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Avery's hypocrisy causing supporters to 'lose faith'

Mark Avery does not look like a man who spreads anything too thinly when it comes to his breakfast – but many of his own supporters are now questioning whether he is doing just that with his misguided activism campaigns.

This week Wild Justice, the campaign group he runs with Ruth Tingay and Chris Packham, announced that they are launching a new campaign to challenge the licensing of Badger shooting in the UK. Their argument is that they believe the cull is ‘an unwarranted assault on wildlife’ – despite the NFU and independent studies suggesting that badgers transmit the disease to cattle.

In addition to the anti-badger cull campaign, Wild Justice are also now running campaigns to:

1. Attempt the get local councils to ban the use of glyphosate in their management of land, despite widespread evidence that suggests the economic and environmental benefits are unparalleled by any alternative herbicides;

2. Supporting the reintroduction of European Beavers to the UK’s rivers, which will no doubt delight those whose land will be flooded by their damn building and fishing enthusiasts;

3. Ban the shooting of grouse, despite the £2bn worth of economic reinvestment benefits it brings to some of the most deprived areas of the country, not to mention the environmental benefits it brings to our uplands.

4. Block general licenses, resulting in thousands of red listed birds being killed by gulls and jackdaws.

5. Block the development of HS2, despite the huge economic stimulus this will bring the country in a post-Covid environment.

6. Prevent gamebirds being released into the wild each year, which could lead to the end of pheasant and partridge shooting in the UK.

[Jackdaw wiping out nest]

There is no doubt that if Wild Justice were to be successful, the combined economic impact of their various campaigns would effectively wipe out the rural economy, destroying jobs, livelihoods and irreversibly damaging local communities. But they know all this. The fact that they have hired the law firm, Leigh Daywho reportedly made £11m from taxpayers money for a ‘witch hunt’ of British troops fighting for their country in Iraq – tells you everything you need to know about how much they care about people’s jobs and livelihoods.

What is even more ironic though is that, in many cases, the wildlife and nature that they say they are protecting will be wiped out, as we outlined in a previous blog. Without general licenses, we know that we are fast losing some of our most endangered and magnificent birds such as the curlew, through gull and corvid predation. Without moorland being managed, our beautiful heather moorlands enjoyed by millions each year will be lost, and instead we will be left with rancid vegetation that is good for nothing and, in summer months will dry up into a tinderbox, leading to raging wildfires. It is little surprise that every year, we see far more serious wildfires on moorland that is not managed than we do on properly managed and keepered moors.

It is difficult to tell whether this scatter gun approach by Wild Justice is down to a hope that if they throw enough mud at the wall then some will stick – or indeed because they need to create new projects in order to raise the funding they require to maintain their existence and relevance.

Either way, it would seem that a number of their supporters are becoming increasingly despondent by Avery’s efforts, particularly in terms of driven grouse shooting.

One supporter of Wild Justice, Ms Carol Smith, wrote under a recent blog of his:

“I live in a small village on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. If you asked anyone in our village what the policing priorities should be I can tell you immediately it is not raptor persecution. Indeed, some - who I would not bracket as either pro or against shooting - are appalled by the disproportionate funding that the police get for raptor persecution issues rather than trying to tackle the thefts of people's heating oil supply, burglaries, anti-social behaviour and, worst of all recently, fly tipping. I would be surprised if raptors were in the top twenty to be honest.

I have distributed Operation Owl materials and more often than not the people I give them to don't want to be part of it and would rather stay out of it. I got a very frosty reception in the local pub when i tried to leave some information there, because from September to January so many of their bookings come from shooters. We have to recognise that. I am slowly resigning myself to the reality that for many this is just not a priority and the outcome does not justify the means.

There is also a perception that most of those criticising shooting and campaigning for an end to grouse shooting come from down south and are viewed as dictating to locals. Even my husband and I, who have lived in the village for nearly 12 years, are still sometimes viewed with suspicion I think.

I would like nothing more than to see an end to raptor persecution, but it is not an issue to many people, whereas the local economy really is. I think there is a danger that we actually do ourselves more harm than good with our current approach. Maybe we need to rethink?

I would be interested to hear the views of others on this forum too. I don't mean to sound despondent, but I've been fighting this fight for too long and am starting to accept the reality for most people just don't care that much.

Mind you, this is entirely understandable when you see the state that many of those who recently made day trips to the Dales after lockdown left the place in. It was a disgrace. Rubbish everywhere. Gates and signs vandalised. New born lambs being chased. People have no respect for nature and local environments. It's sad really.”

Another supporter, Marian, followed this up with:

“I wish I didn’t agree with you, Carol, but I do.”

A third supporter, Trapit, also agreed, saying simply:

“Me too’.

Let’s be generous here to Avery and give him the benefit of the doubt that his campaign against driven grouse shooting is based his on good intentions – albeit misguided ones – rather than a narcissistic desire to be relevant by drumming up anger towards hard-grafting moorland communities. The issue then is why he is so selective of the campaigns he chooses to support as being the ones that will cause most harm to people’s livelihoods within moorland communities, rather than the issues that should be genuine causes of concern to animal rights activists, but are rarely spoken about.

Avery is a man who is vehemently against driven grouse shooting and the use of herbicides to control weeds, yet he is also the man is has no issue with horseracing (proudly stating that he is a member of Cheltenham race course) or his buddy, Chris Packham pumping out 800 tons of carbon from his air travel when he takes paying guests on luxury safaris around the world. It is this hypocritical contractions in the personalities of Wild Justice that leads to them alienating and ostracising many of the stakeholders that need to be working together to achieve a sustainable and workable long-term balanced solution.

If Avery and Wild Justice wanted to be successful and truly galvanise people for change, there are many causes out there that they should be supporting. As a starter, how about these UK campaigns?

· Halal meat, and a campaign to ensure animals are stunned before slaughter;

· The disgraceful industry of puppy farms in the UK;

· Long distance transport of live animals;

· Battery farming of chickens;

· Banning of portable BBQs in the uplands;

· Increased fines for littering;

· The rampant problem of hare coursing ;

Or further afield, how about these?

· Wet markets in China;

· Dogs being beaten to death in restaurants in Vietnam;

· The unbearable cases of donkey abuse in parts of Asia.

There you go, Mark. Ten campaigns for you to think about – though we’re afraid none them involve immense economic hardship being brought to moorland communities, so I understand they might not appeal to you.

If however you do chose to take up any of these campaigns, C4PMC and our wider moorland communities, will support and work with you to achieve a unified maximum impact approach, without anyone having to lose their livelihood.


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