The chances are people do not vote strongly in large numbers on animal welfare matters to change the outcome of the eventual result, which is why these policies are usually towards the back of party political manifestos. Politicians being politicians however, calculations are done in whether people in their areas are either for or against issues, and then they do the sums, making brief but often open ended statements before the polls.
Two issues appear to dominate “animal welfare” issues in recent times- namely fox hunting, and more recently the badger cull. MP’s who have their constituencies in predominantly city and town areas largely oppose these two issues, because there are no positive votes likely to be found by supporting them in areas where neither occur. In the West Midlands county for example- The Black country boroughs of Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Walsall, Birmingham, and a small part of Coventry- no fox hunting with packs of dogs and people chasing on horseback occurs. There are also no current badger cull zones in any part of this area.
These issues are raised frequently because they are human interest stories which are highly politically motivated by divisions of class issue and by divisions of “town” and “Country”. They make good clickbait.
I’m not going to talk any further on these two issues- because quite frankly I’m absolutely sick and tired of them dominating the “animal welfare” agenda, to the point where no other issue is ever raised about animal suffering or “rights.”
Other animals and bird species are “torn to pieces”, other animal and bird species are “cruelly hunted to death”, and other animal and bird species are “pursued by the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.”
Hypocrisy is rife in all this, not just by politicians, but also by many who claim to support animal welfare/rights. I’m not sure why it matters more if a fox in the countryside is killed by someone rich with a pack of dogs on horseback during daylight hours, any more than being killed by poorer people on foot with dogs during night time hours in an urban setting. My point is the former will be newsworthy, attract large social media attention and comment and all the class based vitriol that is human emotion rather than any care about the animal dying itself. THEY ARE BOTH IMMMORAL, THEY ARE BOTH EQUALLY WRONG!
But in all of this what of the plight of the urban fox, or other creatures cruelly killed by council estate chavs with lurchers and lamps? Why do so few people in urban areas want to protest against his, report this to the authorities, or even lift a finger to stop and sabotage this- on their own doorsteps?
My concerns over the last 20 years and campaigning has been almost exclusively in the urban environment, also including rescue of birds where little media attention of the issues being faced in this urban setting is being addressed by the political class.
I have looked at all of the main party manifestos and their animal policies in the run up to this hastily called general election, and as an urban animal welfare advocate I find little of interest or inspiration that would make me want to vote for any of them based on this. The two species in the same countryside setting appear once again at the fore front, with little else- but why? Why do politicians from urban areas believe that coming out of their constituency holding up a freshly printed sign saying that they are against fox hunting is important to them? What have any of them really done for the welfare of wildlife on their doorstep?
As an alterative manifesto, I offer some crumbs for urban wildlife. Perhaps anyone reading with political clout may take some of these on board, or dismiss them completely and then down the line regurgitate them as their own ideas. I wouldn’t really mind that if it achieved the objective of getting the urban animal welfare issues discussed- issues that currently receive none.
#1 The return of the angling close season.
The removal of the statutory coarse fish close season on most stillwaters since 1995 and on canals in 2000 has had a negative effect on injuring wildfowl with all year round fishing occurring, where previously a lull between March 16th-June 16th gave nesting birds time to nest and raise young safely.
This gave an opportunity also for vegetation and other bankside wildlife to grow without being trampled. Most local authorities gave up management of fishing at their sites- or doled them out to outfits who were ill equipped to manage problem areas, with free fishing meaning anti social behaviour, angling litter, wildlife problems and poor fish handling. There must be a return to paying to fish on local authority waters and also canals.
A 2002 study Environment Agency study entitled “The impact of lost and discarded fishing line and tackle on mute swans Research and development technical record W1-051/TR, Perrins, Martin, Broughton,
“highlighted the magnitude of the danger which angling poses for mute swans. Rescue groups and the RSPCA attend over 8,000 swans in trouble each year and it is estimated that approximately 3,000 are due to angling -related incidents, either directly hooked or entangled with fishing tackle.”
Over 1,000 wild birds were admitted to RSPCA wildlife centres between 2005 and 2013 as a result of entanglement in fishing litter. 57 percent (601) of these were swans.
As an active wildfowl rescuer for 20 years I am fully aware at the sharp end of how urban wildlife is continuing to suffer on a daily basis , being needlessly and cruelly killed by this unregulated human recreation activity. So why do MP’s continue to ignore such matters- could it be that criticism is not a vote winner but ignorance is bliss?
