About 2,000 people held a rally in London yesterday as licences to cull badgers came into force in two areas.
Up to 5,094 badgers can now be culled in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire. Groups of farmers in the two pilot zones have been given licences to conduct culls using trained marksmen to shoot the animals.
The rally was led by ex-Queen guitarist, Brian May, who delivered a near-250,000 signature petition to Downing Street calling for the cull to be scrapped. He said: “The great bit of new information is it has now been demonstrated that the cull cannot make economic sense. It will lose the taxpayer money rather than save it.
“That was really the last shred of reason that you could give for this cull going ahead. It is a very good time for Mr Cameron to reconsider and withdraw from this monstrous cull, in the public interest.”
Posted in Badgers, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged animal welfare, badgers, Brian May, campaigns, conservation, countryside, David Cameron, Parliament, petitions
Campaigners marched on Parliament yesterday, urging the British Government to support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that are responsible for declining bee numbers.
The ‘March of the Beekeepers’ in Parliament Square came ahead of a crucial vote in Brussels next week, and included a number of celebrities, as well as many beekeepers, conservationists, gardeners and environmental activists. Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett and artist Rachel Whiteread were among those protesting at Westminster.
Yellow and black dominated the scene as many in attendance dressed as bees and carried signs with slogans such as “Like Food? Love Bees” and “No to Neonic,” referring to pesticide class called neonicotinoids that a number of recent studies have tied directly to the decline of bee populations.
Member states are due to decide whether or not to introduce a two-year moratorium on their use on Monday. Unlike France, Spain and Italy, Britain is widely expected to abstain or vote no against the neonicotinoid ban, saying the impact of the pesticides on bees is unclear and the restrictions could harm crop production.
The organisers of the so-called “March of the Beekeepers” included Avaaz, Friends of the Earth, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, Soil Association and the group 38 Degrees.
“Ministers can’t ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline,” said Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Andrew Pendleton. “Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.”
So far 2.6 million people have signed the Avaaz petition, which calls for the immediate ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.
Posted in Bees, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged Avaaz, conservation, countryside, Defra, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Parliament, pesticides, petitions
There is a great deal of relief after the Government has shelved controversial plans to sell off England’s publicly owned woodlands to the private sector. The u-turn was made after 500,000 people signed an online petition against the unpopular proposal.
Speaking last week, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that the nation’s public forests would remain publicly owned and held in trust for future generations by a new public body. “I want to put the future of our public forests on a clear and firm footing,” he said. “Our forests and woodland will remain secured in public ownership for the people who enjoy them, the businesses that depend on them and the wildlife that flourishes in them.”
The Forestry Commission will be given extra funding of £3.5m this year to make up for not selling forestry land and an additional £2m has been found to help the commission deal with ash dieback.
Hen Anderson, of campaign group Save Our Woods, welcomed the Government’s response, saying it was vindication of the 500,000 who signed the online petition. “Very positive,” she said. “Two years ago they were flogging off the lot, but a half a million people kicked them in the pants.”
But some charities have criticised the lack of any timetable for setting up the new trust body and said the important work carried out by the Forestry Commission remained endangered by heavy budget cuts.
The RSPB said: “While these proposals are encouraging, they won’t help if our woodlands are starved of funding and effective management in the long term.”
Posted in Nature, Trees, Wildlife
Tagged campaigns, conservation, countryside, Forestry Commission, Owen Paterson, petitions, RSPB, Save Our Woods, woods
Success! The European Commission has listened to the 2.2 million people who signed the Avaaz online petition and proposed that member states restrict the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides linked to the decline of bees.
The Commission will be asking EU countries to suspend the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam on sunflowers, rapeseed, cotton, maize and other crops which bees are attracted to. The proposals mean the chemicals could be banned from use on flowering crops in Europe as early as July.
European Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent said: “We are requesting member states to suspend for two years the use of the pesticides on seeds, granulates and sprays for crops which attract bees. We hope the regulation can be adopted before March.”
The proposals will enter EU law on 25 February if a majority of Europe’s member states vote in favour. France and the Netherlands are supportive but the UK and Germany are reported to be reluctant. The Commission wants restrictions in place by July and the measures will be reviewed after two years.
Luis Morago, from campaign group Avaaz , said: “This could mark a tipping point in our battle, but it does not go far enough. Over 2.2 million people want the European Commission to face-down spurious German and British opposition and push for comprehensive ban of neonicotinoid pesticides!”
Friends of the Earth also believes this “hugely significant EU proposal” promises a first, important step on the road to turning around the decline of our bees. “The UK Government must throw its weight behind this,” it said. “The evidence linking neonicotinoids to declining bee populations is growing. We can’t afford to ignore the threat they pose to these crucial pollinators.”
Posted in Bees, Nature, Wildlife
Tagged Avaaz, campaigns, conservation, countryside, crops, Europe, European Commission, Friends of the Earth, pesticides, petitions
Avaaz has launched an online petition calling on the EU to immediately ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
The global advocacy organisation says: “Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But in 48 hours the European Union could move to ban the most poisonous pesticides, and pave the way to a global ban that would save bees from extinction.
“Four EU countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are already recovering. Days ago the official European food safety watchdog stated for the first time that certain pesticides are fatally harming bees.
