VEGA News Item

It's the Dawn of AM for Wildlife in the Countryside - 30/03/2005
VEGA answers DEFRA'S Call for Consultation on an Act of 1981 and interpretations in the spirit of the CAP'S AM Chorus: After Modulation in the Cross Compliance Mode of Sheer Production
Comments on Ammendments to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Please also look at our comments in response to DEFRA proposal for increasing the conservation status of 11 species to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Proposal A, page 11
The schedule should be received on a regular basis. We recommend a 10- yearly scale cycle.

Proposal B, page 12
If proposal B would apply to birds such as pheasants and partridges bred to be released into the wild, then to be shot at, we would be strongly in favor. This interpretation would also extend to such birds that escape a season’s shooting and the offspring they produce in the wild after their release. Identification would be difficult; the proposal would also imply the need for special precautions to preserve designated species such as white ducks from cross-breeding or hybridization in the wild. Such mongrelisation is beyond human interference to inhibit entirely and is surely an evolutionary process generally favoring survival of the fittest (i.e. best adapted to its environment and natural conditions and changes therein). The Ruddy Duck must surely earn all the protection of any wild bird. If a case can be made for preservation of the white duck (e.g. as flocks with emblematic significance) congenial reserves should be allocated for it. Release and reintroduction must be allowed for, but only with full precautions, licensing, and registration of competence.

Proposal C, page 12.
Nests should be protected on a year-round basis. Creation of a suitable Schedule requires expert definitions: some nests may be occupied by birds in a following season of a species other than the builders’ and conditions in semi-wild (feral) birds may change natural behaviour somewhat, e.g. nests in eaves. There may arise in certain cases good reasons to destroy the nest once the fledglings have flown and before a new season begins, e.g. because of nests causing danger or nuisance in or on buildings or in thatch. Observations on birds’ habitats must also apply to the nests of animals such as wasps.

Proposal D, page 15
Recklessness and negligence are innocent words, literally, with much scope for litigation. A motorist hitting a bird on the wing and injuring or killing it may or may not be negligent in the prevailing conditions, e.g. for the avoidance and due foresight and precaution. Competitors and participants in motocross and similar events involving machines and vehicles may damage habitats with disregard amounting to recklessness. On the basis that birds on managed land (e.g. a farm) count as wild routine practices, e.g. mowing for silaging or haymaking or times of sowing or harvesting, or untimely or excessive spraying, must count as harmful disturbances to wildlife ranging from studied negligence to outright recklessness ( or fecklessness). Some of these challenges are being faced by rewards for considerate husbandry and premiums for outputs from less unfriendly methods to encourage reform and to reinforce deterrence by applications of penalties. Changes in the CAP bid fair to promote such modifications in attitude.

Proposal E, page 16
Retention of section 3 in its present form requires some reservations mainly as a result of hunting and anomalies in protected species (e.g. foxes and badges), as well as controlled culling, on welfare grounds of wild communities of animals (e.g. of ailing animals or of overpopulation in unequal circumstances, where well-considered human interventions may be rated superior to “nature taking its course”). These challenges arise with commensals of undomesticated animals, such as foxes, badgers, deer, sheep, swine, and felines. For birds the close seasons should apply in effect, all year round, i.e. that, like other animals, they must not be regarded as quarry for human depredations.

Proposal F, page 17
While arguments exist for delay in legislation and action on polluter/miscreant-pays principles, underlying uncertainties remain- and possibly increase-to complicate litigation and action. Reward should be offered to agencies taking and educating the broad view on environmental factors, territorial aggrandizement, and the condition of much of our land and certainly the countryside, as an arena for the exercise of human habitation and convenience and of the requisition of land as a factory-floor for production of food and for feed for the livestock enslaved to that end. Changes in the nature of crops and the consequent agricultural regimes can inflict severe disturbances on wildlife, particularly birds, bats and invertebrates. The place of weeds, seasonal sowing, mowing for silage and hay, and monotonous platforms of ryegrass for intensification in dairy/beef/veal/systems, as well as in the management of wetland, flooding, and sea incursions must be taken. account. Debate and tests for introductions of GM crops illustrate reservations much severer than introduction of crops such as oilseed rape, regarded quite recently illustrate this point. Tram-lining, management of stubbles, plowing, and minitill procedures are further factors with corollaries difficult to blame on an individual agent, such as a farmer. EU imperatives and extensions for people’s rights-to-roam and the activities of anglers and lets for artificial lakes will present various challenges to custodians of the countryside and the wildlife commensals.

