One man’s plan to let wolves roam free in the Highlands

The ‘custodian’ of the Alladale estate wants to turn it into a fenced-off wildlife reserve
Eurasian grey wolves at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Scotland.
 Eurasian grey wolves at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Scotland.
Photograph: Alamy

The echoes of Scotland’s predator prince faded into silence three centuries ago. The wolf was once lord of these Sutherland slopes and the forest floors beneath and now a voice in the wilderness is calling him home.

Paul Lister acquired the Alladale estate, 50 miles north of Inverness, in 2003 and immediately set about creating a wilderness reserve according to his perception of what these wild and beautiful places ought to look like. He can’t imagine them without the packs of wolves that once roamed free here.

But his views are considered eccentric by ramblers and conservationists, who view them as a rich man’s caprice, centring their objections on his plans to fence off the vast reserve.

Lister’s plans for the controlled release of a pack of Swedish wolves have been known for years but last week he seemed to issue an ultimatum to the Highland and Islands council, using a local newspaper interview to tell them: “I want to do this, but we would really need to have the details nailed down by the end of 2018.” Yet, when you speak to this man, driven as he is by a vision of how these places should be managed, you form an unshakeable impression that he will strive to fulfil it for as long as it takes.

There are few spaces in the UK more achingly beautiful than Glen Mor and Glen Alladale, the ancient glacial valleys that form this wilderness. The last of the winter snow still coats the top of jagged ridges high above a river that cleaves the land below. At the top of one of these peaks is the only point in Scotland where you can observe the Atlantic on one side and the North Sea on the other. These rocks and this water are as old as Scotland itself and showcase this country in its most majestic raiment.

These places were once rich in a diversity of trees, flowers and wild animals, which rubbed alongside small human settlements eking a sparse existence. The people disappeared in their thousands during the clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, forced to flee their homes in the face of the most ruthless, forced mass eviction of British citizens ever, clearing the way for the introduction of sheep as landowners eyed quicker and easier profits. Later they would be joined by thousands of red deer to exploit the whims of aristocratic shooting parties. These creatures denuded the great forests of their biodiversity, and something more barren emerged.

Lister’s form of land management is a rebuke to the way that much of Scotland has been artificially manipulated by fewer than 500 rich individuals to satisfy the demands of affluent hunting parties. “There will be no hunting, fishing or shooting here,” he said. “My connection to the Scottish Highlands goes back to the 1980s when my family invested in commercial forestry. I shot my first deer then. But over time I began to realise that human predation and selfishness had wrecked these places so that the soil became weaker and only a thin remnant of the ancient forests remained.

“You need to keep numbers of deer artificially high to satisfy the demands of the shooters who have paid a lot of money not to return empty-handed. Thus, an imbalance occurs. I want to restore balance and harmony to this place in accordance with the way it was created and the way it was meant to be. The controlled release of a pack of wolves would help achieve that harmony by changing the behaviours of the deer and keeping their numbers down to proportionate levels.”

Lister’s inspiration is North America’s Yellowstone national park where the introduction of a single pack of wolves in 1995 led to one of the most remarkable ecological turnarounds of the modern world. This is known as a trophic cascade and is the process by which the activity of an apex predator at the top of the food chain eventually stimulates the growth of several other animal species and enriches bio-diversity. It was in response to the way that huge numbers of elk and deer had grazed large parts of the natural landscape of Yellowstone into barren waste.

Paul Lister, laird of Alladale.
 Paul Lister, laird of Alladale.

“I don’t see myself as the owner of the Alladale wilderness,” says Lister. “How can any human, no matter how rich or powerful he thinks he is, assume ownership of a mountain or a river? These were here long before we came along and will remain long after we’re gone. I’m merely a custodian of this place with a responsibility to leave it in a better state than when I acquired it so that future generations can derive some pleasure or solace from its natural beauty.

“My plans for the controlled release of wolves have been misrepresented. This will not mean packs of them roaming all over the Scottish Highlands. We’re talking about a fenced-in area of 50,000 square miles; this wilderness is 23,000 so I am hoping to persuade one or two of my neighbours to buy into this.”

