Saturday, May 26, 2012

The thin end of the wedge?

The latest proposals issued by DEFRA relating to Buzzard control reinforce, yet again, this Government's willingness to "bend the knee" and acquiesce to the demands of its elitist minority of supporters, whilst disregarding the interests and will of the majority of its electors. Despite the argument seemingly finding little recognition, the underlying factors point to this being part of a "Class War" in anything but name. This latest scandalous outrage typifies the now regularly emerging policies aimed at protecting the interests of its own!

Setting aside beneficial tax proposals (!), lets simply take a look at environmental and conservation aspects. We've had a blind eye turned to raptor persecution, a proposed sale of forestry assets, a declared assault on,  or intention to dilute, habitat regulations and now the commercial interests of Pheasant  shoots are being protected. With most of these subjects being associated with the shooting fraternity, let's take a look at whether we ought to invest any responsibility in that faction when it comes to them being given an influence over our natural heritage. In other words, can we trust them?

Let's examine a bit of history associated with the "Buzzard timeline"!  In the early 19th Century Buzzards were present in most of mainland Britain and fairly generally in Ireland. By the second half of that century substantial declines and contractions in range had occurred, coinciding with the rise of the shooting estates. The lowest ebb of the population was in the years before the 1914-18 war. Then, with the reduction in gamekeepers due to military service, there was an immediate effect and the birds returned to areas not occupied for many years. If you take a look at Page 455 of  "The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland" compiled by J.R.Sharrock  (British Trust for Ornithology, 1976 ), there is a series of maps showing the distribution of Buzzard in 1800, 1865, 1905, and 1954. These are based on work by Moore, 1957 and Tubbs, 1974 and represent both a fascinating and disgusting insight into the extent to which the shooting fraternity has manipulated, quite deliberately, the distribution of a raptor species in its own interests.  Now does the "social strata argument" begin to lock in and make more sense?

Buzzards are catholic feeders ( birds, squirrels, moles, reptiles ) and, of course, Rabbits. The crash in the latter's population in 1955-56 due to myxamatosis had a major  influence on the range extension of the Buzzard, but a greater influence was the use of organo chloride poisons in the late 1950's until they were banned in 1966. Clear evidence of the deliberate intent to manage, for their own means and vested interests, any segment of our wildlife heritage which stood in the way.

Sadly such interventions have remained a continuing feature in the operation of shooting interests. The RSPB analysed 302 proven incidents with Buzzards between the years of 1971-87. Of these 98 birds were shot, 16 trapped and 188 poisoned. Clear evidence again of that faction's intention to have things their way,even given actions were in direct contravention of the law. Readers, nowadays, will be all too familiar with the plethora of incidents reported upon by RSPB , PAW and Raptor Persecution Scotland, besides periodic reports from Government ( even! ) which show no reduction in activity.One questions whether there is a mood to even try if it is thought they can get away with the offence or that any resultant penalties are likely to be paltry in nature.

The current proposals and the Pheasant rearing industry are something I'll return to later as I believe it important, at present, to ensure the issue of "self interest" is fully established.

I suspect these current proposals are also a subtle way of protecting those who, otherwise, might revert to illegal ways of securing their Pheasant poults. With the continuing calls for a Vicarious Liability Clause to be introduced, wherein the employer/owner of an estate is held to be equally responsible for any illegal acts of persecution which occur there, these latest proposals, if adopted, ease the potential pressure set against what, otherwise, might arise. With a VC clause enacted, but no official proposals implemented favouring pheasant rearing interests, it would only be a matter of time before someone acted illegally based on the perceived problems attributed to Buzzards. If a prosecution resulted, who else but the owner/employer would then be involved under the provisions of VC legislation, so adroitly avoided thus far by DEFRA. It rather seems as if a decision has been taken to secure a more legitimate route to securing their commercial interests and dealing with their perceived  "competitor problem".

Sadly the E-petition relating to Vicarious Liability has not received the support it deserves. One wonders whether a more professionally planned and collective approach to its launch would have provided the necessary impetus required in its promotion, contrasted against its singular registration. We'll never know but, in some ways, its tardy emergence will now have closed the door on this particular avenue, although a further opportunity might yet emerge to promote such a need within the forthcoming consultation exercise connected to the review on wildlife regulations undertaken by the Law Commission.

Questions surely arise associated with the current proposals , the origins of the case, the details put forward and who was involved in the discussions. The subject has been under consideration for several months and, therefore, the initial approaches and ideas must have arisen quite a time ago. Overall the implications and intent of these proposals require forensic examination to expose the real story behind their emergence. At present they should be soundly condemned and every action possible taken to discredit the self-serving motives they contain by writing or E-mailing MP's.    Complacency can't be afforded!!
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