Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Over And Out

This blog stays well clear of party politics apart from occasionally noting that politicians know or care little about the environment or birds in general, but will answer a question or give an opinion with clichés or words they think a questioner wants to hear. There are no votes in birds. 

The referendum of 23rd June is slightly different by giving ordinary people a chance to decide whether the UK should either leave or stay in the European Union. There is a clear choice based not along traditional party lines of left, right or centre, but on how people feel about being part of the EU. No one should feel obliged to vote how their usual party allegiance tells them. 

Supposedly there are 500 bird species protected by the EU Wild Birds Directive, but it has achieved little or nothing for once common birds like the Cuckoo, the Curlew, the Lapwing, the Turtle Dove, the Skylark, the Yellowhammer, the Corn Bunting or the Yellow Wagtail. They are all in serious decline as seen in my own local area during the past 30+ years. A vast amount of public money has been wasted, misspent or worse, in thousands of funded agri-environment schemes that are not adequately checked or controlled with the result that most of the schemes produce no meaningful increases in our UK wildlife. 

Turtle Dove - declined 88% since 1995 

Common Cuckoo- declined +49%

 Lapwing - declined +55%

Yellow Wagtail - declined +43%

Corn Bunting - declined +50%

In the European Union there are theoretical constraints on the killing of migratory birds but hunting continues unabated as the EU shows itself unwilling or unable to stop the slaughter. The situation in the Mediterranean is appalling. Every year, from one end of it to the other, hundreds of millions of songbirds and larger migrants are killed for food, profit, sport, or general amusement. The killing is indiscriminate with heavy impact on species already battered by destruction or fragmentation of their breeding habitat. Mediterranean hunters shoot cranes, storks, and large raptors for which governments to the north have multimillion Euro conservation projects. 

All across Europe bird populations are in steep decline, and the slaughter in the Mediterranean is one of the causes. The French continue to eat Ortolan Buntings illegally, and France’s long list of “quarry” birds includes many struggling species of shorebirds. Songbird trapping is still widespread in parts of Spain where migratory thrushes are a particular target. Maltese hunters blast migrating raptors out of the sky. Cypriots harvest warblers on an industrial scale and consume them in platefuls of “ambelopoulia” (trapped birds) at €50/€60 a time in law-breaking restaurants. 

One of the most damaging implications of Britain joining the EU has been the effect on our fishing industry by the UK giving up its territorial waters and protected fishing areas to the EU. The results of this disastrous policy have been witnessed just a few miles down the road from here at Fleetwood, a once thriving fishing port. As with most policies emanating from the centralised elite in Brussels, the Common Fisheries Policy was a major disaster. After its introduction in 1970, the CFP has been synonymous with decline of our fish stocks, deterioration of the environment, wasteful discarding of fish and the destruction of Britain’s fishing industry and communities. 

I worry about the unfettered freedom of movement across Europe, mainly the movement of both legal and illegal migrants, an ongoing disaster played out on our television screens on an almost daily basis. The population of the UK has risen relentlessly until it is close to 60 million due to immigration and the inevitable baby boom. The British countryside can never ever recover from the trashing now taking place to cater for the ever growing population of this tiny island. Each day I pass more and more green fields consumed by yet more houses and roads as hedgerows and trees are destroyed to heap yet more pressure onto our beleaguered birds. 

Staying in or leaving Europe should depend on other issues. Perhaps even the notion of democracy? Britain has little or no say in decisions reached by the other 27 member states or the unelected EU Commissioners who have too much clout in deciding how the EU is run. I don’t fancy living in a huge socialist experiment called The United States of Europe. That is the next stage of the EU plan - to swallow the UK and others into an amorphous mass that can be controlled more easily by an unelected elite without due democratic process. 

Meanwhile youth unemployment in Southern Europe continues near 50%, Greek debt soars to $350 billion and other countries line up to demand a vote on leaving the failing EU.

I know the argument – better to stay and use our influence to change the EU for the better. Unfortunately, and just like the Titanic, the dying EU is heading for the rocks where it and all aboard will sink without trace. It’s time for Britain, the fifth richest nation in the world, to jump into a lifeboat and sail to calmer waters. 

The historic and important decision for each and every UK resident is one I took weeks ago by putting an “X” in the box marked “LEAVE” of my postal ballot. Yes, I have already voted in the EU Referendum. I want OUT.


Linda said...

Beautiful series, Phil, and I find it sad about the decline of these remarkable birds. I hope your week is going well and that your weekend will be even better.

Mary Cromer said...

Oh Phil, what a terribly tragic filled post, and yet so very necessary to share. It sounds like there is not a whole lot that is going to change and if nothing else, get even worse, if that is possible. Based on realities of the political climate over here, heaven only knows where it would best be desired to live in harmony with nature and be at peace in the world. We all have so many targets whirling around us these days and we for the most part are not part of the battle, though a major part of how it turns out, as in your situation, so are the beloved birds. Bless you on caring for them my friend. I hope that your ailment woes are getting better and that you are getting about now on foot more, rather than just use of the car. Take care~

Margaret Adamson said...

It is sad the grat decline n these birds Phil. I am off to vote now.

Stuart Price said...

Well...........I think I can guess which way you'll vote today.........


I am all for politics....we HAVE to voice our opinions and get the word out that the environment is being torn and it birds, land, sea, habitats, etc. If we DON'T say anything, the world is doomed.

I enjoyed reading your sentiments and thoughts...this is just about how I feel about everything these days. Humanity has taken a turn downward and all they can think of is profits and money in their pockets.

David Gascoigne said...

Good morning Phil.
First of all let me state that this a very fine, cogent, well-reasoned and articulate presentation of your views. As a North American I do not have sufficient knowledge of all the ramifications of Britain being a member of the European Union, but I do know that I heard rumblings of discontent from British citizens on recent visits to the UK. In terms of the bird slaughter which seems to go on without end, it is verging on criminal that the EU seems perfectly able to enforce regulations about how a flag should be flown, but cannot (or perhaps does not want to) stop this carnage. It is truly a blight on the countries that still condone it. It would be great if the RSPB or some other national group in Britain could organize a tourist boycott of the offending nations.
Again, congratulations on a remarkable post. I hope that the result today makes you raise a celebratory glass.
Best regards,

Russell Jenkins said...

I'm on the birds' side. Very well written Phil. I am a member of Birdlife Australia but I expanded my membership to Birdlife International yesterday. I don't know if I am helping birds enough, but I want to learn how.

David Gascoigne said...

Congratulations, Phil.

Stewart M said...

I know how I would have voted - greater effort (and effect) needs to be put into the protection of the environment, but I am not sure the governments that will follow this vote will share this concern. From a long way away the leave vote looks like a very strange decision - but most of what I know is over 20years old, so, really, what do I know.

Stewart M - Melbourne (ex Bath, Sunderland, York and Kendal)

Anni said...

Just passing through again today...Hooray for you Brits...getting out of the EU. Well done.

Wally Jones said...

Our concern for the birds of the world extends to all species, including us so-called "intelligent" ones. How right you are concerning taking part in a grand sociological experiment none of us signed on for.

We wish you all the best in the coming difficult times. Also, I feel we in the United States of America will soon have to make a similar stand.

Great Britain may well be the canary in the coal mine of the world. Hope we're paying attention.

David Gascoigne said...

In reading more about the consequences of Brexit, it seems apparent that your annual trips to Spain are going to cost you a whole lot more!

Phil Slade said...

A small price to pay David. Watch out soon for the return of Great Britain.

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