How refreshing to listen to people who a) Know what they're talking about, and b) Approach the subject objectively rather than spouting the first emotive nonsense that enters their heads.
Speakers included Dr Harriet Auty from Glasgow Veterinary School, Vic Simpson FRCVS, Dr Andy Paterson from DEFRA's wildlife health team, Dr Anna Meredith, head of the exotic animal & wildlife service at Royal Dick, Edinburgh, John Chitty MRCVS, Dr John Gallagher, Christianne Glossop the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Lord Mancroft, and Stephen Lomax, barrister and MRCVS. An impressive line-up indeed - and in addition we heard from Jonathan Reynolds and Mike Swan of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
There was so much to absorb that I'm still taking it all in. There are several speakers who raised issues that I want to follow up and cover in depth, but there just wasn't time in this packed day to grab anyone for even a quick interview.
As a taster, though, here are a few of the scribbled notes I made during the day:
- Echinococcosis - carried by foxes, infects humans, incubation period 5-15yrs, mortality >90%, now in Belgium and heading our way at 3km/year.
- Toxicara - low risk to public, but doesn't half sell a lot of worming products!
- Hedgehogs - numbers down 44% in the last 25 years and no-one has a clue why.
- "There is no welfare issue in death"
- Defra is currently working on a Risk Assessment for wild deer - what's that all about?
- Wildlife 'hospitals' - no regulation, poor records, serious welfare questions. "Less about animal welfare and more about making people feel good". Great fundraising tool.
- Most common admission to wildlife hospitals is the feral pigeon. 2nd is hedgehog.
- Most injured wildlife should be culled on the spot. Rehabilitation rates appallingly low.
- When does a wildlife 'hospital' become a 'sanctuary'; legally, is it a zoo?
- ISG report on Bovine TB is 'the dodgy dossier'. Based on fundamentally flawed assumption. Figures actually prove majority of cattle infections come from badgers.
- In Wales, it is possible to get your TB reactor cattle illegally 'laundered', at a price.
- Brian May shook Christianne Glossop's hand and said he was a scientist!!! Offered to tell her how to solve the TB problem.
- Important to respond to TWO badger consultations - DEFRA and Wales.
- RSPB can't fund a full time warden for xyz reserve but staff on hand 24/7 when the peregrines hatch on the cathedral; how much funding does each generate?
- Natural England head of biodiversity says major benefit of reintroductions is 'engaging the public'. Driving past dormouse wood makes him feel great. Oh FFS!
- What's all this about 'semi-official' reintroductons of beavers in England??? Technically captive but there have been 'escapes' - illegal if deliberate. What about diseases carried by those beavers (the diseases aren't captive).
- There is no such thing as 'Badger Baiting'. It's a fiction perpetuated by LACS, RSPCA to support their badger campaigning.
- RSPCA: "Prosecution is Education".
- Britain's rarest mammal: the black rat. Why no reintroduction programme?
- Scandinavian research tested badgers' reaction to terriers in sett (heart rate, cortisol levels, etc). Result: not bothered in the slightest - less reaction than when play-fighting.
See - I said it was fascinating didn't I! Expect to see some of those develeloped into stories on here or in the magazine in due course.
On thing that did cross my mind: with people of this standard readily available, why does the BBC call on bunny-huggers like Brian May when they want to inform their viewers about wildlife issues? There really is no excuse. It's either incredibly incompetent journalism, dumbing down to the level of lowest common denominator, or a deliberate attempt to mislead. Whichever it is, it's time the BBC Trust intervened. Licence fee payers deserve better.