Thursday, 23 May 2013

'Cull of the Wild' continues

New information obtained by the RSPB through the Freedom of Information Act has shown that the government secretly licensed the destruction of buzzard eggs on pheasant shooting estates, after explicitly stating they had to intentions to cull buzzard. This part of the world has a long and inglorious history of persecuting birds of prey and the resumption of such activities - with official blessing - is deeply worrying, as is the tacit assumption that the only real legitimate purpose of the countryside is some form agriculture, even one as pointless and unnecessary as pheasant ranching.

This is not about shooting per se. Hunting for food might be able to play a role in controlling certain populations, and can support conservation by raising income etc., but it should be a secondary activity alongside a healthy and self sustaining ecosystem. Intensively managing land and maintaining deeply unnatural ecosystems (often with public financial support) for shooting purposes is something quite different, and must be challenged at every turn. In some ways the pheasant shoot is really not so different to a canned hunt in Africa (where lions are introduced to a private ranch and hunted).

Of course buzzards are just the tip of the iceberg. Badgers are also under threat, as are wild boar in the south-west. Wild boar, a native species which has successfully re-established itself in the South West, Sussex and the Scottish Border is in danger of being hunted to extinction once again, in part through government inaction and unwillingness to recognize them as a legitimate part of our national fauna.

We need to reappraise our attitude to wildlife and to risk, and also challenge the assumption that the primary purpose of the countryside is to sustain farming. That is one of its uses but only one. To say oterwise is like saying the only purpose of the city is to hold offices.

Anyway, I will be down in the South West tomorrow, meeting with wild boar supporters and detractors, so much more to come on this soon. 

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