By Annette J Beveridge
The pandemic infiltrated the world like a silent predator and caused the loss of human life on a massive scale. While there was the potential for nature to thrive while we were all locked away, under the cover of Covid-19, many animals came to an untimely end.
But let’s turn the clock back for a moment – to March 2020, when the true reality of the Covid-19 virus was making its presence felt. The lockdown periods were extraordinary. The silence at first – unnatural, stark, but then, we adapted living a confined life, afraid and stressed. But while we were mainly locked away, some of nature’s wonders came to the fore. We heard birds singing and the sound resonated with us like never before. Even those who had not been nature lovers felt the peace that being in nature afforded.
As we lived our caged existence, nature broke free from the restrictions that we placed upon it. We became used to seeing animals more frequently. Suddenly, there were deer out in the open, otters running down the street, and goats came down from the hills, roaming around towns. People stopped driving so much and walked and breathed in fresh air, and they listened to the sounds of the natural world which helped to offset stress. The sun shone and those who embraced nature, gained from this strange new world. It felt as if time was frozen and while we were held hostage, the natural world blossomed.
The destructive beast of HS2
The Government’s cogs continued to turn and against all hope, the controversial HS2 train line was given the green light. This meant stripping land back to the core. Workers focused on decimating areas of natural beauty eroding an unsightly trail through ancient woodlands. Where trees and nature once thrived for centuries, it turned into a starkly apocalyptic, barren and nature-depleted landscape.
While the costs for HS2 will exceed over 100 billion pounds and rising, the real cost is to nature. Ancient woodlands, established nature reserves, and sites of scientific interest were plundered. Many of the trees that stood like silent sentries protecting us, and which remained strong against environmental changes, watching the growth of the human population have gone. Vital habitats now stand bare. 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 destroyed homes, ruined lives and became an aggressive force to all who opposed it.
The Government enabled disjointed thinking. While promising to counteract the threat of the climate emergency, it caused massive carbon loss through the destruction of ancient woodlands. They claim 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 and will not aid the government’s own target of net zero by 2050. A green recovery and HS2 are opposing forces.
To lose areas of special scientific interest and established nature reserves is an additional blow. Many rare and protected species are threatened. Nesting birds and roosting bats….gone. Badger setts destroyed. So what does HS2 bring? Destruction, noise and pollution. If this is progress, it will take a long time for nature to recover even with the HS2 company promising to replant trees. This will not help in the fight against the climate emergency for years to come. Every tree counts but they are being felled at a cost to our own health and wellbeing.
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 therefore, is a colossal crime against nature.
While we were hiding from the threat of the virus, fox hunting continued under the guise of trail hunting. Some hunts even gained thousands of pounds of public money in the form of government grants – dirty money in anyone’s language. Those who enjoy these barbaric blood-sports may claim to be following artificial scents but foxes and pets are being killed as a result. While people generally obeyed the government’s request to isolate, the hunts were out chasing foxes across the countryside with hounds snapping at their heels. These hunts were exempt from many of the rules because it was an outdoor sport.
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 escaping, 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.
Even Britain’s raptors became a target during lockdown. Hunters grew bolder as there were so few people about. Without witnesses, birds of prey met their death – often while on driven grouse moors and raptors were trapped, poisoned or shot. From Peregrine Falcons, to White-tailed Fish Eagles, to Hen Harriers, these stunning birds, often tagged, died before they needed to. There were too few people around to notice this illegal attack on raptors but awareness is one way to fight back. It is vital to report any signs of traps, or if you see someone shooting at birds and where dead raptors are found, report them. Only then, can we hold these people to account.
So, Covid-19 may have brought death and chaos to the human population but it seems that the ugly side of humanity survived and thrived 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 were 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 man. Nature is under threat due to climate change, we do not know what will happen to the birds and animals that we love so much so we really do not need our fellow man to destroy all that is precious now.
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