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Tory MP Elizabeth Truss says scrap fox hunting ban

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express before the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Ms Truss said the Hunting Act had been a “mistake”.

The Coalition promised a free vote on overturning the Hunting Act when parliamentary time allows.

However, she indicated there would be no chance to repeal the Act prior to next year’s election, partly because there is little chance of success.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) cub, 7 weeks old

Asked whether the party is likely to delay the vote until after the election, when it would stand a greater chance of success if more Tory MPs are elected, she said “yes”.

“Fox hunting has always been a matter for a free vote,” Ms Truss said.

“I personally would vote in favour of allowing fox hunting. I think it was a mistake, the Hunting Act, and I would vote for a repeal. We need to make sure that we have the votes to be able to do that. We have said we will put it before Parliament when time allows.”

David Cameron has been given a stern warning by countryside groups that rural voters will be less inclined to support the Conservatives next year if a pledge to repeal the ban is not included in the party’s manifesto.

Some pro-hunting groups already feel let down because a promise to lift the ban in the 2010 manifesto has not been honoured. Last month Sir Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, warned that the party risks losing half a million votes if it fails to include a pledge to repeal the ban on fox hunting in its manifesto.

Sir Barney said the Alliance “wants and expects” a pledge from the Conservatives as they go into next year’s general election. The fear for the Tories is that Ukip might begin to draw off its support in the countryside.

A poll of Countryside Alliance members held last year found that 13 per cent were planning to vote for Nigel Farage’s party at the election.

Ukip is pledging to introduce referendums on fox hunting to give people in the countryside the power to decide for themselves.

Sir Barney said: “We would like to see (the repeal of the Hunting Act) and I think people would expect that. We would want to see a commitment to repeal, tempered with a realistic view that we need some sort of new legal framework in which hunting would operate in the future. People are going to vote depending on this. There is half a million people whose votes it will influence quite strongly.”

Ms Truss said she could give no guarantees, however.

“We are yet to develop our manifesto,” she said.

Ms Truss, who at 38 is the youngest female Conservative Cabinet minister in British history, is also defiant over the badger culls.

The Government drew heavy criticism for sanctioning a cull as well as the methods it decided to employ.

Missing targets and then blaming the badgers for “moving the goalposts” provided Westminster with one of its more absurd moments last year.

Despite repeated demands to stop the badger culls, however, the Environment Secretary remains convinced they are the right approach.

Pilot schemes currently being conducted in Gloucester-shire and Somerset could even be extended.

“Our Chief Veterinary Officer is very clear that it is the right approach to deal with the issue and we will review the ­situation once those culls are complete,” she said.

She added an extension of the cull could not be ruled out.

Article taken from: http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/516121/Elizabeth-Truss-fox-hunting-ban-scrapped

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Threatened hen harriers disappear without trace in Lancashire

Tagged Hen Harrier - Bowland

Two young satellite-tagged hen harriers have vanished in Lancashire in unexplained circumstances.

The female birds, named Sky and Hope, both fledged this year from nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate in Lancashire where they had been protected around the clock by RSPB staff and volunteers.

Hen harriers are England’s most threatened bird of prey and this season there were only four successful nests in the whole country. Sky and Hope were among the first chicks to fledge in England since 2012.

Sky was officially named and adopted by pupils from Brennand’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn in Bowland. Hope was given her name by members of the RSPB’s youth groups from Macclesfield and Leighton Moss, Lancashire.

The birds were both fitted with lightweight solar-powered satellite tags, designed to be operational for around three years. Satellite tags are frequently used by conservation organisations to find out more about the movements of species. For example, The British Trust for Ornithology has been following the migration of tagged cuckoos since 2011.

Scientists tracking the movements of the young hen harriers became concerned when their tags stopped transmitting. Sky’s satellite signal stopped suddenly on the evening of Wednesday 10 September with the data suggesting she was roosting at her last known location, while Hope’s last’s known location was sent on the morning of Saturday 13 September.

Both of the birds had left their nest sites on the United Utilities Estate several weeks earlier but had remained in the Bowland area since fledging. Searches were made but neither Sky nor Hope have been recovered.

Experts think it is improbable that the loss of satellite transmission is due to technical failure. Only a tiny percentage of hen harriers fitted with satellite tags since 2007 have stopped transmitting when it was known the tracked bird was alive.

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “In our experience, this satellite technology is normally very reliable and it is rare for them to fail for technological reasons. Losing two birds in such a short time frame and in the same geographical area is strange.

