Sponsored cycle ride for Shark Trust

I don’t normally write about things that aren’t related to thinking about/making/uploading podcasts – but I’d like to appeal to the goodwill of the visitors to this blog.

I’m doing the Bristol Nightrider 2019 for the Shark Trust on July 6th (next weekend as I write this) and I would really love some extra sponsorship.

Now I know most of us already donate to various charity stuff (heck, this year I’ve given to Hen Harriers and badgers, supported judicial reviews, and I pay my monthly subs to a bunch of charities etc ) and I know most of us don’t end the month with much left to spend from our salaries (many of us flirt with our overdrafts I’m sure), nevertheless, if I don’t make this pitch I don’t give you the opportunity to perhaps support something you’ve thought about supporting – like, sharks!

So, the Nightrider. It’s – er, at night, and it’s around Bristol. Which if you don’t know the city is a pretty hilly place (not Buxton or Edinburgh hilly, but way hillier than Cambridge or Peterborough). I’ve opted for the ‘blue route’ 100km/65 mile route, rather than the ‘red’ 50km route which (and no offence to non-regular cyclists) is a training ride or commute for many cyclists. The ‘blue route’ takes in both loops and the organisers seem to have looked for every incline within miles (see the image below)…

Now, I know that 100km is NOT Lands End – John O’Groats (which is around 2000km). It’s not especially difficult if you ride bikes a lot (and I do) but that’s what I’m being asked to do, so that’s what I’m doing. To be honest, I’ve never ridden at night before, so that should be an extra element. And it traverses Bristol city centre on Saturday night, which might be – er, interesting when the clubs spill out…

But Bristol is hardly downtown Caracas or Bogota. There’ll be hundreds of other riders, it’s well signed, the organisers even lay on biscuits. So it’s not going to be life-changing or dangerous. It should be fun though, and a different way to spend a Saturday night (my start time is 23:50 so I’ll be finishing sometime around dawn on Sunday hopefully). The important point is though that any/all funds raised will go to the Shark Trust. They’re a small charity, and every penny counts. (I made a podcast with them last week which you can find at Paul Cox | Shark Trust if you’d like to know more about them)

And – seriously – every single penny would help.

So if you feel like chucking a single penny into the hat (as it were) please have a look at https://www.sharktrust.org/fundraisers/charlie-moores-shark-trust-fundraiser

And thanks!

Podcast Uploaded: Paul Cox | Shark Trust

Uploaded to Lush Player June 2019: “Paul Cox | Shark Trust”

It occurred to me recently that while I’ve recorded numerous podcasts on birds of prey, badgers, foxes, bees, plants (see the Menu options above) – I’ve barely mentioned sharks, one of the planet’s most threatened, most beautifully evolved and most important predators, a group of animals that are so misunderstood that according to some polls I found online, a large number of respondents didn’t know that sharks were fish, thinking that they were mammals like dolphins.

But leaving taxonomy to one side for a moment, let’s get straight to the shark-sized elephant in the room. When I said the word ‘shark’ I’m willing to place a small wager that the image that popped in to your head will be pretty much the same image that will pop into the heads of many of the people around you: a big, scary, sinister, dangerous animal. With sharp teeth.

The truth is, of course, like most things in nature, far more interesting. Sharks are actually an incredibly varied group of animals. There are around 500 extant species, with new species being discovered almost every year – in fact, roughly a fifth of current living sharks and the closely-related rays have been described since 2002. The smallest shark is less than 20 cm long – the largest, the Whale Shark, can grow to around 12 metres, weigh 19000kg, and feeds almost exclusively on plankton. Sharks are curious, in many cases highly social, occupy many different aquatic zones, and feed on everything from shellfish to seals – but are they dangerous?

We tend to think of ‘dangerous’ only in terms of what’s dangerous to us, but just three or four species account for the vast majority of shark attacks and according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), between 1958 and 2016 there were just 2,785 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks around the world. Of those 439 were fatal – and while of course it won’t seem that way to the families concerned, that’s a remarkably low figure considering how many of us are in the ocean at any one time. And given that we are responsible for taking some 100 million sharks from the ocean every year, it’s far more accurate to say that it’s us humans that are dangerous to sharks, not the other way around.

