To really love nature you have to accept that death is a fact of life in the wild
I’m a lover of nature – and of the animals that share this planet with us.
I’m a member of the RSPB and a regular visitor to Minsmere and occasional visitor to other reserves run by them and other organisations like the National Trust.
But as a nature and animal lover, I have to accept that death is part of the cycle of life – and sometimes it is necessary for humans to intervene and facilitate as painless a death as possible.
Ever since I was a child living in the Suffolk countryside I’ve been personally opposed to the idea of hunting. I cannot for the life of me justify the idea of people setting a pack of dogs on to a fox to watch it being torn limb from limb. I was delighted to see it banned about a decade ago.
If (and I think it is a very big “if”) there’s really a problem with fox numbers in the countryside that should be addressed by a registered marksman with a rifle – not a pack of dogs who become uncontrollable when they smell blood in their nostrils.
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But I was really sorry to see that ABP had bowed to pressure and called off a cull of feral pigeons on the Ipswich Waterfront.
Feral pigeons are a pest and are a real threat to other bird life by bullying other species.
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In an ideal world we would have more raptors like Peregrines helping to keep their numbers down – but in the absence of large enough numbers of these birds it is incumbent on us humans, who have created the environment in which these flying rats can thrive, to try to keep their numbers down.
Another animal that has to be culled to keep down its numbers is deer. We are lucky to have large numbers of various species of deer in East Anglia – but this is a creature with no natural predators in this country and which can cause tremendous damage to woodland and other natural landscapes if allowed to grow unchecked.
In other parts of the country I would, personally, like to see a programme of re-wilding. I’d love to see wolves and European lynx re-introduced to remote areas in the north of England and Scotland – although I accept that is a very controversial suggestion and I realise that East Anglia is now far too heavily populated by humans for that to be a realistic prospect here.
What we all need to understand, of course, is that nature requires a balance which human activity disrupts. How we manage that disruption is vital to how we see nature.
Some of the most stunning “natural” landscape we cherish have evolved because of human intervention, either intentionally or (more often) by accident.
Minsmere. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. Thetford Forest. These “natural treasures” of East Anglia owe their existence in the current form to human activity. We have to manage them – and that should sometimes force us to take controversial decisions.
A few years ago there was a proposal to re-introduce white-tailed sea eagles, known as the “Flying Barn Door”, to coastal areas of Suffolk and Norfolk.
But concerns from farmers forced a re-think. They were worried that the birds would take too many of their lambs – despite evidence that the birds are more likely to scavenge than take live prey.
The boost to tourism from their arrival would have been fantastic for local hotels and B&Bs, but never mind – the lambs will be safer in the fields until they get to the abattoir!
And that, of course, is another question. We don’t like the idea of deer being culled – but how do we feel about eating meat? Have you ever tried a venison burger? It’s said to be a very healthy meat (and can be delicious, believe me!).
You might dislike the idea of an eagle snatching a cuddly lamb from a field. But where do you think that lamb rogan josh came from?
When we go to the zoo or watch the latest TV documentary from Sir David Attenborough we love seeing the lions and tigers . . . and the zebras and antelope. But when they’re not in captivity being fed the finest cuts from the local butcher, what do the lions and tigers eat?
Humans, because of the ability we have developed to change the environment, have a real responsibility for stewardship of the natural world. But we cannot view all nature with totally unhelpful sentimentality.
That might mean culling pigeons in the middle of Ipswich. It certainly means keeping down the number of deer. It means killing grey squirrels in areas where natural reds are being re-established.
That’s what being a real nature-lover means!