Immigrant beavers adapting well to life in Tayside

They were introduced illegally and threatened with being eradicated but now they are thriving.

More than 150 European beavers, which have lived in Tayside for at least nine years, are “well adapted” to modern Scotland and free of harmful diseases, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) revealed yesterday.


However, it said a new study also showed beavers building dams and burrowing into flood banks could drench farmland, a situation which would have to be tackled if the beavers were to be allowed to stay.

The success of the mammals, which were hunted to extinction in Scotland 400 years ago, could signal their official reintroduction. This is because SNH said ministers will have to decide either to keep them or remove them.

The Tayside beavers could force the Scottish Government’s hand because appeasing farmers with damage mitigation work is likely to be more politically ­acceptable than a likely public outcry if they were to be eradicated once more.

The Tayside animals, originally from Germany, are believed to have escaped or been released from private collections.

They are found in rivers ranging from Kinloch Rannoch, Kenmore and Crieff to Bridge of Earn, Perth and Forfar. The thriving colonies have also overshadowed an official beaver trial, at Knapdale, west of Lochgilphead in Argyll, which was launched with 16 arrivals from Norway in 2009.

That got off to a faltering start, with only half surviving, but numbers have since remained stable despite a high number of young beavers dying. However, experts said the project was not intended to be self-sustaining.

Ministers gave the Tayside beavers a stay of execution three years ago pending the Knapdale trial but will have to decide their fate after SNH submits a final report next month. SNH said the biggest concern among farmers had been on the lower River Isla flood plain where it meets the River Tay, south of Blairgowrie.

It said: “Any beaver dams left in place here could cause the extensive network of drainage ditches to fail, causing flooding and interfering with cultivation of productive land.

“Beaver burrows in earth flood banks also increased the risk of a breach and flooding of the farm land behind.

“A number of methods to protect trees from being gnawed and felled and to reduce water levels behind dams were trialled successfully.

“The impacts of burrowing in flood banks and regular damming of drainage networks were more challenging to manage.”

SNH Tayside and Grampian area manager David Bale, who chaired the Tayside Beaver Study Group, said: “Our work documenting the impacts of beavers on land management interests has shown that in many situations, beavers are likely to cause few concerns.

“But if they were to be permanently reintroduced, efficient, effective and affordable ways of managing and reducing potentially significant impacts on intensively farmed land and other interests would have to be found.”

Farmers’ leaders said beavers should not be given protected status. NFU Scotland spokesman Andrew Bauer said: “We believe that already-stretched SNH ­species management budgets cannot cope with the high costs of managing what many call ­‘nature’s engineer’.

“Beaver reintroduction would divert resources and attention away from helping indigenous species, such as the wildcat and capercaille that are under threat.”


Holyrood asked to ban electric shock dog collars

The use of electric shock collars for dogs which inflict deliberate pain on the animals is on the ­increase, campaigners warned yesterday.

Tricolour Border Collie pup

Animal welfare campaigner Siobhan Garrahy has lodged a petition at Holyrood calling on MSPs to urge the Scottish Government to outlaw the collars, which critics say are cruel and unnecessary.

To date Scottish ministers have repeatedly resisted calls to follow the example of the Welsh Assembly, which outlawed the use of the devices in 2010, and ban the collars.

There are an estimated 50,000 shock collars in use in Scotland, Ms Garrahy told Holyrood’s public petitions committee yesterday. MSPs were also urged to back a cap on the collars as a first step towards ending the use of them by Claire Staines, a dog trainer and behaviourist.

She said: “From a professional point of view I’m seeing an increase in the use of them for various different reasons and I don’t know why. The thing that I would like to do is try and put a cap on that so that they don’t become more popular. As it stands just now it’s still relatively small numbers in the grand scale of things, but what we do want to do is just get the message out to dog owners that these are inhumane, they are painful, their very design is to be aversive and there is an alternative.”

Ms Garrahy said the use of the collars is poorly regulated and warned that the devices could be increasingly misused to inflict serious harm on animals.

She said: “We believe that electric shock collars don’t have the governance they should have, there’s very poor legislation for them. They cause psychological distress, severe anxiety, emotional harm and displaced aggression, and there is an alternative with positive reinforcement and appropriate training that doesn’t deliver via cruel methods. There are several dangers with electric shock collars, some of which are that the remote collars or the shock collars can fall into the hands of children who find amusement in shocking pets for no reason because they’re too young to know ­better. There’s also the danger of the collars being misused by cruel people who take pleasure in hurting animals. The collars have been known to cause burns on pets and severe disfigurement, and shock collars can be misused by putting them on other animals.”

