Monday, April 23, 2018

The Scottish Raven:Take these broken wings and learn to fly

Thanks to the brilliant Raptor Persecution Scotland website, the wider world have been made aware to the totally bizarre actions of the Scottish Natural Heritage agency in granting a licence for the slaughter of up to 300 ravens in the Perthshire region. Quoting the RPS website ‘The licence has been issued to a consortium calling itself the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW) which, according to the licence application, ‘represents some of the local land management (farmers, gamekeepers) and private interests in the area who value wading birds for their biodiversity, social and economic value to the area and to Scotland more widely. The application is supported by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and technical advice and support, notably data gathering and interpretation, is being provided by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)‘.

Naturally, in common with anyone who values our native wildlife and more especially, as in this case, the target of this culling programme, the iconic raven,
the licence to cull is an appalling decision which appears to be a kneejerk reaction from weak people confronted by powerful vested interests. Ravens like all Corvids are a highly intelligent, resourceful bird and as much a part of the upland landscape as the very earth beneath its wings. Anyone seeing a raven glide and tumble within a remote mountain cwm or even just perched atop a high tree, cannot fail to be inspired by its beauty. Shiny, coal black and announcing to the world its presence through that unmistakable, echoing croak, although perhaps Edward Abbey described the corvids vocal range best when he described  ‘the clapperclawing of crows’.

Under the pretext of protecting wading birds, the SNH have granted the licence to those unfailing protectors of Scotland’s wildlife, landowners,farmers, gamekeepers and the hunting lobby. Not surprisingly, the licensing of a raven cull has not gone unnoticed and across the social and national media, wildlife organizations, individuals and groups like the RSPB have been up in arms. Firing off statements, spreading the word via social media and organizing petitions. Although personally I think petitions are a waste of time whatever the cause. Signing a petition gives the illusion that you are doing something positive when in fact they achieve nothing and let those in the firing line, off the hook.

Duncan Orr-Ewing- RSPB Scotland Head of Species & Land Management, stated two days ago

“We are extremely concerned about the likely scale on impact of this research licence on the local raven population in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire. We are also very surprised that SNH have issued such a research licence  in the vicinity of Strathbraan, which has an appalling  and well documented track record of illegal persecution of raptors, noting also the very recent “suspicious” disappearance of a satellite tagged white-tailed eagle in this very same area.We, together with local raptor workers who have been monitoring ravens in the area for decades, could have helped SNH with this background detail to the licence application if we had been consulted. We will be seeking a high level meeting with SNH shortly to discuss. We will be pressing for the research licence to be revoked on the back of the white-tailed eagle incident, and instead consideration given by SNH to removing the use of the Open General Licence in this area, as is within their powers“.

Following on from the recent controversy concerning the wholesale slaughter of mountain hares by the hunting lobby in Scotland, a lot of people are wondering what exactly the centre left SNP/ Green Scottish government are doing in pandering to this powerful lobby and basically saying 'nothing to do with us Guv!' ? In a way, the Scottish sporting estates and the hunting and fishing lobby, appear from the outside to be the Scottish governments’ equivalent to the US governments NRA. Small but disproportionately powerful and intensely disliked by the majority of people in each country. Time methinks for the Scottish government to become pro-active in these environmental/ conservation issues and not pretend the issues are outside their jurisdiction.

Hopefully, sense will prevail in this instance and the ravens of Perthshire will wheel and tumble in pleasure and not in death.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

A new National Park for North Wales?

A new national park for Wales....why not? The designation of national park status is a mystery to most of us. If you asked the man or woman on the street what exactly is a national park, most would say it an area of outstanding natural beauty owned by the nation. Of course it isn’t. National parks are mostly comprised of privately owned farmland and estates. Even the mountains are privately owned apart from the odd instance of a body like the National Trust and John Muir Trust owning a mountain.What the general public would recognize is that a national park generally fulfills an accepted aesthetic criteria which recognizes, mountains, lakes, forests and pretty villages as beautiful and therefore somewhere to escape to, even if only for a day, to escape from the humdrum of hectic urban life.

