by Annette J Beveridge
The pandemic has infiltrated the world like a silent predator. With over 43, 000 deaths in the UK recorded to this disease at the time of writing and globally, over 1 million deaths, and set to rise, this pandemic threatens man’s existence in ways we could not have imagined. If we cast our minds back to March, we know, with the advantage of hindsight that lockdown in Britain was slow to happen. When the restrictions hit, we became the proverbial caged tigers pacing along the confines of our homes, just waiting and hoping for a chance to escape.
The silence at first, was unnatural, stark but then we adapted, and something miraculous occurred. We reconnected with the natural world and opened our eyes and our hearts realising how beautiful it was. As we lived our caged existence, nature broke free from the restrictions that humans placed upon it.
Sadly, while we waited and hoped for freedom, under the cover of Covid-19, crimes against nature increased.
We became used to seeing animals more frequently. Deer in the fields, otters running down the street, birds singing more loudly. People left their cars at home and walked, breathing in improved quality of air and listening to the sounds of the natural world. The sun shone and those who relished nature gained from this strange time. It felt as if time was frozen and while we were held hostage, the natural world blossomed.
The destructive beast of HS2
But while we kept safe from the virus, the cogs within Government, continued to turn. Against all hope, the controversial HS2 train line was given the green light. Apparently, workers, somehow, immune from the covid disease, began to create a destructive trail eroding areas of beauty which have now been left fragmented and bereft. Where trees and nature once thrived for centuries, the scene now is starkly apocalyptic – barren and nature-depleted.
HS2 is a non-departmental public body – sponsored by the Department for Transport and is funded by grant-in-aid. The cost for this high-speed train has grown considerably since its inception but so has its cost for nature. The anticipated charge is now over 100 billion pounds. But this is not any old railway line. The aim is to reduce the time travelling to and from London to Birmingham. But, ancient woodlands are irreplaceable.
Many of these trees have stood like silent sentries protecting us. They have remained strong against environmental changes. They have seen the growth of the human population and continued to thrive. Now, after hundreds of years, many have been felled and vital habitats have been desolated along with huge swathes of land. Wildlife has been isolated and delicate ecosystems fragmented. Those who live close by have been left emotionally bereft by the loss of their precious woodlands.
HS2 have taken over people’s homes, ruined lives and have now become aggressive to those who oppose it.
The government has enabled disjointed thinking. It claims that this high speed train will be part of a green recovery, but the reality is that it will not be carbon neutral for around100 years. As such, it will not meet the government’s own target of net zero by 2050. A green recovery and a destructive new trainline cannot be deemed green. How can it if it destroys so much of England’s natural healthy woodlands? The two contradict each other.
To lose areas of special scientific interest and nature reserves is an additional blow. Many rare and protected species are also threatened. So what does HS2 bring? Destruction, noise and pollution. For it to be authorised at the point when we were locked away in our homes, it could not have come at a worst time for those who were so opposed to it. Even so, some have continued to disrupt the development putting themselves at great risk. The reason is simple, protestors care about these trees and each one that is felled is like a physical pain and yet, they continue to fight in the hopes that the Government will finally call a halt to this unnecessary and costly project.
Our woodland areas are vital. Trees aid air quality, they improve water quality and mitigate flood risk. Trees offset carbon and so, help in the fight against climate change. They provide essential homes for wildlife and increase biodiversity. Simply, ancient woodlands are irreplaceable. HS2 is a colossal crime against nature.
Do you remember when fox hunting was banned? Nature lovers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. But that was not the end of this despicable act. Hunts still continue and are even obtaining government grants for their efforts – dirty money in anyone’s language. Those who enjoy these barbaric blood-sports claim to be following scents which have been artificially laid. In other words, they are trail hunting. However, the foxes and even, pets that have been killed on these hunts are deemed just ‘an accident.’
While people generally obeyed the government’s request to isolate, foxes lost their lives after being chased across the countryside with hounds snapping at their heels. They knew fear and desperation even running across the roads so to escape. Hunts have become responsible for the increased risk of traffic accidents.
The very act of hunting is barbaric but it has an even more sinister edge because these organised hunts often interfere with fox dens, blocking them to stop the fox from getting out or, from hiding underground. At times, these burrows are dug up to get the petrified animal out. This, like traditional hunting is illegal and yet, it continues. This hardly seems a sport, does it?
But there is more.
Who hasn’t melted at the sight of a fox cub? Yet, cub hunting occurs each year and these baby animals are often used to train the young hounds. The cubs are thrown into the pack to be killed. In fact, thousands are killed like this.
There are still almost 300 hunts in Britain, and until the Government strengthens the rules so that once and for all, hunting is illegal and enforceable, and councils and landowners ban such activities on their land, this blood sport will continue.
Covid-19 created a cover for these savage activities. Even Britain’s raptors were at risk during this time. Hunters grew bolder. There were so few people around. We were still caged and so, without human intervention, birds of prey often met their death while on driven grouse moors. Raptors were trapped, poisoned and shot. From Peregrine Falcons, to White-tailed Fish Eagles, to Hen Harriers, these stunning birds, often tagged, have died before they needed to simply because those who work on grouse moors deem it acceptable.
So, Covid-19 may have brought death and chaos to the human population but it seems that the ugly side of humanity has reared its head and those who like to destroy our environment or to persecute animals still continue. Why? Because the law-abiding people, the caring among us, shut ourselves away so that we did not spread the virus, we protected others. But without nature’s protectors, there are fewer people to stand up and fight. It is time we are all aware of the events that happen each day, or each week and to understand how much suffering occurs at the hands of our fellow humans.
If you would like to take action and write the wrongs, take a look here.