I went to speak with Paul Cox, managing director of the UK-based charity Shark Trust, to learn more about protecting and promoting these fascinating animals. Paul is a marine biologist by training, and in the blurb on his Shark Trust ‘who we are’ page he says that he is “fascinated by how we communicate as well as what we communicate”.

Which seemed to me to be a really good basis for a conversation. While we covered welfare vs pragmatism, sustainability, fundraising, and the Trust’s links with a somewhat controversial Swimming with Sharks experience, we began by discussing how the Shark Trust helps a terrestrial species like us connect with the ocean and connect with sharks…and how might the way he communicates help with one of the major problems facing sharks today – overfishing….

Podcast Uploaded: The Badger Cull | Judicial Reviews 2019

Uploaded to Lush Player June 2019: “The Badger Cull | Judicial Reviews 2019

From the spoken intro to this podcast:

“Back in December 2011, the Government announced that it intended to go forward with trial badger culls in two 150 km2 areas. These would take place over a 6-week period with the aim of reducing the badger population by 70% in each area. Two years later Pilot badger culls commenced in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

A cull of one of the UK’s most protected mammals, it was hoped, would control (according to government estimates) by up to 16% a year the spread of bovine tuberculosis (or bovine TB) – a disease of cattle, that in the year 2010/11, when the cull announcemnet was first made, had led to the slaughter of 25,000 diseased cattle in England with compensation to farmers costing taxpayers £91 million.

25,000 cattle slaughtered because of bovine TB sounds high, but it’s worth remembering that every year around two million cattle are slaughtered for their meat in the UK anyway, tens of thousands of cattle are culled annually because of mastitis, lameness, and infertility problems, bTB has been almost completely eradicated as a threat to the public by the pasteurisation of milk (pasteurisation kills the bacteria that causes bovine TB), and the evidence is pretty clear that it’s poor biosecurity and the movement of diseased cattle between herds – and indeed regions of the country – that is the main cause of its spread.

In the meantime, driven by government policy and, as ecologist Tom Langton explains in the following discussion, an unwillingness by academics to admit to previous oversights and the implications of new findings, badgers are dying at a huge cost to them – and to us. By the end of 2018, the government had spent over £50m of public funds killing over 67,000 badgers – 32,000 of them in 2018 alone.

More badgers are slated to die in 2019, but while the slaughter of badgers appears to be expanding the cull is facing a number of legal challenges and judicial reviews, and Tom Langton has been one of those at the forefront of taking the government to court.

I spoke with Tom in late-May this year to understand more about the basis for the challenges, about the ‘carnivore release effect’ which ludicrously has led to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ordering in some areas the shooting of foxes as a result of the removal of badgers to protect cattle, ‘low risk area’ culling, and – most controversially perhaps – Tom’s opinion that it’s the responsibility of academics to now admit that the cull is a ‘nonsense’.

We begin though with Tom explaining about two upcoming legal challenges…”

  • Since I spoke withTom, supplementary badger culling has been authorised in Gloucestershire, Somerset and for the first time in north Dorset. Tom emailed me in mid June to say that the government is busy announcing that badger culling is working, based upon a secret report unavailable to the public. Ministers are busy saying  badger culling is working, as they did when misquoting the report of the first two years of badger culling in 2017.

These are strange times indeed.

If you would like to see this ‘nonsense’ – as Tom labels it – stopped, you can help the legal fight against badger culling by visiting thebadgercrowd.org website and following the ‘donate’ button to the Badger Trust Sussex crowd fund page.

Tom also has a new scientific paper on the Randomised Badger Culling Trial in the current journal of Dairy and Veterinary Sciences.

I uploaded a podcast recently recorded at the country’s first badger vaccination symposium which considers badger vaccination as an alternative to culling – it’s not a route everyone agrees with but the podcast is on Lush Player and can be found by typing badger into the search bar (this will bring up a slection of six podcasts on the cull)

Finally, following a Tweet I put out saying this podcast was on its way, someone messaged me to say; ‘Night follows day, but will Gove follow May‘? Will Michael Gove be pulled out of Defra in a few weeks time and sent to the back benches when Boris Johnson takes over as prime-minister?

lf so, who will be prepared to take on the slaughter of so many wild animals?

