Urging your MP to stop the slaughter of wildlife

Now the general election is all over and done with and local MPs are settling in, either new ones or re-elected ones, it’s very important that we let them know how we feel about policies and issues. With the Tories running the country on their own now it’s even more worrying for our wildlife. Two main issues include the on going badger cull, which will resume in the summer, and their promise to give MPs a free vote on whether the Hunting Act should be repealed. It is rumoured that this vote could happen in a number of weeks. Obviously there are other issues facing our wildlife which we need to contact our local MPs about but these two are amongst the most worrying at this exact moment in time.

Just before the general election I did a blog post as part of A Focus on Nature’s Vision for Nature blog series. My blog was all about inspiring the next generation (click here to read it) and I emailed it round to all of my local party candidates. I was pretty pleased with the response. The response I got back from my Tory candidate was that if he got re-elected, which he was, that I should get back in touch and we could meet to discus the issues further. At that point I knew it was very obvious that he would be re-elected so when I replied I said that if we do meet I would like to discuss other issues which face our wildlife too. This should be very interesting as after doing a bit of research I discovered that he was FOR the badger cull and FOR the repeal of the Hunting Act. When the Conservatives got in I was quite reluctant to meet him as I didn’t really like the idea of meeting a Tory MP so I got in touch with the League Against Cruel Sports and they reassured me that the best way to get my opinion and concerns across was to meet with him. Due to this I got back in touch this week about it. When I do meet with him I’ll be doing plenty of blogging about how it goes.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in touch with my MP, I’ve been in touch with him and many others lots of times. I’m regularly sending emails or letters to MPs. It is really easy to do so and only ever takes a few minutes to write and send it, either by post or email. Obviously one letter or email isn’t going to make the world of difference but if we all bombard our local MPs with our views and concerns on issues like the badger cull and the Hunting Act then it WILL make a difference. After speaking to people in the past they’ve said that they don’t contact their local MP for many reasons like they don’t know what to say, it’s a waste of time, they simply can’t be bothered and many other reasons. At this time when a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act could be weeks away and the badger cull is certain to go ahead later on in the year it’s vital that we get in touch with our local MPs to get the message across and make them listen. For those who aren’t sure what to say, think it’s a waste of time, simply don’t have time or for whatever other reason I have put together a template below for you to copy and forward to your local MP. It will take a matter of minutes to do and it could make a difference so what’s to loose?! I’ve put this together for the benefit of helping to get a message across to help our wildlife so feel free to copy it or edit it to suit you but please make an effort and help make a difference, it is worth it.

Dear ——

As the MP for my constituency I am writing to you today expressing my concerns on some important issues. The natural world is important to every single one of us here in the UK and all around the world. Not only is it the fact that without it we wouldn’t be here but many of us enjoy every moment we spend when it surrounds us and find the disgusting acts of cruelty and disrespect against it very upsetting. There are many wrong doings against wildlife but today I will be writing about two main ones which I would like you to consider and speak out about as big decisions are being made about them which is very worrying. One is the repeal of the Hunting Act and the other is the badger cull which is planned to be rolled out again this year and possibly in more areas of the South West.

Men wearing red jackets, on the back of a horse, riding through the countryside blowing horns in big groups with a massive pack of dogs in the hope of ripping an innocent mammal such as a fox or hare in the most disgraceful way possible can not be classed as a ‘sport’ or ‘fun’, so definitely not legal. These are innocent creatures which deserve a place in our countryside more then anything else. They were here a lot longer before us and part of the natural world and ecosystems which help us survive. How can anyone think it is acceptable to destroy these mammals in a horrific way. We should be embracing these species for their beauty not discriminating them in the worst way possible.

There are many arguments that the Act has ‘done nothing for animal welfare’ and that it is a ‘humane method to control fox numbers’ but this is far from the truth. It’s just an excuse that the hunters can give when all they want to do is shred an innocent mammal to pieces. It’s not just myself who has this opinion, 80% of the British Public are in favour of the Hunting Act along with 86% who are against deer hunting and  88% are against hare hunting and coursing. How much more obvious could it be that the British public want this ban to be kept. Therefore if a free vote for MPs on repealing the Hunting Act does go ahead, as promised by the Prime Minister and could take place in the next few weeks, I urge you to vote to keep the Hunting Act.

As mentioned another issue which I am writing to you about today is the badger cull. Yet another summer and more innocent badgers are being killed in the unsuccessful attempt to eradicate Bovine TB. However it is most likely that this year and over the next few years that the cull will expand more and more in the South West. As the cull is going to be rolled out in a matter of months I am writing to you with my concerns about it.

