So, about this Brian May then

Animal rights activism and renting out the deer stalking rights….compatible or not?

My view, I think (as I know so little about country stuff) that as you\’ve got to cull the deer anyway, might as well make some cash from it. And you\’ve got to cull because the UK has no predators left.

Seems to me that that\’s a little different from whether one should cull or not on the badgers. But then what do I know as a City Boy?

31 thoughts on “So, about this Brian May then”

  1. Exactly the same – badgers are on top of the eating things pyramid as well – they have no natural predators. Which explains why the TB is a problem – loads more badgers (especially the ones that dig up my lawn) means much more interaction with livestock.

  2. This is down my way; he’s just bought a chunk of land on the edge of my village. At least it’s stopped all the arguments about whether it should be built on.

    Lots and lots of deer down here; huge herds, and some of them big buggers as well. Mostly escaped Japanese imports, including sika (which look far too big to be wandering wild around Dorset).

  3. Tim is right; Simon is wrong. There aren’t “loads more badgers”, because nothing significant has changed in their environment. Whereas deer have been culled for as long as the UK has been free of bears and wolves, to avoid mass overgrazing followed by starving deer.

  4. If the badger cull works, then good. All the evidence I’ve read/heard about suggests that it will be marginal, with the *best case* scenario giving a ~15% reduction in TB cases.

  5. Generally taking out a part of a population be it deer, badger, fox or whatever has little effect on overall numbers, it has to be a more sustained and much larger cull to do that. It took years and a very intensive campaign to eradicate the Coypu. So a cull in itself is neither here or there, in the case of badgers it might still be worth doing if it does reduce the incidence of bovine TB but that seems doubtful at best. Hedgehogs are under pressure mainly because of habitat loss although the extra effect of badger predation probably doesn’t help, however badgers are omnivores and it’s doubtful if hedgehogs make up a significant part of their diet. I’d be interested to know what other badger ‘prey species’ are in decline, earthworms are a major part of their diet and they seem to be doing OK. There are way too many deer though, reintroducing the wolf would solve this but I can’t see it happening !

  6. Julia, yes, Sika would look fine in Devon. Great big open moorlands out there, tons of open space. But they’re bloody huge for Dorset, where everything is on a smaller scale and heavily farmed.

  7. Neat little article about extermination of the Coypu from the UK: http://vege1.kan.ynu.ac.jp/isp/pdf/Baker.pdf

    Interesting how they dealt with the economic incentive problem: “Even when the main technical problems in the operation have been solved, why should the trappers attempt to succeed in an eradication exercise when doing so would also eradicate their jobs? The scheme devised was to restrict funding to a maximum of ten years, and promise the trappers a bonus of up to three times their annual salaries if they succeeded in eradicating the coypu population. The bonus declined progressively after six years to encourage an early end to the campaign. It is impossible to judge the precise effect of this scheme, but we believe it was an essential element. In the end the trappers gained an almost maximum bonus.”

    Then in the final stages, to ensure that the trappers were not tempted to fail to report the final kills (since this would set back the eradication date and hence their bonus), a separate team of scientists was deployed to monitor whether any individuals remained.

  8. “.. reintroducing the wolf would solve this but I can’t see it happening !”

    Seem to have a pack hanging round the place up in the mountains. Was thinking about putting some food out to encourage them. Sort of natural vermin control thing. Do you reckon they’d eat hippies?

  9. Of course if we don’t want wolves eating the Hippies but do want something to keep at least the smaller deer under control we could always try the badger’s big cousin, the Wolverine.

  10. Anyway we haven’t really answered this vitally important question that the internet is abuzz with, Brian May hypocrite or not ? Probably not, I expect he’s just one of those people who has adopted a high moral position on something and thereby laid themselves open to a flanking attack from anyone who cares to look closely at their behaviour.

  11. The article I saw had his explanation that he’d inherited the land which as periodically culled, had followed advice that he should continue the culling (despite misgivings) – and less than a year later, stopped the culling because he didn’t see the benefit to outweigh the harm.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9714195/Brian-May-the-deer-cull-on-my-land-was-not-hypocritical-but-humane.html

    So he’s not a hypocrite, but definitely confident in his own beliefs – which I’m fine with when it’s his land, but not so much when he leads moral crusades onto fell territory.

  12. Brian May’s advocacy of vaccination rather than culling healthy badgers is supported by scientists but opposed by farmers because it is too much like hard work relative to the benefits to the farmers. It would means that they needed to trap the badgers, identify whether they were healthy, in which case they would be vaccinated or suffering from TB, for which there is not yet a cure, in which case humane killer.
    If they cull healthy badgers other badgers, some of them infected, will move into the empty space. So the indiscriminate cull has very little benefit in terms of disease prevention.

