Archive for November, 2016

To many people the word compromise means an end to an ongoing conflict or argument, that at least a point of agreement has been reached and now something positive might be achieved.

To others it means capitulation, giving in to the opposition and is a sign of weakness or failure. Many animal rights ‘activists’ (though that can hardly describe those who seem to spend all day tweeting) fall into the latter category.

Two meetings, one earlier this year and the other just this month, showed that people with different views coming together to discuss and debate their particular priorities can point to a way forward.

In May, a conference was organised to discuss the problems bats can cause in historic buildings. Their droppings and urine can seriously damage valuable and ancient monuments as well as creating ‘no-go’ areas for people with respiratory trouble. Clearing the mess is usually a daily task, often left to the older members of the congregation. All bats in the UK are protected and while steps can be taken to remove them from domestic dwellings, moving them on from a building such as a church (some 6500 are affected in this way) can be far more problematic and costly.

Bats in churches conference: working to find a compromise.

Bats in Churches conference: working to find a compromise.

The conference brought together representatives from the Bat Conservation Trust, Natural England, Historic England and the Church of England, as well as other interested organisations and individuals. The Bats in Churches Partnership had previously submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a project to tackle the problem, but this had failed. However, the good news is that, with guidance from the HLF, a new bid has just been re-submitted. If successful, the results of the project could lead to a sensible settlement of the issue which is acceptable to both sides.

The point to be made here is that it is through dialogue and a willingness of the various parties to attempt to see the problem through the eyes of opponents, this may lead to fair and positive results. While this is not so rare in the animal welfare world, it is almost akin to blasphemy within animal rights organisations. So when the Wild Animal Welfare Committee (WAWC), a body of scientists brought together by the Scottish animal welfare group One Kind, was formed, it was understandably viewed with some scepticism in certain quarters.

The WAWC held its inaugural conference in Edinburgh this month, with speakers addressing a range of issues currently affecting wild animals. Those attending also represented a range of views on wildlife matters and it would be wrong to suggested that everyone present all suddenly agreed, but it must be said that many of the points made were well-balanced and realistic. The tone of the meeting was moderate and professional, touching upon issues which avoided the simplistic banning mentality that is so prevalent in other animal welfare meetings. The speakers, while all being pro animal welfare, did not seek to hide or avoid difficult and sensitive subjects and it was interesting that when topics, such as hunting, were raised there was not the usual ‘shock horror’ reaction from the audience.

My initial feeling is that the WAWC, rather than wanting to be just another forum in which everyone present is of the same ilk, genuinely wants to see progress in animal welfare and that means talking to people who do not necessarily see things the same way. In doing so, the WAWC will have the usual animal rights critics on one side and suspicious hunters, shooters and land managers on the other side, so the route may not be easy.
It’s early days, but this is a voice that is long overdue and deserves to be heard.

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