It’s obvious that Bovine TB in cattle is a problem and it needs to be sorted. However culling badgers isn’t the answer, it doesn’t take a genius to work that out. Badgers are being blamed and hold responsible far too much. There are many scientific studies that tell us the cull won’t work. One study example is the Randomised Badger Cull Trial undertaken by the last government between 1997 and 2007. The results of this study concluded that “Given its high costs and low benefits, badger culling is unlikely to contribute usefully to the control of cattle TB in Britain and we recommend that TB control efforts focus on measures other than badger culling.”

Along with this a poll has revealed that the cull is the fifth most common complaint to MPs. So if scientific studies and the public don’t want it then why is it still planned to go ahead? There are better alternatives to the cull so why aren’t they being used. As well as this the cull has caused many badgers to be killed in horrific ways. This includes them taking up to ten minutes to die when they are shot free running and also wildlife criminals given the ‘green light’ for badger persecution. There’s no doubt that since the cull has began badger persecution has risen and this is due to the cull. Badgers are killed in some of the most disgusting ways you could possibly imagine. They are one of the most protected species in the UK yet they are the most persecuted.

I hope you can take into consideration what I have said and my concerns on some animal welfare issues. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,

——

To make it even easier for you here’s where you can find who your local MP is – http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

GE2015 Day Three: Badgers and Witney March

If you read my introduction blog you’ll know that throughout this week, running up to the general election, I am doing a blog a day about some key issues which affect wildlife in the UK and in some cases on a world wide scale. As I only have six days and I’m currently taking my GCSEs I’ve only been able to include six topics but of course there are many more. With these blogs I hope to show people the problems our wildlife faces, what we can do, who it affects, what will happen if we don’t address the problem, see if there’s been any mentions in party manifestos and much more! I’m also trying to exaggerate the fact that we should be voting for nature and the environment. Along with sending the posts to party leaders, MPs etc. It’s key that we address problems facing wildlife now so it’s not too late as when it is too late we’ll be in serious trouble.

Today’s blog is slightly different to the last two as I would of done a blog today anyway about the march I went on in David Cameron’s constituency, Witney, yesterday. But as I don’t want to go out of sink with my General Election blogs I’ve decided to do this one about badger persecution and the cull, then include the march I went on in Witney yesterday.

In the UK badgers are one of the most protected species under The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 however they are the most persecuted. Since the badger cull was rolled out this has brought all sorts of problems for badgers, for example an increased number of cruelty against them. Every month around 2000 badgers are illegally killed. This includes petrol being poured down setts, snares, dog fighting, glass being put down setts and many more disgusting acts. What makes it worse though is the cull which has been rolled out over the past two years, which has led to an increase in badger persecution, doesn’t even work. Even though badgers have always been a victim to wildlife crime, over the past few years, due to the cull, hundreds and thousands of badgers have been slaughtered and targeted by cruelty.

The badger cull is a very controversial subject. Some think it is humane and effective yet many others disagree with this and believe that it is barbaric, inhumane and inefficient. This is a mixture of a political and scientific debate. There are lots of reasons behind why the badger cull won’t work, I’m not going to go into detail on this post but you can read previous posts where I have spoken about why it won’t work or follow this link to the Badgergate website where Chris Cheeseman explains all – http://www.badgergate.org/guest-articles/why-a-badger-cull-wont-work/

As I just mentioned, a lot of people disagree with cull. So much so that over the past 18 months 30 marches have brought thousands of people from all round the country together to protest against it. Yesterday I went along to the last march before the General Election on Thursday. This wasn’t as such a badger march but it was a march to show how much we care about wildlife and how much it matters. The march took place in Witney, Oxfordshire. This is David Cameron’s constituency and is a Conservative strong hold. Unfortunately even though we’d invited Mr Cameron he didn’t come along but other parties also hoping to represent Witney did. This was the Green Party candidate, Stuart Macdonald, and the Labour candidate, Duncan Enright.

For 1pm everyone on the march met in the town centre. Photos were taken of the banners, placards and supporters, and it was good to catch up with some familiar faces and also meet some new people too. Once we were all ready we set off down the high street. Overall there was probably about 100 people. Even though there wasn’t as many as in Worcester the week before we all made some noise and held our banners and placards high. Whilst making our way through the town we definitely got plenty of attention as it was a busy Saturday afternoon so there were lots of people about. Again it was a great feeling to be surrounded by these people and it was a fantastic atmosphere. I went on my first march a few months back and since then I have tried not to miss any as they are so great to go on. Even though they are good to go on I hope yesterday’s was my last, depending on what happens on Thursday.

