The news this week has been very interesting – and not necessarily the news we’ve been covering. Judge Pattinson at Oxford Magistrates Court expressed utter dismay at the RSPCA spending more than £300,000 on legal costs in prosecuting a hunt in Oxfordshire that had hunted a live fox. The hunt suffered a relatively small fine of £4,000 plus £15,000 costs. Regular readers will know we’ve done our fair share of RSPCA stories over the years – for better or worse (ask me next time we meet!) – so it was fascinating to see such overt (and rare) criticism of the agency appear in a national newspaper. While the RSPCA undoubtedly does a good job in saving stricken animals, many keepers of British birds will have noted its zealous approach to prosecution and its pursuit of certain of their ilk (which is something we have documented throughout the year) most particularly of course in the case of Ted Easter.
Obviously I don’t know the where the truth lies in cases such as Ted Easter’s, but the tenacity and tone of the RSPCA’s pursuit of Mr Easter was something to behold. I wonder what effect such campaigns have on the psyche of British birdkeepers? No doubt, the RSPCA hopes it deters them from keeping birds – period. And while at Cage & Aviary Birds we condemn the trapping of wild birds because it’s illegal, what we might highlight are the huge inconsistencies in sentencing for thiscrime. Ted Easter, a respected and well-known breeder of British birds, washammered with a fine and costs of £20,000, while bird trappers caught red-handed with traps, birds and the full paraphernalia of trapping, and often birds kept in poor conditions, have effectively been given a slap on the wrists and a derisory fine. It makes no sense.
Now, I can hear quite a lot of your saying, well, that’s the British legal system, erratic, partial and largely dependent on whether the judge has had lunch or not. But we must strive for fairness, no matter how forlorn the cause may appear to be. As this is the last blog of 2012, I’d like to wish all our readers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and if I have one wish going into 2013 it’s that we on Cage & Aviary Birds get to cover a lot more “good news” conservation stories about bird species and significantly less “bad news” ones. So, power to the arm of ProAves in Chile, BirdLife International, the RSPB, the World Parrot Trust and all the agencies around the globe that are seeking to maintain biodiversity of avian species long past my – or your – sell-by-date.
And my final thoughts are for Raymond Sawyer and John Ellis, who both passed away this year. They knew each other well. Both of these great bird men will be remembered fondly by those who knew them. They will be sorely missed.
Hasta la vista...