Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting at the House of Commons

Even as a glamorous podcaster (*cough*) I don’t get to go to all that many receptions at the Mother of all Parliaments, which is a shame as while I’m defintely not comfortable in a city (any city), there is something to be said for being right at the heart of the action (however peripheral your presence may be to the actual moving and shaking that’s going on).

So how did I get to be at a reception for the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) on the 3rd of July? My invite came about because I know it’s founder Eduardo Goncalves (photo below) from our time at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), when Eduardo was CEO there and I was on the board of trustees. We’ve kept in touch, which I’m really pleased about because Eduardo is not only a force of nature he’s a thoroughly good man as well. Which is a commendable combo…

Quite what reserves of energy Eduardo has been drawing on in the last eighteen months or so, I’m not sure. He stood down from LACS when he became seriously ill (‘stood down’ may not accurately reflect his feelings on that, but that’s a whole other subject) yet somehow he’s pushed CBTH to a point where it has almost as many followers on social media as the far longer-established LACS and he can bring a seriously impressive range of politicians, activists, and ‘celebrities’ (a word I loathe, but as shorthand for ‘people who are well-known to the wider public’ it’ll have to do) to the Commons for a ‘where we’re at right now’ meeting.

What do I mean by seriously impressive?

Well, short speeches slamming the vile trophy hunting industry and demanding the closure of the loopholes that allow the import of bits and pieces of dead animals into the UK were given by Zac Goldsmith MP (if he was a Green Party MP he’d be almost the perfect politician), Sir Ranulph Fiennes (the craggy erudite explorer in the photo above), Sue Hayman (the Shadow Environment Secretary), and Alison Philipps (the editor of the Daily Mirror who’s backed the campaign to the hilt).

Among the good and the great in attendance were activists and campaigners of the calibre of Peter Egan, Marc Abraham (sporting a new fuzzy beardy look), Kevin Pietersen (the charismatic former cricketer who is doing remarkable work fighting rhino poaching in South Africa – the ‘Beast of Man’ podcasts with him and Five Live’s Sarah Brett are absolutely superb), Bill Bailey, Jan Leeming, Kerry Mcarthy MP, Tracey Crouch MP, Annette Crosbie, Vikki Michelle, and a host of representatives of organisations all tackling trophy hunting and animal abuse.

I also spent part of my time catching up with former friends and colleagues from various sectors of the animal rights world. It’s a fairly small pond we’re all paddling around in, but it does contain some of the very best people!

As well as put on a suit and mix with the famous, the plan had been to record the speeches and grab some interviews afterwards. Plans, eh, ‘gang aft agley’ as we all know. The Commons was mysteriously unable to find a lectern to place my recorder on (I tried waving a microphone around from a few feet away but the audio quality was dreadful), and Eduardo himself was rushed off to do live interviews with Sky and Channel Five. Once the reception sort of formally finished (these things tend to taper off rather than just stop) most people were out of the room pretty pronto and onto other things – but I’m delighted to say that Eduardo has offered to meet up again in a few weeks for a face-to-face chat for a podcast which I’m really looking forward to.

In the meantime, the aims of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting couldn’t be much simpler: to end the slaughter and trade of some of the planet’s most magnificent and endangered animals (by some of the planet’s least likeable egocentrics). if that’s not worth supporting I have no idea what is…Check out the aims of CBTH right here

Podcast uploaded: Mark Avery | The Common Pheasant

Uploaded to Lush Player June 2019: Mark Avery | The Common Pheasant

A short while back, Dr Mark Avery (friend, colleague, renowned conservationist, author, blogger, and pragmatist) gave me a heads-up about an article he’d written for the prestigious monthly journal British Birds. It was on the pheasant, that utterly familiar but non-native bird released in staggering numbers every year by the shooting industry. It would be called: “The Common Pheasant – its status in the UK and the potential impacts of an abundant non-native”.

Would I like to do a podcast? Do bears etc etc…especially bears that are passionately opposed to the slaughter of wildlife for fun by an industry that patently doesn’t give a damn about the consequences (my words, not Mark’s who is actually quite relaxed about some forms of rough shooting).

Understandably, the resulting interview was embargoed until the magazine had been printed and gone out to subscribers. And that has now happened.

But why the fuss about pheasants? They’re common enough, they’re not under threat, they’re really not especially noteworthy. That’s an interesting question because it suggests we’ve become so normalised to the casual killing of millions of virtually tame birds that we’ve almost stopped questioning it. At least that’s possibly what the shooting industry hopes…

Here’s the intro I wrote for the finished podcast:

“Pheasants. Most birdwatchers or birders barely glance at pheasants anymore they’ve become so ubiquitous, and while non-birders may not know a mallard from a Mandarin, a Kite from a Kestrel, a Blackcap from a Black-throated Diver, the chances are very high that they’ll know what a pheasant is.

Pheasants are everywhere, walking around fields or lying dead by the side of the road, painted on signs and cards or hanging by the throat in shop windows. Remarkably though, pheasants aren’t native to the UK, they’re introduced. Their original range was predominantly China and western Asia – they’re only here, and here in staggering numbers, because some people like to shoot them.

Every year the shooting industry releases vast numbers of pheasants into the countryside. No one is exactly sure how many, or how many survive the so-called shooting season. No scientifically robust studies have been done to properly understand their impact on the environment, their impact on native wildlife which has to compete for scarce food resources, their impact on populations of predators that also kill or scavenge pheasants – the very predators, of course, that that the very same shooting industry claims they need to control to protect their…pheasants.

I spoke with renowned conservationist, author and birder Dr Mark Avery on the publication of a lengthy article he’s written for the prestigious monthly journal British Birds titled ‘The Common Pheasant – its status in the UK and the potential impacts of an abundant non-native’. In our discussion we covered a wide range of the issues that Mark raised in his article – from pheasant ecology to predators, lead shot and Lyme’s Disease and just how many pheasants there are in the UK (answer: no-one really knows…).

Mark’s articlecan be found in the July 2019 issue of British Birds, the monthly journal for all keen birdwatchers. ‘BB’ as its affectionately known has an excellent website which you can find at britishbirds.co.uk. Mark’s equally excellent website, which includes his must-read blog is at markavery.info – he is also a founder member and director of Wild Justice, which, in a neat knot that ties this particular package together, recently took Natural England to court over the General Licence, which – illegally as it turned out – allowed for the ‘control’ of some bird species – including those that gamekeepers and the shooting industry claim threaten their…pheasants.”