Thursday, 25 June 2015

Birdwatch - latest editorial

July 2015 | Issue 277

After months of fanfare, media hype and plugging on social networks, the campaign to vote for a national bird has seen the long-standing de facto incumbent, Robin, unsurprisingly remain in office. It always was the likely result, despite support for other candidates (you can read what Bill Oddie made of the shortlist in this month's issue).

So was it a pointless exercise? The obvious answer might be yes, but there’s more to it than that. For a start, consider that more than 224,000 people voted for their favourite species. Perhaps that’s not surprising given the RSPB has well over a million members; it’s partly also a result of the publicity onslaught behind the promotion. You could take it as a positive sign that so many are motivated to cast a vote for their favourite bird, even if the result made no practical difference.

And therein lies the problem. If it’s worth investing time and money into motivating a quarter of a million people to vote for birds, wouldn’t it be more worthwhile if the outcome actually meant something? There are real campaigns and causes out there that would give anything for that kind of support, to be able to utilise the collective voice of so many people as a force for good or change; not even the combined efforts of 100 voluntary organisations – including the RSPB and BirdLife International – who are currently protesting against the EU’s review of the Birds and Habitats Directives have yet matched that level of support with their online petition.

Everyone’s entitled to vote for their favourite national bird, and I’m as fond of Robins as the next birder. But if all those who did so also gave their support where it actually counts – for the campaigning organisations who have made it their mission to protect and conserve birds – then they are capable of making a real difference.

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