These are troubling times for birds and the environment. Following June’s unexpected EU referendum result, there is now the prospect of the legislative framework protecting Britain’s countryside being unpicked as part of the Brexit process. The benefits and safeguards bestowed by the Birds and Habitats Directives may no longer apply without the need for compliance with Brussels. The laws that protect Britain’s avifauna will in future become our sole responsibility – a worrying prospect indeed.
Why? Look no further than the new Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom. While it’s hard to think of anyone less suited to the role than ineffective former Environment Secretary Liz Truss, all the evidence points to Andrea Leadsom lacking the understanding for the tasks in her in-tray – she has previously voted against measures to prevent climate change, has a dubious record on fracking, wants to sell off England’s state-owned forests, reintroduce fox hunting and, like her predecessor, is pro-Badger cull. Is this really what we want from someone with ultimate responsibility for our environment?
There will now be even more pressure on us, the public, to press for change – we cannot expect the government to do the right thing. Look how news of its decision to reject a ban on lead shot – proven to be harmful to wildlife and humans through direct and indirect ingestion – was effectively buried on the afternoon Theresa May was appointed Prime Minister. Like the Badger cull, another bad decision which ignores the evidence.
If there is any glimmer of hope, we can at least petition the government for answers and, with enough support, for parliamentary debate. The growing movement to ban the harmful practice of driven grouse shooting could be the first test, with a petition now at more than 61,000 signatures, but 100,000 are needed by 20 September to trigger a debate in parliament. I’ve signed, and if every reader does the same we will be almost there – please visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003 and sign now.