Who is the Real Hallowe’en Monster Lurking in the Woods?

Forget spiders, black cats and bats. The scariest thing in nature?

We are.

Fear is natural. Fear is good. In the wild, fear keeps animals alive. It sounds strange, but it’s actually fear that keeps ecosystems in balance.

It’s the ‘trophic cascade effect’. Take an apex predator like the wolf, at the top of the food chain. The wolf’s presence keeps deer ‘on their toes’. Instead of standing in one spot grazing vegetation down to the ground, they are wary, stopping only briefly, constantly on the move. So plant life proliferates and in doing so provides habitat and food for the smaller animals.

To find out how astounding this is in bringing about an explosion of life, both plant and animal, watch this beautiful short video about wolves in Yellowstone. It will gladden your heart.

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that a horrifying 75% of apex predators, the large carnivores such as wolves, bears and big cats, are in decline. And as the Living Planet Report tells us, it is all down to us humans. We are driving plants and animals extinct at 1,000 times the natural background rate.

But take away the apex predators, and biodiversity rapidly declines.

Western University decided to test whether we humans could take the place of the missing big beasts as ‘the monster-in-the-woods’, and provide that vital fear factor to keep ecosystems healthy.

Their findings were not good. For a start, human hunters kill four times as many smaller carnivores as do the nonhuman predators. That in itself throws the ecosystem out of kilter.

And, it turned out that we are just too darn scary. So frightening, in fact, as to induce “paralysing terror” in the badgers tested on in the research. Having the sounds of large carnivores played to them naturally did put the badgers on their guard, and they made fewer trips to their usual foraging spots. But when the sound of people talking was played, only a handful of the bravest ventured out at all, and the time they spent feeding was dramatically reduced. Most of the badgers decided the safest option was to keep their heads down, stay at home and not go out to feed at all.

So to the smaller animals, we are more to be feared than wolves and bears. Some kudos!  We humans, the scariest creature on the planet.

We are not just messing up ecosystems by causing the decline in apex predator populations. It seems we are directly affecting the behaviour of the remaining animals in those habitats. The researchers concluded that “Humans may be distorting ecosystem processes even more than previously imagined.”

When you consider that at least 83 percent of the Earth’s land surface is directly affected by the presence of humans and human activity in one way or another, this research is incredibly bad news for the remaining 17% that’s left for the animals.

Controlling the growth of the human population is going to be vital in reducing our impact, it goes without saying. But if we as individuals want to help give our fellow earth-dwellers, the nonhumans, a bit more space to live than that pitiful 17%, if we want them to survive at all, we can make a difference by taking animal products off our plate, and out of our lives. We must.

Wishing you a ton of fun this Hallowe’en – dress up, spook your neighbours!

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And then November 1st – time for us to make Planet Earth a whole lot less scary for the animals. November is World Vegan Month, the perfect time for us humans to start reducing our heavy footprint on the planet.

To make space for the animals.

Cute & Creepy Animal-Friendly Hallowe’en Recipes here

Help to Go Vegan here

Source

The Real Monster in the Woods – The Medium

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UK one of “least natural countries in the world”

“The UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world with more than one in seven species facing extinction and more than half in decline, according to the State of Nature 2016 report.”

“Farming takes responsibility for the iconic British countryside,”  – Guy Smith for the NFU. Yes Guy, and not in a good way.

It’s no surprise to me that the report lays most of the blame for this disturbing state of affairs squarely at the door of those who claim to be the true guardians of our countryside – the farmers.

Four decades of intensive farming has had an “overwhelmingly negative” effect on wildlife. So say the 50 different organisations contributing to the report, which include the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Trust, the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum.

The NFU is faced yet again with scientifically-researched, properly accredited expert evidence that spells out in capital letters the damaging results of farmers’ bad practice.

How do they respond? As they always do – with denial. They simply dismiss the report. Just like that.

Each time science slaps them with unwelcome news, the farmers typically respond with hands over ears and heads in the sand. But the trouble is, when the NFU says “Jump!” the Tory government says, “How high”.

And so our nature suffers. Wildlife suffers. We’ve seen it so many times before. Take bee-killing pesticides and the culling of badgers as just two devastating instances.

Urbanisation, wetland drainage and climate change have also played their part in bringing our nature to this sorry state, though to a far lesser degree.

“The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before” – David Attenborough

hedgehog-child-1701524_960_720

Some facts from the State of Nature report covering the years 1970 – 2013

    • A massive 75% of the UK landmass is now under agricultural use
    • Use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides has greatly increased, including the deadly neonics which are killing our bees
    • Marginal habitats like ponds and hedgerows have been taken out
    • There’s been a 20% decline in farmland species
    • 54% decline in farmland birds
    • 41% decline in farmland butterflies
    • 56% decline in total UK species
    • Of 8,000 species, 15% are critically endangered

The UK has lost significantly more nature than the world average. It’s dangerously close to the same nature-deplete level as Hong Kong.

