Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Friday, 13 February 2015

Where is this going?

There was a Chiffchaff, probably the bird seen in our garden, flitting about in the hedgerow at the end of Vine Close as I walked across to work yesterday with a second individual calling from the shrubs beside the entrance to Blaze Neon over at Pyson's Road. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the trees around the main farm buildings, over at Newlands and I'm sure that I heard a Firecrest (although not 100% - so I haven't added it to my year list) as I walked the footpath between Park and Prestedge Avenues. A couple of Jays were foraging in the garden this morning and the feeding station continues to attract a reasonable selection of species, for the time of year. So, with all this going on, I'm able to find interest whenever I feel inclined to look. However, there is one species dominating the Newland's Farm area - Wood Pigeons, in their thousands, are absolutely hammering the cauliflower crop.
I am not sure whether the crop has "gone to seed", as much of Mr Burbridge's had done before Christmas, or if these are a late variety still awaiting harvest? There's well over 100 acres - that's an awful lot of caulis!
Twice, in the past week, there has been a guy out there shooting. All legal and above board I would imagine. He had a portable hide and decoys set up and was clearly visible from the main road and public footpaths.
Was he engaged in crop protection work, or simply partaking of his chosen hobby? Unless I actually go across to have a chat with him I doubt if I'll ever find out.
As soon as shooting gets mentioned there will be people getting hot under the collar. It is a subject which will never find consensus amongst a section of the public, no matter how you dress it up. My personal opinions are based upon two factors - a) I'm a carnivore and b) although not a shooter myself, I have friends who are and, in their company, I've experienced many days out on a small syndicate pheasant shoot in Hertfordshire.
Being a carnivore, by definition, means I eat meat. This is not a food source that can be obtained without an animal having to be slaughtered. Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Asda and all other retail outlets have removed the "guilt trip" of butchering animals by slick marketing and fancy packaging. Your pork chops are still a dead pig and steak is an ex cow! That we are now, so far removed from the actual killing process, almost alienated from the basic facts of the food chain; in order for us to eat meat - creatures will die. Does it matter if a guy shoots his food or is it only OK when someone else has done the deed on your behalf?
Oh! but I'm a vegetarian - maybe that guy, pigeon shooting, was only out there protecting your lunch? These same retail outlets that sell sanitized, pre-packaged, dead animals are major players in the farming game - they dictate the price that a farmer will receive for any given crop. In order to be able to provide cauliflowers at 70 p/each Wood Pigeons need to be controlled? They have died in order to protect a vegetarians option not to eat meat - what a surreal concept?
When I first started my employment with Brooke Bond (who became Brooke Bond Oxo before being taken over by Unilever) I came into contact with Steve Baron. To this day, he remains a great and very dear friend, he was shooting man, as were many other members of that small factory workforce. It was through this contact that I was able to spend time, as a beater, on the shoot of which he was a member. Over the years I took both of my children to see how the shoot functioned and to allow them to make their own minds up about the cruelty aspect of the process. (As opposed to being told, by some left-wing school teacher, that it is so!)

Sarah-Jayne didn't object, although she is now semi-vegetarian, but wasn't overly happy with the killing, Benno loved it - although he's never looked to take up shooting as a hobby himself. Two individuals who have come to differing opinions based upon first hand experience; I'm perfectly happy with that.
The syndicate consisted of sixteen paying members (guns) - they shot every fortnight between October and January, eight shoots in a season.The average bag was between 50 and 70 birds, enough for a brace apiece for the guns and a few birds over for the tenant farmers, who's ground we were on, and the beaters if they chose. Nothing was wasted, birds had not died as a result of "blood-lust" they became part of the food chain, just without a KFC logo. I will admit here and now that I wasn't a beater because I wanted to be part of the "County Set" - Oh no, there was much more to it than that! Some of the guns were also landowners whose ground contained "private" lakes. My involvement in this country sport was an avenue for me to pursue my quest for big fish - via a different route to the majority of other anglers. By steering the conversation towards angling, during the breaks between the various drives, I was able to gain permission, get an invitation, to fish several very special venues.
Too proud to touch your forelock - more fool you!
By playing this game I've gained access to so many areas that others are not allowed.
Who's the looser?
So I am not anti-shooting, as such, but what I can't align myself with is the industrial scale slaughter, that masquerades as a country pastime, and is, in reality, the egotistical playground of the ridiculously wealthy. Guys, with more money than brain cells, slaughtering reared birds for fun - they certainly ain't doing it because they're hungry! This aspect of the "sport" is indefensible - rich guys killing thousands of birds per day because they can. This industry generates £billions during the course of a season and employs many decent folk who are simply trying to earn a living. I also work in an industry which generates £billions during a financial year, yet I'm not despised, because our business has no direct link with shooters and shooting? I wonder how many of our senior management/directors choose to spend their money to be part of this social set? And this is applicable to all successful companies - the wealth created allows individuals to make choices. You don't have to wear Tweed jackets and Plus-fours, at work, to be a shooting man. It is far more likely that a suit and tie will be the daily attire and a flat cap and Barbour jacket is for the weekend only?
I've seen the recent posting, on Birdguides, about the demise of the Norfolk Little Bustard - I am appalled by this crime, but not to the extent that I've lost sight of reality (read the comments for a better understanding of where I'm coming from!). There are other articles in the thread which are of equal dismay - Goshawk killing and the persecution of English Hen Harriers - acts of undeniable selfishness and total disregard of the laws, therefore, abhorrent. That the perpetrators are described as gamekeepers has tarred an awful lot of good guys with the same brush. Crimes against our wildlife are crimes against us, our children, and our children's children! These acts are deliberate attempts to devalue the natural heritage of our countryside - we do not own these creatures but, are merely looking after them for future generations!
I've always tried to keep in with the farming community - after all they control an awful lot of our countryside.
When I first moved to Kent, in August 1993, I quickly established contact with one of the local farmers. As a result I was able to wander over vast tracts of farmland, purely because I'd made an effort to introduce myself and not offer advice on how best to run a farm! I can still go there today, and many other farms as well, because I am not seen as the enemy! Birders, unable to see shooting as a legitimate pastime, whilst munching on a Mc Donald's chicken burger  - anglers who see Otters as the bad guys in rivers which contain illegally stocked barbel. Is it any surprise that an "us and them" mentality exists whilst single subject fanatics are claiming to be naturalists! Is it an age thing, or my industrial background, that has allowed me to see a "bigger picture" ?
Tasty, tasty - very, very, tasty!
I don't have all the answers - if any at all? However, I do have nearly sixty years on this planet and, as such, an inkling of what it's all about?


