Dickie Benyon prepares to make DEFRA's next statement on the UK's wildlife.
Eight fun Richard 'Dickie' Benyon facts:
1. Dickie is the richest MP in the House of Commons, his personal wealth is estimated at £110m and is Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries Department for Environment [sic?], Food & Rural Affairs.
2. Amongst a varied property portfolio, Dickie owns two large estates including 20,000-acres in southern England on which gamekeepers tend to his pheasants and kill the animals that might eat them. Last year a video came to light in which one of the aforementioned gamekeepers listed buzzards as the first of the predators he blamed for eating his pheasants. [Is it beyond the wit of man to roof poult pens? And what about the rampant predation of pheasants by cars? Shouldn't we be shooting them on the assembly line?]. By sheer coincidence, in 2012 Dickie sought to use public money to capture buzzards and destroy their nests, in order to help pheasant shoots and in 2013 revisited the issue (see below).
3. Birds of prey are illegally shot and poisoned by gamekeepers on shooting estates across the UK. Luckily for the poor, down-at-heel, landowners, under UK law, they carry no liability for the killings they directly or indirectly commission. In 2012, when Dickie was challenged in the House of Commons to introduce a law of vicarious liability, under which landowners would become responsible for illegal persecution of wildlife carried out by their staff, he dismissed the proposal out of hand.
4. In 2012 Benyon refused a request to make possession of carbofuran, a poison used to kill raptors, a criminal offence causing Caroline Lucas MP to point out that "The minister's shocking refusal to outlaw the possession of a poison used only by rogue gamekeepers to illegally kill birds of prey would be inexplicable were it not for his own cosy links to the shooting lobby."
5. During Dickie’s tenure, Natural England (NE), the statutory body charged with safeguarding England’s natural wealth, has been brought to its knees through gross under-funding. Luckily for Dickie, a severely weakened NE opens up the way for landowners attempting to cash in on the natural environment. By sheer coincidence (again), Benyon's Englefield Estate has sold the rights to quarry 200,000 tonnes of sand and gravel across 88 hectares of important wildlife habitat despite opposition from his neighbours and the local wildlife trust.
6. In a recent return to all things Buteo, a weakened NE appears to have been lent on by Benyon's department to issue licences to destroy buzzard nests. DEFRA then hid behind Natural England's direct responsibility for issuing said licences in an effort to avoid criticism. DEFRA claimed "NE is charged with determining applications for licences. Ministers did not make any decisions regarding this licence". However, documents detailing a conversation between a deputy director at DEFRA and a director of NE clearly point to DEFRA's direct and active involvement in these decisions: "Insofar as a moratorium was in place (following the decision of the department to review its proposed programme of research on buzzard predation in June 2012), there is now no impediment to Natural England assessing applications for bird of prey licences" and "This position has been confirmed in subsequent Ministerial correspondence (e.g. to National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, 21/11/2012)." In addition, whilst DEFRA involved The National Gamekeepers' Organisation in correspondence on the issue, apparently, the RSPB were kept in the dark.
7. Richard Benyon's boss is the renowned anti-science, climate change denying, irrationalist Owen Paterson.
8. Richard 'Dickie' Benyon is a creasy-faced clown.
The above largely constitutes a ham-fisted amalgam of snippets from the following:
Martin Harper's RSPB blog posts here and here.
Michael McCarthy's article in The Independent here.
George Monbiot's blog posts on The Guardian website here, here and here.
Tom Rowley's article in The Daily Telegraph [I know! The Torygraph!] here.
And, of course, the mighty Wikipedia here.