Category Archives: badger cull

Political playground

If you’re sitting inside and looking out, what might be there? From one to another it’ll vary. From a little patch nestled in suburbia to a vast open space where the perimeters of your fence don’t cut off the nature around. Wherever though, perhaps you have flowers in bloom being enjoyed by the last odd butterfly, a fruit tree with fruits either ready to go or almost there or maybe hawthorns beginning to fruit so they’re ready in time to provide for those species in search of food on a crispy autumn morning.

Today marks the first day of autumn and I’m delighted. My favourite season, I love it. Next week I’m back to Spurn for some early bird migration action then over the next few weeks, into October, I’m looking forward to seeing the changes on my local patch. Not just the changes in what birds I may see but the behaviour of them and mammals too. Including badgers. At the moment they’re out most of the night away from the sett in search of food, and so they’re prepared for the colder weather when they’ll spend a lot less time above ground and a lot more time below ground in efforts to keep warm. Over recent years I’ve found I always seem to get some interesting footage at this time of the year too as they spend more time closer to the sett.

Those badgers are in safe hands. Well, on safe land. I don’t mean that because I watch them and keep an eye out for them (this does help if they were to be targeted by wildlife criminals) but this land isn’t within any of those ten perimeters where the ineffective slaughter in a bid to control Bovine TB has begun.  So far over the 2013, 2014 and 2015 culls, over 1,600 animals have been killed in Gloucestershire, over 1,500 in Somerset and over 700 in Dorset, which makes a total of almost 4,000. 4,000 too many animals killed yet they continue despite everything. Despite the science, despite the cruelty of the killing and free shooting, and despite the cost which in total sums up to well over £7,000 to shoot one animal. Of tax payers money that is.

‘The science’ is a term thrown around quite a bit by those in opposition, that’s because there’s a lot of core evidence which suggests many different things. Many of the readers to my blog who have followed it from the start will know about my love for badgers due to my multiple posts about them, hours of trail camera footage I’ve shared and much more but this isn’t the only reason why I campaign against the cull. I also do it to oppose our bigoted government whom are letting this ridiculous and injustice torture to take place in the British countryside. A place of retreat and happiness turned into a political playground.

If you condense it down and look at the basics, that includes taking away the ‘cute factor’, it’s a disgrace. Going back, look at the science. The hard science because what’s more reliable? The most recent significant results of a study found Bovine TB isn’t passed on through direct contact between cows and badgers. During their field study, badgers and cattle didn’t come into contact with each other. It is evident most TB is contracted by cattle to cattle contact. The research did find that it could be contracted through contaminated pasture and dung too. This links back to farming practices though, if slurry a farmer spreads over their field includes infected dung then the bacteria is all over another field.

The study, led by Professor Rosie Woodroffe at the Zoological Society London, also found that even when culling cattle and badgers the bacteria can remain on the field for months. Therefore slaughter isn’t the answer, the issue needs to be addressed efficiently. Many have suggested the answer is for DEFRA to take money out of the ineffective cull and put it into educating farmers and improving bio-security on farms. As Wales have done. Bovine TB in Welsh herds is down 14 per cent over the past 12 months, with 94 per cent now TB free and guess what? No badgers have been killed.

Why are more badgers being killed this year then? DEFRA have tripled the number of licenses issued compared to last year. There is a great amount of opposition yet to give the farmers something in efforts to eradicate TB they take us back to what always seems to be the answer within our countryside, kill it. DEFRA, Andrea Leadsom, and the majority of farmers represented by the NFU (and maybe a few more) are obviously content that their ‘strategy’ (AKA slaughter) is and will deliver results. Yet not one animal that has been culled has been tested for TB since the culls began in 2012.

The role out for this year is massive. To reach minimum targets, marksmen are going to have to kill 10,000 badgers between now and the end of November. No one has given any justification for this, yet it’s already taking place. We’re being ripped off and they won’t listen to a word we say. That doesn’t mean we may as well give up because we have to make them listen. They’re not stupid, they know it isn’t going to give them any results, even if they were to wipe out every badger in  England. Why are they robbing us then?

We’ve got the facts though and therefore we’re right. It must end and we’ll win. Please do what you can; whether that’s signing the petition recently set up, support campaigns from the Badger Trust, donate to their cause, take a look at what your local badger group is doing, write to your local MP or anything, it’s worth it.