After we’d made our way through the town we ended up on Witney Green where we gathered round and listened to the speakers. First to talk was Lynn Sawyer. She spoke last week in Worcester and as I mentioned then she’s done some fantastic work. She spoke about the badger cull and how we should be looking out for setts, no matter what happens on Thursday, hunt monitors, the Heythrop Hunt and their disgusting ongoings, setts being badly affected by hunts, strengthening the hunting act and much more. After Lynn’s talk, the Green Party and Labour Party representatives spoke about their polices linking to animal welfare and the cull. It was quite funny as these were all great representatives and it shows that even in a Tory strong hold like Witney, Cameron has parties fighting against him.

Next to talk was Dominic Dyer. I’ve heard him speak many times over the past few months, including in Worcester last week. He is a brilliant wildlife campaigner and activist who always speaks very passionately and about a number of key issues facing our wildlife in the UK, and gave some examples from abroad too. Last to speak was Nigel Tolley who read out a letter which we were about to post through Cameron’s door. The letter had been written by the organiser, Emily Lawrence. In the letter she stated issues like the badger cull and hunting. This letter was to be poster to Cameron because over the past five years he rolled out a two year badger cull, hasn’t done anything for our wildlife and threatens to roll out the badger cull to more areas and repeal the hunting act if he gets into power again next Friday. This was a reason why the march took place in Witney.

So we all headed back down into the main town centre with the banners and placards held high again, and the shouting echoing down the high street to Mr Cameron’s office. As I mentioned before, unfortunately he wasn’t in but we gathered round outside, the letter was posted and photos were taken too.

Here are a few photos from the day

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Dominic Dyer speaking

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Myself, the organiser Emily (in the badger suit), and fellow young blogger, Alex.

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Gathering round David Cameron’s office door

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Lynn Sawyer speaking

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Myself with the placard I made

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Outside David Cameron’s office

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We Will Not Be Silenced

As you most likely know the general election is approaching fast, in fact just 10 days away. It is becoming very tense as the current polls are close. However it’s not just tense for us Humans, it’s also very tense for our wildlife and animals. Although they can’t vote we need to vote for them, give them the voice they need.

Unfortunately, as I’m 16, I can’t vote but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been interested in the parties manifestos, their campaigning but also the other campaigning that’s been going on. In fact, when I’ve been able to, I’ve been getting involved with the campaigns. From getting involved on social media and supporting thunderclaps to doing blog posts, writing letters to local party candidates and getting involved with protests.

One protest which caught my eye this week was the suffragette-themed march on Parliament to launch the “Votes for Animals” campaign where a variety of organisations, charities and individuals got together. They proceeded the streets of London with their striking masks, costumes and signs with their main aim of giving animals a voice and encourage the public to vote for animals on May 7th. You can read more about the Vote for Animal protest in London by clicking here.

Yesterday though was another day where I went out and helped do my part to give nature a voice. I was up nice and early as I had two trains to catch and was very excited for the day ahead. I was off to join the badger army and wildlife defenders for their march in the streets of Worcester. Once we arrived in Worcester we went for a quick coffee then headed down to St. Andrews Park where the march began. This was my second march, the last one I went on was back in February and took place on the streets of Birmingham. The one in Birmingham was more of a festival as there were more speakers and stalls, you can read more about it by clicking here. It was also brilliant to go yesterday after the Badger Trust Seminar in Bristol last weekend as it great to see some familiar faces. By 1pm there was a good crowd of a few hundred people and everyone was ready to go. There was people dressed up, plenty of signs and flags, megaphones, hats and much more. It was pretty obvious that it was going to be a successful protest.

But before we could begin addressing the streets of Worcester there was three speeches. First was the main organiser, Chris Swan, who spoke about the fact that there is still the worry of badgers being culled, the threat badgers face and also read out a poem about badger persecution which had been wrote a hundred years ago but in many ways applies to today’s world. The second to speak was Lynn Sawyer who has done inspirational work over the past 12 months which resulted in 100’s of badgers life’s saved. She spoke about the fantastic work of hunt and cull saboteurs, the importance of looking out for local setts and read a book extract about the fact that Btb travels on the feet of those horses, humans and hounds. Then before the march began Nigel Tolley spoke. He is a very active member of badger army and a great wildlife activist. He spoke about the fact that even if the cull does stop, depending on who gets into power on May 7th, there is still the major problem of badger persecution. He stated that over 2000 badgers are killed every month throughout the UK which is well over the amount killed in the culls. He also spoke about how we need to encourage people to go out, recognise and report wildlife crime.

