Last weekend saw something amazing happen - thousands of people coming together in Birmingham, in the heart of England to give a voice to British wildlife. They came to march, to protest against what is seen as a common disregard for so many of our native species and to celebrate our truly wonderful wildlife.
They say that out of tiny acorns grow great oaks, and I know this first hand. Around two years ago I remember being out on a cold evening in Bedford for one of the first of what later grew to be known as the 'Badger Army' marches. A small, dedicated and passionate bunch of wildlife lovers held a riverside vigil for the badgers about to be killed as part of the massively unpopular (and scientifically pointless) badger cull, followed by a march and then some intense chatter and hatching of action plans in a local pub late into the night. What happened that day was the birth of something amazing - people who felt they didn't have a voice, coming together to find one. Their goal was clear - to tell the Government that as voters they should be listened to, and that as a nation of animal lovers we are better than this.
What Birmingham's Wildlife Festival showed on Saturday was that this momentum is still there and it's growing bigger and bigger by the day. It showed that the people of Britain will not sit and listen in silence anymore. What's more, this time it wasn't just about the badgers!
On behalf of IFAW, one of the lead sponsors of the event, I spoke to a passionate and engaged audience about the issues of the cull, but mainly about fox hunting. Yes it's banned (exactly 10 years ago), but yes - it still happens. I explained that the Hunting Act is good but it needs enforcement, that the concept of trail hunting seems to have been developed simply to allow hunts to carry on with 'business as usual' post-ban and to provide a false alibi should someone catch them. As well as foxes, we heard from many of my friends and former colleagues about the persecution of hares, badgers, birds and more.
Throughout the day shoppers, students and people young and old came to our stand to learn more, to ask us what they could do to help their wildlife and to grab their photo with our mascot, Freddie the Fox, who proved massively popular on the day! With so much going on throughout the day, it was great to see people stay for many hours, eating hearty animal friendly food and listening to some great bands. It was a chance to protest, to meet like-minded people and to learn about the issues, but most of all it was a chance to celebrate that if you love and care about wildlife you are in good company here in the UK.
So, politicians, listen up (because there's a General Election beckoning!): If hard-working, dedicated volunteers can put together an event like this in their own time and if thousands of people turn up on a cold, wet and windy Saturday in Birmingham to call for better protection for our British wildlife, then something most definitely must be up.
These are issues that cannot be ignored - so listen to your voters and help us make a change for good.
To read IFAW's Manifesto for Animals or to learn more about fox hunting visit www.ifaw.org