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Poll: Should it be compulsory to have your dog micro-chipped?

The micro-chipping of the Beano’s Gnasher has been praised by the animal welfare minister for raising awareness of forthcoming regulations making it compulsory for dogs.

Gnasher gets a microchip. Pic: The Beano
George Eustice commended the Dogs Trust, which teamed up with the famous comic on a special strip last year.

Ukip MP Douglas Carswell (Clacton) asked about the new regulations which will require all keepers in England to get their dog micro-chipped by April next year.

He said in the Commons: “In a number of western countries where micro-chipping has been compulsory, fewer dogs are micro-chipped than in the UK, where it has been voluntary. What is the maximum penalty that will be imposed on anyone who fails to comply?”

Mr Eustice said 70% of dogs had already been micro-chipped under the voluntary scheme, but added: “Our judgment is we need it now compulsory to get to the remaining 30%.

“We will be taking a proportionate approach when it comes to penalties. In the first instance, someone will be given an enforcement notice, not a penalty, and given 21 days to comply. Charities are doing a great deal to raise awareness. A recent edition of the Beano included a storyline put there by the Dogs Trust where Gnasher had a micro-chip installed.”

Speaker John Bercow said: “That is useful to all of us and, in particular, the honourable member for Clacton who wouldn’t otherwise have known of it.”

To take part in the poll and cast your vote, click here: http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2015/01/30/poll-should-it-be-compulsory-to-have-your-dog-micro-chipped/

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Government failing to adequately protect marine life, say wildlife experts

The Government has been accused of “dragging its feet” on protecting the seas, as it announced fewer than two dozen potential sites for new conservation areas.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has proposed 23 new marine conservation zones in the second stage of creating a network of protected areas in the seas around England – down from 37 candidate sites announced last year.

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So far, just 27 marine conservation zones have been designated in English waters, although 127 sites were recommended by regional groups tasked with drawing up potential sites to protect ocean species and habitats.

Conservationists warn the latest set of proposed conservation zones, which will now be subject to public consultation, are missing key sites and putting habitats and wildlife ranging from large seagrass meadows to the spiny seahorse at risk.

Wildlife experts say a “truly ecologically coherent network of sites” is needed to protect marine wildlife and restore the seas and fish stocks after decades of neglect and decline.

Defra said the 23 proposed sites would cover more than 10,000 sq km (3,800 sq miles), protecting important seabed habitats and species, and it hoped to designate them within a year, with a third tranche to follow later.

Marine environment minister George Eustice said: “We’re doing more than ever to protect our seas, preserving incredible underwater landscapes and helping our sea life flourish. We’ve already created 27 marine conservation zones and a quarter of English inshore waters are in protected areas.”

But he said: “It is important we secure the future of our coastal communities as part of our long-term economic plan. We want to support these communities while protecting our marine life.”

Sites proposed for designation in the second tranche of conservation zones include Allonby Bay on the Cumbrian Coast which has blue mussel beds and living reefs, and coast between Bideford and Foreland, home to pink sea fans and anemones.

The latest proposals also include Fulmar, 140 miles off the Northumberland coast, protecting sandy and muddy habitat in the North Sea which is inhabited by clams, cockles and the brittlestar.

But conservationists said important areas such as Studland Bay, Dorset, with seagrass meadows that are home to breeding seahorses and juveniles of species such as bass, bream and flatfish, and sites around the Isle of Wight have been missed out.

Marine Conservation Society biodiversity and fisheries programme manager Dr Peter Richardson said: “We are alarmed that these proposed MCZs (Marine Conservation Zones) have been shelved, at least for the time being. We believe all of the sites are necessary to achieve the Government’s stated commitment to deliver a full network. Delaying 14 sites means that a number of the UK’s iconic marine places and habitats are still not adequately protected.”

He added: “This decision doesn’t match urgent conservation needs, or indeed, the ambition of the public, who continue to demonstrate their support for the establishment of a network of marine protected areas in UK seas.”

WWF-UK’s head of marine policy Dr Lyndsey Dodds said the 14 sites had been dropped from the 37 originally identified for this round of consultation despite clear cross-party and public support.