After these two talks the march was raring to go. There was a set route through Worcester, which we followed. Everyone was shouting either ‘Save our Badgers, Stop the Cull’ or ‘Save our Badgers, Tories out’. It was such a brilliant atmosphere, everyone was so passionate and determined to get the message across. Signs and flags were high in the air, leaflets were being handed out and stuck everywhere, and the shouting echoed down the high street. There was no doubt that we were making our mark and spreading the message. We then stopped outside of the Guild Hall where three more people spoke. The first was the Labour candidate for the area, then the Green candidate. They both spoke about the policies of their party. One of the common policies was putting a stop to the barbaric unscientific badger cull.

Before getting started again Dominic Dyer, wildlife campaigner, gave a speech. Over the past few months I’ve heard him talk a number of times and what he says is always very inspirational. He stood up on a park bench with a megaphone and spoke about a number of issues. From the badger cull to wildlife crime. He also stated that we will not be silenced.

As I heard a few times yesterday, to be able to protest in Worcester yesterday it took a lot of hard work from the organisers. This is partly due to the election approaching and in different ways it’s jeopardising the chance for parties to win seats because the badger cull, and wildlife crime, is among a key issue for many politicians.

We were then back to the protest through the high street in Worcester, feeling more passionate and enthused after more inspirational speeches. On our way back to St. Andrews Park we passed the Lush store in Worcester which had a few signs outside and their window display was about the ‘Votes for Animals’ campaign. This was another great feature to the protest.

Once back at St.Andrews Park all those on the protest stood together for a photo. It made a fantastic photo as it showed everyone’s passion and willingness to be there. Then with the outfits, masks, hats and signs it showed what we all stood for.

Here are a few photos from the day.

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Badger Trust Seminar 2015

After collecting my trail camera I was thrilled to see that not only had I filmed the adult badgers but I had also filmed badger cubs for the first time this year! I set my camera up near the sett last Saturday and there was no sign of cubs so this was obviously one of the first times they had emerged from the sett. I was thrilled with the footage, It was fantastic to see the natural behaviour of badger cubs exiting the sett for one of the first times. I filmed a variety of activity from cubs playing, the adults having a good scratch and one of the adults dragging one of the cubs back in to the sett by the scruff of its neck. Here’s one of the clips, I’ll be doing a blog post with more later on in the week.

I didn’t have that much time to look through as I had a long journey ahead of me to the Badger Trust Seminar in Bristol. As I was eager to go and my parents were working I managed to get a lift from a member of the South Derbyshire Badger Group which was great and I was so pleased I went! There was a prompt start at 11 for the AGM then after lunch the afternoon of debates began.

First debate – The Badger Cull

The first debate was on the badger cull. Sat on the panel was Professor John Bourne, the Chairman of Independent Scientific Group, Roger Blowey, Livestock Vet, John Blackwell, President of British Veterinary Association and Mark Jones, Vet and Wildlife Protection Campaigner. As you can see, from the variation of panel members, it was very interesting and resulted in a fantastic debate with a mixture of discussion from the panel and comments from the audience. This debate was very important as it’s not very often you get people like this together. Before comments from the floor the members of the panel introduced themselves and give a small introduction then Dominic Dyer, Badger Trust CEO, asked them a question on what they had said.

However before long this got a bit out of hand and the debate became very intense. For me it was a great experience and to hear so many people express their opinion in such a strong way, against the cull, was truly inspiring. Also the fact that they weren’t afraid to speak out against those on the panel which are in favour of the cull.

The first to speak was John Blackwell, President of British Veterinary Association. This was interesting as the British Veterinary Association had released their statement on the badger cull just a few days before the Seminar. In the statement they had made a U-turn from their original idea which was culling free running badgers was the way to go. Instead, in their latest statement, they stated that the pilot culls should continue but badgers should be caught in cages before shot as they believe it’s a ‘humane and effective’ way.

This was then followed by Roger Blowey, a recently retired Livestock Vet and author of report on the possible impact of culling lowering TB rates in cattle. I’ve read comments from him in many articles stating the fact that he believes ‘the culling of badgers in the county is the only reason why farmers are now testing negative for bovine TB for the first time in a decade’. Roger Blowey made many more comments and suggestions like this one throughout his introduction and in the debate.