Article taken from: http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/holyrood-asked-to-ban-electric-shock-dog-collars-1-3757363


Happy World Penguin Day

Today we celebrate World Penguin Day; an opportunity to sing the praises of the world’s 17-20 species of penguin. Across the Southern Hemisphere, penguins from the rockhopper to the gentoo are facing tough futures as our planet’s temperature continues to rise. Penguins feature on the IUCN Red List as threatened species, yet their comical waddling and mesmerising group huddles both remain instantly recognisable by us all.


Spare a thought for poor old penguins, today of all days. Or why not adopt one through WWF?: https://support.wwf.org.uk/adopt-a-penguin

Whatever form penguin appreciation takes for you, have a very happy World Penguin Day.

For a full list of global animal events taking place throughout the year please visit our Calendar

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Just click the heart icon on the top left of this post to leave your comments. 


Around the manifestos

With just two weeks to go, OneKind takes a look at the General Election manifestos to see what commitments are being made for animals.

The good news is that most parties do make some mention of animal welfare, and some already have longstanding policy commitments.  But there are, it seems, many different views of what animal welfare really means …

The parties within the devolved administrations – such as the Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour and  Scottish Liberal Democrats make little reference to animal welfare in their Westminster manifestos.  This is probably because these parties deal with animal welfare at the devolved level – and so for fairness we have removed them from this analysis.  We do however include the independent parties SNP and Plaid Cymru who would otherwise not be represented.

The Labour Party was first into the race in February with a dedicated Animal Welfare Manifesto. Labour pledged to review the rules on breeding and selling dogs and cats, ban wild animals in circuses, end the badger cull, defend the Hunting Act, reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and – like several other parties – lead the fight against global animal cruelty.

Labour intends to review the practice of snaring, although it stops short of pledging a ban. Regarding shooting estates, a Labour government would “undertake an independent review” on how to end the illegal persecution of birds of prey, such as the hen harrier; prevent non-target animals getting trapped in snares; and ensure the humane treatment of game birds.

Labour says it would lead international efforts to combat illegal wildlife crime and would push to end all commercial whaling, and prevent the poaching and near extinction of endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

The main Labour Manifesto reprises the animal welfare pledges:

“We will build on our strong record on animal welfare – starting with an end to the Government’s ineffective and cruel badger cull. We will improve the protection of dogs and cats, ban wild animals in circuses, defend the hunting ban and deal with wildlife crime associated with shooting.”

The Conservative Party manifesto sends out a mixed message on welfare.  There are a number of detailed and specific commitments, such as a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, but also a commitment to foxhunting and to upholding the use of non-stun slaughter in UK slaughterhouses.

“The quality of the food on your plate, and the economic security of our farmers, depend on us upholding the highest standards of animal welfare. We will push for high animal welfare standards to be incorporated into international trade agreements and into reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.”

“We will ban wild animals in circuses and press for all EU member states to ensure that animals are only sent to slaughterhouses that meet high welfare standards. We will encourage other countries to follow the EU’s lead in banning animal testing for cosmetics and work to accelerate the global development and take-up of alternatives to animal testing where appropriate.”

On slaughter: “We want people to integrate fully into British society, but that does not mean they should have to give up the things they hold dear in their religion. So while we will always make sure the Food Standards Agency properly regulates the slaughter of livestock and poultry, we will protect methods of religious slaughter, such as shechita and halal.”

The Conservatives also declare their commitment to tackling the illegal international wildlife trade and ending the poaching that kills thousands of rhinos, elephants and tigers each year. In addition:

“We will oppose any resumption of commercial whaling, and seek further measures at the EU and internationally to end shark-finning. We will promote effective worldwide measures for tuna conservation, press for a total ban on ivory sales, and support the Indian Government in its efforts to protect the Asian elephant.

“We will press for full ‘endangered species’ status for polar bears and a ban on the international trade in polar bear skins, as well as for greater attention to be paid to the impact of climate change on wildlife and habitats in Polar Regions in the Arctic Council and other international fora.

Domestically, however:

“We will protect hunting, shooting and fishing, for all the benefits to individuals, the environment and the rural economy that these activities bring. A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.

By contrast, the Green Party would maintain the ban on hunting and add a ban on snaring.

The Greens have by far the most comprehensive section on animal protection – too long to reproduce here – covering many of the policy issues of concern to OneKind.  For example, there are detailed measures to mitigate the problems of industrial farming:

“Sustainable farming means animals freed from cages and returned to the land. We will end factory farming and enforce strict animal welfare standards.

“One particularly constructive proposal is for the creation of a new Commission on Animal Protection, which would cover animal protection issues in all the areas specifically addressed below.