Authorization and licensing must be overhauled with strict assertion for the common good. Paragraph 34 illustrates the language of provender for lawyers: what do “unintentional actions” mean when a gang of mounted people with dogs out to
“exercise the horses” (in, say, a drag-hunt) lose control of a pack of dogs, which proceed to tear a wild animal apart? If a rambler’s dog slips the leash and worries sheep or cattle, the farmer has the right to shoot the dog. In terms of animal welfare and commercial value wildlife and enslaved and owned animals must count for unequivocal concern.

Section 5, page 17.
Some baits are colored with artificial dyes that may be carcinogenic, although they are not used as pesticides; however, they may contaminate lakes and rivers, and streams. The language of possession and storage fo forbidden substances must be worded to comprehend the possible plea for exemption as an expression of custody only, which should be unequivocally unacceptable. Possession and custody are terms for clarification in other contexts.

Proposal G, page 21.
Agreed. (the definitions might be extended to embrace fossils and archaeological objects).

Proposal H and I, page 22.

Proposal J, page 23
Birds and bats nesting in eaves and lofts and in belfries need to be covered. Immediate release at the same site appears to be entertained. Such quick release may be impracticable, but the interval between capture or removal and release at the site into the wild needs provision for authorization and care.

Proposals L and M, page 24.
In these disagreeable tasks, advances with human traps/cages/pens and killing must oust all other methods of authorized culling. The cage should be monitored for siting and reported inspection with a record of the inspector and frequency. The killing(s) and mode of killing (which could be like those used for stray dogs and cats or other companion animals) should be recorded by a suitably trained and licensed slaughterer. Such practices are being adopted for urban commensals such as rodents and for rafts to catch and kill introduced and escaped animals, such as mink, frequenting and damaging river banks. (Possible alternatives include introductions of vigorous competitors, such as otters).

Proposal N, page 25

Proposal O, page 25.
Many wild plants are taken on a food-for-free basis and for herbs- or even for bedding or composting. Such activities may entail cropping of part of the plant (e.g. the leaf) and possibilities of regrowth or removal of whole plants. These practices accompany removal and disturbances for decorative or ornamental purposes. They may also include non-native species (e.g. the Australian flora flourishing in the environs of wool mills of Yorkshire). The following enter our considerations:

• Bitter cress, (Cardemine)
• (Spanish) Bluebell, (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
• Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
• Dandelion (Taxus officionalis)
• Dock (Rumex )
• Fat Hen (Chenopodium album)
• Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)
• Hips and Haws ( Rosaceae and Crataegus)
• Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana)
• Mustard ( Sinapis)
• Mistletoe (Vascum album)
• Hazel (Corylus avellana) and other nuts
• Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)
• Seakale (Crambe maritime L.), Kelp (Laminarials) and other seaweed
• Strawberry (Frageria vesca) other wild berries and sources of flowers for making beverages/jams)
• Fungi

Proposal P, page 28
Powers of entry by the police and other organizations have been, or are being, tackled in other contexts, e.g. for animal welfare and cruelty and involving the RSPCA. Similar arrangements, with nominated NGOs should be made for the Wildlife and Countryside Act, particularly on suspicion of harm to animals and danger from escape or storage of animals or material of danger to the countryside and its inhabitants.