Without a doubt, this fired the debate up. Many people in the audience got involved which was timed nicely with the great introduction from Professor John Bourne. It was obvious he knew what he was talking about as he destroyed any scientific, economic or animal welfare justification for the current badger cull policy. He went into great detail, along with giving examples from other countries, that the negligence and deceit within the Government, Farming and Veterinary Industry has led to the demonisation of badgers for spreading bTB when all the evidence points to poor bTb testing and cattle controls as a key factor for the increase in Btb. He also stated how millions of pounds has been wasted, wildlife destroyed and how farmers and tax payers have been let down by a disastrous bTb reduction policy which has focused on badgers far too much.

The last one to speak was Mark Jones who is a vet and wildlife protection campaigner. His introduction went through different reasons why the cull isn’t and won’t work. He presented his points in a very organised way and put his points across clearly. He also made the very valid points on how badger persecution is rising which is no doubt related to the badger cull.

Overall it was an extremely interesting and tense afternoon, I was very pleased to be there. Obviously, as you all know, I’m against the cull, full stop. So being there during the debate was a fantastic experience. The atmosphere was incredible and I felt privileged to be surrounded by people that care so passionately. Going to an event like this makes me realise, more so, why I am against the cull and makes me more determined to help do my bit to rule it out and resort to other ways to reduce bTb.

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Second debate – Wildlife Crime

The afternoon didn’t stop there though as there was another debate which was on wildlife crime. I must say, this debate wasn’t as intense but it was still very interesting. The panel was chaired by the new Badger Trust chairman, Peter Martin, and on the panel was Charlie Moores, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, Tom Quinn, Director of Campaigns at League Against Cruel Sports, Pauline Kidner, Founder of Secret World Wildlife Rescue and Lee Bainbridge who is the wildlife Crime Officer from the area.

Starting it off was Charlie Moores who is the Chair of Birders Against Wildlife Crime. He gave a summary about what BAWC is about, his views on wildlife crime and tackling wildlife crime. Birders Against Wildlife Crime is a campaign group which was set up last year by a group of experienced birders and conservationists who are sick of the number of crimes being committed against wildlife. I went along to BAWC’s first conference a few weeks back which was a fantastic day and you can read more about it by clicking here.

This was followed by Tom Quinn who is the director of campaigns at League Against Cruel Sports. He spoke about how reducing wildlife crime is a massive priority for The League, wildlife crimes including fox hunting and badger persecution, increased promotion of wildlife crime on social media, how the badger cull is having an impact on badger persecution and how wildlife crime data is uncoordinated and underfunded. He also spoke about the work The League do and convicting the wildlife criminals.

For this debate, most likely due to the fact that we all had mutual feelings, it was more organised and the speakers had the chance to speak before the debate. Next up was the wildlife crime officer for Avon and Somerset, Lee Bainbridge. She spoke about reporting wildlife crime, the role and increase of wildlife crime officers and how the training is improving. I think the talk from Lee Bainbridge could relate to most of us as if you’re one for being outdoors and observing wildlife you come across wildlife crimes. I came across one which had been committed at a badgers sett last year and got in touch with my local wildlife crime officer and the Badger Trust. Fortunately the result was very good.

Before the audience could ask questions there was one more talk which was from the Founder of Secret World Wildlife Rescue, Pauline Kidner. She spoke about the increase of injured badgers which is linked to the cull, wildlife traps and snares and reporting and recording wildlife crime. Another thing she spoke about was something that she believes is important that we need to do to help tackle wildlife crime and that is by starting with educating the youth. I was pleased she brought this up as it’s a subject which is also very important to me.

When I go to school I’m surrounded by young people that have no idea about the ongoings in our countryside. This is partly to do with things like technology which have taken over. If young children aren’t able to go out and engage with the outdoors from a young age and learn about it when they grow up then how are they supposed to be able to report wildlife crime, help protect species and habitats, and most of all put their opinion across on what they think should be going on in the countryside and to our wildlife, without being brainwashed.

This debate was different to the one on the badger cull as everyone on the panel had mutual feelings. However there was a lot of discussion about the problems with reporting wildlife crimes and how it isn’t being taken seriously enough. There was also a discussion about fox hunting and the illegal on goings which aren’t dealt with.

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After a fantastic day it was finished perfectly with a talk from the actor and animal ambassador, Peter Egan. He gave his comment from the discussions which had gone on and read out a very inspirational poem about Moon Bears.