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A follow up: Stafford’s badger celebrations

After the event I helped organise in Stafford that took place last weekend I thought I had better do a follow up post to thank those who came (and helped with organising), celebrate the support we got, and share how well it went. This is only going to be a pretty brief post though as I have a lot of sixth form work that needs finishing for the end of term next week…then the summer – wahey!

The idea of having a march opposing the badger cull and the risk of it spreading to Staffordshire was first brought to the groups attention (The Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group) at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately we had a bit of trouble sorting dates out but then the idea was put forward that the day would mark the end of National Badger Week 2016, which was a brilliant plan!

National Badger Week was a massive success. So well done to all those who helped organise events throughout the week. There was so much taking place around the country from very successful badger watches and coffee mornings to talks and lectures. Lots of money was raised to help The Badger Trust continue with the work they do along with the groups up and down the country, and (just as importantly) a lot of awareness was raised about the badger cull, persecution and to educate members of the public about the badger away from the politics.

There have been many, many marches taking place across the UK over the last few years in an attempt to stop the cull. These events along with the tireless work of individuals out in the field and campaigning hard is without a doubt having a massive impact. Although we haven’t won yet, I’m certain we will one day.

Here in Staffordshire the risk of a cull is unlikely at the moment but if the policy continues it could be dreams come true for those who are pushing for licences. However there are many other factors which are having a dreadful impact on badger welfare. Although badger baiting has been illegal since the 1830s, it still takes place in areas around the UK and we have had cases in Staffordshire too. Some this year in fact. Fortunately the group is extremely lucky to have good relationships with an exceptional wildlife crime force. I must add though; there are many horrific ways we’ve seen badgers being persecuted and killed throughout the UK which aren’t always badger baiting incidences.

I spoke about the protection of badgers in Staffordshire by the group (which has now been running for 30 years) when I stood up in central Stafford and spoke on Saturday afternoon. Not just talking to those who had come to the event but those passing by and coming to see what all the fuss was about. Making the reasons why, what and how we can all stand up for badgers and against the malicious hate some have against them heard. I also made similar points on one of the local radio stations, BBC Radio Stoke, that morning and I also spoke about why culling badgers is not the answer. I will not go into detail about this now as I have in the past, I will in future posts and I really need to get some school work done! However I did get a bit criticised for not mentioning more about the science in my talk. The reason for this was having my talk preceded by Mark Jones and Dominic Dyer who went into a lot of detail about the science and therefore I didn’t feel the need to repeat this again at that time.

Anyhow, you can listen to the radio interview below. It was also brilliant to have others speak in Stafford on Saturday including Dominic Dyer and Peter Martin from The Badger Trust, Mark Jones from Born Free Foundation and Jordi Casamitjana from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). Each spoke passionately, precisely and with rich knowledge about a range of topics from the politics of badgers and work of The Badger Trust to the science behind badgers and BTb and also the history of this species that has lived among our landscape for over a quarter of a million years.

Being me I couldn’t miss a chance to speak out about young people and the future of wildlife and its protection. I was thrilled to be able to do this after being asked to sit on the panel of the previous evenings debate. The conversation of the evening was much more focused on the politics of the badger and also the impact of the recent EU Referendum result. Dominic and Peter both spoke about The Badger Trust’s response, of which has been published this week. This included that after many funds have been cut from leaving the EU, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) should reconsider the extortionate costs of badger culling. You can read this in full by clicking here.

The support at the festival over the weekend was incredible but not surprising.

You can listen to the radio interview here by forwarding to the 1.07 mark – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03yhbk6

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You can also listen to the talks from the Saturday here.

Dominic Dyer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbJK18ewuAw

Jordi Casamitjana – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoYhO1ClMsk

Georgia Locock – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I71KiMoIbRY

Mark Jones – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4hDy5lI4MI

Peter Martin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdjzafUSe0o

Over the next few weeks and months I have some really interesting blog posts lined up as I have some exciting projects planned! Also, not forgetting posts in the run up to the cull this year and Hen Harrier Day at the beginning of August.