We have to recognize though that national parks are not exactly wilderness areas...where outside of a few parts of Scotland can you get the wilderness experience? Certainly not in Wales or England. In summer especially, national parks in the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Peak District are heaving with visitors. For people like myself who live on the edge of a national park, we tend to keep well away when its a weekend, the forecast is good and its the school holiday season. The idea of paying for parking and then trudging in a crocodile of walkers up a popular mountain like Snowdon or Helvellyn is as appealing as a day in the Trafford Centre!

Fortunately, here in north Wales, there are still places where you can be far from the madding crowds. Even on a sunny bank holiday weekend. Although I realize that paradoxically, that might not be the case if the the thrust of this article came to pass! Outside of the honeypots of Snowdonia lies an area which although it attracts tourists and visitors, the numbers coming in  are far less than those flocking in to the west. That area is rural north east Wales. An area which ticks all the boxes as far as fulfilling accepted national park criteria. It is generally thinly populated, boasts attractive small towns, pretty villages, mountains and quiet uplands, sylvan valleys and meandering rivers and wildlife in abundance; from the magnificent Red Kite to the elusive Otter.

The little north east peak of Mwdwl Eithin which according to local legend is the final resting place of Merlin. Hence it is known locally as 'The Magic Mountain'.

For this National Park I would suggest it be called 'The Glyndwr National Park’ in recognition of  the last true Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr whose home and power base was firmly centred here. It would be contained by the beautiful Cerioig Valley to the south, the Clwydians to the north, extend across the wild Hiraethog and wander back south to include the Berwyn Range. It would be a relatively small national park but would include the small towns of Llangollen, Ruthin, Corwen and Denbigh within its boundaries. The topography is varied, from wild heathery moorland to vast forests; rolling hills like the Clwydians to deep valleys like the twisting defile that contains the River Dee.

As far as outdoor activities go, well the GNP-as I’m calling it here- has just about everything. For hikers and wild campers you have the Berwyn range which rise up to 2700‘ small ranges like the Clwydians, The Llantysilios, the unnamed range of hills which run through Hiraethog. For rock climbers there are the fine limestone cliffs of Eglwysg, the outcrops which dot the area, from the Ceiriog Valley to those in the limestone area twixt Ruthin and Mold. Mountain bikers have forests like Clocaenog and Ceiriog. Even paracenders and hang gliders can sport themselves on the Llantysilios or Clwydians. With plenty of options for wild camping or using camping sites,vanlifers and those using tents are well catered for and unlike further west in Snowdonia, you can always find somewhere even in summer.

Typical North East Wales upland scenery. The quite fringes of the Berwyns under Vivod Mountain

Throw in the obvious attractions for horse riders, white water paddlers, pony trekkers, anglers, road bikers and even underground explorers-plenty of mines and pot holes to explore hereabouts- and you literally have something for everyone.

So..there you have it. A new National Park for Wales. As I said at the beginning...why not?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The EU's CAP policies : Starless and Bible Black.

Subsistence Farming in Africa. An area partularly hard hit by the EU's CAP policies.
In one of those all too frequent moments in political life, when irony intrudes upon reality, EU Chief Negotiator Michael Barnier’s recent statement that the ‘EU wants legal assurance Britain won't lower environmental standards after Brexit’ caused a wry smile to creep across my face! It was one of those statements like ‘The EU has given us clean beaches’ which is regularly trotted out in the social media whenever the environment and the EU are mentioned together. Ironic because Barnier’s attempts to paint the EU green is a million miles from the the truth. In fact, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been the main driving force behind the widespread depletion of species and habitats across EU states, but the UK in particular has suffered particularly badly. Since it was introduced in 1962, the CAP has gone through various structural manifestations but at each stage, the underlying philosophy and motivation has been to see increased production across the agricultural sector and thus increase profits. This emphasis on production  has driven the wholesale depletion of habitats with the inevitable decline in animal, bird, insect and plants species.