Lister’s plans to surround the wilderness with a 9ft fence has been met with howls of outrage by the rambling community, who insist that it represents an unconscionable restriction on the right to roam that is now secured in Scots law following a long struggle. Cameron McNeish, the author and broadcaster and one of the UK’s foremost authorities on outdoor pursuits, has welcomed much of what Lister is doing at Alladale in terms of wilderness management but feels that his plan to erect a fence around such a wide area is a non-starter. He has also stated that what he believes Lister is proposing is tantamount to a zoo (albeit a large one) for high-paying customers.

The Alladale estate.
 The Alladale estate. Photograph: Alamy

“I believe the job of re-introducing large creatures like wolves and bears should be performed by Scottish Natural Heritage,” says McNeish. “Such reintroductions are of national importance and shouldn’t be down to the whims and ambitions of individual landowners who may, or may not, have a financial interest at heart. Lister’s proposals fall within the remit of zoo legislation, and Europe’s habitats directive.

“Having predators like wolves or bears and prey in the same enclosure would introduce animal welfare issues,” he added. “This would need careful consideration as re-introduced grey wolves would have no natural predator in Scotland.”

Lister’s reserve manager Innes Macneill said: “There aren’t any Munros in these glens and we only get around 1,000 ramblers per year. If these plans come to fruition we would expect more than ten times that amount.”

Macneill’s family has worked these lands for generations. He is responsible for planting 800,000 saplings in the hope of restoring a forest of Scots pine. He also wants to see a growth in birch, rowan, ash, alder and willow, among others. “Trees make other trees,” he said.

A personal view? Although the wolf would be installed officially as Scotland’s top predator, in reality it would never attain that status; not while humans are around. No species is more predatory than we who have specialised over centuries in making other species extinct or driven them to the brink of it.

It is ironic that we now cavil at the gentle reintroduction of a magnificent beast that we hunted down remorselessly. If some sacrifices have to be made by the walking community, some of whom invade our most beautiful places and treat them as items to be ticked off on a middle-class bucket list, then so be it.

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Falconer cleared of hunting charge because he uses golden eagle to hunt foxes
John Mease, member of the Fitzwilliam Hunt
John Mease, member of the Fitzwilliam Hunt CREDIT: PETERBOROUGH TELEGRAPH / SWNS

Afalconer has been cleared of breaching strict hunting laws because he hunts foxes using a golden eagle.

John Mease, 45, was found not guilty after a court heard he used the bird of prey to catch animals as opposed to a pack of dogs.

He was further cleared of causing unnecessary cruelty to an animal despite “dispatching” a fox by driving a knife through its eye after it was caught by his raptor in 2013.

George Adams, 66, a co-accused Fitzwilliam huntsman, was convicted of using hounds to kill a fox on January 1 2016.

Peterborough Magistrates Court was filled with supporters of the huntand hunt saboteurs during the two-day trial.

Magistrates heard that the hunt’s hounds were used to flush the fox out into the open before the eagle was meant to be released to catch the fleeing mammal.

John Mease, member of the Fitzwilliam Hunt 
John Mease, member of the Fitzwilliam Hunt  CREDIT: PETERBOROUGH TELEGRAPH / SWNS

Video footage filmed by Stephen Milton, a hunt saboteur, showed the 40-hound hunt in a field near Wansford, Cambs, and picked up the sound of a hunting horn.

Mr Milton said he did not hear anyone from the hunt calling the dogs off the fox after they picked up its scent.

The fox was killed by the pack of hounds and Mr Mease’s golden eagle was not released.

Adams, who joined the Fitzwilliam Hunt in 1981 and became a huntsman in 1984, said he had not seen the fox before it was killed.

When asked if it was his intention to kill the fox with hounds, he said: “Absolutely not. We wanted to flush it out for the bird of prey.”

Mr Mease told the court there was no chance for him to release his golden eagle because the saboteurs were in the field.

Asked why he did not radio Adams to call the hunt off, he said: “A hunt is a fluid thing. It was changing minute by minute.

“It was the heat of the moment and it was the first time I had come across saboteurs in my 11 years.”

He told the court he was in charge of the bird but had no control over the pack of hounds, which was Adams’ responsibility.

The court was also shown headcam footage from Mr Mease taken in November 2013, when he used the golden eagle to catch a fox.

He then used a falconers knife to kill the animal by driving the spike through its eye.

It took him 47 seconds to kill the fox from the moment it was caught by the eagle.

Mr Mease said: “No-one else could have done it quicker.”