Some of our most iconic animals are at risk of extinction –

  • the kingfisher
  • the water vole
  • the curlew
  • the hedgehog
  • the turtle dove
  • the willow tit

kingfisher-1557650_960_720

The much revered naturalist David Attenborough is still optimistic that all may not be lost:

“Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”

Country Landowner’s Association Tim Breitmayer calls for farmers and conservationists to work together:

“The report makes sobering reading and paints a clear picture of significant decline over 40 years. It reminds us how much there is to do to reintroduce habitats and species into our natural environment and protect them.”

Glyn Davies of WWF-UK too sees a possible way forward: “Nature can recover with the right incentives to help restore species, reduce habitat loss, prevent pollution and develop green energy and infrastructure,” he says.

But those fine fellows at the NFU, speaking through their vice president, still believe there needs to be sustainable intensification of agriculture”  – surely a contradiction in terms – to ensure “domestic and global food security”.

We who treasure our wildlife and nature in the UK have a fight on our hands. We must ensure that the NFU and their champions in the government can’t derail the 25-year Plan for Nature. The government made a manifesto commitment “to leave the natural environment for the next generation to enjoy in a better condition than it is in now.”

The Tories delayed publication of the plan after Brexit. It’s now due to be published this autumn. Looking to a future no longer under European environmental constraints, the government may well try to water down the plan’s provisions. But it’s not too late for us to put pressure on the government to keep its pledge.

Please sign petitions to UK government here and here

Please send the Grow Green Report to your MP here

And please also send a quick email to your MP asking him/her to become a Species Champion by joining the Species Champion Project

All those above are for UK citizens only.

Here’s one for bees that everyone can sign

And for anyone who cares about the planet’s biodiversity, read this excellent piece from Care2 10 Reasons Why the Meat & Dairy Industry is Unsustainable

Find help here to Go Vegan

Sources

UK government must deliver on 25-year environmental pledge – The Guardian

UK one of “least natural countries in the world” – The Independent

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The RSPCA Buckles under Establishment Pressure

The animals know that when the Countryside Alliance and the National Farmers’ Union give a backslap of approval to an animal charity appointment, it’s time to duck back down behind the barricades because they are in deep trouble.

And Jeremy (Jez) Cooper’s appointment as new CEO for the RSPCA has been warmly welcomed by both. Here’s what Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner has to say:

“Jeremy Cooper has a huge job ahead of him and we wish him every success in refocussing the organisation on its core roles of improving animal welfare and rescuing those animals that are suffering. It will not be easy to rebuild confidence in the charity after the damage the extreme agenda of his predecessors has done to its reputation but if he can keep the RSPCA focussed on real animal welfare issues he will have everyone’s full support.”

And spokesman for the NFU, Gary Ford chipped in:

“We have met Jeremy and his team on several occasions in his capacity as CEO of Freedom Food and have developed a close working relationship over that time based on mutual trust and honesty. We wish Jeremy well and look forward to continuing that relationship in his new role as CEO of the RSPCA.” My underlining, of course.

Mr Cooper appears to have the right track record to please the CA & NFU, having been CEO of the RSPCA’s infamous Freedom Food scheme for the past three years. The NFU and Cooper hand in glove? No, surely not! If you can bear it (I can’t) take a look at this video made during an Animal Aid investigation into an FF-approved farm – another catastrophic failure for this ‘welfare assurance’ label.

Could Mr Cooper’s rebranding of Freedom Food to “RSPCA Assured” in 2014 have anything to do with the disrepute FF had fallen into, I wonder?

Mr Cooper’s fans – the CA (in the shape of the hunt) and the farmers – have both formerly found themselves on the end of criminal charges brought by the RSPCA. Their chief gripes with the charity recently have been what they consider its overzealous pursuance of law-breaking fox hunts, and its opposition to the badger cull.

Only last year the RSPCA was urging the government to call off the cull, and encouraging supporters to sign its own stop-the-cull petition to the Environment Secretary Liz Truss.

In a spectacular backtrack, Mr Cooper now says the charity had alienated farmers in its “aggressive campaign” against the Government’s badger cull which he dubbed “political”, and promises no further intervention by the charity in the contentious cull programme.

Everyone remembers when the RSPCA hit the headlines with its controversial prosecution of members of the Prime Minister’s own local hunt, the Heythrop, three years back. The offenders pleaded guilty to four charges of hunting foxes with hounds. The judge fined them the paltry sum of £6,800, and then publicly slated the charity for spending £330,000 on bringing the case to court.

“Members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed,” District Judge Tim Pattison told Oxford Magistrates’ Court. The Tory press had a field day (pardon the pun).

MPs not only fell over each other to join in the criticism, but reported the RSPCA to the Charity Commission for breaching a ‘duty of prudence’. Huh??? Which led to the Wooler Inquiry and subsequent Report.