“This is a cause for huge concern, and shows government is dragging its feet on this issue. If we are to see an ecologically coherent network of marine protected sites established to safeguard the ecological and economic sustainability of our seas, we need clear leadership from government. Although we welcome this consultation we call on the government to go much further, and stop deferring difficult decisions on marine conservation. It is vital that all 23 in this new consultation are designated, or we risk long-term damage on ecological and economic grounds.”

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/30/government-failing-adequately-protect-marine-life-say-wildlife-experts

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Big Garden Birdwatch breaks records

An unprecedented number of people took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch last weekend, with over 115,000 survey submissions and incredible four million birds counted.

The charity believes that overall participation will be at an all time high at the end of the submission period, and is urging those who haven’t logged the results of their one-hour bird count to do so by 16 February.

Big Garden Birdwatch Project Manager, Teresa Stoneage, said: “More people than ever sent us the results of their one-hour birdwatching session over the weekend alone, proving what a popular activity it is. We hope that more people will have taken part than ever before and more birds will be counted than ever before.

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“Many people submitted their birdwatch results live over the actual weekend, but we keep the forms open until mid-February for all the people who wrote their counts down on paper. We just need everyone to send us their results before 16 February, so the data can be added to the hundreds of thousands of other submissions. We really mean it when we say that every garden counts, it doesn’t matter if you saw one bird species or 10 bird species – it is important that we know.

“These results can help shape the work we do and the species and habitats we focus on. If you did take an hour out of your weekend, make sure it counts and send us your results.”

Once all results have been submitted RSPB scientists will use them to see how birds and other wildlife that use our gardens are faring. Then, together with other wildlife organisations they will be able to help species in decline and find the best ways to protect them.

RSPB Conservation Scientist, Daniel Hayhow, said: “Early indications show that it was a busy time for many across the country. The temperate dip meant that more birds were out looking for food and water, which bodes well for lots of sightings. First results have shown a lot of people seem to have seen a high number of Blackcaps and Fieldfare, but we will have to wait until the results have been monitored and analysed to get the full picture from the weekend.”

Big Garden Birdwatch results can be submitted until 16 February. Visit the RSPB website for more information and to submit your results online: rspb.org.uk/Birdwatch.

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Petition To Ban Religious Animal Slaughter Reaches 100,000

More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the British government prohibit the slaughter of animals without stunning them first. Yet despite the strength of public feeling, the government said it had “no intention” of outlawing the type of religious slaughter that dictates an animal cannot be stunned before death.

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Arguing that the coalition cannot simply “ignore public feeling”, Britain’s top vet John Blackwell said he would continue the fight over animal welfare and push for greater public knowledge over how meat is killed. Campaigners will now press for a fresh Commons debate on the issue after quickly exceeding the six-figure threshold required on the parliamentary petition site to trigger a possible time slot.

The controversy surrounds legal exemptions for religious purposes such as Muslim halal and Jewish shechita – which Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to uphold in a speech last year to the Israeli parliament. Opponents say they respect the various faith traditions but insist animal welfare must take priority – with scientific evidence clear that those that are killed without stunning feel pain.

The petition – which backs calls by the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and the Humane Slaughter Association – points out that more than 80% of halal meat in the UK is pre-stunned.

“We must differentiate between religious and non-stun slaughter. Our concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise,” it states. “Non-stun slaughter affects millions of animals. We support a good life and a humane death for all animals.”

There are also concerns about large quantities of meat being sold without any indication of how the animal was slaughtered and the petition says that until a ban is imposed, consumers must be told what they are buying.

BVA president Blackwell said: “This is a truly fantastic result for animal welfare. BVA has long argued that all animals should be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain and we are delighted that the British public has got so firmly behind our campaign. Consumers value the high welfare of British produce and care deeply about the provenance of their food.

“But under the current legislation meat from non-stun slaughter can end up in the food chain unlabelled as such, which is completely unacceptable. Scientific evidence tells us that non-stun slaughter allows the animal to perceive pain and compromises animal welfare.

“This is an issue that affects the welfare of millions of individual animals every year. The Government simply cannot ignore the strength of public feeling and we look forward to petitioning the Backbench Business Committee for a full debate in the new parliament.”

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) remained unswayed by the petition hitting the 100,000 milestone – achieved by only 35 demands on the e-petition site since 2011, around 0.1% of those accepted.

A spokeswoman said: “There are strict rules that govern the slaughter of animals in England which include additional conditions for religious slaughter and these remain unchanged. The Government has no intention of banning religious slaughter.