Most people of a certain age will remember the really dark days of the 70‘s and 80‘s when the CAP was taking up 79% of the EU’s budget and farmers were being subsidized to basically produce far more than the market could support. With the obscene spectacle of perfect produce like Tomatoes, Olives and Fruit being ploughed back into the earth. At the same time we remember Beef and Cereal mountains, Wine and Milk lakes , warehouses piled to the rafters with dairy produce. Basically, the EU was driving an insane agricultural policy where farmers were being paid through generous subsidies, to increase their yield, bring more and more land into production, and as far as protecting wildlife and natural habitats were concerned, the devil could take the hindmost!

Although these obscene excesses have been less evident this century and the CAP budget has fallen to under 50%, the reality is, farmers and landowners are still receiving generous EU subsidies to over produce with serious ecological consequences. Not least in areas like sheep production where the uplands are overstocked, causing a variety of problems. Not least the serious consequences of leaving the grazing environments as virtually lifeless ecological deserts. Depleted of the natural species which would soon colonize a hillside or valley floor given the opportunity. Without the ovine ‘desert makers’ , more diverse ecosystems would quickly take hold. Trees, wildflowers, shrubs and grasses would return; soon to be followed by birds, mammals, insects and reptiles. However, as thing stand, it is far more profitable to overstock the uplands with sheep than diversify into a more sustainable area of agriculture.

Another consequence of EU sponsored over production and what environmental writer, George Monbiot calls ‘the sheep wrecking of our hillsides’ has been the flooding which now regularly occurs in the UK and across the EU states, when denuded hillsides which were once naturally knitted together by trees and shrubs, are now bare slopes where water run off and erosion triggers flooding in the valleys.

The EU’s sponsored destruction of natural habitats in the UK is jaw dropping when you consider the statistics. More than one in 10 wildlife species are threatened with extinction and the numbers of the nation’s most endangered creatures have plummeted by two-thirds since 1970. 56% of species have declined between 1970 and 2013, and 53% between 2002 and 2013. Since the UK’s EU membership, insects and other invertebrates, which make up 98% of all animal species, have seen a devastating decline with a 59% reduction in numbers.

From Voles to Hedgehogs; Great Crested Newts to Curlews, the CAP sponsored transformation of the British countryside from diverse ecosystems to agricultural factories has seen the British countryside transformed into a killing fields. Where agri barons prosper at the expense of environmental protection.

Hedgehog numbers have declined from over 30 million to less than 1 million today, due mainly to loss of habitat.
About 75% of the UK’s landscape is classed as agricultural, with 40% consisting of arable fields and grasslands.  As a result of CAP policies, much of these fields and grasslands have been subjected to wholesale ‘improving’. Ponds and wetlands drained, hedgerows grubbed, up; copses and spinneys cut down, tracks torn out of hillsides.It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that a reduction in natural habitats = a reduction in species. On top of the destruction of habitat is the increased use of fertilizers and pesticides. Again, all part of the production verses protection philosophy of the EU.

On top of these environmental factors in the UK and EU states is a little known side effect of the CAP which is impacting on the third world. The EU’s £30billion CAP budget allows it dump much of its subsidized produce on impoverished African states where poor farmers just cannot compete economically with rich, subsidized EU producers. EU sugar beet farmers for example receive CAP subsidies which are three times higher than the global market price. What we are seeing is buyers in African states buying cheap EU sugar at the expense of local producers. A country like Mozambique, one of the poorest countries on earth, has lost over £100m because of EU subsidized dumping.

In areas like Cereals, fruit and vegetables, even in chicken production, poor countries like Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, Swaziland and Mali are seeing their economies bludgeoned by the EU’s dumping of its subsidized produce. In Ghana and Senegal, chicken farmers have virtually disappeared. Unable to compete with the EU imports which are over 50% cheaper than what local farmers can achieve.Not content with this uneven playing field, the EU is trying to force African countries into a free trade deal which given its advantage in the market and the fact that as a continent, Africa imports 80% of its food, would further decimate the domestic market in these poor countries and further pad out the wallets of rich EU producers.

In short, whilst British colonialism and exploitation of ‘the dark continent’ may be a thing of the past, for the EU it is only part and parcel of its ultra capitalist philosophy. A philosophy which exploits the natural environment and vulnerable people with impunity. All in the name of profit. So, next time you hear some EU apparatchik talking about environmental protection, think hard on those East Anglian cereal prairies, those meadows once alive with wild flowers now waving with yellow rape and think of the African subsistence farmer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Clocaenog Forest: The Flickering Shadows Fall.

