No fracking way!

For many years the government has been spending a large amount of money on the research of the highly controversial process of ‘fracking’. Fracking is the process in which holes are drilled deep in to the earth’s crust and small explosions are set off deep underground in order to extract shale gas. This research has also been to find out what areas of the UK have good enough shale reserves to carry out the process and there have been up to 8000 fracking sites proposed for the country, including in Herefordshire! Recently Herefordshire Council has revealed three potential sites in the east of the county in which fracking could take place; Fownhope, Much Marcle and Eastnor.

What’s the problem?

Since similar areas have been used for exploratory sites, the problems have been clear to see. These problems are both environmental and economic. In the US, where ‘fracking’ has been established for a number of years, water supplies have been poisoned, seismic activity has increased and some people have experienced several linked health issues. In 2011, earth tremors were caused in Lancashire after test drilling there. Likewise, heavy vehicle activity associated with fracking in such small, rural places is neither good for the quality of life of residents, their health or the environment. Many are also opposed to it as it furthers the use of fossil fuels, a trend which environmental campaigners argue should be reversed.

The economic issues are equally as serious, house prices in some areas have dropped up to 30% in some areas of the country where the oil company Cuadrilla has started the construction process and many people have struggled to obtain house insurance.

Herefordshire is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with prestine countryside and what is generally seen as a green and healthy area to live. Fracking will almost definitely have an impact on the landscape of the county, with tourism likely to suffer. As an agricultural county, there are also potential risks to this industry from fracking. Experience in the US shows that fracking can create problems for local agriculture, including the loss of agricultural land, and concerns about clean water supplies.

Opposition rising

Opposition to fracking has been hitting the headlines recently. National newspapers have been running pieces on the practise of fracking, and the opposition to it, for a number of weeks now; namely because of events in Balcombe, West Sussex. Residents and environmentalists there have peacefully been opposing the site recently erected by Cuadrilla and have proved to be a force to be reckoned with. They successfully stopped the process from starting for over a week, despite the army of police officers deployed to push it through. This weekend saw a ‘weekend of action’ by protesters at the site, with camps set up for the weekend, a protest march which was 2,000-strong and a series of blockades, occupations and other forms of ‘direct action’ taking place against Cuadrilla and associated companies.

The opposition to fracking in Herefordshire has also been building. Nearly 400 people have signed an online petition to get Herefordshire council to reject all planning applications they get that relate to fracking, both exploratory and sites proper. A facebook campaign page has also been set up and meetings are being arranged to discuss the possibility of fracking in the county and what to do about it.

The coming weeks and months will show which way it’s going to go; will drilling companies start applying to drill in Herefordshire or is it just a case of ‘what if?’ Time will tell but the wheels are already in motion to oppose such a move. For any campaign against fracking to be successful, it needs to ensured that local people and the concerns of their communities are at the forefront of any camapign, as we have seen to an extent in Balcombe. Professional activists parachuting in from elsewhere just won’t cut the mustard, especially if drilling is rolled out to thousands of potential sites across the country.

Resources and more information

Petition against fracking in Herefordshire

‘Ban Fracking in Herefordshire’ facebook page

Frack Off (UK)

by Meadow Ender

Ledbury Hunt filmed killing fox

It seems that not a weekend goes by without a hunt getting negative press or showing their truly outrageous colours.

A couple of weeks ago we reported on the case of Lee Peters, the huntsman of the Ross Harriers Hunt, who was found guilty of racially abusing a hunt saboteur. Last week the Hereford Times also reported on he case, yesterday putting their story online.

Last weekend a video appeared on Youtube, showing hunt monitors literally saving a fox from the jaws of hounds.

Now this week, a graphic video has been released showing the hounds of the Ledbury Hunt killing a fox on Friday 13rd November.

A Hunt Saboteurs Association press release on the horrendous incident said:

“Graphic footage of the Ledbury Hunt killing a fox has today been released. The incident happened on the 23rd November 2012 in a private garden in Eldersfield, Gloucestershire and was captured on film by members of Three Counties and Coventry Hunt saboteurs.

They were sadly too late to rescue the fox, but one did obtain film of the hounds repeatedly savaging the animal for a protracted period, whilst she and a colleague attempted to get the dogs off it. It is unclear at what point the fox succumbed to its multiple wounds, but when they were able to retrieve the animal from the pack it had been effectively disembowelled.

Footage of the kill, and from beforehand, is being examined by lawyers from the RSPCA to determine if there are grounds for prosecution under the Hunting Act. Results of a post-mortem are being withheld pending a decision.”

