This article first appeared in the October 2020 edition of Birdwatching Magazine
During lockdown an unprecedented number of wildlife crimes happened in the UK. Given that, since lockdown has eased crimes of violence in general have shot up (excuse the unintended pun), I doubt the wildlife crime wave will end anytime soon. RSPB & Wildlife Crime police officers report that the vast majority of wildlife crime is linked to shooting and even after the public were out and about, with eyes peeled, wildlife crime still soars.
I doubt readers of this piece will disagree with me when I say that killing wildlife is not only an unnecessary evil but it steals from us all. All of our lives are impoverished when a small minority of selfish and evil people kill raptors, set hounds on hares or any of the other despicable and horribly human crimes against nature. When we hear of violent crime we often describe the perpetrators as animals… but that is the absolute reverse of the truth. Animals are not cruel and do not take pleasure from killing, only humans kill for fun or ‘sport’ as it is euphemistically described.
We know that the vast majority of people in the UK want this stopped. But the resources given to police such crimes have actually diminished. Rich idiots spend vast sums for the ‘privilege’ of slaughtering over protected ‘game’ birds. A staggering 20% of Scottish land is given over to ‘sporting’ estates, that produce a tiny percentage of the wealth of that nation.
There are calls for regulation and licensing but, to my mind, they don’t go nearly far enough! If I ruled the world it would swiftly be consigned to history’s room 101 along with other horrors like child labour, slavery and hanging thieves. But given that no one will vote me in tomorrow I think it’s time we set up a dedicated force to deal with such crimes, not dependent on local rates or beholden to magistrate’s whims, miserly moneymen or ephemeral political will.
We need an independent, nationwide institution. One that can investigate and prosecute, being empowered to impose sanctions on the guilty that are commensurate with their impact on species. To do that we need to give them the power to go where they want, when they want and to arrest, confiscate and impound as necessary. Landholders must be held responsible if they do not stop people in their pay from committing these crimes. So long as private property is able to hide public theft nothing will change, so independent wildlife law enforcers need the power to go on to any property if they suspect a wildlife violation.
Does this sound over draconian; the sort of power only wielded by police states with fascist or communist regimes? Think again. Law enforcement officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can go on to any property in the state if they merely suspect there is a wildlife violation. All other law enforcement agencies need a warrant unless they are actually witnessing a crime taking place. In other words, in the great liberal bastion of the USA, the Fish & Wildlife enforcement officers have greater powers than the national guard, state police or even the FBI! Without those powers they would not have been able to evidence pollution of wetlands by agricultural chemicals, the trade in wild birds or the wonton destruction of rare habitat and the wildlife it supports.
It’s time to start the Green Revolution by putting an end to the idea that what goes on, on private property is nobody else’s business… if private action leads to public deprivation, then it’s everyone’s business!