There is a commitment to fight wildlife crime and a proposal to ban the import of exotic pets and the keeping of primates as household pets. The Green Party has been strongly opposed to the badger cull from the outset, saying that all the evidence showed it would be both inhumane and ineffective at tackling bovine tuberculosis.

Greens want to see an end to all animal experimentation and would ensure that research funding is directed away from failing animal disease models and towards modern human biology-based techniques.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto contains a section entitled “Protecting nature”, which says:

“Liberal Democrats believe in the highest standards of animal welfare. We will review the rules surrounding the sale of pets to ensure they promote responsible breeding and sales and minimise the use of animals in scientific experimentation, including by funding research into alternatives. We remain committed to the three Rs of humane animal research: Replace, Reduce, Refine.”

On farming, the Liberal Democrats pledge to continue to improve standards of animal welfare, and to review the use of cages, crates and routine preventative antibiotics. They also say they would introduce effective, science-led ways of controlling bovine TB and only support extending the existing cull pilots if they are shown to be effective, humane and safe.

The SNP manifesto mentions issues that are current in the Scottish Parliament and states that it will support measures to improve welfare with a global focus.  It does not say what the party’s position would be on domestic issues affecting England, such as wild animals in circuses or a potential repeal of the Hunting Act.

In a section entitled Species Protection, the manifesto says:

“While responsibility for animal welfare is devolved to the Scottish Parliament –and the SNP in government is already working to improve the conditions of kept animals, including consultations on responsible dog ownership and wild animals in travelling circuses, and giving consideration to further protection at slaughter, the registration or licensing of horse establishments and a review of tail docking in working dogs – at Westminster we will support further animal welfare measures with a global focus. This includes action to end the illegal ivory trade and protect species such as polar bears and bluefin tuna.

In its farming manifesto Plaid Cymru also seeks clear and unambiguous food labelling. The main Plaid manifesto contains little on animal welfare, presumably because, as in Scotland, this is a devolved issue.  Plaid does make an EU level commitment – “We support the introduction of a European-level Animal Welfare Commissioner and adoption at all government levels of the new and comprehensive Animal Welfare law to end animal cruelty.”

UKIP supports country of origin food labelling, to include  information about whether an animal was stunned before slaughter.  It also pledges to increase penalties for animal cruelty, tightly regulate animal testing and keep the ban on animal testing for cosmetics, challenge companies using animals for testing drugs or other medical treatments on the necessity for this form of testing, ban the export of live animals for slaughter, insist on formal non-stun training and certification for all religious slaughtermen and enforce the highest standards, install CCTV in every abattoir and deal severely with any contraventions and to end the slaughter of dolphins by banning pair trawler fishing for bass.

One more thing – OneKind has its own animal welfare manifesto which you can read here.  And please take the OneKind election action and ask your candidates to sign our animal welfare pledge.

We think every candidate needs to be told that animal welfare is a priority for voters. Loud and clear.

Article taken from: http://www.onekind.org/live_onekind/blog_article/around_the_manifestos

Related articles: https://catdraggedin.co.uk/tag/general-election-2015/


Brian May and Bill Oddie back ‘Votes for Animals’

Celebrities and campaigners have launched a “Votes for Animals” initiative to highlight the importance of animal welfare issues in the General Election.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) cub, 7 weeks old

Queen guitarist Brian May, actor Peter Egan and wildlife expert Bill Oddie are among those launching the campaign to inform the public on where their local candidate stands on animal welfare, and to urge people to take it into consideration when voting.

A day of action today will see a Suffragette-themed march on Parliament and speeches from the celebrity backers, as well as a political hustings at ethical cosmetic company Lush’s new flagship store in Oxford Street, London, with participants from major parties.

The campaign is spearheaded by Lush and backed by animal protection organisations League Against Cruel Sports and Animal Aid and May’s Common Decency organisation.

League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Joe Duckworth said: “Animal lovers who want a new government that’s committed to animal welfare should know where their local candidates stand on this issue when they cast their vote at the General Election. Our ‘Votes for Animals’ campaign and website will help the general public find out more so they can make an informed choice.”

Head of campaigns at Animal Aid Kate Fowler said: “Not all politicians are the same, and party policies on animal welfare are particularly diverse. To animals in the wild, on farms, in laboratories and in our homes, it makes a very real difference which party comes to power. We are urging animal-lovers to find out more, and vote for animals on May 7.”

Article taken from: http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/entertainment/brian-may-and-bill-oddie-back-votes-for-animals-673058.html

Related articles: http://www.league.org.uk/news-and-opinion/press-releases/2015/apr-15/celebrities-and-campaigners-march-on-parliament-for-animal-welfare-general-election-drive