 

To take action against fox hunting, visit:

Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs

Hunt Saboteurs Association

Badger cull delayed until next summer

The pilot badger culls planned for two areas in the West Country have been postponed until next summer.

The Heckler previously reported on the trial badger culls, planned to begin in areas of west Somerset and west Gloucestershire this autumn. But last week the badgers and the animal activists opposing the cull won a reprieve with the news breaking that the cull would not begin until at least the summer of 2013.

Initially rumours were rife that the cull was about to commence, with areas near badger setts found baited and Natural England working around the clock to issue the final licences to farmers and marksmen. But at the 11th hour (quite literally), the task ahead seemed too overwhelming and uncertain. The National Farmers Union wrote to DEFRA asking for its postponement, claiming that the cull “cannot be confident of removing at least 70 per cent of the populations.” This followed the news that the number of badgers in the cull zones had been vastly underestimated.

Animal rights and badger activists are continuing to oppose the cull, by using the additional delay to garner more public support for their campaign and putting the pressure on those who will be carrying out the cull.

Hunt Saboteurs plan to use ‘non-violent direct action’ to disrupt the cull if and when it goes ahead

On 14th October, around 80 hunt saboteurs and animal activists gathered at the Forthampton shooting estate, near Tewkesbury, to “show their disapproval at the proposed cull.” Dozens of police officers, additional private security and even a police helicopter were mobilised to keep an eye on the protesters, who did little more than walk around footpaths on the estate, where badger culling was due to take place. The Hunt Saboteurs Association issued a press release detailing the protest, which can be read here.

According to the campaign group ‘Stop the Cull,’ fox hunt saboteurs and anti-cull activists are planning to attend the opening meet of the Ledbury Hunt at the Corse Lawn Hotel on Friday 2nd November, as the hunt has a number of people involved with the cull within its ranks and the hotel is linked to the Forthampton Estate.

For continued updates or to get involved in opposing the cull, visit the Stop the Cull and Hunt Saboteurs Association websites.

Conflict in the countryside as badger cull set to start

Yesterday over a hundred people gathered outside the annual Tory Party Conference in Birmingham to protest against the upcoming pilot badger cull planned for two areas in the West Country, the latest part of an increasingly intense debate over the morality and practicality of killing badgers to lower TB in cattle. 

For a number of months now a battle has been brewing in the countryside, between dairy farmers and those advocating a cull of badgers, and seemingly the vast majority of the public who’re opposed to the cull alongside the animal rights activists vowing to stop it. It looks like the cull is about to begin and this battle may finally come out into the open.

This cull is to be a ‘trial’ held over 4 years, consisting of 6 week periods when badgers can be shot. Although the exact locations of the cull are being kept secret, this initial trial will be held in two general areas; west Somerset including parts of Exmoor and the Taunton Deane district and west Gloucestershire, including the Forest of Dean and stretching to Tewkesbury (including parts of the Malvern Hills district and small areas of southern Herefordshire). Areas near badger sets will be ‘baited’ with peanuts to encourage badgers, where marksmen will be waiting to shoot them at night.

 

DEFRA and the National Farmers’ Union are claiming that a cull is an effective way of lowering tuberculosis in dairy cows, a disease which some claim costs the farming industry and the government an estimated £75-100m a year. If carried out correctly and meeting certain criteria, culling could reduce incidence of bovine TB by an average of 16% over 9 years. For it to be effective, it is said that over 70% of badgers in the cull areas will need to be killed. It is believed that up to 130,000 badgers could be killed during the cull period.

 

Opponents from all corners are slamming this move for its immorality as well as its scientific invalidity. Many believe that the figures simply do not add up, and that the number of badgers that would need to be killed far outweighs such a small decrease in cases of bovine TB. DEFRA have issued guidelines to marksmen taking part in the cull, including diagrams of which areas of the body they need to target. Despite this, it is still likely that some badgers will not be killed outright and will suffer a longer and more painful death. Vaccination is being cited as a much more ethical way of controlling the spread of TB, rather than a mass shooting. Vaccinating badgers that are caught in cages is currently being used and trialed in an area in Devon, as well as in Wales and Gloucestershire.