“The Government would prefer animals to be stunned before slaughter, but we respect the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs. Existing rules require that where stunning is used it must be sufficient to make the animal unconscious and insensible to pain without causing unnecessary pain, suffering or distress.”

To sign the petition and add your voice for animals, please click here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/64331

Article taken from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/28/petition-to-ban-religious-animal-slaughter-reaches-100000-signatories_n_6567484.html

Related posts: https://catdraggedin.co.uk/2014/06/24/paws-for-thought-the-shocking-truth-about-non-stun-slaughter/

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Grampian partnership strategy against wildlife crime established

A strategy to tackle wildlife crime for the next three years has been launched in the north east at Crathes Castle, Banchory.

The Grampian branch of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland action plan is a local collaboration between Police Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Government. The focus involves working closely with partners to raise awareness and prevent crime from occurring.

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The group has run for many years and this strategy and action plan will seek to harness the many interests of all parties, to ensure that criminal activity is prevented and where it does occur is actively prosecuted. It focuses on identifying hotspots and having specific measures in place to deal with different types of crime including raptor crime, salmon poaching and hare coursing. There is also an emphasis on building partnerships with landowners.

Inspector Colin Mowat, the Chair of the PAW Steering Group, said: “The North East enjoys vibrant and diverse wildlife. This is a privilege and one we do not take for granted. Threats to our natural habitat through criminal activity and ignorance are not acceptable. The Grampian PAW Action Plan supports a vision where our natural heritage is protected, individuals are educated about wildlife crime and where there is a high level of awareness of the cost of wildlife crime and the loss of wildlife to our communities.

“In Grampian, we are fortunate to have a wide range of groups and individuals who have specific interests in different aspects of wildlife. Over the next three years we will seek to utilise, facilitate and encourage their participation in protecting Grampian’s wildlife, in deterring criminals who seek to destroy our wild heritage and in preventing wildlife crime.

“Our strategy and action plan provides us with a focus for the next three years and places a degree of expectation on each partner to deliver tangible benefits in the commitment to address wildlife crime.”

Ian Francis, Conservation Manager for RSPB Scotland said: “We very much welcome this updated strategy and the commitment of Police Scotland along with all partners. Unfortunately there are still those who deliberately break the law and harm our local wildlife and this strategy shows the strength of will to bring this to a halt. RSPB Scotland will play a full part in ensuring this happens.”

Ewen Cameron, Operations Manager, Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “Wildlife is an important and growing part of Grampian’s economy and brings enjoyment to many people who live in and visit the area. But like all crime, wildlife crime undermines legitimate activities, so we are keen to support Police Scotland in this fight.”

Justin Prigmore, Cairngorms Nature Officer, Cairngorms National Park Authority said:

“The Cairngorms National Park is renowned as one of the best places in Scotland for nature and an international tourism destination. We fully support this partnership across the north east to ensure our nature is protected and the reputation of the National Park and wider region is not undermined by wildlife crime.”

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod, said: “I am very encouraged to see the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime working at a local level with very real engagement. The Grampian PAW group is leading the way in how local issues are dealt with and are an excellent example of what can be achieved when people come together.”

Article taken from: http://www.scotland.police.uk/whats-happening/news/2015/january/grampian-partnership-strategy-against-wildlife-crime-established

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Fracking blocked in UK after last-minute U-turn

Fracking for shale gas across the whole of the UK has been blocked after the UK Government was forced to abandon attempts to push it through on Monday night.

In a spectacular last minute U-turn to save the government’s Infrastructure Bill, Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey accepted a Labour amendment which stops fracking until 13 environmental loopholes in the shale gas regulations are closed.

Green MP Caroline Lucas speaks at an anti-fracking rally outside the Houses of Parliament. Picture: PA

With anti-fracking protesters gathered outside parliament, the government also accepted an outright ban on fracking in areas of natural beauty and National Parks.

However, an attempt by Labour to force the government to hand over power on fracking immediately to Holyrood – which was agreed by all parties on the Smith Commission – failed by almost 100 votes.

Among the protesters were human rights activist Bianca Jagger who accused David Cameron of “scaremongering” over the number of jobs the UK could miss out on if it does not commit to shale gas drilling.

The former actress said the government should invest in renewable energy and warned fracking was a “real danger” to the environment.

