PETER FROST reviews another year of hypocrisy from the ‘Greenest ever Government’.
Cameron Clegg and the coalition partners failed on most fronts last year but none as spectacularly as in their looking after the British Countryside.
Much of our wildlife found itself under attack from the very people pledged to protect it, with Richard Benyon, Minister at Defra, the House’s richest MP, and himself a multi-millionaire farmer, land owner and shoot organiser often pulling the trigger.
Benyon didn’t last the whole years in his job being replaced in the autumn reshuffle. However he held on to his job long enough to attack many of Britain’s iconic species.
He had several goes at ridding the countryside of handsome birds like the buzzard on behalf of his grouse and pheasant shooting mates.
He didn’t do it alone. In fact he used the English Nature, the body normally responsible for protecting wildlife, to do his dirty work for him.
Out on the field we saw the usual crop of dishonest gamekeepers doing the shoot owner’s dirty work. As usual the gamekeepers got away with fines or very occasionally suspended sentences. The shoot owners did even better, as always they got away scot free.
In Scotland the gamekeeper’s organisation launched a campaign to change the law. Many already shoot the beautiful and rare pine marten, now they want to be allowed to shoot and poison them legally.
We had the farce of the ‘scientific’ badger cull. The blooming badgers, no sportsmen it seems, were blamed for moved the goalposts and despite extensions to the shooting period and excuses about not knowing just how many badgers there really were the whole thing ended in chaos.
Won’t stop it happening again this year through.
It isn’t just mammals and birds that suffered. A whole bundle of pests and diseases are killing our native trees. Ash die back continued to make the headlines but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
In a world where our native tree seeds are sent to Poland, and even China to be germinated and grown on using cheap labour perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised when some of the young trees arrive back with uninvited exotic pests and diseases.
Bodies like the Forestry Commission, charged with looking after the health of our native woodland and forests are, instead of being supported and encouraged, being savagely cut, pruned and threatened.
Exactly the same fate is being doled out to bodies like Natural England and the various National Park Authorities. They are seeing their funding slashed and are under constant pressure from Central Government to make the countryside pay for itself.
All is not lost however. At least one species, still all too common in our countryside seems not to be under threat at all. Its environment is heavily protected, and well funded by the Con-Dems.
The ugly, parasitic beast known as the Rich Tory Farmer is not just doing extremely well, it looks like it is going to do even better.
Defra Minister Owen Patterson has decided to transfer the latest tranche of European funds originally allocated for wildlife protection. Now Minister Patterson has decided the money would be better spent stuffing farmer’s already bulging subsidy wallets.
In December, Environment Secretary Patterson, bowing to pressure from the National Union of Farmers (NFU), announced that under the Common Agricultural Payments (CAP) for 2014 the share for farmers’ would increase from 9% to 12%.
Once again farmers are the beneficiaries and wildlife will suffer.
There are many threatened species and the European money could have made a significant difference to the crisis many of these species face.
Instead it will be paid to farmers who rather than use it to reduce farm gate prices are more likely to use it to increase the profitability of their farms.
Some things are certain; supermarket prices for British produced food will continue to rise; agricultural workers will continue to be badly paid and the ‘Greenest Government Ever’ won’t be.
This review of the year appeared in the Morning Star 2 January 2014