NRW.
Herring Gull 617
Lesser Black-backed Gull 499
European Starlings 1022
Great Black-Backed Gull 29
House Sparrow 16
Black Headed Gull 65
Common Gull 2
Meadow Pipit 2
Mistle Thrush 2
Song Thrush 2
In addition another licence was issued to control an unspecified number of "Wild birds"
- this licence is explained by NRW as follows:- "the number of wild birds permitted to be killed under the licence was not specified; this is due to the fact that the licence covered works along an extensive electricity line, and it was therefore not possible to specify a number. Please note that the licence did not permit the killing of Schedule 1 species."
This is worryingly vague.....
Licence To Kill. Wren, Bullfinch, Skylark, Oyster Catcher, Robin.....40 Species On Natural England's Death List
Natural England have confirmed that they issued licences to shoot at least 40 species of birds between 2015 and 2018. The list of species makes for shocking reading and includes such treasured birds as the Skylark, Blackbird, Great Tit, Red Kite, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Kestrel, Bullfinch, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Plover, Robin and Wren.
I received the grim news as a result of a Freedom Of Information request.
Natural England say that these are all 'individual licences' permitting the 'lethal control (shooting)' of the said birds.
The list doesn't even include any species listed on the CL12 'Air Safety Class' licence or General Licences GL04, GL05 and GL06, so the actual number of species targeted is likely to be much higher.
I'd requested the information as part of my campaign to stop the cull of English Ravens and, in their response to my enquiry, Natural England have also confirmed that permission was granted to allow a total of 60 Ravens to be shot during the same period, 45 having been shot to date.
The news that so many of our most treasured species of birds have been shot is appalling and fills me with dismay. I know many of you will feel the same.
A significant number of the species for which shooting licences have been granted are classed as endangered and feature on the RSPB Red and Amber lists for birds of conservation concern, several including the Skylark, Curlew and Ringed Plover being in need of the most urgent conservation.
While the specific reason for each of the licences being issued is not known, can there be any justification for shooting a Bullfinch? Or a Wren for heaven's sake?
Who in their right mind requests permission to shoot a Skylark?
And for what possible reason?
The world, it seems, has finally gone mad.
Here is the full list of species for which shooting licences have been issued:-
Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull, Lesser Black Back Gull, Curlew, Oyster Catcher, Buzzard, Raven, Kestrel,
Peregrine Falcon, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Stock Dove, House Sparrow, Wren, Black Bird, Great Tit, Finch, Starling, Golden Plover, Cormorant, Goosander, Egyptian Goose, Moorhen, Mallard, Pink Footed Goose, Canada Goose, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Ruddy Duck, Bullfinch, Ringed Plover, Fantailed/White Dove Barnacle Goose, Robin, Coot, Sky Lark, Sparrow
*Red List Species Highlighted In Red *Orange List Species Highlighted In Orange
Today I took a long walk in the pouring rain. And I did some thinking. And wrote a poem.
I call this 'St Bees weather', it reminds me of my youth, walking for hours in my little piece of heaven, a tiny, remote village on the edge of the sea in Cumbria.
It seemed to rain a lot in St Bees.
But, getting soaked through, meandering aimlessly across fields, down tree lined lanes, listening to the raindrops, surrendering to the elements;
Well it was freeing and life enhancing.
Now, alas, I live in a town. 'Needs must' and all that. But I still take long walks in the rain - and I can still feel the joy of getting soaked through.
Today, as I walk, I can see people in motor vehicles, usually one person to a car.
They fear the rain it seems.
They could, many of them, have walked to wherever they were going; the local shop, work, the school run. People used to do that. I know because I am old and remember. Now they think they are too busy, too important.
Before they know it, they will come to believe that this is normal behaviour.
I'm not entirely alone on my walk, I see another two souls surrendering to the elements, each of them, like me, having given up on an umbrella, preferring instead to feel the rain on their skin. One is a mother, with a pushchair. Hers is a lucky child. This mother knows that, all wrapped up in warm clothes, it is good for her baby to be out in the rain. It's natural.
We know that. The multitudes in their cars have forgotten. They might quite possibly be part of the trend to scorn anything natural. This is, after all, a country where they kill wildlife and chop down trees.
Foxes, badgers, squirrels, rabbits, mountain hares and goats, geese, starlings, magpies, pigeons, gulls. Even ravens. 'Kill them all' say the people and the authorities agree.
Take away their habitat, the places they lived before people came along.
Once a fragment remained, in tiny, well dressed suburban gardens, where some people would feed the small creatures. Now they find that too rustic and they replace it all with nylon grass and plastic.
Groups of people fell forests to make room for industry - oh so ironic - towers of concrete in place of trees, and they are applauded and held as examples of human innovation and intelligence.
It is not so.
Meanwhile the people in their cars drive everywhere they think they need to be, and for those who would drive but want to stare at screens instead, they build new, ever faster, railways through virgin countryside so that people with little lives can gawp at little screens, while what is left of the countryside passes them by outside their window. They are unaware. They draw the curtain to block out the light. Now they see their screens more clearly.
These people don't like the rain either.
On my walk, I see a sparrow sheltering under the eaves of a house. The poor thing looks terrified, not afraid of getting wet but fearful that I have noticed it and might choose to harm it.
And I wonder how did I find myself living here, in an age where people are so at odds with nature, where motor vehicles and human infrastructure take priority. Where wildlife is labelled a pest and removed. Where green is replaced with grey. Where anything natural is seen, by fools, as a potential inconvenience in their little lives, and where, given the opportunity,..... they would probably try to stop the rain itself.
Then, one day, they stopped the rain
Because it made some people wet.
They vowed to turn it off again,
Whenever it might pose a threat.
The people in their cars were dry,
Their minds at ease, but unaware,
They didn't stop to wonder why
There was no life left anywhere.
And so they tried to dim the sun
In case the lie was clear to see,
Illuminating what they'd done,
In case the truth should set them free.
Alas too late, a storm arrived,
A thunderclap, a silent scream.
The people left their cars, and cried,
Awakened from their foolish dream.
© Jason Endfield 2018
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