When Wilderness is Outlawed, only outlaws can save wilderness
Edward Abbey
The news that work is about to commence on the Clocaenog Forest wind farm-due for completion in 2019- is not unexpected but still dispiriting for those of us who would call ourselves conservationists. Despite the apparently irresistible tide of wind farms being developed both on land and at out at sea, I am still calling out this branch of so called renewable energy as a profit driven scam.

Despite the explosion in the number of wind farms over the last twenty years, according to the National Grid website as I write this, wind is contributing just 6% to our total energy output. To put this in context, energy experts conclude that over 40% of electricity produced from all sources is wasted. Streets lit up a three o clock in the morning, shops and offices lit up like a Christmas tree and heated beyond acceptable levels; homes with lights, TV’s,Computers, electric fires left on, etc etc. The UK might not be able to claw back this 40% wastage but even if only managed a quarter of that it would still cover the electricity produced by wind farms and that of course, would negate the need to trash our uplands, coastlines and sea beds with ugly, pale steel towers rooted in concrete.

North East Wales has suffered the despoliation of its uplands particularly badly, as the giant European energy corporations have exploited the areas’ topography- aided and abetted by the Welsh Assembly, the UK government and the EU- and thrown up some nasty developments which jar on the senses and are an affront to anyone who values the natural environment for its spiritual and recreational value, but most of all, as a diverse ecosystem which sustains plants and species.

Clocaenog Forest for example, is home to one of North Wales biggest red squirrel populations. It is also home to rare black grouse, deer, foxes, badgers, small mammals like Stoats and Weasels and a wide variety of birds. Including Red Kites. The situation now has seen vast tracts of habitat felled and left as an ugly, chaotic eyesore of twisted branches and bare stumps which look like something from a WW1 battlefield. What follows the deforestation is the laying of the foundations. Swimming pool sized plinths of concrete to set the wind turbine in. These 200'+ steel towers topped off by blades wider than a Jumbo Jet, whooshing around at almost 200 mph. For those unfortunate to live nearby, the sound can be overwhelming to the point that many suffer from depression or have to sell their homes at a knock down price and move away.

Of course a 27 turbine wind farm like Clocaenog requires a massive infrastructure of roads, power lines, substations and borrow pits (quarries). As a construction site there will be the inevitable run off of toxic materials into water courses as ponds and streams become dumping grounds for oil drums and plastic. The development of one wind farm in Mid Wales saw the entire fish population in one small lake wiped out and we can expect that insects and other life forms which dwelt there would also have been decimated. This has a knock on effect on the local bird population as a vital food source is taken out.

Ironically, although politicians like to boast about the contribution a wind farm will make to the local economy...almost zero; and the creation of jobs...almost zero, and the number of homes the energy produced will service...take the figure offered by the developer and reduce it by two thirds, the fact is, a wind farm will bring nothing positive to an exploited area but what it will do is degrade that area and reduce what previously may have been a healthy, diverse, visually pleasing natural environment, into a despoiled industrialized zone. Barren and broken. For an area which depends on tourism like rural north East Wales, degrading the very asset which bring tourists to the area is pretty dumb by any standards. But then politicians are not the sharpest tools in the box I guess. Hence the ease by which the energy companies lead them by the nose with promises of untold riches and bounty for all. For these giant energy corporations it is like Captain Cook opening a treasure chest of shiny baubles and trinkets to South Sea Island natives, such is our politicians ignorance of the ecological, social, cultural and scientific factors at play here.

Most energy companies involved in these larger developments are foreign owned with the vast subsidized profits swilling through the troughs in Munich, Paris and Madrid. Take Clocaenog developer InnogyUK. Forget the UK element. Innogy are a German energy company which was recently sold by Europe’s largest polluter- the German company RWE- which also runs coal power stations- to another German company, E.On. a nutshell, our low calibre politicians are allowing our rural environments to be trashed so that German shareholders can line their pockets.

