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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what's happened in November. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Jodie Le Marquand. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

Increasing wildlife crime

On 30 November, Wildlife and Countryside Link and Wales Environment Link published their second Annual Wildlife Crime Report – this time looking at crime in 2017. Data on wildlife crime in England and Wales collected by members show an increase of 24% in reported terrestrial wildlife crime incidents, with a 9% rise overall. Shockingly, only nine individuals and businesses were prosecuted last year for the wildlife crimes on which Link members collect data. This is down two-thirds on the 22 people convicted in 2016. Mark Jones, Chair of Link’s Wildlife Crime Working Group, will launch the report at the National Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference this weekend. The story was covered in the Telegraph and is the subject of a Link blog by Bat Conservation Trust’s Pete Charleston. You can read Link’s press release here.

While the figures themselves tell a grim story, the purpose of Link’s Annual Wildlife Crime Report is to demonstrate to Government that it must centrally record wildlife crime and produce its own annual report – as is done by the Scottish Government. At present, data on wildlife crime, such as that collected by Link members, are piecemeal and difficult to collate. Recording wildlife crime centrally would allow the Government and police forces across England and Wales to track trends and allocate resources much more efficiently.

Link urges Government to remove ‘badger blinkers’

Link members united in November to call on the Government to stop blaming badgers for the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), and instead take the urgent measures needed to address the disease in cattle. This was one of the recommendations made by Professor Sir Charles Godfray in his independent review of the Government’s bTB eradication strategy.

Although the Godfray review does not go so far as to recommend that Government stops culling badgers, it does recommend immediate improvement of cow-to-cow infection control and a move to non-lethal disease control where scientific evidence shows it could have a positive effect. Figures from Link member Zoological Society of London show that a large-scale badger vaccination trial would cost less than the Government currently invests in a single average cull zone. If implemented nationwide, it could cost a cost of as little as £600 per sq km for vaccination by volunteers compared to the £112,265 per sq km cost of selective culling.

Link’s response to the Godfray report was covered by the Independent, the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail. Catch up with the online debate at #DontBlameBadgers

Agriculture Bill and Animal Welfare Post-Brexit

In November, Link co-hosted a seminar with Leigh Day law firm and the UK Centre for Animal Law (ALAW). Experts from across the partnership provided delegates with much needed legal insight on the Agriculture Bill and the potential impacts of changes to trade and public procurement on animal welfare and the environment.

Speakers included Tom Lancaster – RSPB and Vice-Chair of Link’s Agriculture Working Group; Colin Reid – Professor of Environmental Law, University of Dundee; Alan Bates – Barrister at Monckton Chambers and ALAW’s Legal & Policy Director; and Iyan Offor – PhD Researcher, University of Strathclyde and Associate Researcher at Eurogroup for Animals. This was the third in a series of Brexit seminars designed to build capacity and legal expertise in the environment and animal protection sector.

Annual debate

Just a few days remain until Link’s AGM and Annual Debate at the WWT London Wetland Centre on 4 December 2018.

While the AGM is for Link members only, the Annual Debate is open to all and tickets can be reserved here.

This year, we will be debating the question: 'Are we just fiddling around the edges of environmental disaster? With a domino-effect towards hothouse earth on the horizon, how do we achieve the landmark shift necessary to transform our throwaway, nature-depleted and nature-disconnected culture?'

This year's debate will be chaired by Professor Rosie Hails - Director of Science and Nature at the National Trust. Our all-female expert panel is brought together to celebrate 100 years of women securing the right to vote, and comprises:

• Professor Gina Radford, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and leading expert on the relationship between the environment and health
• Mya-Rose Craig, 'AKA Birdgirl', outstanding youth and VME environment ambassador
• Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Senior Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London and renowned wildlife expert
• Isabella Tree, Award-winning author, travel-writer and co-creator of the pioneering Knepp rewilding project

The debate will take place from 4-5.30pm, after which guests are invited to join us for a networking drinks reception until 7pm.

Reserve your place at Link’s Annual Debate here.

November blogs and publications

In November, and in light of the publication of the Godfray review on bovine TB, Link urged the Government to stop blaming badgers for the spread of Bovine TB and take alternative (and more effective) measures to killing badgers, such as vaccination that would be of greater benefit to wildlife, farmers and cattle.

Our #ProtectWater campaign continues, urging everyone to tell our Governments that the Water Framework Directive is fit for purpose and must not be diluted. This month, the accompanying blogs took on the theme of #ProtectWater #ProtectWildlife. Key species featured were the Orange-spotted emerald, the kingfisher and sturgeons. Paul Coulson, Director of Operations and the Institute of Fisheries Management, called on the Government to bring iconic species back from the brink through strong water laws, while Craig MacAdam, Conservation Director at Buglife gave an overview of the causes of the orange-spotted emerald’s decline and urged a better fate for other species. Hannah Freeman, Senior Government Affairs Officer at WWT, made a case for water protection, highlighting its importance for iconic species such as the Kingfisher.

Link members responded to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project consultation, urging the Government to include shale gas within its remit, urging them to take a precautionary approach to fracking and highlighting the need for a rapid transition of our energy systems.

Other blogs and publications in November included a blog from Tom Stockton, Campaigns and Policy Assistant at CPRE, advocating for a zero carbon countryside. A joint blog from several Link members reacted to the Red Tape Initiative report, which showed that our nature laws are fit for purpose but they must be enforced effectively. Janina Gray, Head of Science and Environmental Policy at Salmon & Trout Conservation, used suffering salmon as a gauge for our worrying low water flows, and Mark Jones, Head of Policy at the Born Free Foundation, highlighted the need for prioritising wildlife crime in light of the wildlife crisis in WWF’s recent Living Planet report.

We welcome blogs from Link members and others. To contribute a blog for the Link website, please contact Emma Adler, Link’s Communications Manager.

In November, Link published the following press releases, reports and consultation responses:
Celebrating National Tree Week: The UK’s largest tree festival
Suffering salmon: A temperature gauge for our worryingly low water flow
A zero carbon countryside
Better implementation and enforcement of nature laws needed
Protecting our waters could bring threatened animals back from the brink
Prioritising UK wildlife crime
Wanted: the orange spotted emerald – stolen from future generations!
Keeping a flash of blue a treasured sight on our riverbanks
Inclusion of Shale Gas production in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project Regime consultation

Follow Link on LinkedIn and Twitter

Link has a presence on the professional networking site LinkedIn, which includes updates on our blogs, news alerts and job opportunities. Take a look at our page and follow us to keep up to date with our work.

The Link team also regularly tweets news and comment on Twitter, as does Link’s Director, Elaine King.

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