Celebrating badgers for National Badger Week in Stafford

So its been a week since Brexit happened yet everyday it continues to send shock waves through the country. I never actually thought things like this happened, complete uproar! Nevertheless as I spoke about in my latest blog (about the results) it’s about battling on now and trying to create something positive. There are many things that we can’t let the vote results get in the way of; from hen harriers, and the upcoming Hen Harrier Day, and wildlife crime (just a few days ago I read an article about an illegal snare set up by a primary school) to badgers with what is very likely to be another season of badger culling later in the year.

At the moment we’re not quite sure how far the badger cull will span further across the UK this year but it’s very likely that new areas will be sucked in and the dreadful killing of badgers will happen. Just north of me in Cheshire an expression of interest in the badger culling licence has been submitted. Cheshire was one of six new counties to apply for badger culling licenses this year. Areas of my home county are also vulnerable and the same could happen within the next few years, if the policy continues. Some of these areas include Eccleshall which is just five miles west of the county town of Stafford where this weekend events will be taking place to shout above those who want to bring a cull to Staffordshire or culling in any area in the UK, and celebrate the badger for the animal it is without being entwined with politics, farming or cruelty.

And so they should be! Badgers have lived in the UK for over a quarter of a million years and therefore undoubtedly a part of our heritage. They may be our largest carnivore but they’re very secretive and whenever I watch them it feels magical! On my patch the local badgers sett is situated in a small(ish) undisturbed clump of old oak trees. Real badger land.

All this week National Badger Week has been running which is a week long celebration of the badger. Events have been running up and down the country with the aim of inspiring more people to realise how wonderful they are, why they so greatly deserve to be a part of our landscape and most of all, why we should be protecting them. I felt really privileged to mark the beginning of this years celebration in Lush, Oxford Street last Saturday, and have the finale organised by my badger group, The Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group, this weekend in Stafford.

Tomorrow evening (Friday 1st) we have an event at Oddfellows Hall in Stafford town centre starting at 7pm. The evening will begin with a talk from wildlife photographer Craig Jones who gave a passionate and emotionally beautiful presentation at the Birders Against Wildlife Crime conference earlier this year. There will then be a town hall debate called ‘The Big Badger Debate’ where lots will be discussed from badger protection, persecution and the impact of housing developments to their ecology and importance within the British countryside. It should be very lively with a panel including Dominic Dyer, CEO The Badger Trust, Peter Martin, chair The Badger Trust, Mark Jones, vet from Born Free Foundation, Jordi Casamitjane, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and myself. We are hoping to have a good audience with a mixture of opinions.

On the Saturday (2nd July) it’s going to be a very full day with a variety of entertainment for children, as well as adults, and a peaceful protest around Stafford town centre. Before the march at 12 noon there will be talks from Dominic Dyer (The Badger Trust), Peter Martin (The Badger Trust), and myself. We will then start at around 1pm from the Market Square and be on our way around the town centre projecting and creating a clear message against the unscientific, unethical and cruel cull. Once we arrive back there will also be talks from Mark Jones (Born Free Foundation) and Jordi Casamitjane (IFAW)

I’m sure it’s going to be a very inspiring and empowering day as we gear up for the high possibility of more culling this year and of course celebrate the importance and greatness of having badgers as part of our natural heritage.

It would be wonderful to see some of you there and have your support.

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2015: An overview

2015 over and already the third day into 2016. So far a good start although I’m slightly concerned about my first bird of the year being a wood pigeon, hopefully it’s not a sign of things to come this year. I’m sure it isn’t, after all I did see a buzzard shortly after which was considerably more exciting!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out onto my patch on Friday but yesterday I joined about 50 others on a walk around Chasewater in the bid to save our Staffordshire countryside. Even though the weather wasn’t great, as always it was wonderful to be surrounded and chat to others with similar mindsets and passionate about our countryside here in Staffordshire. This is something I discovered for the first time in 2015. Back in February I went on my first ever march which was against the badger cull. At the end of 2014 I remember wanting to go along to a march in 2015 as the ‘badger army’ do an amazing job of travelling the country to put there message out there. As Birmingham is only a 40 minute train journey away I was eager and sure to attend. The march started up by the library, where there were a few stalls, then went down into the town. At this point we went off to have some lunch but I was desperate to go back and join again as the vibe was just amazing.