 

The science and the figures used to support the cull are also being questioned. Lord Krebs, a government science adviser and the mastermind behind another, more wide-spread trial badger cull in the 1990s recently came out saying he believed the cull scheme was ‘crazy.’ The Badger Trust went to the High Court earlier in the summer, hoping to get the badger cull overruled. Their case was built on their belief that the cull would be both ‘illegal and unscientific.’ It failed, but one of their main points what that the shooting of badgers would actually spread TB, as it would disperse badgers over a wider area more quickly and others would move in to take over territory that they had vacated.

Hunt Saboteurs Association members join others in a protest against the cull outside the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham at the weekend

A whole host of badger and animal rights groups have come out to oppose the cull. ‘Team Badger,’ consisting of well known groups such as the RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports, the Badger Trust, including a number of celebrities (most notably Brian May), have been involved in a mass publicity campaign, through the media and by holding a series of well-attended speeches and meetings. They also created an online e-petition, calling on the cull to be banned. Within 3 weeks of being launched it reached over 100,000 signatures, meaning it will be debated in parliament.

 

Animal rights and vegan out-reach organisation, VIVA!, have been calling on the public to boycott the milk and dairy industry, stating the fact that it is dairy farmers and their lobbying groups initiating the cull.

 

Grassroots group ‘Stop the Cull’ have also been hitting the headlines, leaking sensitive information on the cull on their website and gathering information to help them take ‘non-violent direct action’ to disrupt the cull when it starts. The Hunt Saboteurs Association have also released statements saying they have recruited a number of new activists who are willing to go with them into the cull areas when it starts to sabotage  it. Hunt saboteurs groups and groups associated with ‘Stop the Cull’ claim they will turn up at night with powerful torches, air horns and wearing hi-visibility vests to scare off badgers and make the job of the marksmen difficult. Marksmen carrying out the shooting have been instructed to disarm their weapons and move away from the area if the come across demonstrators at night.

Animal rights activists have been collecting information and carrying out surveillance in the cull areas to help them take action when the cull begins

It was thought that the cull may have to be delayed until next year following the failed judicial reviews, appeals and delays in the issuing of the licenses allowing farmers to carry out the cull. But last week the second license was issued allowing farmers and marksmen to shoot badgers in Somerset and it now looks like it is set to start imminently. Police leave for Gloucestershire Constabulary has been cancelled until January in anticipation of protests and the media circus is sure to arrive soon. Whether the badger cull will be effectively carried out it yet to be seen, but it is almost certain that there are many who will be out in the countryside prepared to stop it.

 

People interested in helping to stop the cull or help with donations of money or equipment have been urged to get in touch with their local hunt saboteurs group or to contact Stop the Cull. Details for these, and other resources regarding the cull can be found below.  

Stop the Cull (Coalition of groups and activists collecting information and coordinating groups to take action against the cull)

Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs (Hunt saboteurs in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire who’ll be taking ‘non-violent direct action’ to try and stop the cull)

Hunt Saboteurs Association (National Hunt Saboteurs website with press releases and information about the cull)

Team Badger (Coalition made up of the Badger Trust, RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and others)

VIVA! pledge to boycott dairy

‘Stop the Badger Cull’ e-petition

h.Energy: Sustainable Herefordshire Week

h.Energy kicked off early last week with a flash mob in Hereford High Town. Over 100 people surprised shoppers by breaking into song. The organisers were equally surprised when many of the shoppers joined in for the encore. (click here to see footage of the flash mob)

Now in it’s third year, h.Energy has over 100 events taking place throughout the county. Describing itself as “a week-long county-wide open exhibition of events and activities about living more sustainably in Herefordshire.” Their mission is to “demonstrate that using renewable local resources, avoiding waste and reducing energy usage is just common sense”.

Climate change is something everyone is aware of but not everyone feels they are in a position to do anything about it. It’s also not a priority for everyone. If you are facing housing, employment or social problems, getting your recycling sorted isn’t going to be top of the list. Hopefully this years h.Energy will be more accessible to people outside of the ‘green ghetto’. They have certainly made the effort to involve more families with the ‘Ladybird Safari’ of events. A full list of what’s happening can be found here.

Organisers are hoping that this years attendance will exceed that of last year when 2500 people took part. With a diverse group of participants from schools, farms and community groups to shops, restaurants and charities, every aspect of sustainability is covered. Transport, energy generation, food, energy saving, recycling, community empowerment, local economy, permaculture and alternative finance, the list goes on.

So even though the h.Energy folk aren’t yet pushing for the revolution that would rid us of the climate damaging profit driven economy, it’s certainly something to get involved with and support.

h.Energy runs from 13th-21st October, download thier brochure here

@Rural_Anarchist