“Now legal experts and European politicians are calling for an immediate ban. But, Bayer and other giant pesticide producers are lobbying hard to keep them on the market. If we build a huge swarm of public outrage now, we can push the European Commission to put our health and our environment before the profit of a few.
“We know our voices count! Last year, our 1.2 million strong petition forced US authorities to open a formal consultation on pesticides – now if we reach 2 million, we can persuade the EU to get rid of these crazy poisons and pave the way for a ban worldwide.
“Sign the urgent petition and share this with everyone – Avaaz and leading MEPs will deliver our message ahead of this week’s key meeting in Brussels.” Over 2 million have already signed the petition, Avaaz now hope to get 2.5 million.
A quick update on the Bee Cause campaign. A total of 125 MPs showed their support for halting bee decline by posing with a giant cuddly bee and sign saying ‘Britain needs its bees’ at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party politicians all backed the Friends of the Earth campaign, including the Tory MP for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant (below). They learnt that the amount of honey produced by UK bees fell by 72% in 2012 compared with the previous year.
The campaign is calling for a National Bee Action Plan to tackle the major threats facing British bees and you can give your support by signing an online petition.
Friends of the Earth’s Nature Campaigner, Paul de Zylva, said: “It’s a very welcome first step to see so many MPs recognise the importance of bees to our farmers, food prices and countryside. But they must now act urgently to halt bee decline. The effect of letting bees go the same way as ash trees would be catastrophic.”
There is growing concern that funding problems may result in Britain’s National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) being axed.
The NWCU is a national police unit that gathers intelligence on wildlife crime and provides investigative support to police services. Defra has agreed its own share of the funding, but the Home Office has yet to sign off the £136,000 required to ensure the unit’s survival. There are fears it may fall foul of the 20 per cent cuts in police budgets being implemented by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.
More than 100 MPs have already signed an early day motion calling on the Government to secure the future of the NWCU, which combats everything from rhino-horn theft and illegal trade in reptiles to persecution of birds of prey. The unit, whose funding runs out on 31 March, has been busier than ever in the last few months. Wildlife crime of all types is rapidly growing across the world, with elephant and rhino poaching hitting new highs last year.
The Badger Trust said it is very concerned and has called on its supporters to both sign a petition and write to their MP, asking for their support. The RSPB is also backing the unit. Spokesperson Grahame Madge said: “With the future of some birds of prey hanging in the balance, it’s imperative that the NWCU itself has a secure future.”
Posted in Nature, Wildlife
Tagged animal welfare, badgers, birds, conservation, countryside, Defra, Home Office, NWCU, petitions, RSPB, wildlife crime
Government plans to cull thousands of badgers have been delayed until next summer amid growing concern about the cost and effectiveness of the controversial scheme.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the cull in the south-west of England would have to be delayed because a new survey revealed there were twice as many badgers as previously thought, making the cull too expensive. Farmers felt they could not kill enough badgers before the animals start going underground for the winter. Recent bad weather was also blamed for hampering preparations.
Mr Paterson insisted that the Government was still committed to reducing badger numbers, but said the “optimal time” for the cull had passed. The announcement was welcomed by many leading scientists, who have expressed severe doubts about whether the cull would successfully stop the spread of bovine TB. Lord John Krebs, the architect of a 10-year badger culling trial, called it “mindless” and signed a letter with 31 other eminent scientists demanding the Government reconsider its plan.
Anti-cull campaigners believe the cull is inhumane because the method of shooting could cause suffering to many thousands of badgers. They have called for a vaccination programme along with increased levels of testing. An e-petition, launched by the Queen guitarist Brian May, as part of the Team Badger campaign, attracted more than 160,00 signatures.
RSPCA Chief Executive, Gavin Grant, said the fight to stop the cull would continue and legal challenges were being drafted. “We welcome this postponement, but this must not be a temporary reprieve, but must mark an end to all cull plans,” he said.
There was good news for the Bee Cause campaign this week. A powerful group of MPs is to investigate the impact of pesticides on bees. The move follows mounting evidence about the harmful effect of neonicotinoids, including a recent report by Friends of the Earth.
The Environmental Audit Committee will quiz Ministers about why the UK has failed to join other European countries, such as France and Italy, in suspending use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The influential committee will also look at the effect of pesticides on human health and address broader issues, such as whether the Government should encourage alternatives to pesticides.
You can support the Bee Cause campaign by signing an online petition, which calls on David Cameron to introduce a National Bee Action Plan, including the suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides.
I was delighted to read that over 100,000 people have signed a petition against the badger cull, which means the issue could now be debated in Parliament.
The e-petition was launched last week by the Queen guitarist, Brian May, as part of the Team Badger campaign, after the first licence to kill the protected wild animal was issued for a pilot cull in Gloucestershire.
There is widespread anger over the Government’s decision to push ahead with the cull, which campaigners say will be of little use in reducing bovine TB, and could even make it worse in some areas.
Supporters of the cull claim the move is necessary in order to tackle TB in cattle because badgers spread the disease to livestock. But Team Badger is angry that over 70% of the badger population will be killed in large areas of the country and is calling on the Government to implement a vaccination programme, along with improved testing.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust is leading the way. They have started vaccinating badgers against TB and hope their five-year scheme will show that vaccination is a more effective and humane way of controlling bovine TB.