He denied hunting for sport and described himself as a pest controller.

District Judge John Woollard said he had heard no evidence the hunt had made any changes to their activities – other than using the falconer – since the hunting act was introduced in 2005.

Joe Bird, prosecuting, alleged that the eagle was used as a “smokescreen” to allow the hunt to continue as it had before the law was changed.

He said: “The set up was never going to work. It was a smokescreen.

“There were so many occasions when they would not have been able to fly the eagle.”

Stephen Welford, defending both men, said: “There is video footage of Mease using his eagle to kill a fox. That would not exist if it was a smokescreen.”

Judge Woollard said it was clear Adams had no control over the hounds during the hunt.

He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge and £930 costs.

Hunt Saboteurs Association spokesperson Lee Moon said after the trial: “To anyone who witnessed the events on the day in question it was abundantly clear that a wild mammal was hunted and killed illegally, in a most gruesome manner.

“The loopholes and exemptions in the current act have always been cynically exploited by hunts in order to operate much as they would have done prior to the ban.”

Adrian Simpson, from the Countryside Alliance, said they believed the judge had made the wrong decision, and said Adams was planning to appeal.

Prince Harry Won’t Hunt Animals Because Meghan Markle Disapproves

He refuses royal Boxing Day shoot tradition for the sake of animal lover fiancée.

Prince Harry‘s fiancée Meghan Markle has had quite the influence on him already!

As The Sun reported, Harry is skipping the traditional Boxing Day, Dec. 26, hunting spree with the other royals so he doesn’t upset Markle, a noted animal lover.

A source told The Sun, “The Boxing Day shoot was always going to be a tricky issue [for Harry]. Meghan is a keen animal rights campaigner and doesn’t like hunting in any form.

PHOTOS: Her Royal Thighness! Prince Harry’s Girlfriend Flashes Her Legs In Sultry Shoot

“Harry loves it and has always been out there on Boxing Day. But if it means breaking with long-standing royal traditions to avoid upsetting her, so be it,” the source said.

If Markle was “not comfortable” with Harry taking part, he “wouldn’t want to upset her,” according to the insider.

Now, Prince Charles and Prince William will participate in the shoot on the royal’s Sandringham estate without Harry.

PHOTOS: Prince Harry’s Girlfriend Meghan Markle Claims ‘People Wanted To Kill Me!’

Harry, 33, and Meghan, 36, announced their engagement on Nov. 27. They have been thrilling the British public with appearances, but some have raised skepticism about Harry marrying a divorced American actress.

There was also a royal scandal when Princess Michael wore a racist brooch to a lunch with Markle — and then had to apologize. Markle is bi-racial.

The former Suits star loves animals and fights for their rights. She was recently devastated after her dog Guy, a beagle, suffered two broken legs.

PHOTOS: Prince Harry’s Girlfriend Goes Back To Work After Nude Photo Scandal

She had to leave another beloved pet pooch behind in Toronto to marry Harry.

While Markle, as a royal fiancée, will spend Christmas Day at Sandringham with Queen Elizabeth and the rest of Harry’s family on Monday, the engaged couple will likely not even be seen at the hunt the next day! The other royals, however, should be keen to bag deer and other animals on Boxing Day as usual.

The break from the shoot could give the Prince and Markle some time alone to plan their May 19 wedding!

UK could cut food emissions by 17% by sticking to a healthy diet


04.12.2017 | 8:00pm

PUBLIC HEALTHUK could cut food emissions by 17% by sticking to a healthy diet

The UK could shed close to a fifth of its greenhouse gas emissions from food production if every Briton stuck to a healthy diet based on government guidelines, a new study concludes.

The authors find that, in the UK, a switch from the “average diet”, which is rich in meat and dairy, to a nationally recommended diet, which includes more fruit, vegetables and nuts, could cause food-related emissions to fall by up to 17%.

And if other wealthy countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, swapped their current eating habits for a state-endorsed diet, their emissions could decline by between 13 and 25%.

The new research “provides a valuable indication that we and the planet could be healthier together,” a scientist tells Carbon Brief.

UK’s growing appetite

Food production contributes to climate change in a number of ways. Farm machinery and transport cause CO2 to be released, crop fertilisers emit nitrous oxide and methaneis released by livestock and rice paddy fields. Agriculture also contributes to warming indirectly through deforestation.

