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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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My worry, my future, but not my choice

My future has been decided but by a seven month gap, I had no say. I had no say on what my future would hold regarding the direction the country I live in will go, and what that will mean and result in.

Above everything the thing I feel the most passionate and now worried about is our natural environment. Everyday I observe it, record it, enjoy it and it brings me such happiness. Going out onto my patch and exploring what’s about; swifts flying high, chiffchaffs singing, buzzards squawking overhead, badgers tumbling over and sneaking over fields at the dead of night. Campaigning and doing whatever I can to give those species that are on the brink or entangled into the poor decisions and disregard of humans; from hen harriers and turtle doves to badgers and foxes. Trying to spread why our natural world is so wonderful and what we can do to help it has just got harder. Harder in a way that we’ve put 70% of UK environmental safeguards at risk, but we need to make sure this isn’t lost. In a world where nature is not a top priority, this is going to be beyond tough but vital for the future of everything simple in our country which brings us life everyday. 

The combination of shock and worry makes this post difficult to write, and I really didn’t think I’d have too. Yet again I was too ignorant to think that as a country we’d vote for a future, and one with peace in mind. No longer are we a continent of unity, which I believe being a member of the EU represented. By the looks of things, we will no longer be a country of unity either as the results have split us a part. When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt numb from the shock. So much so I had to check if Friday had actually happened, it didn’t feel realistic. Fortunately this morning I seem to have come to terms with the matter but still terribly unsure of whats happened. A reason why I feel ‘better’ this morning was after yesterday and the satisfaction I got from speaking my thoughts a loud, effectively getting it off my chest.

It was the launch of National Badger Week at Lush, Oxford Street and I was very privileged to go along and talk. After what had happened in the last 48 hours it wasn’t just badgers I was going to talk about. Regarding the results I spoke about what this could mean for nature as well as the voice of young people. I further discussed this with Dominic Dyer and MP Kerry McCarthy. Both were unsure of what’s to come, and that at the moment there are no answers. Two interesting points were that farmers have lost 65% of there subsides, which came from the EU, meaning due to the extortionate costs of the badger cull it could be put off this year. Not that’s any reason for us to have voted leave as food prices are likely to go up and this will only be short term, but in the mean time it gives us an opportunity to fight against the cull. The point was also made about the high percentage of young people who voted to remain. Obviously when they voted they were looking to the future; their future jobs, future economy, what their country will look like in the future which I believe included the environment. More precisely issues which are growing in awareness such as climate change. Something we need to work together on small and large scales to tackle, and if nothing is done soon enough it will catch up with us in the future. Instead, older populations decided our future.

Based on what has happened already since the results, the uncertainty, and shock, I have never felt so worried. On Friday morning I felt ashamed and embarrassed to be English. Embarrassed by what our neighbours must think and ashamed because of what we’ve lost. We all worry in life; for myself that may be if I’m going to get some homework in on time, whether I’m going to have time to go and put my trail camera at my local badgers sett later, or whether I’ve got the grades I need to get into the University I want and later a job. However I’ve never felt so worried, this decision effects all this and the thing I care about above everything; nature. I know I’m being very bleak at the moment and (I hope) I’m exaggerating what the situation may be. Of course I don’t want a bad outcome for my country. The uncertainty is making it a lot worse though, I feel physically and emotionally exhausted – what’s to come? After all that blabber from the Leave campaign saying we’ll ‘take back control’, well it feels as-though we have no control now.

We had backing and support from the EU, including in relation to the natural world. From nature directives and environmental laws to a community that could work together to fight climate change and work for progress. We’re out on the other side now though and unfortunately it looks bleak. However bad it looks though and perhaps how bad it’s going to get, then the stronger we have to fight and collaborate for the sake of our natural heritage. That’s what I’m going to do, for the sake of wildlife do whatever I can and more. Making sure that its protection continues but also progresses, through increasing species numbers, richer habitats and for it to be safe to thrive and future generations to enjoy.

