Friday, 4 July 2014

Freedom of information requests on beavers

About a month ago, when I first heard rumblings about the beaver cull in Devon, I put in FOIs to the government, asking for any communications between the Department, the National Farmers Union and the Angling Trust. Well - things have been somewhat overtaken by events but, today I got the results. Two letters, one from the Angling Trust to the Minister urging him to get rid of the beavers, and raising the spectre of disease, and another from the Minister to the Angling Trust saying that the best action would be to catch the beavers (Gov have kindly posted them - here).

This tells us a few things. One, there are no letters from the NFU. This does not mean the NFU support the beavers, and I would be astonished if they did, but it does confirm that the main enemy, bizarrely, is the Angling Trust.

Two, the Minister has confirmed the total absurdity of their position. Scotland has already introduced beavers - officially at Knapdale, and unofficially in the Tay River. The first of these is a trial which is due to end in 2015. It is inconceivable that the Scottish government will then try and get rid of the beavers. This means, that in 2015, the beavers will be officially established in Great Britain, and therefore be entitled to legal protection under the Habitats and Species Directive. They are trying to get rid of the animals now, because next year they will officially be a native species. This is a degree of biological bureaucracy that's hard to fathom.

Thirdly, and crucially, much of the argument is being hung on the potential for these beavers to have diseases. Given that the animals escaped from captive bred populations which had already been quarantined this is not credible, and can be easily checked and dismissed.

The bottom line of course is that none of these arguments has anything to do with the real issue, which is that the government does not like things it does not control, and is pandering to a special interest group that does not seem to understand science and essentially does not like change. We should ignore the Angling Trust. Their views over how to manage the countryside are selfish and short sighted. They do not own the rivers and they do not speak for wildlife. Their comments should carry no more weight than yours or mine.

1 comment:

  1. And the Angling Trust may be shortsighted. Beaver ponds in the States are considered a good spot to find a large fish. I've not fished one, but I have fished temporary "lakes" cut off from a large river in low water. No work swimming against the current - big fish.