In total, the production of food accounts for around 20% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2014 study. Across the world, agriculture accounts for close to 30% of all emissions.

Researchers have suggested a number of ways in which countries can lower their emissions from agriculture. These include eating less meat and dairy, choosing more environmentally friendly crops and cow fodder, and reducing food waste.

However, new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explores an alternative option. The study investigates how a switch from our current eating habits to a healthy diet based on government recommendations could help to lower our emissions.

Most countries offer their citizens a “nationally-recommended diet”. In the UK, Public Health England, Public Health Wales, the Scottish Public Health Network and Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency are responsible for providing healthy eating guidelines.

Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide suggests that the average person should “eat less often and in smaller amounts”, with the goal of sticking to 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 calories a day for men. The guide also suggests we should eat less red and processed meat and consider choosing low–fat alternatives to dairy.

These guidelines are aimed at helping us eat healthily rather than lowering our environmental footprints, says the study’s lead author Professor Paul Behrens, a researcher in energy and environmental change at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He tells Carbon Brief:

“Although dietary choices drive both health and environmental outcomes, these diets make almost no reference to environmental impacts. We find that following a nationally recommended diet in high-income nations results in a reduction in greenhouse gases.”

Stepping onto the scales

For the study, the researchers first gathered information on the average diet of 37 countries from the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). They then collected healthy eating guidelines from the national organisations tasked with providing dietary advice in each country.

To calculate the environmental impact of both the average and state-recommended diets, they collected data on emissions, “eutrophication” and land use from a “supply and use” database called EXIOBASE. Eutrophication is the buildup of nutrients in lakes and rivers as a result of fertiliser run-off.

The total greenhouse gas emissions (top), eutrophication levels (middle) and land occupied (bottom) as a result of different types of food production of each country studied is shown on the graph below.

Countries are organised from low-middle income (left) to high-income (right), while colour is used to identify different foods, including meat (red), fish (blue), dairy (green), grains (purple), vegetables, fruits and nuts (VFN; orange) and other types of food (yellow).

Total greenhouse gas emissions (top), eutrophication levels (middle) and land occupied (bottom) as a result of different types of food production in 38 countries. Countries are organised from low-middle income (left) to high-income (right), while colour is used to identify different foods, including meat (red), fish (blue), dairy (green), grains (purple), vegetables, fruits and nuts (VFN; orange) and other types of food (yellow). Source: Behrens et al. (2017)

The analysis shows how the emissions derived from average diets increase with income, with animal products accounting for an average 70% of emissions in high-income countries, such as the UK and the US.

Brazil and Australia are notable exceptions to this finding. This is likely due to both the amount of meat in the diet and a national taste for grass-fed beef in both countries, which has significantly higher methane emissions than grain-fed beef, Behrens explains.

To work out the environmental impact of switching to a healthy diet, the researchers subtracted state-recommended diet data from the average diet data for each country.

The results are shown on the chart below, which shows the net change (black dot) in emissions (top), eutrophication levels (middle) and land use (bottom) when this subtraction is applied. Bars above the dotted line indicate a rise in emissions while bars below the line show a drop in emissions.

Net change (black dot) in greenhouse gas emissions (top), eutrophication levels (middle) and land occupied (bottom) as a result of a change from an average diet to a nationally–recommended diet in 38 countries. Countries are organised from low-middle income (left) to high-income (right), while colour is used to identify different foods, including meat (red), fish (blue), dairy (green), grains (purple), vegetables, fruits and nuts (VFN; orange) and other types of food (yellow). Source: Behrens et al. (2017)

The chart illustrates how, in most countries, a switch to a state-recommended diet could cause a large reduction in emissions from meat (red) and dairy (green), and a smaller increase in emissions from fruit, vegetables and nuts (orange).

Emissions from a UK government-recommended diet are estimated to be 29% lower than emissions from the UK average diet. However, when the impact of food waste is considered in the analysis, this figure falls to 17%, Behrens explains:

“Food waste is over a third once you take into account production, processing and domestic food wastes. If you include all the emissions from food production, then the difference in the diets becomes smaller because you are still wasting a lot of food.”

In other high-income countries, including the US, Canada and Japan, a switch to a nationally-recommended diet could cause emissions to fall by between 13% and 25%, the analysis finds.

