GOB 44 – Squaring the Circle

GOB 44 – Squaring the Circle

Country File Investigates… …my fat backside!

I used to watch country file every week because, in the old days, sandwiched between sheepdog trials and hedge-laying there was a snippet or two about conservation or birdlife. Things changed a while back when it seemed to have turned into a programme about middle class city folk doing extreme sports in the wild corners of the British landscape.

Thankfully it moved back from the bungee jumpers’ brink and now straddles the fence between being the Archers without a storyline and ‘…hey ho, lets look at pretty flowers and butterflies.’

I still tune in to Radio 4 for my daily injection of government propaganda…

“’ello Ruth Archer, what you be a-doing of them me deerio?”

“Well, lovable old rogue and cap-touching peasant, I’m just ranting about how badgers are ruining my livelihood by spreading TB and undermining the slurry pit!”

Country File gets its injection of ‘farming today’ via the most articulate farmer since the late lamented Ted Moult. Through him we learn all about rare breeds and GM crops from someone who loves the land… although I see no great move on his part to pare back on the chemicals unless it is to make farming cheaper and profits greater. He does eloquently make the case for many farmers, especially about tenants being at the mercy of supermarkets, international pricing and the Common Agricultural Policy.

To us great unwashed viewers it did appear that John Craven had been merely shuffled into a corner of his own to ‘investigate’ the larger questions of the day in oder to soften the blow of his lesser role. However, to my mind that slot is as toothless as a mediaeval crone with scurvy. We tend to be told about something having four digits and a thumb on the one hand and having five fingers on the other… all very balanced and bland. More worrying to me is that in its balance it is, shall we say, rather more ‘Daily Mail’ than ‘Independent’!

I have been moved on occasion to wonder if the programme holds shares in a multi-national agro-chemical business or is a card carrying member of the Countryside Alliance. You certainly do not get the impression that those associated are Hunt Saboteurs or even weekly subscribers to an organic food box.

But even in the context of a string of episodes beginning to look like ‘Mr Bland wears beige when he walks down the middle of the road’ the last one I watched hit a new low.

(This is where those of you waiting to discover the pertinence of the title of this piece are rewarded for your patience.)

Having discovered through the ‘investigation of the facts’ that domestic cats were responsible for the demise of as many as 25% of some species of birds, the presenter concluded that cats were no threat to our native birds!

What was even worse was an RSPB spokesperson backing this up by saying that we don’t have to worry about cats because the real problem is all about land use!

Anyone who watched the way that some village cats were shown on a recent documentary to wander miles into surrounding countryside every night might now be assured that this is no problem. All those apologists who dismiss Mister Fluffies’ antics as ‘just part of nature’ when he deposits the headless corpse of a house sparrow on their doorstep will now feel completely vindicated.

Would we be as myopic if we were told that poachers only killed 25% of baby pandas every year? Would conservationists sigh with relief if told that only a quarter of bee colonies succumb to the practice of moving hives from farm to farm?

Any cause of mortality adds to the overall problem.

If its really no biggie then we should not show concern or even tut let alone change how we keep our pets. If its not a problem because it only effects 25% of a species then surely these greater concerns must account for the loss of a greater percentage. Lets say its only another 25% – this still means that half the birds are dying because of us… if you add this to all the truly ‘natural’ causes of death it can mean only one thing – a disastrous decline!

Guess what folks, our birds are in disastrous decline! Just because the flood waters are about to engulf our house is no reason to stop worrying about our neighbours’ house being on fire!

Do you remember being a kid and asking friends how would they rather die – by drowning or burning to death. Even as kids we knew that either way we’d be a goner!

And, just in case anyone out there thinks it is just this lone grumpy old sod banging on about cats again wake up and smell the house burning as a four year study by Canada’s scientists has concluded that the human related bird mortality in Canada each year amounts to 269 million bird deaths.

Moreover their report concludes…

Cats appear to kill as many birds as all other sources combined… …Feral and pet cats are believed to kill more than 100 million birds per year in Canada. Bird species that nest or feed on or near the ground are especially vulnerable to cat predation. As these findings confirm that huge numbers of Canadian birds are killed by cats annually, further research and conservation efforts are needed.

So don’t just take my word for it!

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