Fighting for Birds: 25 Years in Nature Conservation

by Mark Avery.

An experienced pragmatist describes the minefield that is nature conservation.

Fighting For Birds

I downloaded this book to my Kindle after hearing Mark Avery interviewed on episode 94 of Charlie Moores' excellent Talking Naturally podcast. Avery is the outspoken former Conservation Director of the RSPB. He is also a scientist and a pragmatist.

Fighting For Birds describes Avery's 25-year (so far) career in nature conservation, the issues it entails, and the politics involved. The first part of the book describes Avery's early scientific research into birds, which, as a science groupie, I found particularly interesting. Avery then goes on to discuss numerous conservation topics. He is very good at describing the pros and cons of specific issues: quite often, there are differing views on what is the right thing to do. For example, is it right for the RSPB to control (i.e. kill) predators to protect its reserves? Avery is also particularly good on the politics of conservation.

One thing which did have me spitting feathers was to learn that it is a condition of the RSPB's royal charter that they will not campaign against game-shooting. As a republican and an RSPB member who lives just below a Pennine grouse-shooting moor, I say bollocks to that! It's time to drop the 'royal', come off the sodding fence, and say that shooting wild birds for fun is wrong.

The only thing that disappointed me about Avery's otherwise excellent book is the omission that Chris Packham picks up on in the Foreword: there is no mention of the issue of domestic cats. The RSPB also skirts very tentatively around this issue—most likely because a large proportion of their members will be cat owners. Yes, we know that scientists are still looking into the issue, but domestic cats kill wild birds (and other creatures) for fun, and are maintained at environmentally unsustainable levels by irresponsible owners with their tins of Wiskas.

String 'em up, I say.

(The cats, I mean.)

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