Lords’ Report Slams Defra
A report by a House of Lords Select Committee states that Defra is concentrating so much on agriculture, especially in the context of Brexit, that it is failing rural communities and the natural environment. Lord Cameron of Dillington, Chairman of the Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, suggests that Defra should be stripped of its responsibility for rural affairs which should go to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. According to the report, there has been a ‘consistent failure, over a number of years, to prioritise the 'rural affairs' element of Defra’ which has had a ‘profound negative impact ... to the cost of us all’.
Research by a group of scientists led by Rothamstead Research and including the University of Exeter and Bayer AG, has shown that different neonicotinoid insecticides have varying impact on bees. Honeybees and bumblebees were found to be immune to thiacloprid, one of the three main neonicotinoids because they can digest the active ingredient safely. This study only looked at the two species of bees but raises the prospect of the use of some insecticides whilst others are banned. The leader of the group at Rothamstead said that ‘some neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees but others have very low acute toxicity, in public debate, they tend to get tarred with the same brush’.
Heron Killed to save Duckling
One of the more bizarre stories of the week appeared in the Daily Telegraph. It concerned an elderly Welsh animal lover who was so incensed when he saw a heron swallowing a new-born duckling that he attacked the bird. Slicing it open with his pocketknife, he managed to rescue the duckling from its stomach. The duckling survived but the heron did not. Police arrested the man for killing the heron, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but he was later released with a caution.
It is reported from Holland that construction has begun on the world’s first floating dairy farm. It will be based in Rotterdam and be home to forty dairy cows. The cows will live in a 1,200 sq m ‘cow garden’ on the top level of the floating structure, will be milked by robot and fed on grass grown on the farm under LED lights. The latest technology will be tested out on the farm which will also have a strong educational element. There have been some objections to the plans with several city councillors threatening to block the scheme on the grounds that the cows might suffer from sea-sickness!