They can get away with it because the general public- the majority of whom don’t live anywhere near a wind farm-have been told that wind farms are ‘soaring symbols of free clean electricity’. What they are not aware of is the fact that wind power would not be an attractive option for energy companies if it wasn’t heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. They will not be aware either, of the massive impact the development of a wind farm will have on the natural environment.

We have a situation where the most enthusiastic proponents of the development of wind farm come from the constituency the great eco activist Edward Abbey called ‘The kneejerk liberal’. In UK terms this would be your typical Guardianist. Predictably vocal in the comments section whenever a wind power story is on the front page, his argument will not generally get beyond calling anyone who questions wind power's negative impact on the environment, ‘a nimby’. As if campaigning against the exploitation of your local environment by a giant foreign energy corporation is somehow to be ridiculed rather than praised as it should be. I always want say to these people..’You must give me your address. I’ve got an old piss stained mattress and a fridge I need to dump and given the fact that you don’t appear concerned about your local environment then your front garden sounds ideal’ !

The irony is that more often than not, these generally middle class urbanites who approve of the exploitation of rural areas for profit and riding roughshod over the wishes of rural inhabitants, are the first people to be checking out the Easyjet prices to Geneva for a skiing trip, booking their walking tour in Morocco and planning to take their camper vans to Spain. Going on the Guardian website and saying how great wind power is, is like a Catholic confessional for these people. Comment along the lines of ' I find wind turbines just totally cool and amazing' then carry on with your wasteful, gadget  laden, hedonistic lifestyle. Don’t you just hate hypocrites like this? I know I do!

So sadly it all boils down to this.  Having a robust energy conservation policy and thus negating the need to trash our rural and offshore environments is off the political agenda because politicians-either through financial self interest, or through sheer ignorance- are in the pocket of energy corporations and the wind energy lobby. This includes the technophiles of Greenpeace and FOE who long ago abandoned the conservation element which was once at the very heart of environmentalism.
John Appleby

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Crow's Account of the Battle

My recent re-launch of this blog to include political matters-although I have dipped my toes in political affairs before, as in the case of the last General Election and my support for a YES vote in the Scottish Independence referendum- was always a risky move with regard to possibly offending those who only want to read about matters appertaining to The Great Outdoors. I felt however, that I would not be honest to myself if I didn’t speak out at this particular time, as I think that we in the UK are at a perilous point in our political history. The coalescence of anti Left forces in the Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour Parties and the almost blanket support they have in the media, has really shown the democratic system we take for granted as a sham.

Basically it is the Henry Ford version of democracy. 'You can vote for any person and any party you like-so long as it is who we like!' This Tweedledum and Tweedledee version of politics where both main parties basically spoon out the same gruel and follow the same big business, austerity, monarchy, nuclear defence etc etc, is basically fine with the establishment as any change of government- as with Major’s government being
seamlessly replaced by Blair’s crew- will not see the Status Quo challenged or their privileged boat rocked.

So when a figure like Corbyn or even Nicola Sturgeon comes along and threatens the status quo, they instantly become hate figures. Not just for historic hate mongers like The Mail and Sun, but as highlighted recently, a Centrist publication like the Guardian who as I write, is continuing its vendetta against Corbyn in today’s Observer.

Getting back to the balancing act between writing about mountain related material, van life, environmentalism etc and politics, I’m aware that some readers have left these pages like this fellow who emailed me saying...”

Hi, I have been a follower of your 'blogs' for some time now, and have generally appreciated and enjoyed your postings about the outdoors and related matters.Sadly, though, I won't be viewing your future blogs, since you make evident in the above post your distaste for those who hold conservative political views, as I do.It's a shame, for you write some very good and sensible blogs about life in the hills and mountains.

However, good luck for the future - and keep up your good work in defending our wild spaces from the continual encroachment of those who would wish otherwise!

