It’s a crying shame, but we’ve just found out that respected British birdkeeper Ted Easter from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire has been clobbered with a huge fine and costs totally almost £20,000, having been prosecuted by the RSPCA. The four-day trial at King’s Lynn Magistrates court has caused no end of trauma for Mr Easter, his wife Madhuri, as well as defence witnesses Brian Fisher and Nigel Higgins.
This 71-year-old, respectable, former school teacher merely offered to take on some shrikes, which the RSPCA were due to destroy and instead had the full force of the charity unleashed upon him. However, it’s a salutary lesson for all British birdkeepers that no longer will close-ringing hold up as legitimate evidence of husbandry. Paperwork going back two generations, to grandparents of birds is all that will save you, should the RSPCA get you into court. As Mr Easter said, this ruling has huge implications for the British bird fancy. We await the fallout. In the meantime, Mr Easter is pondering the wisdom of an appeal.
But the crux of the matter is that with the keeping of British birds, your rights are diametrically opposite to the main tenet of British law, as you are now guilty till proven innocent. And proving your innocence can be hugely difficult. This travesty of legal rights needs to be opposed, but it will take money and a co-ordinated effort from the British birdkeeping fancy.
Moving on, this week has been dominated by stories about swans. We’ve only published three of them across our four pages of news, but there were several others that on another day would have merited attention. Not least one about a flock of eight swans being wiped out by someone with an air rifle.
One of my favourite photos of recent weeks has to be the image we’ve used of a harpy eagle. Terrifying, is the word. It looks like a cross between a medieval warrior and something off Doctor Who. If I was a three-toed sloth in the jungles of Central America I’d get a shift on if one of these guys came calling.
And lastly, a word of warning, if you’re planning a weekend break in Italy at this time of year, it might be a good idea to take a tin hat. It seems that the Italians’ well-known penchant for shooting doesn’t just extend to birds and boars, as 35 people have been shot and killed in the last four months by wayward marksmen, with a further 74 injured. The last person to die was out mushroom picking, but the majority were just going for a walk. Tread carefully.
Hasta la vista, amigos…