Wednesday, 28 May 2014

What do robins, badgers and buzzards have in common? They're all on the Tories' kill list

Britain's wildlife is trapped between traditional Tories and their neoliberal counterparts, who think any green regulation a burden, Monday 26 May 2014 14.00 BST

Robins. Starlings. Pied wagtails. Badgers. Herring gulls. Buzzards. Cormorants. Grey squirrels. Foxes. The kill list created by the UK government is getting so long it is starting to look like the work of a psychopath. What can be compelling the coalition to be so brutal?

The biggest challenge for nature lovers remains all the things that we and our politicians are not doing – our passivity when faced with habitat loss and climate change, which is creating a sixth great wave of extinction. But confronting these profound problems is more difficult when conservationists are forced to perpetually fight off the steps the government is taking to exterminate specific species. But what are the official reasons for each slaughter?

• The government agency responsible for protecting the environment, Natural England, wants to amend regulations to permit the rapid destruction of robin, pied wagtail and starling nests when they present "a health and safety hazard", such as being found in ventilation flues.

• Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is persisting with a four-year pilot badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire because scientists have shown that culling badgers produces a small reduction in bovine TB in cattle over nine years.

• The "removal" (Defra's preferred word for kill) of 475 breeding pairs of herring gulls and 552 breeding pairs of lesser black-backed gulls in the Ribble Valley was sanctioned by the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, last year because BAE Systems made a request to reduce risk to aircraft at an aerodrome.

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