  13. So Much for Subtlety

    Thornavis. – “There are way too many deer though, reintroducing the wolf would solve this but I can’t see it happening !”

    Wolves are already back in the UK although so far in a restricted area:

    http://caledonianmercury.com/2010/02/02/howls-as-alladale-wolf-pack-pads-closer/00215

    Alladale Estate – or, tellingly, Alladale Wildlife Reserve as it is now styled – is a 23,000-acre tract of land in the north of Scotland, pretty much halfway between Ardgay in the east and Ullapool in the west.

    Since buying Alladale in 2003, Estate/Reserve owner Paul Lister has been trying to convert it from a traditional deer/grouse/salmon estate to something more radical, with the reintroduction of various long-gone Highland animals – the wild boar, the elk and the wolf.

    Thus far, he has managed to install the boar and the elk, in small numbers. The wolf is much more contentious, with walkers fearful of being mauled in their tents at night and sheep farmers worried about lamb losses should the predators escape.

    The licensing committee of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Council has renewed Lister’s permit to keep dangerous animals. Although the decision itself was unanimous, the council’s access officer had recommended refusal. With this licence now securely in place, the next stage for Alladale is likely to be an application for zoo status, as this would allow the contentious wolves to be introduced.

    The council’s access officer recommended refusal. Why does the council have an “access officer”? I assume that is just a local pay payer funded lobbyist for the Ramblers. I would take wolves over ramblers any day of the week.

    Paul Lister deserves support.

    I don’t see May as hypocritical. Deer need to be culled. If wolves don’t eat the older animals, they will die painful deaths of old age or disease. We should just stop calling it a cull or even worse, hunting and call it relatively painless lead-based euthanasia instead. That would stop the Beardie Weirdies complaining.

  14. Absolutely bloody fucking amazing:
    “…. the reintroduction of various long-gone Highland animals – the wild boar, the elk and the wolf.
    Thus far, he has managed to install the boar and the elk, in small numbers. The wolf is much more contentious, with walkers fearful of being mauled in their tents at night ….”
    Can’t say the wolves bother me in the slightest. Polite, nervous animals. Wild pig scare the shit out of me. Nasty, aggressive & bloody dangerous. Killed a bloke down the road last year. Wouldn’t catch me anywhere near them without a gun.

  15. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “Absolutely bloody fucking amazing”

    I think so too, but I also think it is a half measure. I want to see wild bison in the New Forest.

    “Can’t say the wolves bother me in the slightest. Polite, nervous animals. Wild pig scare the shit out of me. Nasty, aggressive & bloody dangerous. Killed a bloke down the road last year. Wouldn’t catch me anywhere near them without a gun.”

    Well, they have self-reintroduced. There were some farmers raising them before the big 1980-ish storm. During that some seem to have escaped. There are now populations in Sussex, Dorest, Devon and the Forest of Dean. The government has tried culling them in the Forest of Dean.

    I am rather pleased by this. I agree about the gun thing though. Preferably a semi-automatic with a good tree near by just in case. Although, obviously, I think reintroducing bears is a much better way of controlling their numbers.

  16. “Preferably a semi-automatic with a good tree near by just in case”
    Sod that. If you don’t get a through it bounces off. Either way they don’t notice. 12 gauge works OK though. I reload the cartridges with about half a doz bloody great balls. Knocks ’em a yard back & leaves a hole you can see through. Trouble is they don’t like sawn-offs your way. And long barrels get in the way amongst trees.

  17. SMfS

    The limited and contained reintroduction programmes for extinct native species have something to be said for them but no one is proposing a widespread release of lost predators. It would actually be easy to do, wolves, lynx and bears could just be released and allowed to get on with it, they’re all very adaptable and would soon start to spread, public opinion would never wear it though as there would inevitably be livestock losses and given that most urban dwellers are frightened of anything remotely wild the thought of wild wolves would send them into meltdown. Even beavers are unlikely to make a return because of the precautionary principle, despite their largely beneficial effects.
    Yes we have quite a few wild boar in Sussex now and they don’t cause any problem to people, rather shy creatures actually. This whole thing is at the heart of a quite large debate in conservation circles, small scale efforts don’t really work and require a whole load of costly bureaucracy and supervision. An alternative approach, begun in Holland, is to take as large an area as possible and simply fence it off stock it with the nearest thing to wild cattle and let events take their course, there is no subsequent human intervention at all. This is an attempt to replicate the supposed landscape of the early post glacial period, there’s a lot of scientific controversy about that but I think it’s a course with a certain libertarian appeal to it myself, irrespective of the technical arguments.