Kindest regards

That is a shame. I would have hoped that even those on the Right might be open minded enough to try and get a left wing perspective on certain issues. If only to try and understand their political enemies a bit better. After all, delegating the political thought process to right wing hacks and just regurgitating their crass bile doesn’t garner much respect from those you seek to persuade I’m afraid. I do find it odd that someone who cares about Access and Environmental protection should be politically Conservative given the political Right’s traditional support for Landowners, Shooting and Hunting, Support for the Riparian lobbies restriction of access on our rivers and of course, their predilection for animal cruelty.

So there you have it. Feel free to comment, share or ignore as you wish!

* Crow's Account of the Battle..From Ted Hughes 'Crow-From life and Songs of the Crow'. Faber Publications

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hare Today...Slaughtered Tomorrow.

Image: OneKind 
For the German artist and co founder of Die Grunen, Joseph Beuys, the hare is a sacred animal. His installations and exhibitions often used the hare as a focal point for his work. Not least his seminal ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (German: wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt). Performed by  Beuys on 26 November 1965 at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf. For Joseph Beuys.....

....the Hare is a symbol of incarnation, which the hare really enacts- something a human can only do in imagination. It burrows, building itself a home in the earth. Thus it incarnates itself in the earth: that alone is important. So it seems to me. Honey on my head of course has to do with thought. While humans do not have the ability to produce honey, they do have the ability to think, to produce ideas. Therefore the stale and morbid nature of thought is once again made living. Honey is an undoubtedly living substance- human thoughts can also become alive. On the other hand intellectualizing can be deadly to thought: one can talk one's mind to death in politics or in academia

Joseph Beuys and dead hare: Image Gerd Ludwig
Well...exactly!!! However, what is not beyond dispute is the level of affection lovers of the great outdoors have for this iconic creature. Not surprisingly it is Lepus timidus-the mountain hare who for many, symbolizes the spirit of the mountain. The mountain hare- also known as blue hare, tundra hare, variable hare, white hare, snow hare, alpine hare, and Irish hare, is a Palearctic hare that is largely adapted to polar and mountainous habitats. It is  is native to Britain and unlike the brown hare (Lepus europaeus) and rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which were introduced by the Romans. It is smaller than the brown hare, and is easily distinguished by its tail.

Not surprisingly, the mountain hare’s retreat to the wild open spaces more especially the Highlands of Scotland, has seen its presence exploited by many Scottish shooting estates.Some of which offer specific hare shooting excursions when for over £4000, a portly band of nine guns can have their fat arses ferried up the hillsides where they can shoot up to 100 hares which will be slung into the back of trailers by skivvies and then dumped in pits or occasionally sold to butchers. 

However, it is not the specific hunting of hares which has caused alarm amongst animal rights groups, environmentalists, mountaineers and the general public. It is the wholesale slaughter based on the dubious premise that mountain hares carry ticks which cause the red grouse to fall victim to louping virus. According to the Scottish wildlife charity OneKind ...Whilst there is no doubt mountain hare carry ticks, there is no clear evidence that their control could be part of an effective red grouse management regime. Indeed, its scientific basis is so tenuous that scientific experts to the Scottish Government advise that “There is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities”.

In the past month, the issue has really come to the surface after the NFU’s...sorry...BBC’s Countryfile programme included a feature by Tom Heap- he who in a previous piece sympathetic to the hunting lobby, described foxes as ‘Vermin’- showed white hares being blasted by gamekeepers and their underlings. Despite the programme giving full voice to the hunting lobby and allowing the industry to justify the slaughter, viewers were incensed enough to voice their concerns via the social media and even The Daily Mail picked up the widespread anger and ran an anti hunting feature. And now a BBC Scotland news feature has been widely circulated showing a military style operation on the Corrybrough Estate in the Findhorn Valley, Invernesshire where hunters on quad bikes swept across the hillsides, leaving hundreds of dead and injured hares in their wake.

Image:Raptor PersecutionUK

To those like myself who are generally well disposed towards the Scottish government and the First Minister, it is deeply disappointing that the adminstration remains feart of the powerful Scottish landowning and Shooting lobby. Presumably on the specious grounds put out by its propagandists that it contributes to the rural economy. Opponents might point out that there are many other areas which could be exploited to provide employment on these estates such as pony trekking, mountain biking, photography expeditions, parascending, etc. Activities which are healthier for the participants and which don’t involve slaughter and ecological degradation.

