Hen Harrier Record
Last year was the most successful breeding season for hen harriers in England for 35 years. Around 60 chicks fledged from 19 nests across Northumberland, Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria and Lancashire. Of those, 40 chicks were fledged from 12 nests on land managed for grouse shooting. This shows the success of the Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan launched in 2016 despite lack of support by the RSPB. As recently as 2013 there were no successful nests at all in England, there is a far larger population in Scotland, but under the plan nearly 100 chicks have now been fledged. The data came from a survey by the Moorland Association which also found an increase in merlin, curlew and lapwing.
Badger Cull Consultation
Defra has launched a consultation on the phasing out of the badger cull after 2022. Changes to the Government’s bovine tuberculosis strategy are proposed with greater emphasis on biosecurity and vaccination. The NFU has urged caution in making changes, pointing out that bovine TB has fallen by 51% in the four years of the cull in those areas where it has been carried out. Nevertheless, more than 27,000 cattle were slaughtered last year as a result of the disease.
Environment Bill Delay
The Environment Bill was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May in July 2018 and introduced to Parliament by her successor Boris Johnson in October 2019. However, it was lost when the General Election was called and re-introduced in January last year. It has made little progress and the Government announced last week that it has been delayed again but should become law by the autumn. The slow progress has been blamed on lack of parliamentary time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Environmental groups have reacted with dismay, claiming that the Bill is fundamentally flawed, too weak and unenforceable, even if does become law in due course.
Avian ‘Flu in Pheasants
An outbreak of avian ‘flu has been reported in pheasants on a farm on Anglesey. A temporary control zone has been imposed around the site whilst laboratory tests are carried out to determine whether it is of the highly pathogenic strain. If so, the temporary measure will be replaced by a 3 km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone. Mortality amongst the birds was high and any that survived have been culled. In November, an Avian Influenza Protection Zone was declared covering the whole of England with similar regimes in Scotland and Wales. There have been a number of outbreaks reported during the winter.