It’s around a month ago now that leader of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Alex Hogg, lambasted the British public for subscribing to the fairytale image of British wildlife portrayed on natural history programmes.
My heart-felt apologies go out to him! British wildlife is a magical fairytale full of wonder and what a pity that he has not had the fortune to experience this.
In his September blog, Mr Hogg names BBC’s Springwatch as a let down to the youngsters of Britain, saying that they along with Countryfile show a “fairyland tale”. Mr Hogg quite rightly says that these shows are an opportunity to showcase land management issues, but if he thinks that they don’t already do this, or that this nullifies the wonder of our wildlife he is sorely mistaken!
I cannot think of a better outreach for conservation issues to reach the forefront of the public’s psyche than our beloved natural history programmes. With the notable addition of the recent ‘Britain’s Big Wildlife Revival’, these programmes engage an audience far wider than any nature reserve or blogger and play a valuable role in educating us all in the wealth of different wildlife across our lands.
It is perhaps true that most of the footage has a poetry and a sense of wonder, but welcome to the natural world my friend! We are surrounded by poetry and wonder. Of course this sense of wonder extends to a sparrowhawk in pursuit of a garden bird from your feeder (some people cringe at the thought when they tell me this has happened in their garden, but they are astounded by the spectacle and want to share it nonetheless), and we are always happy to see a peregrine even if it is chasing after the golden plover we were watching seconds before. Very few of us admire nature, but not the predators. Some people particularly enjoy the blood and guts element!
Also in my fairytale world where nature is beautiful and poetic, is the need for management. I, for one, never enjoy the thought of something being killed, but I am not blinded by my fairytale views so much that I cannot see the necessity. In fact, it is because of my fairytale views that I can appreciate what we need to do to conserve our incredible diversity.
I have had first-hand experience of the necessity to consider predators to Wales’ only sandwich tern colony and I appreciate that at times, action may be taken. Thankfully, working for the North Wales Wildlife Trust, I was not surrounded by blood-thirsty individuals, but genuine conservationists trying to do the right thing.
I also encounter plenty of wildlife-lovers who have issues with particular species because of their habits and choice of prey, but they generally see that the individual in question fulfills a niche. Let me remind you that fairytales contain their light and dark, their moral tests, and that this diversity in character in wildlife leads to a basic food chain. The more top predators there are, the healthier the population: we should celebrate those wolves in sheeps clothing! Let’s not live in a fairytale without villans and let’s not be so deluded as to think that Mr Hogg is right when he says there is “an imbalance of nature when it comes to our top predators”.
I am staunchly against the culling of badgers in England. This is not because I think they’re cute (although I do), it’s because there is no scientific basis on which to do so (unless you are actively trying to spread TB amongst cattle that is). Mr Hogg is extremely ignorant when he sites a failing to understand countryside issues (such as the spread of bovine TB) “at the sharp end”. He fails to understand the science behind the matter and I am so relieved that the Welsh Government have chosen to vaccinate our badger population, following the previous research and not going against it as in England.
Thank you to Linda Edwards for her beautiful photographs taken in North Wales and here’s to all you nature lovers lost in the fairytale!