#2 A ban on all forms of lead shot used in angling and shooting
Allied to the point above, lead shot both old and still used continues to poison water birds. It is a myth that all lead shot was banned in 1987. The same study mentioned above found that lead poisoning in the UK accounted for 3.6% of swan rescues over the period 1996-99, though in some “black spot” localised mainly urban areas, the situation was much higher. The black country is one of these areas. I speak from personal experience on this also.
There have been numerous studies, debates etc, but the general consensus among those in power favours the angling trades association’s protectionism. It is an economic protection issue that neither Labour nor Conservative Governments wanted to tackle- despite clearly being a toxic material being allowed to come into direct contact with the water, and be lost.
The angling associations , previously had a prominent friend in Westminster with Labour’s Martin Salter eventually going on to work for The angling Trust.
The issue with shooting and lead ammunition has also been consistently kicked into touch.
There is no rocket science about allowing a highly known toxic material to enter watercourses. ALL LEAD IN ALL ITS FORMS SHOULD BE BANNED!
#3 Tackling illegal fishing and poaching in urban areas with automatic jail sentences.
Illegal fishing costs both the economy through rod licence evasion and also poses significant risks to urban wildlife and fish. Since 2004 and free movement of people from Eastern Europe the issue has soared, with theft of fish on an industrial scale from still waters and also rivers. I have first hand experience of finding many hand made dangerous fish traps. The one below on a nature reserve was seven foot long and had been put out off an island with rope attached.
I am not naïve enough to believe that this is all the fault of foreigners, and also that they are unaware of British traditions of returning fish and need educating. The scale of the theft is organised and it is a crime. It needs to be tackled in this way as that issue with automatic sentences. If people continue to engage in these activities, they should be deported.
More local Environment agency backed bailiffs need to be created and directed at urban hot spot areas where it is known to occur.
Local authorities need to enforce local bye laws such as a ban on night fishing and the use of inappropriate tackle.
Poaching also takes the form of killing wildfowl and also some urban dwelling deer. Do not give me any hard luck stories of fake poverty being responsible for this- it is wildlife crime in an urban setting, and as disgusting as some Conservative supporter on horseback hunting down a fox in cold blood. “Little John’s” are not romantic heroes, they are wildlife criminals and they should be jailed when caught poaching.
#4 Dog control orders in designated sites of importance for nature conservation and nature reserves
Dogs not kept under control are killing wildlife in urban areas- but it doesn’t make headlines. Worse still many dog owners refuse to accept that chasing birds into water or even foxes into woodland is a problem. They need to be educated on this but some won’t, which is where dogs on lead by direction orders come in. If they still refuse to control their dogs, they should be fined or even banned from a site.
I believe there could be a requirement to either muzzle or keep dogs on a lead around water courses . This may be controversial but there are no chance of “accidents” occurring that way- and what really is the problem with that in ensuring your dog is protected from others that may attack and bite it?
Dogs should not be allowed to swim in watercourses.
There are some people who are using dogs in urban areas for hunting purposes. I regularly follow them and gather intelligence which is passed on. If vets repeatedly see people turning up to their surgeries with injuries to these animals, they should be legally bound to report suspicions to the RSPCA and police, instead of patching up for profit and ignoring urban wildlife hunting.
#5 The licensing of air weapons and tougher sentences for misuse
This has been a long standing personal issue to me and one which I will continue to remorselessly hunt down and stalk people back to their homes who use air weapons in public places, because they are scum.
Many forms of wildlife are suffering, as well as domestic cats and dogs and there is no such term in English law as “vermin”.
Successive Governments have failed to take control of this issue and even when caught red handed, police fail to take appropriate action other than “advise”. Anyone caught shooting in a public place should loose their weapon and be charged where they clearly commit wildlife crime offences.
In an example below, a coot was shot by the youth with a woman he was with tossing the dead bird like a toy for her Labrador to play with. He was identified by the police, the bird was taken as evidence by the RSPCA, and between them after 6 months they failed to communicate with one another, both blaming one another in the process. He escaped justice. WHY?- I subsequently learnt that this youth had volunteered significant information about a person of interest- (he had snitched on his mate), who subsequently had his house raided for drugs and weapons and received a prison sentence.
#6 Stronger bye laws for Local nature reserves and sites of importance for nature conservation.
I have dealt with some of the issues prior to this but would like bye laws implemented at all sites to protect urban wildlife. This would include
#a ban on the flying of drones/model aircraft in these areas
#a ban on the “exercising” of birds of prey (where in reality we all know what is going on there.)
