Earlier this week I went along to the second sitting of the Rally For Nature in London, an idea of Mark Avery taken up by the RSPB, League Against Cruel Sports and The Wildlife Trusts. If you’re following the plight of the natural world you probably already know that the State of Nature report published last year found 60% of species in the UK to be in decline, and that in 2013 in England no hen harrier chicks were raised at all as a result of intense persecution of raptors & terrestrial carnivores on grouse moors. You may also know that the natural world provides many physical & mental health benefits, and that a lack of it is linked to health inequalities in our society as shown by a report from this year – very important, since an estimated 1 in 4 of us suffer from mental health issues at some stage during our lives (myself included), thus ‘ecotherapy’ may do a lot for relieving the strain on the NHS.
For all these reasons and more, I sat amongst strangers and old friends alike whilst Martin Harper, director of conservation for the RSPB, spoke about the proposed weakening of the EU Directives for Birds & Habitats, cornerstones of UK wildlife protection in the UK, and we could contribute to their defense. Stephen Trotter, of The Wildlife Trusts, spoke about the Nature & Wellbeing Act, an Act to reconnect society with nature for our own sakes and bring about both the recovery of nature & a reversal of habitat fragmentation. Finally, the League Against Cruel Sports CEO Joe Duckworth spoke out against wildlife crime for which the vanishing hen harrier has become an icon. MPs from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green & Conservative parties also offered words of encouragement throughout the day, but no word from UKIP, presumably because their party members were hatching another plan to farm elephants.
With all these briefings explained, everybody (including Bob the campaigning red squirrel, a fox and a badger) marched to Westminster and in to the St Stephen’s entrance to the House of Commons to ask for an audience with their representative MP; during this walk I kept trying to sneak into photos with the organisation heads, succeeding once, which I believe is called ‘photobombing’. I appear on Mark Avery’s blog, in the sixth photo down, result!
Disappointingly, my MP was absent from the House of Commons on the day, but I did see the impact that others were making when asking their MPs to defend the natural world, and it did indeed seem to be an effective way of campaigning for change. I’m feeling empowered by the process and I have arranged to meet my MP on the 9th of January. I’ll only have 15 minutes, but this should be enough time to outline the Nature & Wellbeing Act and its benefits to people, as well as the problem of rising wildlife crime – not just for hen harriers, though two of those that I protected this year have already been lost (likely destroyed), but also for increasing illegal badger persecution. The Badger Trust’s 2013 report on badger incidents shows that in 2012 there were 353 incidents, but 657 in 2013, 151 of which were badger baiting. An invite for a walk in the woods where I regularly film wildlife might be an idea, to explain why the priority species that live there need habitat connectivity.
If I get time, I’ll also see if he will put his name to the Marine Charter, already supported by 147 MPs, 44 organisations and 8 million people, which aims to fully implement a strong network of Marine Conservation Zones and Marine Protected Areas so our depleted oceans can properly recover. I may also ask him if he has changed his mind on his support of culling badgers following the 2014 shambles…
After the meeting I’ll post an update about whether he is supportive of these environmental efforts. In the mean time, why not get involved and arrange a meeting with your own MP to stand up for wildlife and our natural heritage? They work for you, after all.
Photos courtesy of Mark Avery, from his blog post on the event.