And in high-middle income countries, including China, Brazil and Mexico, a swap to a state-recommended diet could cause a drop in emissions of between 9% and 21%.

However, in India and Indonesia, a switch to a nationally endorsed eating plan could cause a small rise in overall emissions from food production. This is because, in both of these countries, authorities recommend including more meat in the diet. These recommendations have likely been made in response to relatively high levels of malnutrition in some communities in these countries, Behrens says.

Getting into shape

Despite the findings, it is clear that the average Briton is still far from sticking to the government’s recommended diet. In 2015, only 26% of adults ate the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to government statistics (pdf).

However, “we are starting to see change happening in the right places,” says Behrens, pointing to a rise in popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets. Around 2% of the UK’s population consider themselves to be vegetarian, according to a government survey. Behrens says:

“Major obstacles will be related to similar issues with any social and cultural change, and that is the inertia of existing habits. Some social issues can change very very quickly once the right conditions are in place. These sorts of diets are increasing steadily in the population, but usually these social changes reach a tipping point, when change happens relatively quickly, for example, the legalisation of gay marriage surprised many with its speed.”

The research shows that “simply eating what governments say we should for our health would reduce the food system’s impact on climate change,” says Tim Benton, a professor in population ecology at food security at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study. He tells Carbon Brief:

“Of course, much about the food system would have to change were the world to adopt sustainable, healthy, eating patterns: the crops grown, the way they are grown, and the subsidies and economics, as well as the retail environment. Nonetheless, this paper provides a valuable indication that we, and the planet, could be healthier together.”

Behrens et al. (2017) Evaluating the environmental impacts of dietary recommendations, PNAS,

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Care2 March in London to Protest Badger Culling, Fox Cubbing, Grouse Shooting

Last June, animal rights activists celebrated the news that the U.K. ban on fox hunting would remain in place. The Queen’s speech for the opening of a new Parliament made no mention of Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for a vote on the fox hunting ban, meaning that it cannot be repealed until at least 2019.

One of the events leading up to this success was a huge demonstration held on May 29 when thousands of people, including Care2 activists, marched through London in protest against the government’s decision to re-open the debate on fox-hunting.

That was a huge victory, but there is still much work to be done. Saturday, August 12, will see another protest, “Make Badger Culling & Hunting History,” headed up by Care2 along with the Badger Trust, the League Against Cruel Sports and the Born Free Foundation. 

Thousands of animal lovers united in their determination to stop the government from playing politics with British wildlife will gather in London’s Cavendish Square at 1:30 pm and conduct a peaceful protest march to Theresa May’s Downing Street home. 

Grouse shooting season begins on August 12, according to the Facebook group, and badger culling season also begins in August.

badgerPhoto Credit: thinkstock


Vote could see all hunting banned from National Trust land


A controversial motion to ban all hunting activity from National Trust land could cause many hunts across the country to collapse, campaigners say.

Anti-hunt activists argue the move, if successful, would help stop illegal hunting by taking away huge swathes of land hunts are able to access – but pro-hunt supporters vigorously deny any illegal activity, and warn it risks the loss of a traditional British country sport.

Members are being urged to cast their votes for or against the proposal before midnight on Friday (October 13), when postal and online voting will close.

The motion will then go before the Trust’s annual general meeting on October 21.

Fox hunting has been illegal since 2005
Fox hunting has been illegal since 2005. Credit: PA

Hunting live animals with hounds has been illegal since the Hunting Act came into force in 2005.

To try to preserve the tradition, hunts were allowed to continue provided they followed scent-based trails instead.

But foxes are still killed by hunts. They claim this is accidental, and say it only happens when a live fox crosses the trail which has been pre-laid for the hounds.

Animal rights campaigners, however, accuse the hunts of deliberately breaking the law. They argue that trails are rarely, if ever, genuinely laid – it is merely a smokescreen allowing them to continue as they always did.

The motion to ban hunts from National Trust land was put forward by former teacher Helen Beynon, from Wigston in Leicestershire.

She told ITV News she only became aware that hunting still took place in January, when a friend invited her to a demonstration against the Atherstone Hunt in Staffordshire at New Year.

Brian May joined an anti-hunt protest outside Parliament in 2015.
Brian May joined an anti-hunt protest outside Parliament in 2015. Credit: PA

I couldn’t believe this was allowed to happen on National Trust land. I’ve just become more and more passionate about it as the months have gone by and I’ve learned more.