“Based on the last known data and our understanding of the technology, Sky appears to have suffered a catastrophic tag failure at roost suggesting either natural predation or human intervention as the likely causes for her sudden failure to transmit. However, we would not expect natural predation to stop the tag transmitting data so suddenly. Hope’s tag was transmitting reliably, with no evidence of any technical problems.”

TV presenter and hen harrier campaigner Chris Packham said: “It’s incredibly disheartening to discover that two of this year’s chicks have already apparently failed to survive. It shows how vulnerable hen harriers are and that four nests are nowhere near enough. Without satellite tagging, these disappearances might never have come to our attention but technology is on our side and we will keep watching.”

The disappearance of the birds has been reported to Lancashire Police and the RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward. Anyone with information about either of the birds should contact

Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or, alternatively, call the RSPB’s confidential hotline on 0845 466 3636.

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Trapping wild beavers in Devon would be unlawful, ministers told

The environmental charity Friends of the Earth has warned that government plans to capture wild beavers living on a river in Devon could be illegal under European laws.

FoE’s legal team has written to the environment secretary, Liz Truss, calling for the trapping of the animals, thought to be the first to live in the wild in England in centuries, to be halted.

The charity argues that because Britain formed part of the beaver’s natural range before they were hunted to extinction they are covered by EU laws governing protected species.

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FoE campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: “Beavers belong in England. Beavers bring huge benefits to the environment, reducing flooding and boosting fish stocks and biodiversity. Rather than try and get rid of them, we should be thrilled to have them back in our landscape.”

Most people who live near the beavers’ home on the river Otter appear to back the creatures’ right to stay. But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to trap the colony and transfer the mammals to a zoo or wildlife park, arguing they are an invasive non-native species and could carry disease. There are no plans to cull the beavers.

Cameron said: “The government needs to listen to what local people are saying, instead of taking a knee-jerk response. This is a fantastic opportunity to study the return of a beautiful and iconic creature. The government says it needs to remove these beavers because of the threat of disease, but that’s just an excuse. They are very unlikely to be carrying infection. In any case they could be easily tested and returned to the river.”

FoE says under article 12 of the EU habitats directive the UK government is required to protect beavers “in their natural range” and is not entitled to kill or capture them.

It argues that the historic prevalence of beavers, the success of reintroduction programmes – one official, one unofficial – in Scotland and the fact that the animals are doing well in Devon backs the notion that the UK certainly is their natural range.

Tom Buckley, a retired environmental scientist who photographed beavers on the river Otter, said he was delighted that FoE was joining the campaign.

However, Defra insists trapping beavers is lawful because they have not been an “established part” of British wildlife for 500 years.

A spokesperson said: “Their presence could have a negative impact on the surrounding environment and wildlife. These animals may also carry a disease which could pose a risk to human health. That is why we are taking precautionary action to test the beavers. Once captured and tested, we intend to re-home them in a suitable location, and all decisions will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind.”

The spokesman said trapping was “entirely lawful” and licences to capture and transport the beavers had been issued by Natural England.

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/25/wild-beavers-devon-uk-eu-habitats-directive

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Protesters succeeding in disrupting badger cull, company tells farmers

The badger cull has got off to a slow start because of successful disruption by protesters, a leaked note seen by the Guardian has revealed.

According to the letter sent to farmers in Gloucestershire, one of the two cull areas, the activists have caused the cull to fall behind schedule.

european_badger_1

Signed by directors of the company Gloscon, which is licensed to carry out the cull in Gloucestershire, and dated last week, the letter says the disruption is proving “quite significant” and adds: “We are not achieving planned numbers.”

It says the bright moonlit nights at the start of the cull did not help but makes it clear the protesters are the biggest “headache” and asks farmers to pass on any intelligence about activists and their tactics. The note goes on to reveal that another training course had been run for shooting contractors to get more marksmen and women on the ground.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which speaks on behalf of Gloscon, refused to comment on the letter, explaining that its policy was not to comment on “operational matters” during the cull. But the slow start will worry the NFU and the government, both of whom argue that the cull is a necessary measure to tackle bovine TB in cattle.

Last year’s cull was widely seen as a failure partly because marksmen were unable to kill the minimum number of badgers stipulated.

The concerns raised in the leaked note will be celebrated by the activists, who have added heat-detecting sensors to their armoury this year to help them pick out cullers in the pitch black. Meanwhile, the discovery of a badger shot in the abdomen in Somerset shows the animals are suffering cruel deaths, campaigners claimed. The female was discovered by an anti-cull patrol and taken to the Secret World wildlife rescue centre.