  1. Very well said Dylan, you've managed, in a far better way than I ever have over the years, to echo both my thoughts on the subject and those of many others. The "bunny-huggers" of this world do both themselves and conservation an injustice when they take such a blanket approach to the killing of things and live by the belief that if you leave nature to it's own devices it will all balance itself out in the end, which is crap. Some dominant species have always needed to be "managed" for the benefit of others. I have no doubt that in many ways, the hunting fraternity are responsible for far better conservation methods than some alleged conservation bodies, they just need to stop protecting some of the bad apples in their midst.

    1. Derek - thanks for that! If a person is hungry and has the desire to see the process through from slaughter to plate - then fair play. I have no objection to the harvesting of a natural resource - be that bird, animal or fish, if it is done humanely and for the purpose I have stated. My objection to the industrial scale slaughtering of "reared birds" is tempered slightly by the knowledge that many other species prosper in the environments provided for this purpose. I still don't condone it - our compensation culture meaning that the carcasses never reach the table for fear of a legal claim for a tooth broken on a bit of shot! Instead of these creatures finding their way into the food chain, they are dumped in big pits and buried - a waste of resource if ever there was.
      When life is treated as a cheap commodity, is it any surprise that some elements within the business see Buzzards, Hen Harriers and Goshawks as equally disposable?
      If the businesses themselves were held accountable for the actions of their employees - then we would see a change in attitude at the top. Hit the balance sheet hard and you bet killing native birds of prey, or Little Bustards, would all of a sudden be consigned to the history book, where it now belongs! - Dylan

  2. Thanks Dylan an interesting post. As are your posts about angling but I can't relate to them as I can this one :) I think it might be worth considering this in terms of lowland and upland (red grouse) game shooting. The latest figures (from BASC and GWCT) indicate shooting as a whole contributes £2 billion to the UK economy. Grouse shooting contributes approximately a tenth of this figure. A days grouse shooting will set you back approx. £3000 so the preserve of the few whereas lowland pheasant and partridge shoots are more accessible to the average man. These upland moors are the black holes in which the birds of prey you mention like Hen Harriers and Goshawks but also SEOs and Peregrines "mysteriously" disappear.

    I guess when you're referring to "reared birds" you're not referring to red grouse? It's very unusual for them to be dumped in stinkpits the way pheasants are. I'm fairly indifferent about lowland game shoots but in my opinion, upland red grouse shooting is based upon organised-crime levels of law breaking.
    I agree that it's sad that gamekeepers are being tarred with the same brush but I for one am getting a bit tired of the "few bad apples" refrain whenever another gamekeeper is convicted of crimes against raptors. As the Raptor Persecution Scotland website so succintly put it, the people involved in incidents such as this https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/masked-gunmen-caught-on-camera-attacking-goshawk-nest-in-cairngorms-national-park/ aren't district nurses but people with interests in game shooting. Upland grouse shooting needs to change; and I for one wouldn't be particularly upset if driven grouse shooting were to be banned.
    In each edition the Shooting Times carries a quote from King George VI: “The wildlife of today is not ours to dispose of as we please. We have it in trust. We must account for it to those who come after.” The upland game industry appears to consider that this only applies to game birds and not raptors.
    I agree that the landowners should be made responsible and vicarious liability, as they have in Scotland, would be a very positive move. However, I'm not holding my breath that we'll see it in England especially while we have a Conservative government.
    I apologise for a rather rambling comment but, in summary, lowland shooting OK, upland grouse shooting very bad.

  3. P.S. Did you know that from January even more of your money is going to upland grouse moor owners? The subsidy they're entitled to claim was doubled to £56 per hectare. Think grouse moors practices are "out-of-sight, out-of-mind"? Not if you're a taxpayer.