I don’t think a charity which claims to be about conservation and protecting wildlife should be allowing dozens of hounds at a time to be let loose over their land, where there’s a risk they could kill animals living there.


Hunts are still allowed, but must follow scent trails instead of live animals.
Hunts are still allowed, but must follow scent trails instead of live animals. Credit: PA

Polly Portwin, head of the hunting campaign for the Countryside Alliance, dismissed the allegation that trail hunting was a cover for illegal hunting as “simply untrue”.

“There’s no illegal fox hunting intentionally. Hunts go out to trail hunt – they lay a trail in accordance with the Hunting Act 2004, and the intention is to go out and follow that line, and hunt within the law,” she said.

While accidents do happen, she said, huntsmen are very diligent and always try to call hounds back when they’re aware there is a live fox in the area.

Well-meaning hunt monitors and hunt saboteurs can often make this more difficult by mimicking the huntsman’s horn or calls, confusing the hounds.

She said the motion, if voted through, could completely remove the amount of land available for some hunts – particularly those in rural areas of the north of England.

With some packs, you’d question the viability of them if they lost access to the National Trust land. It’s a huge part of some of their countries.

It’s a big community thing as well, a lot of people – particularly in rural areas – would be vastly affected. This threatens to take away something which is very dear to them.


A huntsman holds up a fox killed by the Durham Hunt in 2005, before the ban came into force.
A huntsman holds up a fox killed by the Durham Hunt in 2005, before the ban came into force. Credit: PA

Despite being illegal for 12 years now, hunting with hounds remains a hot political talking point.

A vote to relax the fox-hunting ban in England and Wales was due to be held in 2015, prompting protests. That was shelved when the SNP confirmed it would take part, making defeat almost certain.

And similar protests were held earlier this year, after Theresa May pledged her support for holding a free vote on repealing the ban.

The National Trust, which boasts more than five million members, issued 79 licences to 67 hunts last year.

It has revamped its rules for licensing in response to Mrs Beynon’s motion, and has advised its members to vote in favour of the new licensing terms instead of a ban.

If the motion is rejected, members will have to wait three years before they can propose it again.

Fox hunting another battleground in U.K. general election

, USA TODAYPublished 6:05 a.m. ET June 7, 2017

LONDON — One of the sleeper issues in the United Kingdom’s parliamentary election Thursday is the future of that most iconic British tradition: the fox hunt.

The image of red-coated riders — bugles blaring, hounds barking, steeds galloping through the lush countryside — is familiar around the world. Tally-ho! Trouble is, chasing actual foxes was banned more than a decade ago because of a campaign by animal-rights activists.

Now, traditionalists are lobbying to bring back the real thing, and they have an advocate in Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Conservative Party hopes to defeat the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who called fox hunting a “barbarity” and vowed to keep it outlawed.

Hunting foxes with more than two dogs was banned in England and Wales in 2004 by the then-Labour government, with the measure going into effect in 2005. Hunters and their dogs instead could follow a trail of fox urine. May has pledged to hold a vote in Parliament on overturning the ban.

Animal rights groups also were infuriated when May said last month that she supports using real foxes again. “I was brought up in the countryside and yes, I do support fox hunting,” she said.

The Labour Party is urging people to sign a petition against overturning the ban.

Emily Whitfield-Wicks, 47, a photographer from Cornwall in southwestern England, where fox hunting is popular, said overturning the ban is “completely and utterly unnecessary.” She said the hunters keep their tradition alive with the hounds following a trail. She said foxes are still killed in order to get urine for the trails from their bladders.

“It’s just inhumane. They (the dogs) get to the fox and they rip it apart and that’s a horrible, horrendous way to die,” she said.

The Countryside Alliance, which promotes rural issues, said a near record 250,000 people attended last year’s Boxing Day hunts traditionally held the day after Christmas. That was despite a poll in September showing 84% of voters believe fox hunting should not become legal again.

Animal-rights advocates said more than 4,000 people marched in central London late last month, calling on May to keep fox hunting illegal, although the Countryside Alliance contests that figure.

A poll this month by market research firm Survation said half of voters were less likely to vote for a candidate who wanted a return to fox hunting, and 67% of voters believe it should remain banned.

Polly Portwin, a spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance, said foxes have no natural predators and are considered a pest in rural areas, killing lambs, chickens and other animals.

