My friend Philip Onions, a compassionate farmer, wrote this message to me (below), in response to the news that the Government are setting up an Environmental Audit Committee. So this is what might be called an expert opinion.
Of course we are talking about a government which wants to being back hunting with dogs, and is embarking on the slaughter of thousands of badgers in a doomed and inhumane attempt to eradicate bovine TB. What is on the agenda of this Audit group ? Well, we note that they will NOT be looking at Hunting with dogs. How utterly incredible. But this is the government we have.
One can only look on and wonder if this is just another piece of window dressing … and the “Audit” will actually have its conclusions already drawn up, like the enquiry into the Badger Cull. What an awful regime we are living in. It’s worth noting that this government has stripped Natural England of its powers. This board was set up some years ago to give a voice to the creatures who share the countryside with the Farmers. But now it cannot even advise the government. Instead it will be ordered to supervise the killing of the badgers. It’s a kind of totalitarianism … all the power is in the hands of the extreme end of the ministers who are in control, who are all farmers, and evidently there will be no mercy shown.
It is the nature of the modern world, that society is run from the heart of civilisation, whereas wildlife crime often occurs in secluded and wild places away from the scrutiny of official gaze. It is therefore rarely noticed by society until it is too late.
Some crime is cold bloodied and calculated (such as the taking of birds’ eggs) while other crimes are spontaneous acts of ignorance or neglect (such as dog walkers who allow their dogs unwittingly to interfere with nesting birds). To the wildlife affected, the result is the same. Should the punishment be the same too?
The greatest crime to wildlife populations in the last 100 years, in my opinion, may be granting people the right to roam and opening up forests to the public. Dogs hunt whether that is the intention of their owners or not, for example.
No wild fauna, nor flora can distinguish between a deliberate act of “wildlife crime” and a simple act of stupidity.
Inadvertently we are all capable of the most appalling stupid and senseless acts of destruction to the environment. However this committee will be considering “Wildlife Crime” so they will concentrate on deliberate acts of wanton crime – where they will fail therefore will be on the edge of the interface between what is deliberate and what is unintentional. Example, two individuals deliberately cross a piece of land to take terriers to a badger sett, release said terriers into the sett. We alert the police, who leave civilisation and arrive ASAP. The police have difficulties dealing with location, access and terrain. Whether the two individuals are caught with terriers in the sett or not (which is unlikely considering above) the excuse is “We were just walking our dog and it ran off.”
This defence is water tight in the eyes of town orientated police officers and magistrates, unless they are caught with dead badgers (one could be an accident).
If they hear bumbling flat foots crashing through the undergrowth with crackling radios (as they will) or helicopters or sirens (which they will) there will be no evidence, except a dirty terrier and two men out for a walk on a Sunday afternoon.
However if the committee ignore “hunting with dogs” it is a bit like a committee examining bank crimes and excluding financial crimes!