THE BLOG

Reflecting on Significant Events for Animals, and What 2016 Holds...

12/01/2016 09:11 GMT | Updated 11/01/2017 10:12 GMT

It's a New Year, and it's always at this time that people like me get all pensive - thinking about the year just gone and the year ahead. Although many will be thinking of a host of resolutions and changes, new jobs, new diet and the like, for me and many like me my thoughts always relate to animals.

2015 was a big year for animals! Last year saw the 10-year anniversary of the implementation of the Hunting Act in the UK - a milestone in IFAW's fight for protection for foxes and other wild mammals. Then just hours before it was due to take place, news came through that the Government had decided to postpone a vote on amending the Hunting Act. If passed, this amendment would have severely weakened the hunting ban and had a devastating impact on wildlife.

World Elephant Day was an opportunity to both celebrate these wonderful animals, and draw the world's attention to their terrible plight; a truly shocking statistic is that an elephant is killed for its ivory every 15 minutes. In 2015 more than 32 tonnes of poached ivory was reported seized, the majority of the 143 seizures taking place in Thailand, Vietnam and China and in countries across Africa.

At a march for elephants in London thousands gathered with me, Nicky Campbell and other people who care passionately about our environment and our wildlife, as we spoke to the crowd about what we need to do and what we want to see. The event culminated with delivery of a letter in person to Number 10 Downing Street demanding that the Government bans the domestic ivory trade, which likely acts as a mask for illicit trade in ivory, right here on our doorstep.

In the summer, the world was shocked and outraged by the killing of Cecil the lion, a famous lion which suffered a slow and painful death after being hunted for fun as a 'trophy' in Zimbabwe. The media appetite for this story was insatiable, and I was interviewed on numerous national television programmes condemning barbaric trophy hunting, and rejecting myths about the amount of money that trophy hunters bring to conservation, when the reality is that IFAW reported as little as 3% of the blood money goes back to the local community.

But we hope that Cecil's death wasn't in vain, and later on in the year France announced it was banning the import of lion trophies, and recently came the news that the United States would reclassify lions as an endangered species, giving them better protection.

The controversial badger cull took place again for a third year, adding Dorset to the existing cull zones of Somerset and Gloucestershire. I was honoured to be invited along to one of the dedicated volunteer badger patrols on a cold wet night in Gloucestershire, and I am very grateful to the army of dedicated volunteers who patrolled the cull zones night after night to help wounded badgers. The culls took place with drastically reduced targets for the number of badgers that needed to be killed. It was therefore no surprise when the Government announced it had been a success, but a devastating blow to learn they now plan to roll-out the cull to other areas.

I was delighted to hear more positive animal stories when I had the pleasure of meeting some of the amazing winners of IFAW's annual Animal Action Awards, which recognise people in the UK doing amazing work in conservation or animal rescue.

A great result in 2015 means that thousands of seals per year will continue to be saved after a threat to the EU ban on commercial seal products was rejected. IFAW has campaigned for decades against cruel commercial seal hunts so this is a brilliant victory for seals.

We also had the most amazing news that a rare Siberian tiger which had been orphaned and rehabilitated for release in the wild had given birth to cubs. It was incredibly fortunate that a remote camera trap captured footage of Zolushka and her cubs, and the delightful video of the two youngsters clambering all over their mother was seen all around the world.

Less palatable was reading the reports on the departure of the Japanese whaling fleet for so-called 'scientific whaling' in Antarctica. IFAW is urging the UK Government to challenge Japan's resumption of whaling and lack of regard for international law. If you agree that there is no place for this pseudo-science, you can add your name to our petition here.

At the end of the year, hunting rose to prominence again with the familiar pictures of Boxing Day hunts, and also the launch of IFAW's 'Trail Of Lies' report; the most comprehensive study of the practice of trail hunting in the UK. We showed evidence to suggest trail hunting is simply a made-up concept designed only to provide a false alibi if someone gets caught hunting a fox, allowing them to effectively continue hunting just how they always have done with utter disrespect for the foxes and the integrity of the law.

Looking ahead to 2016 we will all be working hard to protect the Hunting Act from any threat of repeal or amendments that would further reduce protection for Britain's wild mammals, despite a recent survey showing that more people than ever are opposed to hunting - a staggering 83%, with more people in the countryside against it than in the towns and cities! Hunters are still flouting the law and we continue to call for better enforcement to protect British wildlife from being cruelly chased or killed for fun.

We are appealing for people to sign up to our letter urging the Government to protect the vital National Wildlife Crime Unit and we will find out in March whether funding will be continued. We also wait to see whether the Government will respond to lobbying on implementing its promised UK ivory ban.

The cruel and unscientific badger cull will potentially be bigger than ever this year after the Government announced it would be widened to other areas, but wildlife campaigners across the country will remain focused and not give up our fight to stop these cruel and pointless culls.

In the international arena, this year will be a big one for animal conservationists as it's the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting, held every three years and this year taking place in South Africa. The other big international event will be the International Whaling Commission (IWC) biennial meeting in Slovenia.

It's a New Year, but it's a permanent resolution to protect individual animals, save threatened species and conserve habitats and ecosystems.

If you're interested in finding out more about IFAW or how to help animals, please visit www.ifaw.org