Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tangled up in Blue

they have it all so do not cry,
their skulls are made of lead.
black patent souls they ride the road 
and leave behind the dead 

Fedrico Garcia Lorca

It was a walk I’d done many times. A pleasant upland trod taking in several little cairned tops no more than 1500’ above sea level. As I approached what would have been the final peak which is marked by a memorial cairn, I was brought up short by the sight of a mature dead fox hanging from his jaw from the stock fencing which defines the grazing fields and forestry plantation. It was a grim sight to behold. The magnificent mature creature had obviously been frantically trying to escape the wire noose and in a desperate act, had been trying to bite through the fence. A small sapling close to the fence, displayed the signs of the struggle with torn bark showing the pale core of the tree.

It was a pitiful sight for most people to witness, not least anyone who counts themselves as an animal lover. It may come as a surprise to most people but the snaring of wild animals is not illegal in the UK. In fact you can buy snares on eBay and You-Tube videos will show you how to make a home made snare and how to set them. You can also watch blood lust videos made by these huntin-shootin cretins to sate their depravity.Thankfully, 95% of the population would be rightly appalled by animal cruelty and shun graphic videos aimed to shock or gratify this minorities’ perverted taste for violence and cruelty.

There’s a well rehearsed mantra which the landowner/gamekeeping/hunting fraternity trots out to justify its medieval practices; that it is all about vermin control. Unfortunately pet dogs, cats and protected species fall under this dark umbrella with many of these animals being snared or poisoned. Yes, foxes have been known to take a lamb but as someone who has kept sheep and who is familiar with the reality of sheep farming I can tell you that the lambing season sees a high mortality rate. Particularly in a cold spring when the fields can be littered with dead lambs and ewes who are particularly vulnerable when they are pregnant or have given birth. Given the smorgasbord on offer, foxes don’t have to go to the trouble of pursuing a healthy live lamb. Given farmers habits of exaggerating their sheep count to gain greater subsidies, I would suggest that this practice would more than financially compensate for any lambs killed by foxes!

Yes, foxes take poultry which again, I have experienced when I kept chickens and ducks but then, how can this justify garroting such a magnificent creature?  Unfortunately, as we saw in the foot and mouth epidemic in 2002, the Westminster governments, particularly those of a Tory hue, are very much in the pocket of the farming/landowning lobby. In that outbreak, the Blair government was prepared to let the tourist industry-which contributes eight times as much to our GDP as agriculture- suffer a catastrophic financial shortfall in order to appease the farming lobby. With the countryside locked down, many shops, hotels and suppliers, went to the wall as the government went out of its way to offer financial compensation to farmers and landowners.

This state of affairs is an example of how out of touch Westminster and the regional governments are with public opinion. A referendum on banning practices like the snaring of wild animals would see a huge 90% + majority in favour of a ban. The cry of course would go up about townies not understanding country ways except, for the fact that a huge number of country dwellers these days are an educated and enlightened constituency who have moved to the country and who are far more familiar with rural ecology, local history and issues like intensive grazing of the uplands and its impact on ecological diversity, than the many so called 'country folk' who remain rooted in their subsidy gorged ignorance.

Yes- snaring, shooting and trapping are part and parcel of country life, but so was ducking witches and hanging miscreants at the cross roads at one time. Barbarism is barbarism however you dress it up and there should be no place for animal cruelty in a civilized society in the 21st century.

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