“We don’t believe it’s a good law,” she said of the Hunting Act 2004. “There are things about it that don’t make a lot of sense. For example you can chase a fox with two dogs, but you can’t chase it with three.”

She said the law allows shooting and snaring animals, methods she says are “far more cruel,” than hunting with dogs. With shooting and trapping, animals can be maimed and suffer a slow, agonizing death, Portwin said.

“Hunting has become one of the big issues in this election, and it is now clear that it is an extremely toxic one for any pro-hunt candidate,” said Eduardo Goncalves, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, a British animal welfare charity.

The politicians need to hear from us LOUD & CLEAR – we will NOT vote for more animal abuse & cruelty. RT to stand up for animals

Goncalves said the group estimates an average of 16,000 incidents of illegal hunting occur each year since the ban began. The argument that fox hunting has anything to do with animal control is “a ruse,” he said.

“The reality is that fox hunts actually capture and raise foxes so they always have foxes to chase,” he said. “Foxes are not pests as they substantially help the rural economy by predating on rabbits, which in some places may cause agricultural damage.”

The Farmers Union of Wales is also calling for an end to the hunting ban. Wyn Jones, a farmer in Wales, said 114 of his lambs have been killed by foxes over the past four years, according to the Farmer’s Guardian.

“Those who dismiss this evidence and argue against a change … demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice animal welfare and the incomes of hard-working people,” Glyn Roberts, the union’s president, said in a statement.

Hunting poll: Do you agree with May that fox hunting should be legal?

PUBLISHED: 11:13 10 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:31 10 May 2017

Should fox hunting be legalised?

Should fox hunting be legalised?

A win for the Tories team could be bad news for foxes as the PM pledges a free vote to overturn hunting ban.

Theresa May has outraged animal lovers with a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning the ban on fox hunting.

The Prime Minister said she was in favour of the outlawed activity but MPs would be given the final say.

David Cameron had promised to put the divisive issue to Parliament but did not go ahead with the plan due to a lack of support.

During a visit to a factory in Leeds, May said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against.

“As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote.

“It would allow Parliament the opportunity to take the decision on this.”

Should fox hunting be legalised?Should fox hunting be legalised?

Animal welfare campaigners criticised the move, pointing to a survey last year which revealed 84% of people were opposed to making fox hunting legal again.

David Bowles, head of public affairs for the RSPCA, said the Hunting Act had proved to be a useful piece of the legislative framework protecting wildlife in England and Wales.

“Fox hunting is a barbaric and brutal practice that has no place in civilised society.

“The Hunting Act was introduced to end the suffering caused to wild animals by chasing and killing them with a pack of hounds.

“Other blood sports such as dog fighting and cockfighting have been consigned to history and nobody is pushing for those to be legalised. Why should the hunting of Britain’s wild mammals be treated any differently?” he said.

League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Eduardo Goncalves said: “Britain’s voters have been waiting to hear what the next government will be doing on key issues like the NHS, education and Brexit.

“It’s a shame that Parliamentary time will be spent on trying to make fox hunting legal again.

“Are we really going to turn the clock back to a time when killing animals for fun was legal?

“I’m sure many current and future MPs of all colours feel the same way, so we hope they stand up and be counted when the time comes.”

Scotland’s farmed salmon industry stinks

23 Feb 2017 | Joanna Blythman

Scotland’s salmon farming industry is being eaten away by sea lice, the parasite that stalks large concentrations of farmed fish. Latest figures from Marine Harvest, the Norwegian multinational that owns most of the Scottish ‘farms’, show that despite its self-styled reputation as a clean, green country, Scotland has by far the worst sea lice problem of any producer nation. In 2014, 28% of sites were affected; by 2015 that figure had jumped to 49%. Equivalent levels on Norwegian and Irish farms were 5% and 18% respectively.

No technical fix can control Scotland’s now endemic lice, not even dosing every tonne of fish with 42 litres of hydrogen peroxide. The Thermolicer, a machine that immerses fish briefly in warm water, was presented as a solution until last year, when it cooked to death 95,000 fish in one incident. And no wonder lice are having a field day. These caged fish are already weakened by endemic amoebic gill disease, which generous doses of antibiotics barely contain.