According to the campaigners, vets confirmed the badger had been shot in the abdomen, not the target chest area which can deliver a quick kill, and the animal most likely died slowly of her injuries.

Mark Jones, vet and executive director at Humane Society International/UK, said: “The discovery of [the female badger] confirms our worst fears about the horrendous animal suffering the so-called trained badger cull marksmen will be inflicting.

“Shooting badgers in the abdomen will likely result in those animals taking a considerable time to die. Defra’s [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affaris] assurances that steps have been taken to ensure this year’s culls would be humane have been shown to be meaningless.”

Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said: “The government assured us that the badger cull would be carried out more humanely this year, but within a week of it starting here’s a badger that has clearly suffered.

“The bullet missed its vital organs so it would have taken several minutes to die. This is appalling, it’s cruel and it’s unacceptable. How many more badgers are there dying in the same way, without ever being found?”

An NFU spokesman said: “There is no evidence that this badger died as part of the cull. We would suggest that it is handed over to the proper authorities in order that they can do a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death. All badgers shot as part of the cull have been accounted for.”

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/23/protest-badger-cull-farmers-gloucestershire

Related post: https://catdraggedin.co.uk/2014/09/11/ministers-reject-claims-somerset-and-gloucestershire-badger-cull-lacks-scientific-rigour/

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Manchester Dog Home Fire, 15 Year Old Boy Held in Custody

You will have no doubt by now heard the horrific news on the Manchester dogs home fire, where a 15 year old boy is being held on an arson probe following the death of an estimated 53 dogs.

Yesterday evening, around 7pm, the boy deliberately sparked a blaze at the shelter, which engulfed the kennels, collapsed part of the roof and gutted a third of the complex – horrifically, the key area where the majority of dogs were housed. Not a single one of the 200 dogs living in the shelter have escaped unharmed. Of the survivors, most are suffering burns and smoke inhalation. Local people have reported hearing the devastating yelps of the dogs as the fire ripped through their kennels; the sheer terror these poor animals will have experienced is incomprehensible.

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Manchester Police managed to save 150 dogs from the blaze, and has urged for people to remain calm. Supt Marcus Noden says, “We are in the very early stages of the investigation and have a young boy in custody, however we would ask if anyone was in the area and remembers seeing anything suspicious around the dogs’ home that they call police. As a dog owner myself, I understand many people will feel angry and upset, but I would ask that they let the police carry out their investigations and not take matters into their own hands.”

Easier said than done when you think of the unbelievable pain and suffering these poor creatures, many of whom will have had pretty horrible lives up until this, were forced to endure all because of some little moron with a firelighter. At times like this it’s so difficult to wrap your head around how this situation could possibly have occurred, and what could ever possess a 15 year old boy to take such drastic, irreversible action on defenseless, harmless animals like this.

Sadly, the punishments for cruelty to animals in the UK remain pathetically low. The fact he has been charged with arson alone is simply another testament to how helpless we are within our existing legislation to protect our four legged friends. In the UK, even for more direct, violent acts of cruelty or severe neglect such as stabbing a cat or allowing a dog to starve to death, the maximum prison sentence available to magistrates under the Animal Welfare Act is only six months’ imprisonment. Yet of course, reduced sentences for pleading guilty and good behaviour mean offenders rarely serve even this measly amount. It is truly pitiful that a calculated, sustained attack on a scale such as this can be carried out in the middle of Manchester and the boy gets carted off and given a slap on the wrist for playing with fire. You have to wonder when the UK is finally going to realise that its total lack of legislative deterrents, or appropriate enforcement of maximum sentences for carrying out barbaric acts like this, mean the fear of being caught or held accountable to these people simply doesn’t exist. Acts like this will be carried out again and again and again, and we’ll learn nothing. These are not the dark ages and in theory at least, we live in a civilised, developed country. Let’s start acting like it and show enough is enough – we need to use the ‘anger and upset’ we’re being asked to contain, and start effecting real change for our beloved animals up and down the UK.

There are various ways you can show your support for these poor dogs and so many more like them:

  1. Take the RSPCA’s survey examining public attitudes to flimsy animal cruelty laws: https://www.surveymonkey.com/survey-thanks/?sm=K894evTfwKn6I%2bm2goWH6rJ3Fu23cnS4smwyrQ7CaRo%3d
  2. Donate to the Manchester dogs fire appeal: https://www.justgiving.com/ManchesterDogsHomeMEN
  3. Sign the e-petition to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty in the UK: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/61926

Related post: https://catdraggedin.co.uk/2014/08/18/rspca-campaign-survey-should-uk-have-harsher-sentencing-for-cruelty-cases/

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