Archive for June, 2015

Last year, environmental journalist Charlie Pye-Smith wrote an article about a new book project, the aim of which was to explain the need for better wildlife management and its benefits. (Wildlife management: Guest blog – Charlie Pye-Smith)FORL 7

This week saw the launch of The Facts of Rural Life, which has already received much well-deserved praise, not least from the two main speakers at the event, MPs Sir Nicholas Soames and Kate Hoey. Speeches were introduced by Brian Fanshawe, who had done so much of the ‘behind the scenes’ work in supporting the project. Those attending included academics, writers, conservation and animal welfare groups, as well as MPs and Peers, including five former ministers.

Sir Nicholas referred to the book as an outstanding and extraordinarily important project saying it is, “a masterpiece of sensible, down-to-earth, practical, knowledgeable words”. He added, “I am wholly confident that it will provide guidance for the Government, for opinion formers and above all that it will prove useful to conservationists, land-holders and the poor, wretched practitioners who strive against the odds to improve or maintain biodiversity in our truly marvellous and much put upon countryside.”

Kate Hoey recalled a previous book on foxhunting written by Charlie Pye-Smith, which she found extremely helpful in parliamentary debates, and read out a very supportive letter from conservationist Robin Page. She went on to say, “Certain animal rights groups have convinced the public, much of the media and many politicians that there are only two camps – one that likes wild animals and doesn’t kill them and another group that kill them just for fun. That situation suits the animal rights groups, but it could not be further from the truth. Wildlife management covers a range of activities, not all involving the culling of wild animals, but it is naïve to think that wildlife can be properly managed without some form of culling.” Kate echoed Sir Nicholas’ words about how useful the book will be and added that it should also be read by those who are genuine about improving the welfare of our wild animals.

Charlie Pye-Smith concluded the speeches by thanking everyone who had helped, saying, “If there is one message to be taken from this book it is that legislation should be based on hard evidence. This should be supplied by scientists and practitioners and not ageing rock stars.”

Why, then, is this book so important?

There is scarcely an acre of Britain which is truly wild.

Farming, forestry, hunting, water extraction and urbanisation have all had a profound effect on our flora and fauna. Top predators such as brown bear, lynx and wolf have been lost and as a result many of their prey species, including middle predators such as the fox and badger, no longer have any natural enemies. At the same time, other species have been introduced, frequently with disastrous consequences for livestock, crops and our native wildlife. Think, for example, of grey squirrel, mink, muntjac deer, rabbits and rats.

This prompts a fundamental question: who is responsible for managing wildlife?  Indeed, what exactly does it mean and what are its aims? I suspect if you ask many people they will have little or no grasp on the answers. Listen to any of the numerous television or radio debates on, for example, hunting or the badger cull and you would indeed be forgiven for thinking that there are only those two simple camps mentioned by Kate Hoey.

Not only is it untrue, but it has an incredibly destructive factor in creating an atmosphere in which bad legislation is made. Yet despite being almost ignored in the popular media and poorly understood by many politicians, wildlife management – or more precisely a lack of wildlife management – is absolutely central to many of the difficulties we face today regarding our relationship with the flora and fauna of the UK.

Some people maintain that everything should be left to nature. But if that were to happen, many species would become increasingly rare, or even extinct. Diseases, some possibly affecting humans, would just be left to do their work unhindered. Wild animals, as one animal welfare advocate said, die horribly in the wild, as if that was some kind of reason not to intervene.

Others believe human beings, having so profoundly altered the environment, must take full responsibility for managing wildlife. When wildlife management – its aims, its benefits and the problems its absence can cause – are properly explained, reasonable people really do ‘get it’.

It is to address this state of affairs that The Facts of Rural Life has been written. It draws on extensive research in the field and interviews with scientists, farmers, conservationists, vets, gamekeepers, huntsmen and others involved in the study and management of wildlife, and it addresses many of the crucial conservation controversies of our time. It also exposes the consequences of ill-thought through legislation.

This is an important book and should be read by everyone who claims to care for the countryside and its wildlife.

The Facts of Rural Life (£10 per copy or £8 each for five copies or more) is published by the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management (http://www.vet-wildlifemanagement.org.uk)

For further information and order enquiries please contact:

Brian Fanshawe, e-mail: brian.fanshawe@btconnect.com


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