A day to remember

Yesterday was a remarkable day. For me, on a personal level, there in London, it was just mind blowing. I joined around 50,000 others in the streets of London as we marched through giving out a strong message of how we not only care about the future of this planet but want it to be a safe and sustainable place for everything which lives on it. Now, along with in many, many years to come. All through my body, I felt hope. The smile on my face was beaming as I was surrounded by so many passionate people who are fighting for what they believe in. That’s the thing with climate change, everyone has different stories and reasons why they’re so provoked to take action. Whether it be for those in the poorest parts of the world who’s homes could be washed away permanently with a 2-3 degree rise in temperature or for our wild friends and to protect their habitats. At the end of the day though, this is what brings us all together and shows we’re all the same.

One of the reasons why I did feel so hopeful was due to the amount of people there, no one can ignore that! At the end of the day it was announced as the biggest climate march that’s ever taken place in the UK! But what about elsewhere? Well, in other parts of the UK there were events taking place in York, Wales, Southampton, Manchester…everywhere! Then further afield, they were taking place all around the world. Sydney, Manila, South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Yemen, Greece, Austria, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Ukraine and the list goes on. Paris was also another city where protests were taking place but after the recent attacks, they were told that people marching and gathering was not allowed. Instead, the people here did something even more powerful. They left a pair of shoes to symbolise those that would of stood their. The sight of this must be so overpowering. Each and every pair representing someone. It made me think more to the core of why everyone may of attended a march. All with their own story and the path they’ve taken, perhaps the sadness they’ve come to contact with or what they’ve witnessed and has therefore made them come to terms and fight.

But was the message clearly shown? Well, if none of these marches or people happened or gathered around the world over the weekend then it wouldn’t of been shown how important this is. Letting leaders know that the whole world is watching. Regarding COP21, we have some hope. The fact it’s happening and the aim of the outcomes already are to put a cap on rising temperatures and the use of none-renewable energy. But, how far will this go though? Will it be enough to tackle the rising temperatures? Is it just going to be for the next 30-40 years or will it be established that the impacts of climate change and aims for a healthier planet need to be taken beyond that and into many, many years to come. Above everything, we need change.

Being part of the march in London yesterday was beyond imaginable, it was simply so inspiring and powerful, the sheer number and drive from all those people. There has been quite a build up too. For me, I’ve been doing lots of writing for numerous blogs, this blog and some more as well as attending local events. I believe local scales are very important as it’s about approaching ordinary people and encouraging them to get involved and do their part. Whether that just be things around their house, spreading the message to friends or perhaps they go on and write just a simple letter to their MP. It’s all important and adds up to the bigger picture and this massive wave we want to send to those who have the power to make a change. Some of my friends or people I might talk to believe that the rising temperatures are no big deal to them, yet they pose bigger threat, if big change doesn’t happen, then many of the issues which they believe do.

In fact, this wraps up with something that makes me mad about the attitude of many. The fact that it isn’t acted upon in ways that similar issues or maybe ones that are arguably not as important. Why are they issues that are classed as something not as vital as others? Not only by politicians and leaders but by ordinary people too, is it because we’re so disconnected? Aren’t looking to the future? Or perhaps because they’re classed as long term issues that are fast becoming short term issues? But when that time comes it will become too late. There are so many different elements to it, another may be profit and money which boils down to the fact that some would rather kill off natural environments to get some pounds in their pocket.

The whole world has it’s eyes on Paris from today until the 11th December. Young , old and from all around the world. Climate change is a global issue that we all must unite together to tackle. There are a number of topics that I’d like to write about on this post about yesterday, COP21, some of my views and so on. Also there’s so much that’s going to be happening over the next 11 days so to add my support and my eyes on Paris, I’ve decided that I’m going to write a series of blogs through the 11 days. Perhaps not everyday but covering a range of topics as the climate talks in Paris are very important and I’d like to highlight that with my blog.

 

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And of course, those hen harriers! (Richard Ebbs)

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