#no barbeques which creates a fire risk to habitat
#no model boats
#no swimming or use of inflatables
#no removal of trees/plants etc
#7 Safer access solutions for urban wildlife
Roads are dangerous places for urban creatures to find themselves on. We all look away when there is a dead animal on the road with sorrow, but roads are being expanded all the time and traffic is becoming impossible to avoid. When these schemes are dreampt up there appear little planning carried out for urban wildlife in how they will adapt to this.
Solutions such as creating tunnels under watercourses separated by roads where road kill is high can be achieved or green bridges such as in The Netherlands.
#8 Stopping developments on so called “brownfield” sites that have become important urban wildlife habitat.
Urban wildlife does not have the same statutory protections that so called “green belt” areas enjoy. It is being systematically weakened by planning laws being relaxed in order to build more houses on so called “brownfield” land. Not only is this dangerous for future human use due to the legacy of pollution on this land, but also the secluded nature of these sites have become havens for urban wildlife and corridors for them to exist. When these go they loose their homes and likely their lives when they are forced onto roads or deemed “pests” to people usurping their habitat.
This needs to change, and the greed of the house building industry and the lies of their so called “environmental consultants, who are nothing more than PR spinners, needs to be put in check. Urban areas can naturally become green and support a variety of urban wildlife. Theses places do not need pretentious names such as “Garden cities” which are merely a window dressed extension of urban sprawl. They just need some basic recognition that they are important and worthy of turning into nature reserves. We need more of these in urban areas.
#9 The repeal of the EU birds and habitats directive article nine which legitimises culls of urban wildlife
The Habitats Directive (more formally known as Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) is a European Union directive adopted in 1992 as an EU response to the Berne Convention. It is one of the EU’s two directives in relation to wildlife and nature conservation, the other being the Birds Directive.
The Green party in particular, who undoubtedly lead on animal welfare issues have called on these EU directives to be secured on Brexit. But here’s what they miss, and why they are wrong about this, and I’m not sure why they want to protect a mechanism that has brought nothing but senseless slaughter to birds not belonging in the new border of Europe- something which birds have been crossing for millennia.
Let’s look at how this ghastly EU legislation, backed up by the likes of Birdlife International (should be Birddeath International) and the RSPB treated the ruddy duck. These avian eugenicists preach about biodiversity, yet do nothing about hunting, which is what the current bird directive protects and facilitates.
“Ruddy Duck Control EU Directive (79/409/EEC) on the Conservation of Wild Birds (Birds Directive) With regards to Ruddy Duck control, Article 11 of the EU Directive (79/409/EEC) on the Conservation of Wild Birds (Birds Directive) states that “Member States shall see that any introduction of species of bird which do not occur naturally in the wild state in the European territory of the Member States does not prejudice the local flora and fauna.”
EU Directive (92/43/EEC) on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (Habitats Directive) Article 22 (b) of the EU Directive (92/43/EEC) on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (Habitats Directive) states that “Member States shall ensure that the deliberate introduction into the wild of any species which is not native to their territory is regulated so as not to prejudice natural habitats within their natural range or the wild native flora and fauna and, if they consider it necessary, prohibit such introduction. The results of the assessment undertaken shall be forwarded to the committee for information.”
“Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention) Article 8 (h) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention) states that “each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and appropriate, prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.”
“Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) Article 11 (2) (b) of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) states that “each Contracting Party undertakes to strictly control the introduction of non-native species.”
“Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Article III (4c) of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) which relates to endangered migratory species states that “parties that are Range States of a migratory species listed in Appendix I shall endeavour to the extent feasible and appropriate, to prevent, reduce or control factors that are endangering or are likely to further endanger the species, including strictly controlling the introduction of, or controlling or eliminating, already introduced exotic species.” “
You see where I am coming from with this, and it is EU legislation that has proposed culls of grey squirrels amongst others.
Those who support Britain’s membership of the EU, do so in total ignorance as to what it’s directives have done for urban wildlife. I like ruddy ducks, and with over 5000 of them killed in the UK to “protect” a Spanish bird is a sick idea. Ban the hunting and stand up to those greasy Mediterranean murderers.
#10 An end to urban wildlife culls and the introduction of non lethal methods of site management.
Obviously something at the very heart of our campaign. There are alternatives to culling which are widely available. Animal Aid have produced a report into this.
We also looked into this regards geese in Sandwell.
Finally I would like to say that if we forget the common in the towns only favouring that which a very few humans decree should be “conserved” in their interpretation of areas that should be “protected” in the countryside, the next time you go down to an urban oasis for wildlife it may not be there anymore for the many to see. Urban wildlife matters!