It will perhaps be difficult to find another two people like Theresa May and Michael Gove quite so willing to kill and injure so many badgers, but the feeling amongst activists does seem to be that many people in positions of power simply want badgers killed – no matter what science, conservation, or even morality says…

Podcast Uploaded: Richard Peirce | Lions, Bones, and Bullets

The Lion – King of the Jungle, the Big Beast, Simba, star of the Lion King, one of the world’s best known and best loved animals – or perhaps more accurately a wild cat of the open plains whose population, according to a 2015 statement by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has undergone a reduction of approximately 42% over the past 21 years, the unwitting star of 1997’s the Cook Report’s ‘Making a Killing‘ and the chilling and powerful 2015 documentary ‘Blood Lions‘, which uncovered the realities of the multi-million dollar predator breeding and canned lion hunting industries in South Africa.

From magnificent predators we have turned Lions into inbred animals farmed in miserable conditions across southern africa, animals rented out to be cuddled by so-called voluntourists then sold on to be shot in their enclosures by trophy hunters in canned hunts, and animals whose bones are boiled down to service the demands of traditional Chinese medicine now that Tigers have been exploited to the point of extinction.

I met conservationist, activist, author and film maker Richard Peirce at a wildlife event in Bristol where he was talking about ‘Blood Lions’ and his own excellent book ‘Cuddle Me, Kill Me‘, a scathing and in-depth investigation of South Africa’s large-scale captive lion breeding industry, from, as the book puts it, bottle to bullet. Research for ‘Cuddle Me, Kill Me‘, started in late 2016 and the book was published in mid-2018 – Rather than say, ‘I’ve done my bit’ though, Richard is now deep into the making of an investigative documentary, ‘Lions, Bones, and Bullets‘, and is planning visits to Asia, where many lion products end up

Richard Peirce really knows his stuff. He divides his time between Cape Town and Cornwall, fundraising, campaigning, and tirelessly – and bluntly – talking about the problems that Lions face. He is well placed to discuss the impact of canned hunting and the lion bone industry on what travel chiefs like to call ‘Brand South Africa’, the lies told by farm operators to overseas volunteers who come to Africa to look after ‘orphaned’ lion cubs, the huge sums of money being made by lion farmers, and the more then twenty years of effort to halt an industry which to jaundiced eyed might seem almost unstoppably buoyant.

Richard has some fascinating perspectives on lions, Africa, and activism, but I began by asking him – given that there seems to be an almost endless queue of wealthy gun owners looking to get their jollies by shooting a lion in a cage whilst at the same time East Asia is hoovering up wild animal parts at a rate never witnessed in the planet’s history – has anything actually changed for the better since Blood Lions?

Have a listen to Richard Peirce | Lions, Bones, and Bullets on Lush Player

Podcast Uploaded: Birdgirl | Mya-Rose Craig

Last month I interviewed feisty sixteen year old (though I think she may have had a birthday since then, as her blog is now saying seventeen year old?) Mya-Rose Craig.

Mya-Rose is a world lister, and a Rock Bunting in Spain this spring was her 5000th species! (At sixteen!) Yes, big lists are built around opportunity, money, travel, and time, but she will have seen and experienced a lot more than most young people her age – and her parents, Chris and Helena, will have required her to think while she was off travelling with them – and there’s no better education in my mind than being made to think about the things you see.

Anyway, while the conversation could easily have been about birds, birds, and even more birds, I wanted to get Mya-Rose’s perspective on the other passions in her life: equality, access to the countryside, online bullying, and the climate emergency we’re all facing.

If that seems a bit ‘heavy going’ for a teenager, it’s worth pointing out that Mya-Rose has form here: she is a very interesting young woman, with a drive and commitment that I felt was worth almost ‘archiving’. Will she still feel this way in, say, a decade? Will she emerge as a generational leader, or quietly drop out of the limelight and back into birding and world listing?

Either would be understandable, and I certainly won’t be stepping forward to judge whatever decision she makes – but in the meantime here’s the link to the conversation on The Sound Approach website: Birdgirl | Mya-Rose Craig