Any image of Scottish aquaculture as a job-creating cottage industry has been washed away. Its business story is poor also. Politicians once cited the 6,000 jobs it sustained directly, but the true figure now stands at 2,200. Reduced output, combined with a hefty bill for drugs and chemicals, is making the industry less profitable, yet pushing up prices.

The gloss is off the Scottish salmon brand. Fewer and fewer aspiring restaurants put farmed salmon on their menu. Its image is dull at best, highly contentious at worst, and because it’s so flabby and oily, even the best chefs toil to make something of it.

Yet Fergus Ewing, the Scottish secretary for the rural economy, backs the Norwegian salmon industry’s plan to double its business in Scotland by 2030. And the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is considering proposals to site the world’s biggest salmon farm in Orkney or Shetland, even though by its own calculation, the faecal waste from the two million-fish mega-farm would be equivalent to the sewage from a city the size of Glasgow.

It’s time for politicians to learn from experience. Scotland is already mired into dirty salmon farming. Don’t make matters worse by going in any deeper.

Joanna Blythman is a journalist and author of Swallow This

Fergus Ewing: Don’t sacrifice ‘free range’ to avian flu

A chicken farm in Strathkinness, Fife. Photograph: Carl De Souza/Getty

A chicken farm in Strathkinness, Fife. Photograph: Carl De Souza/Getty

Anyone buying eggs over the past few weeks might have noticed stickers and posters in stores explaining that free range hens have been temporarily housed in barns for their own protection.

This step was first taken in December, when I announced – along with Defra and the Welsh government – an avian influenza Prevention Zone in response to a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 sweeping across Europe. Since then the virus has only been confirmed in a single wild bird in Scotland, a peregrine falcon found near Dumfries. However there have been ten confirmed cases in domestic birds in England and Wales, and numerous wild bird findings across the UK.

I want to reassure you that the strain of avian influenza we are seeing this winter does not affect humans, and the clear advice from experts is that there is no health risk from eating eggs or poultry meat.

We know from previous outbreaks the devastating impact that avian influenza can have on our poultry industry. That is why the decision made in December to house birds, to help protect them from infection by migratory wild birds, was the right choice and received backing from the industry. EU law allows eggs from birds kept indoors due to veterinary restrictions to continue to be sold as free range for up to 12 weeks. This 12-week period ended on 28 February. That is why retailers are now informing consumers about the status of their eggs.

Free range is a Scottish success story. Roughly half of all chicken eggs laid in Scotland come from free range birds. The two largest free range egg production units in Europe are located near Peebles, with free range eggs estimated to be worth £46 million to Scottish farming last year. Clearly, it is in our best interests to ensure that this thriving industry is protected at this difficult time.

My officials and I have been in close contact with key poultry industry representatives throughout the current European outbreak, to ensure that protection measures in Scotland remain practicable and proportionate.

That is why, on 28 February, we changed the requirements of the avian influenza Prevention Zone in Scotland to allow birds to be let outside again under enhanced biosecurity.

Biosecurity is the suite of steps that can be taken to prevent disease from entering or spreading on your premises – such as disinfecting footwear and equipment, and keeping wild birds away from outdoor areas.

You may also have heard about “higher risk areas”, such as those near bodies of water, where birds must continue to be housed. These only apply in England. It is our view, informed by the best scientific advice, that all of Scotland is subject to the same level of risk, and therefore the same restrictions should apply to all bird keepers, regardless of where they live.

Scottish keepers now have the choice of either letting their birds outside again, under enhanced biosecurity, or to continue to keep them indoors. Birds which continue to be kept indoors will no longer qualify as free range under EU law, however. It is a commercial decision for each individual farmer.

Prior to the zone changing, I wrote to the major supermarkets to explain the situation in Scotland, and to make it clear that Scottish farmers will have the option to continue to provide free range poultry products for consumers. I was clear that, as long as Scottish farmers continue to produce free range eggs, these should be made available to consumers and clearly labelled as such. It would be unhelpful for the free range provenance of many Scottish eggs to be hidden from consumers’ view because of a UK-wide marketing approach which does not make the differences clear across our countries.

The avian influenza Prevention Zone will continue to apply in Scotland until the end of April, when we will reassess the risk and consider whether further restrictions are necessary. I am grateful for the continued support and understanding of both producers and consumers during this challenging period. And I would encourage everyone to keep buying Scottish eggs and chicken.