Friday, 7 October 2016

What have the Tories got against wildlife?

Two weeks ago, the Conservative government announced that it was ‘rolling out’ its badger cull to parts of Cornwall, Herefordshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.

It isn’t surprising that the government didn’t want to disclose the facts and figures whilst Parliament was sitting. Cowardly Conservative Ministers waited until the Parliamentary recess before announcing its plans and some of the statistics of its futile policy.

After killing more than 1500 badgers in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset over the last three years, it has now revealed that it expects more than 10,000 badgers to be killed in this year’s cull. It cost an average of more than £1200 for each badger that was killed last year.

There is not a shred of scientific evidence to support this serial killing. It was not even supported by the government’s own Chief Scientific Adviser.

Professor Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London said these plans would be “hugely costly for farmers and taxpayers” and with no evidence to support them. She said “… the government has released no evidence that farmer-led culling is helping to control cattle TB. Since this is the fourth year of culling in the pilot areas, and benefits were expected to emerge after four years, I can't understand why the government didn't wait for the results of the pilots before rolling out culling on such a massive scale."

Now, not satisfied with badgers, it has been revealed that the Conservatives are planning a fresh vote on repealing the fox hunting ban.

Theresa May supported fox hunting during her leadership campaign and the new Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, said that she was “absolutely committed” to holding a vote on repealing the ban.

Despite the fact that opinion polls confirm that the vast majority of British people think that banning fox-hunting is a settled issue, it seems the Conservatives are determined to pander to a small group of blood-sports enthusiasts.

Far from being settled, people will need to make their voices heard loudly again to prevent the re-introduction of, as Oscar Wilde said, the unspeakable pursuing the inedible.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Saving the elephants and rhinos

The Great Elephant Census published this month that 30% of Africa’s elephants have been wiped out between 2007 and 2014. That’s 144,000 elephants killed in 7 years. At the current rate of decline of 8% per year, African elephants are on the path to extinction. 

Every year some 30,000 elephants and 1,100 rhinos are brutally killed by poachers. Their tusks and horns are hacked off and trafficked around the world, mainly to countries in Asia where demand is highest but also to Western countries. They are brutally butchered by heavily armed criminal gangs using an arsenal of weapons, including AK-47s, helicopter gunships, snares, and poison. Terrorist groups are also involved in poaching and controlling transport routes for ivory.

Since poaching for the ivory trade is the most pressing threat facing elephants, the closure of all ivory markets, both international and domestic, is critical for their survival.

Currently, a legal ivory trade exists in the UK, and significant amounts of ivory are also sold online. This legal trade serves as a cover for illegal sales of ivory. The law is ineffective and unworkable, and ivory continues to be sold without the required paperwork. The police and the courts don’t have the resources to monitor the trade or prosecute all cases where the law is broken.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The first treaty was eventually signed in 1973.

There is now international momentum to ban ivory trading. It appears to be the only thing that will dramatically change the elephants’ prospects of survival.

The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September. This is the opportunity for international agreement on a clampdown on sales of ivory.

That’s why I have signed a letter to Theresa May to take action to stop the domestic ivory market, but also for the UK to vote to stop this trade globally.