At a time when more people than ever are engaging with the conservation movement, the challenges and setbacks it faces also seem greater than before.
In April, despite a turning tide of local opinion against the killing of migrating birds in spring in Malta, a referendum on the issue handed victory to the hunters. Little comfort that a 0.3 per cent swing in the vote would have been enough to see the controversial practice banned: the slightest majority was all the hunters needed. Democracy can be a painful process.
The same could be said for the UK’s recent general election, in which almost no one outside the Green Party bothered to campaign on environmental issues. Our own democratic process has awarded the new government an outright majority for 37 per cent of the vote, and we now face the prospect of deregulated rural development, badger culling across the country, the return of fox hunting and, as Prime Minister David Cameron so famously put it, the cutting of “green crap”.
Threats to wildlife also come from the the European Union, where in its less than infinite wisdom Brussels has decided to conduct a euphemistically named ‘fitness check’ on the Birds and Habitats Directives, the cornerstones of nature conservation across the continent. The move is considered serious enough by the RSPB to be described as the “single biggest threat to UK and European nature and biodiversity in a generation”. It has also mobilised 100 voluntary groups from across the UK to join forces and defend laws which surely need strengthening, not weakening.
You can read more about this important story in this issue and find out about its potential impact on bird conservation at home and abroad. The EU has now started the public consultation process, and it’s important that we all make our voices heard – no one else will stick up for birds if we don’t. Please give your opinions at www.naturealert.eu.