THE EU & WILDLIFE
I know many of us out there are fed-up with European Union (EU) and its sometimes silly and pedantic rules about what shape fruit and veg should be and how many rights and benefits immigrants can claim. I do not think common sense interpretation of these rules in the real world has always come about. Worst of all is the stupidity of the Euro. Trying to put tiny economies such as Greece and Portugal on a level footing with the might of Germany and France could only end in austerity for the weaker nations. Has the EU done any good though? Well, yes actually. It pushed human rights and gender equality, maybe a bit over zealously at times but it did no harm to. The other area the EU has excelled at, yes excelled, is environmental protection.
The UK was pretty good at nature conservation before, despite some horrendous abuses of power and hard headed destruction of some irreplaceable sites, the UK was one of the better governments at nature conservation. But as I said too often the bulldozers were sent in to prove a point rather than to do the best for everyone, because wildlife could not be allowed to stand in the way of national schemes and important business. With the EU came new directives to save key habitats and as much biodiversity as possible. These culminated in the creation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). These put an end to nearly all government abuses.
I know this from personal experience, as we campaigned tirelessly to try and save the lowland raised bogs of the Humberhead Peatlands: Thorne and Hatfield Moors. It frequently felt as though all hope was lost and no one but us few cared and we came ever so frighteningly close to losing these wonderfully unique sites forever. But then with a sympathetic Labour government and excellent MPs the site got designated a SPA for its globally important number of breeding European Nightjar, it was also proposed to be designated as a SAC as a crucial habitat capable of restoration and improvement. This secured around £18M to buy the site and its remaining peat mining rights and initial restoration work. The site is now part of the EU wide Natura 2000 sites of vital importance on a continental scale, and though its protection cannot be said to be total (climate change etc may kill the site) it is far better than it ever would have been if left just to the UK government to handle.
The EU policies have not just benefitted my local patch with protection they have also focused on such global issues as protection of migratory birds, principally by trying to bring in legislation to limit the appalling twice annual slaughter of birds around the Mediterranean region. Much of this massacre kills endangered species and serves no purpose. EU legislation has been used to curb the worst excesses and to limit the areas and time period of the shoot. This is backed up with fines for individuals and penalties for member states for non-compliance. While not perfect and there is still a way to go, this would never have been implemented if left to each individual state to manage.
Yet another example where EU legislation has worked is in halting the proposed highly destructive highway construction in Poland of Bia Baltica saving the Biebrza marshes. It has helped vulnerable species such as Iberian Lynx and re-introduction of Lammergeyer to former areas. Yet that is not all. The EU has set binding targets for clean air and water and beaches and for recycling of waste. It has also set some of the most stringent legally binding targets in the world for CO2 and other greenhouse gas causing emission reduction. These regulations are more effective than individual government measures because their mechanisms are designed to be isolated from interference by those governments. Because generally the strictest policies found in any EU state are adopted throughout the EU and because meaningful fines will be imposed for abuses this ensures a high level of compliance.
Of course the system is not perfect and abuses by industry still go on, for instance with the fossil fuel industry with regard to pushing through government support for fracking (hydraulic fracturing), which if examples from the US and Canada were to be observed, then legislation needs tightening far more not slackening. Yet the UK government in particular is keener to promote this highly polluting, environmentally damaging and human rights abusing CO2 emitting industry far more than it is trying to promote sustainable CO2 neutral environmentally friendlier energy production (see my Fracking Stupid article on this website). The UK government also seems overly keen on trying to promote GMO crops and meat and dairy fed on it. This may be because both these industries heavily support the Conservative government; in fact the fossil fuel industry provides most of the Tory funding! (Who said divest!!!). (see my article on GMOs on this website).
So when it comes to voting in the UK or EU elections, please bear in mind all the above and resist the impulse to give the EU a peace of your mind, that you may sorely regret later. No matter how attractive that two fingered vote may seem at the time it will be a sorry mistake to vote for the likes of UKIP. The EU and UK wildlife legislation would suffer greatly, as UKIP is not an environmentally friendly party (look at their policies on their website). Telling the EU to buzz off may give fleeting joy, but the EU is not going away and the UK will always be doing most of its trade with it anyway. Better to be in than out. We are part of the EU economy and bio-geographical region whether we like it or not and if we want to influence what goes on in our backyard and on a worldwide scale then we are stronger as part of the EU alliance than on our own. Just as you cannot protect migratory birds in just one country so you cannot protect the wider environment by isolationism.