Proposal Q, page 31
Definitions of terms such as natural, wild, feral, native, and non-native and the consequent treatment of the liabilities they impose need much clearer definition and determination of an evolutionary cut-off date or reference to a set of conditions (e.g. of climate and means of introduction and escape and spread). Offspring of non-native species may establish colonies in the wild and fairly rapidly become native. (Similarly in the human community a diaspora from India, via Africa, and assimilated in the UK is judged truly British, in a native human population already diverse and hybridized): Many of our domesticated breeds are native, but are in many senses not natural: the proliferation of types of dogs tracing their descent over about 12,000 years from the now-extinct wolf that could roam the land and what is now mainland Europe before the Channel filled; and the wolf is now a candidate for reintroduction, if only as a natural predator of animals such as non-native feral deer that have settled in after escape in relatively recent times from collections of exotics. The grey squirrel has likewise become what may be regarded as a wild-born and robust native. Care of the red squirrel is a better policy now than attempts at exterminating the invader with alien origins.

Liability requires us to consider a range of responsibilities, with as kind and careful an exercise of our dominion as possible. Road-kills and injuries impose special duties in the sense of the precautionary principle, reporting of casualties, and availability of veterinary care. Free-range and roaming sheep and deer call for special attention (hefted sheep and sheep in less favored areas are almost feral). Anomalies such as the differing status of the fox and badger must be removed, and condemnation of species as pests very carefully practised. Similarly, the limited purview of the RSPB must not override the broader care represented by organizations such as RSPCA. Escapes and sanctuaries of farmed animals are likely to include mongrels, cross-breeds, hybrids, mule sheep, and cattle and horses with exotic names extending beyond the bounds of an even extended EU- and probably with them a host of alien and persistent micro-organisms and parasites. Paragraph 99 appears to exempt from prosecution game-birds for shooting. This pastime should be banned. Rearing animals for such purposes is indefensible. Shooting as a means of controlling “natural” pests (e.g. pigeons on “unnatural” oilseed rape) may be justified. It is noteworthy that artificial game cover includes exotic plant species such as quinoa).

Planting introduced crops in the wild, possibly as a means with their attendant insect species and pollen, as pest control or remediation (e.g. to rid soils of toxic industrial residues), can bestow benefits, but the practice requires great care in preparation and monitoring.

Proposal R, page 31

Proposal S, page 32

Proposal T, page 34

Proposal U, page 35

Proposal V, page 36
Agreed. But see our comments of Proposal Q

Proposal W, page 37
Agreed, but opportunities for consultation with appropriate local representatives should be indicated.

Proposal X, page 38
Agreed; our earlier comments on compulsory access are relevant.

Proposal Y, page 41
Agreed; our earlier comments on hybrids and climate change, with environmental and genetic connotations, are relevant.

Proposal Z, page 43
Agreed. We think other legislation is in train to extend the list of injurious, weeds and the powers for further additions. The Weeds Act seems a suitable instrument for a comprehensive list. Some regional allowances must be entertained, taking account of soil characteristic (e.g. podzolic or calcareous). Hogweed and knotweed are obvious inclusions in any such lists, which should include clones and reintroduced native plants (we believe rhododendrons are an example), for which selective exclusions may be apt. Volunteers such as wild oats, brassicas, and solanaceous weeds (such as deadly nightshade) are annoyances when they spread in farming land and perpetuate further annoyances ( e.g. of eelworm), but their injuriousness may not rank them as serious or persistent enough for inclusion in the proscribed list.

Proposal AA, page 44
The black rat, and its commensals was a non-native hitch-hiker requiring action in the past, as a result of which it has been replaced in town and country by the (presumably native) brown rat, which has developed prodigious resistance to poisoning. Translocation can work in many ways and is of special consequence in the transmission and evolution of zoonotic micro-organisms and vectors involved in threats of tick-borne disease. Within the UK movements of livestock, which are translocations known variously as transhumance or agistment, carry commensals. Seasonal agistments of sheep are associated with such transfer (i.e. from less favored uplands to lowland areas). Foot-and-mouth epidemics and potential problems with rabies illustrate challenges of culling and immunization that may include wildlife. Subsequent restocking requires special veterinary monitoring. The Colorado beetle is an insect traveler of note.


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