Eat The Rich
(This article first appeared in the November 2016 edition of ‘Birdwatching’ magazine)
Jonathan Swift of Gulliver fame wrote his famous tract A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick advocating that the rich should buy and eat the children of the starving Irish. It was an ironic attempt to show up the British rich for their attitude to the poor. It seems that our elite has a long history of doing what they wish regardless of the sensitivities of the majority.
UK ministers who issue buzzard-killing licences to protect ‘shooting interests’ do so despite an overwhelming public antipathy. Or should that be apathy?
It irks me beyond all reason that the great caring British public loudly proclaim their hatred of the ill-treatment of pets and livestock but seem far less vocal when it comes to protecting the wild world, which if there is any justice, should be treated at least as well as farm stock or fireside cats.
We can be outraged by the notion that some Romans liked to eat snails fattened on milk, peacocks’ brains and flamingos’ tongues. The public issues steam from its collective ears when mention is made of Foie gras, the luxury food made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been horribly force-fed. Is our ire saved up for Johnny Foreigner or our limited supply of sympathy exhausted once pets have been protected from cruelty and farm animals humanely despatched.
Maybe we only understand ill-treatment of wild animals when it’s straightforward? There is reckoned to be something like 75% of the population against hunting fox and deer with dogs. Parliamentary elites may seek to make the illegal practices, that continue, legal again, but there seem to be enough among them to stop that from happening. Would there be enough public outcry if there was not?
Here in my home conurbation there is a presence of protesters, as permanent as a peace camp, against live exports. They will not allow sheep and cows to suffer in European slaughterhouses and would, no doubt carry on the fight into French goose farms had we not decided to Brexit away from the rest of Europe.
How is it then that it is left to a vocal minority to rail against driven shoots, and grouse moor Hen Harrier slaughter? The inane killing of Golden Eagles, Red Kite and any other bird of prey that has the temerity to drift over captive-reared pampered pheasants and red-legged partridges, or worse still set up house on a grouse moor, seems hardly noticed?
It seems to matter little that a tiny percentage of wealthy individuals manage moorland in ways that add to flood risk. Just as it used to be considered acceptable that huntsmen’s horses could ride rough-shod over even those farms which were utterly against the practice, so long as adequate ‘compensation’ was paid.
Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated band of birders whose names you will not know, and a vocal group of well-known conservationists who are willing to put themselves on the front line, the movement gathers pace.
It would take a very small change in the law to stop raptor persecution. If licences were needed for all game shooting that would be irrevocably revoked if any evidence was found on their land of raptor persecution, no matter whom by, I wonder how many ‘shoots’ would survive?
I’ve long aired my dislike of all hunting and shooting, but even I can accept that there are some well-run shoots that manage their land brilliantly for pheasants and partridges as well as for passerines, waders and wildfowl, which are positive awash with raptors. They prove absolutely that it can be done and that eliminating birds of prey is as outmoded as eating banquets of bitterns and sending all the able-bodied paupers to the workhouse.
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