The latter being the widespread practice of heather burning by the grouse shooting estates to stimulate the growth of the heather green shoots which form the main element of the grouse’s diet.A practice which wipes out ground nesting birds like the Skylark, amphibians like lizards, destroys saplings which would otherwise grow on the hillsides like Rowan and Silver Birch and keeps the hillsides as ecological barren, heather deserts. 

Raptor PersecutionUK
In those all too rare upland areas which are free from shooting parties and where sheep and deer are absent,  a natural re-wilding process all too quickly takes hold and sees the hillsides develop a green mantle as trees return and a species diversification thrives. Often this process needs to be a managed re- wilding as in the case of Ennerdale in the Lake District. However, for the general public and more especially for those who value the uplands for their spiritual value, the transformation of the Highlands from killings fields for the rich and boneheaded to an ecologically diverse environment has to be the goal. Scottish Government....are you listening?

Further Reading..

Chris Packham


Raptor PersecutionUK

John Appleby:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The long slow death of The Guardian

Having absented myself from these pages over the last couple of months, my typing forefinger was stimulated into action by the current McCarthyist witch hunt being conducted by the political Right and their allies in the main stream media, against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left. Although mountain activities remains a great passion, my other great interest is politics so if you are one of those outdoor people who say.. ' interest in politics me’.. I’d say, politics affects everything in life that you do. Not to take any interest in how your life in shaped by those who legislate on your behalf shows you to be a bit of a dumbo I’m afraid! So off you go and tweet about your ‘awesome new duvet jacket’ and how your Easy Jet flight to Geneva was delayed for two whole hours!

Currently, the media is after blood. The difference this time is that it is not those traditional enemies the right wing press and the Tory party who are leading the hunt. It is the Blairite Right wing of the Labour Party and their in-house newspaper, The Guardian who are manufacturing smear after smear. Last weekend, The Observer-sister paper of the Guardian- had eight Corbyn/ anti semitism stories on its front page. Its headline being the news that a ‘Major Labour Donor’ was quitting the party over Corbyn’s alleged anti semitism. This being Sir David Garrard who a few months ago was offering to fund a new Centrist anti Corbyn party. The headlines in todays Guardian and the main BBC news page offers predictable faux outrage that Corbyn attended a Passover seder. The traditional meal of the Jewish festival, in his Islington constituency run by Jewdas. A progressive Jewish group who are at odds with the right wing Jewish Board of Deputies. In effect he was accused of meeting the wrong type of Jews! In fact, to the paper's great shame, the story was regurgitated from the the pages of right wing Tory blogger, Paul Staines-aka Guido Fawkes.

In recent months the Corbyn smears have moved on from the tiresome and predictable tropes trotted out by the right, to the latest manufactured anti semitism hysteria, currently being whipped up by his reactionary enemies. The difference this time is that an emboldened section of the Parliamentary Labour Party led by the usual suspects, Smith, Umunna, Benn, Cooper, Mann, Woodcock et al, who have revived their guerrilla war against Corbyn and the left. Not least stimulated by the Guardian’s decision to no longer disguise its hatred of Corbyn through hand wringing articles on Corbyn’s alleged luke warm enthusiasm for their beloved EU, but by bringing their campaign fully out in the open.

If there was any doubt that the Guardian is an unreconstructed mouthpiece for the political Centrist Blairites and Lib Dems, then there at least is no longer any pretense that it is even marginally left of centre. Politically of course, ‘Centrism’ equates to Conservatism with a human face. Its move out of the vague progressive shadows into its current guise as an unreconstructed anti left newspaper moved up a gear when Katherine Viner moved from Murdoch’s Times to take over as editor. With the paper already top heavy with Centre and Centre Right journalists like Jonathan Freedland, Andrew Rawnsley, Nick Cohen, Polly Toynbee, Martin Kettle, John Crace, William Keehan, Rafael Behr, Matthew d’Arcona,Anne Perkins, Deborah Orr and Natalie Nougayrède, it was pretty straightforward to drop any pretense of being a left of centre media and concentrate its fire on Corbyn and the left.