It seems that day I caught the bug, I realised how easy it was to go along and support what I’m passionate about through peaceful protests. Obviously the marches are just one ingredient for the fight that needs to be continued for what we’re passionate about, whether it be the badgers, climate change or hen harriers. These events attract media attention, make the public more aware and send that powerful message out to those making the decisions. I believe 2015 was quite successful for creating more awareness through such things as social media. We saw trends on Hen Harrier Day, the start of the driven grouse shooting season (Inglorious 12th), for badger Monday, ‘for the love of’ marches, the ivory trade and much more. These are trends anyone in the UK may see. As well as this, the Thunderclaps. Some of these last year reached thousands and thousands, if not millions, of people. Not only that but the signatures on petitions, and so many amazing people going out of their way to tell anyone and everyone about the issues our natural world is facing. One real glimmer of hope and realisation that finished my year was the rally in London back at the end of November to mark the start of COP21. 50,000 people! Incredible and a day to remember. Unfortunately the result of COP21 wasn’t as it could of been but it goes on and the power of those people is obviously not going to be fading away any time soon!

However, could this support and action continue and grow into 2016? If each of us dragged a friend onto a march, persuade someone to sign a petition or even got a few people to write to their local MP expressing concern then that’s a start. On quite a few different occasions I went on a march or to an event and I spoke to someone who was interested in similar issues but was perhaps unaware of other campaigning that was going on or perhaps why the campaigning was happening. Even more so, to just ordinary people who were unaware of ongoings but made angry when they realised.

Above I mentioned about my first march against the badger cull. As you will know it was an extremely sad year for such an iconic and beloved species as the cull went on once again and the blame game continued. The Tory ‘win’ back in March makes the outlook for this year even more bleak. I’ve read and heard already that this year the cull will not be lasting for six weeks but could start June 1st and go through to February 1st 2017. Not only that but in more areas too. This has turned into their long term strategy and therefore needs attacking on more fronts then ever with direct action, campaigning, public awareness and much more. Whether it’s on a national or local scale, everyone can be doing something. Fortunately this year saw the rise of National Badger Day which was a great success and saw many people from all around the UK raising awareness for badgers. From activities in schools and fundraising to the short film created.

The Badger Trust does a fantastic job of keeping up the pressure and working extremely hard. Their events and marches are always very popular and they never seem to have a day off! In 2015, I met many inspirational people within the trust, all of which are very passionate about the animal and show no sign of giving up! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting many of them this year as well as joining them on marches, at the conference and the seminar.

Of course another successful day, and one to remember, this year was Hen Harrier Day. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the event back in 2014 but I know that the numbers grew and more was taking place all around the country. Again, put together and held by fantastic and inspirational people from across the UK as well as those that attended. The persecution of raptors continues in this day and age which is somewhat difficult to believe but as many grasp onto their idea of ‘tradition’ and ‘fun’ the fight continues. However, as I mentioned, after this years turn out at the events across the country and work being done for hen harriers and wildlife upon our uplands, the pressure is always increasing.

Just last week I was reading a review that was published just before Christmas by RSPB Scotland on crimes against birds of prey. From an area in Scotland, the report showed shootings on hen harriers and buzzards, as well as illegal pole traps, poisoned baits left out and, unfortunately, so on. New techniques to catch these criminals are being taken on-board though. After the shooting of the Red-footed falcon, which surprised many birders, a fund has been set up to help catch the criminal who killed it.

We’ve learnt of many acts of crime like these this year but the fight and determination still goes on. A highlight of my year was back at the Birders Against Wildlife Conference in March which was a fantastic day with lots of inspiring speakers, of which I look forward to later on in the year. It’s always wonderful to follow the hard work of BAWC and co as they set out with their strong intentions to end wildlife crime. I’m very certain this will continue into 2016, and beyond, as well as growing support.

One of the very last times I got out onto a local patch last year was with a junior wildlife group I help out with at the National Memorial Arboretum. It feels very odd as I have been going along and acting as a ‘leader’ for almost three years now but it’s something I enjoy very much. They’re a fantastic bunch and no doubt made me realise how important nature is to young people. From when we go pond dipping and the delight on their faces, which is beyond describable, to the stories they share about the wildlife they’ve seen recently. This year the idea around nature and young people has crossed my path many many times and it’s something I’m very interested in as it’s us that will be doing our bit to help nature and give it a home in the future. It’s so important, yet something that has become incredibly apparent to me this year is how scary the situation is. When I go into schools or talk to children that haven’t been given the opportunity to roam free it’s very sad and worrying. It’s as simple as if they don’t know or understand nature then why are they ever going to care about it?