“Look at Germany, look at all the jobs that Germany has created with renewable energy. Instead of investing in fracking, which I don’t see will benefit the average person in this country, we should be investing in renewable energy,” she said.

But in a boost for the north east of Scotland, new measures to support oil and gas exploration in the North Sea recommended in Sir Ian Wood’s review have been accepted.

The cave-in by ministers on fracking came after it became clear that it would be defeated on an amendment tabled by Rutherglen MP and shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex.

The government was facing a massive backbench rebellion from both Lib Dem and Tory MPs including former environment secretary Caroline Spelman and Tory environment select committee chairwoman Anne McIntosh who intended to back Labour.

The rebellion was set to equal ones already suffered by the coalition on tuition fees, the House of Lords, gay marriage and Europe.

The block on fracking is a major blow to Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne who has personally pushed fracking as the means of providing cheap fuel for Britain and was urging for it to be fast tracked just 24 hours before the vote.

Ahead of the debate, Mr Cameron Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to see the UK copy the US on fracking, with local communities benefiting from local business rates and employment.

He said: “I want to see unconventional gas properly exploited in our country. I think there are good reasons for doing this – we want to have greater energy security, we want to keep prices down, we also want to tackle climate change.”

The uncontested amendment means that the government has adopted Labour’s shale gas policy and will have to bring in new environmental regulations before fracking can be allowed.

An earlier SNP backed amendment for a time limited moratorium of 18 to 30 months failed because of concerns that it was only time limited and did not put any conditions on the government to strengthen the regulations.

Mr Greatrex said: “This is a huge U-turn by the Government and big victory for the protection of Britain’s environment.

“We have dispelled the nonsense that fracking is some sort of energy silver bullet that is going to solve all our problems.”

He went on: “Scottish Labour has always said that shale gas extraction cannot go ahead unless there is a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection, but David Cameron has repeatedly ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns over shale gas.

“Now, thanks to Labour’s amendment, the Government has been forced to accept that tough protections and proper safeguards must be in place before fracking can go ahead.”

He said that the delay now puts the onus on SNP ministers in Holyrood to say how they will control fracking in Scotland when it is devolved.

Scottish Labour has offered a triple lock of planning, environmental regulations and a local referendum before exploration could begin.

However, there are reports of divisions within the Scottish Government with energy minister Fergus Ewing said to be in favour of fracking but senior backbencher Joan McAlpine against.

Mr Greatrex said: “Attention must now turn to the Scottish Government, who can block shale gas in Scotland if they choose.

“The SNP in Holyrood have always had control over the planning and permitting regime, giving them an effective veto over any developments. Their silence on these existing powers is telling

“While eight out of 10 homes still rely on gas for heating, shale gas may have a role to play in displacing some of the gas we currently import and improving our energy security. But that potential benefit cannot come at the expense of robust environmental protections or our climate change commitments.”

However, the SNP insisted that Labour had failed to stop fracking properly by not backing their amendment for a time limited moratorium.

SNP energy spokesman Mike Weir MP said: “Scottish Labour have been found out.

“Their pathetic motion did not involve a moratorium, and did not even apply to Scotland.

“The SNP support a UK moratorium to ensure that no more licences for fracking are granted before full powers over licensing are transferred to the Scottish Parliament.”

He added: “Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Government asking them not to issue any more licences in Scotland, but this vote could have forced them to stop.

“This would have ensured that the Tory days of gung-ho fracking policies come to an end in Scotland and we could develop our own system when powers are devolved.”

Friends of the Earth said it was disappointed the amendment it drafted for an 18 to 30 month moratorium failed.

A spokesman said: “It’s great news that SNP MPs voted and spoke up in favour of protecting communities and the environment from the unconventional gas and fracking industry. It was a surprise that Scottish Labour MPs seem to have mostly abstained, given the party’s new commitments over the weekend.”

The scale of the UK government defeat was highlighted by claims made by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) up to the last minute that it had dealt with the regulations.

Over the weekend a DECC spokesman said: “We are confident that our existing robust regulation will protect residents, the environment and the landscape for exploration.”

But ministers were rattled by a unanimous report by the cross party Environmental Audit Committee which described its fracking plans as dangerous for environment and “undemocratic”.

Article taken from: http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/fracking-blocked-in-uk-after-last-minute-u-turn-1-3670942