Saturday, March 05, 2005

Conservation? What conservation?

Already on this blog, we have queried Dr. Flat Earth King's description of herself as a 'conservationist'. With the success of her organisation's protection of badgers in the UK, the phrase may be applicable to her salary - but little else.

Wildlife Trust member Dr. Willie Stanton, whose detailed work tracked the explosion in badger numbers - and the attendant loss of other species, we have also quoted at length, but several letters to the farming press express similar sentiments, and we quote extracts below:

In a letter entitled "Beautiful but deadly", Geoff Loxton from Bath points out that "During the 1950's Tb had been eradicated from my 450 cow herd. At that time there were still many ground nesting birds such as peewits and skylarks, safe from the omnivourous badger jaws, which now scoop up many of the eggs and nestlings : these birds used to be everywhere in the countryside in the 1920's, 1930's and 1950's. Why do people nowadays think it is ecologically balanced for badgers to be as plentiful in the English countryside as they are today? Their prevalence is a recent phenomenon; as a boy, I never saw or heard about badgers. How did the badger lobby succeed so well? They used attractive badger pictures to head publicity campaigns and made much of the 'kindly' Mr. Badger of the Wind in the Willows, and propagated the view that badgers were a 'good thing'.

There is no mention of the danger to peewits and skylarks. And now the badger is protected by law and its population has exploded. I cannot understand the badger lobby. Are they so fond of 'wildlife' that they will be happy to have rats and mice in their kitchens? But they appear to be happy to see thousands of cattle slaughtered rather than accept similarly controlled slaughter of badgers to prevent the spread of Tb. And they don't seem to like my peewits and skylarks".

In another excellent letter, John Capstick from Penrith, Cumbria questions (as do we) the "Contradictory conservation ethos", of allowing an unconstrained species- specific policy to masquerade under the 'conservation' banner.

"While a booming badger population enjoys complete protection under the law, elsewhere thousands of red deer are being culled without so much as a raised eyebrow from the general public. Any suggestion of curbs on a fast expanding seal population raises a storm of protest, while hedgehogs are removed wholesale from islands where they are not thought to be 'appropriate'. Single species campaigning and 'conservation' to the exclusion of the wider aspects of biodiversity does a disservice to genuine efforts to achieve balanced wildlife populations in the countryside.

An uncontrolled and exponentially increasing badger population will lead to diminished food supplies and starvation with the attendant disturbing scenes which badger lovers will find distressing". (Farmers are seing this already and they are pretty distressed too. Badgers, sick and emaciated, seeking food and shelter where they can - often in broad daylight)

"Where species without predators are allowed to expand beyond the carrying capacity of the ground they occupy, this is the inevitable result.In a small country such as this, some degree of 'management' is necessary if we are to have a countryside where all species have a reasonable chance of sustainable populations. Our predilection for making arbitary choices over which species have a superficially attractive appearance, and should therefore be excluded from sensible management, while a blind eye is turned to others who are seen as not so attractive and therefore expendable is irrational. It does nature and conservation no service"

We agree. In fact we would go further and request a definition of the role of 'Wildlife Trusts'.
Is that 'Wildlife' singular or 'Wildlife' plural??

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