Of course the Guardian does maintain a pretext of objectivity by keeping leftist writers like Owen Jones, George Monbiot, Giles Fraser and Suzanne Moore on the books. And establishment figure Simon Jenkins remains delightfully off message a lot of the time, as does the paper’s economic editor, Larry Elliot. For a far more in depth account of the Guardian/Observers rightwards drift and its anti Corbyn/Left agenda, author Alex Nunn’s article-'How the Guardian Changed Tack on Corbyn, Despite Its Readers’ is essential reading. As is Jewish US academic, Norman Finkelstein’s interview on the Open Democracy site. Written in 2016,‘The American Jewish scholar behind Labour’s ‘antisemitism scandal breaks his silence’ reveals how the Labour Right and its media allies have weaponised the issue to undermine and eventually overthrow Corbyn. Regaining power for the Blarite lunatic fringe.

In 1953, the American playwright Arthur Miller wrote ‘The Crucible’. Ostensibly about the Salem Witch trials, it was in fact an allegory for the McCarthyite campaign to expose leftists in public office, the media and the arts. Thousands of innocent people had their lives and careers blighted by false accusations and right wing paranoia. Wikipedia descibes McCarthyism as  ‘the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence’. Basically exactly what the Guardian, BBC and MSM are doing right now with their hysterical anti semitism campaign against Corbyn. Inventing facts and giving a voice to those vocal  Zionist rightwingers who hate Corbyn while sidelining Jewish supporters like Michael Rosen, David Baddeil and David Schneider who are calling out the Guardian/MSM/ Labour Right campaign for what it is. A clumsy, transparent smear campaign. The fact is, a lot of this is being driven by the Israeli government who are attempting to close down debate on its brutal occupation of Palestine by persuading the hard of thinking that any criticism of Israel is anti semitic. Israel's dirty fingerprints are all over the latest Corbyn smear campaign with the Blarite 'Labour Friends of Israel' doing Netanyahu's bidding within the party.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to also see the #FBPE Uber Remainers and rags like The New European crawl out from under their stones to put the boot in either. After all ‘The Great European Project’ is at the heart of the Centrists Neo Liberal vision. All in all, it is very depressing for those of us on the left who, wearied by decades of conservative governance from both major parties, have seen the flickering of a potential progressive new dawn through figures like Corbyn with his radical authenticity, and the growth of EU scepticism and the backlash against the centralized EU Neo Liberal State. Coupled with the growth in support for decentralization and the explosion in support for independence movements across Europe. Depressing because despite progress in these areas and the rise in the power of the Social Media which increasingly is becoming the main source of political news for young people- thereby closing the gate on the Murdochs, Dacres, Barclay Brothers of this world- the current smear campaign makes you realize just how much further we need to go to break the dead hand of the MSM, and odious politicians like Mann, Umunna, Streeting and Woodcock, who would be more at home in the Lib Dems or the Tory party.

I do find it dispiriting the way Corbyn, in his attempt to play the ‘kinder,gentler politics’ card, has given way to his enemies on the issue. Surprisingly Momentum have fallen into this trap as well. This is a bit of a slap in the face to Jewish Labour and ordinary Labour members who are saying..’what anti semitism???’ As a former member of the party myself, I never saw anything other than the party fighting anti semitism, racism and bigotry which has always been the preserve of the political right. In his way Corbyn is like someone innocent of a crime being persuaded to plead guilty to get a softer sentence. His attempts to placate his enemies this way is a big mistake methinks.  What a pity he doesn’t have a young Dennis Skinner type as his deputy. A left wing pit bull who calls a spade a spade and who would not be afraid to face down these weasels and call them out for what they are.

At least I can console myself that in the long run,as Yeats wrote, ‘The Centre Cannot Hold’. Its rejection by the Labour membership in the last Blairite coup and the risible support for the Lib Dems at the last election show that Centrism as political force is dying and that is why the Guardian is destined to eventually follow the Independent into a digital netherworld. Run on a shoe string with a skeleton staff and like the Indy, reduced to plagiarising other media outlets for material.

John Appleby