  18. “Yes we have quite a few wild boar in Sussex now and they don’t cause any problem to people, rather shy creatures actually.”
    Unfortunately pig, unlike most predators, don’t settle for small litters, half or more of which don’t survive to adult hood. Porkers do it by the dozen & because they’re herd rather than solitary & not choosy about food, they have good survival rates. They’re also bloody intelligent. If they’d copped hands rather than trotters in the heredity lottery, they’d be raising us for meat, by now. Wouldn’t surprise me if someday you’ll find you’ve a big problem there.

  19. Apparently they get unofficially thinned out and appear mysteriously in butchers shops or so I’m told by someone who lives in the deepest Weald. I suspect that survival rates in England even in a hospitable landscape like Sussex wouldn’t be so good as in Spain, harsher winters will probably help keep them in check. They also seem reluctant to move away from tree cover, understandably so and haven’t yet spread to the more lightly wooded western half of the county, I can’t really see them ever becoming very widespread.

  20. So Much for Subtlety

    Thornavis. – “The limited and contained reintroduction programmes for extinct native species have something to be said for them but no one is proposing a widespread release of lost predators.”

    Actually I think Paul Lister is. I certainly do. I admit the politics would be a little difficult, but if somewhere like Kinder Scout has a problem with too many ramblers, what better solution than half a dozen bears? The hippies can make their own informed choices.

    “public opinion would never wear it though as there would inevitably be livestock losses and given that most urban dwellers are frightened of anything remotely wild the thought of wild wolves would send them into meltdown.”

    Well you are probably right, although in other countries farmers are compensated for live stock losses. We could do that and it would not be very expensive. But no doubt the urban public would panic. Although I think they might go the other way. After all, they know nothing of wolves at all and if they were sold as a Disney-fied animal, they might go all soft and mushy on the subject. Until the first baby is eaten I suppose.

    “Even beavers are unlikely to make a return because of the precautionary principle, despite their largely beneficial effects.”

    Anyone who opposes beavers has evil in their hearts.

    “Yes we have quite a few wild boar in Sussex now and they don’t cause any problem to people, rather shy creatures actually.”

    I have lived in places with a largely unseen wild boar population. Allegedly anyway. Can’t say they caused a problem at all. Mostly because no one ever saw one.

    “An alternative approach, begun in Holland, is to take as large an area as possible and simply fence it off stock it with the nearest thing to wild cattle and let events take their course, there is no subsequent human intervention at all.”

    Fence off the Forest of Dean? Add a few bison, some wild boar, the odd wolf and a bear or two? That might work.

    A ditch and a fence would be better than just a fence, but it would have to be a pretty good fence.

  21. The proposal here is to buy a large tract of Fenland and remove the drainage pumps to enable it to return to something like its pre 17th C condition and then follow the Dutch example. This would be something like a large version of the present Wicken Fen site which has been untouched since 1908. However this would obviously be expensive, in Holland they used an area reclaimed from the sea. The purpose is not to reintroduce predators but rather to allow cattle, as a modern substitute for Aurochs and Wisen to control the vegetation thus enabling the re-establishment of a lost ecology or something close to it. The problem with fencing in predators is that it produces an artificial restriction in their hunting range, you can only have a small population which would probably require managing, not really a lot of point to that, it would just be a big zoo enclosure.

  22. So Much for Subtlety

    Thornavis. – “The purpose is not to reintroduce predators but rather to allow cattle, as a modern substitute for Aurochs and Wisen to control the vegetation thus enabling the re-establishment of a lost ecology or something close to it.”

    Why not import some Polish bison? If they are going to do it, they should do it properly.

    “The problem with fencing in predators is that it produces an artificial restriction in their hunting range, you can only have a small population which would probably require managing, not really a lot of point to that, it would just be a big zoo enclosure.”

    Well all wildlife is being reduced to big zoo enclosures. At least that part of wildlife that cannot get on with humans. Better than the alternative. It is true that the Forest of Dean would not be able to support a large predator population. Isle Royale in the US supports several wolf packs, but it is marginal. And some 500 square kilometres in size.

    So the obvious solution to both problems is to buy a thin stretch of land between the FoD and the New Forest, fence it off, plant some trees and let nature take its course.

  23. SMfS

    One of the arguments, amongst many, that takes place about landscape restoration and the recreation of a fragment of the post glacial world is what species exactly were around at the time. There’s no evidence that Wisent ( Bison ) were ever native to Britain whereas Aurochs were, so using modern longhorn cattle is regarded as the closest thing available. There’s also a lot of controversy about whether the landscape was semi open or one of dense tree cover, this matters because of the nature of the vegetation and its viability and whether cattle grazing alone can achieve the ends required. I’m not qualified to comment on any of that and I don’t share the conservation world’s obsession with native v alien species, although I do find the debate about the early Holocene landscape very interesting. I also think it would be a good idea to create a large wild area as you suggest although I think the Fens are the best location, no need to plant trees though, they arrive of their own accord and we have plenty anyway, contrary to popular belief.

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