Just before Christmas I received a few letters from a local primary school. The children there were practising their handwriting and wanted to write to me about why they loved nature and that they’d been watching my trail camera footage. The letters were truly heart warming and really made me think and realise how important nature was to me as a child. In one of the letters, my favourite quote was ‘I like nature because it’s not man-made’. It’s such a simple thing to say but just shows their true feelings and illustrates ours too.

Last year I visited quite a few schools, groups, out of school lessons and so on. It was great to have this opportunity and share my interest with other young people, some younger and some my own age, as well as make them more aware of how modern day issues are harming what we all treasure. I couldn’t not mention the young people my own age I’ve met and become friends with this year too, those who are working very hard for what they love, whether that’s through recording, some campaigning, speaking out or just simply doing what they enjoy. I look up to many of these as it can be tough sometimes being surrounded whilst at sixth form or out and about with my other friends and defend my interest which is sometimes not accepted by others. This was more of a big deal in secondary school but I still experience it from time to time. I also read a wonderful write up from a fellow young naturalist about her story last year – click here.

Throughout the year I was all over the place, everywhere! One of the most popular destinations had to be London, not a month went by I hadn’t been down to London a few times, it’s now become the norm’. Amongst many, one of my favourite trips down had to be for the march against the amendment of the Hunting Act. It was quite an exciting day with all the energy about and the amount of people as well as it being around the actual time decisions were going to be made. Luckily the vote was called off but that didn’t call of the reason of why we should of been there.

It will be very interesting to see what happens next regarding the vote. The tories promised one in their manifesto but there’s lots of controversy over whether it will actually happen or if there will be an overall ‘No’ vote as many, even Conservative MPs, are against a repeal. Or as they put it, an amendment.

Another trip down to London which I will never forget from last year was the rally which marked the start of COP21. First of all, I’d never been on a march so big and I felt very proud to have made the effort to be there and show my all-out support. United all around the world but most of all making it clear why this matters. Not for 50/60 years time but now.

It was quite a build up for myself, I’d been ‘looking forward’ to the day and to see what COP21 would bring. Throughout the weeks that ran up I was involved in many events and meetings locally. Although acting on a national scale is very important, locally is too. It’s a way in which we climb the ladder to build up and is all part of the whole process. The outcomes may not be as big but nonetheless, it counts. I went along to a few meetings in the run up, no specific action has been taken just yet but there’s that idea of keeping in touch and sharing information about each others causes or any events taking place.

Above I’ve touched on a few different events, days, times and causes that I dedicated a lot of my time to throughout 2015. This is because they mean something to me and I’m passionate about them. There’s been plenty more but I’d probably end up going on all day. 2016 is yet another year to work and fight back for the hope of our natural world, whatever the aspect may be. However the drive which makes me get up and go is obviously getting out in the first place, understanding nature, appreciating it and wanting to do my part for something which has been so positive for me. This year I had the opportunities to go on lots of wonderful outings. From new species I saw on my local patch and recording them with my camera to watching the conservation work of others when I went down to Bath and spent the day with a friend ringing owls and kestrels across Wiltshire.

I didn’t share it as much as I have in the past but I had a great Spring out with my trail camera this year at a local badger sett. By far I got the best footage of cubs which was the most wonderful thing ever. On one clip I had the mother exiting the sett then followed by two of her cubs, later on another two appeared. After I set my camera up throughout the Spring and well into Summer I watched these beautiful animals grow in size and become more independent. This is why I fight for badgers, the possibility of culls in Staffordshire within the next few years is frightening. It wasn’t just these animals, we discovered a new sett this year where we could watch the badgers from a fair distance but still get an amazing view. I’ve watched badgers before but here I got to have a fantastic sight of them without them realising we were there.

I also had a dream come true when I found peregrine falcons at the cathedral in my local city centre, just a 20 minute walk from where I live. I went down many times to watch them and to see what was happening, especially throughout the breeding season. I remember very well going down the one time and there was calling between a male and female which was very vocal and went on for what felt like hours!

Two other real highlights of my year when I was able to learn about the conservation work of others along with learn from their knowledge and understanding of their topic was my week at Spurn and the day I spent ringing kestrels and owls in Wiltshire.