But you needn’t worry any more, hunting fraternity. The new CEO is very busy pouring gallons of oil over troubled waters. Mr Cooper said it’s “very unlikely” they will ever bring a similar prosecution again, and all future prosecutions will be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

If that’s all that needs to be done, why did the CPS stand back in the Heythrop case and, with 500 hours of video evidence available to them, not bring the prosecution themselves? Is there any significance do you think, in the fact that when the Master of this same hunt was charged with illegal hunting in 2008, David Cameron lobbied the Attorney General to get the case dropped? “The letter was eventually passed on to the Bristol-based senior CPS prosecutor Kerry Barker. The case – which was one of several charges brought against Julian Barnfield and the Heythrop Hunt in the years after the ban came into force – was later discontinued.” Western Daily Mail

The RSPCA would never have needed to bring these cases to court if the police and CPS had shown a little more alacrity in the performance of their duties.

So that’s the CA’s and the farmers’ two major bones of contention with the charity (hunting and the badger cull) firmly buried in the backyard by Mr Cooper, and looking like they won’t be dug up again any time soon.

The Countryside Alliance, farmers, politicians and the Tory press though, are not the only pillars of the Establishment to lay into the unfortunate charity. It’s fallen foul of royalty too. Prince Charles also found issue with the prosecution of Heythrop Hunt members. And he was at loggerheads with the charity’s former CEO, Gavin Grant, over the badger cull. HRH was reportedly not amused when Grant said, “Those who care will not want to visit areas or buy milk from farms soaked in badgers’ blood.” Truth hurts, Charles.

And earlier this year it was reported that “the RSPCA could lose its royal patronage when Prince Charles becomes King, over concerns it is becoming too involved in the campaign against countryside sports.” HRH as we all know, like the rest of his bloodline, is a keen supporter of and participator in these ‘sports’. Though I see nothing sporting about the pursuit and killing of defenceless animals.

Do we care about the royal patronage? I guess that if the RSPCA loses its ‘R’, it may adversely affect donations from the old stalwarts, and possibly diminish the organisation’s ability to protect animals from cruelty and neglect. Otherwise, why would we?

So back to Mr Jeremy (Jez) Cooper, CEO.

jeremy cooper rspca dogs

To the outrage of the animal advocacy community, and under pressure from the crushing combined weight of the CA, NFU, the political elite, the Tory press and the heir to the throne, Mr Cooper has publicly apologised for the charity’s “past mistakes”, and distanced the organisation from its previous actions.

“Of course we have made mistakes in the past, and we are very sorry. We have to be honest and admit the mistakes and acknowledge them.”

He said the charity had become too focused on animal rights rather than animal welfare, and that in the future it would return to its traditional role, the prevention of cruelty, rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming.

Last September I wrote ‘The RSPCA – between a rock and a hard place, and concluded:

“This could be a stormy era for the historic charity as it attempts to steer a course through the towering waves of the Tory government, the Countryside Alliance and the Tory Press; its own traditional stalwart supporters; and those who would like to see it go much further in preventing cruelty to, and alleviating the suffering of ALL animals in this country.”

Now with Mr Cooper’s opening pronouncements as CEO, it’s plain for all to see in which ‘port in a storm’ the RSPCA has chosen to dock.

And how exactly do you draw the line between animal rights and animal welfare, Mr Cooper? A pack of hounds tearing a terrified fox to pieces is NOT about animal rights. Let’s have some “prevention of cruelty” please Mr Cooper. The badger cull is NOT about animal rights. The cull has already been assessed as inhumane. Can we have some “prevention of cruelty” here please Mr Cooper?

It’s starting to look like the RSPCA’s new remit will be the welfare of canine companions, pussycats, and bunny rabbits (wild ones excluded – the farmers want to keep shooting those). The charity via its new mouthpiece has pledged to stop its unforgivable meddling in the plight of farmed animals, badgers, foxes or any other animals that are the rightful preserve of the farmers, and the country sportsmen and women.

God help the animals!

Oh, I almost forgot, if you’d like to see Mr Cooper sacked from his post asap, sign the petition here.

The Countryside Alliance on the new CEO

The Independent on Mr Cooper’s public apology

Royal Central on Prince Charles & the RSPCA

Update May 17th 2016

It seems like Mr Cooper’s PR skills are not too hot.

The RSPCA  have done a rapid bit of regrouping after the fiasco of his first interview in the job and have issued a statement:

Our policy on foxes and badgers remains unchanged. Like all animals, they deserve our compassion and respect.  We will always strongly oppose fox hunting and the culling of badgers. 

Maybe they need to check that they and Mr Cooper are on the same page now. Because why did Mr Cooper decide to give that first interview to the Telegraph, Tory apologist newspaper for the Establishment?

Full statement from the RSPCA here

Update August 16th 2016

On eve of roll out of badger cull, Dominic Dyer asks in i News why the wildlife charities are not speaking out for the badgers, with particular reference to RSPCA: How the once-formidable wildlife charities were tamed

 

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The Fight to Protect Badgers Moves to Europe

 

eurobadger logo the fight to protect badgers moves to europe

EUROBADGER; the newly formed Federation of European Badger Protection Organisations, today calls upon the European Parliament, MEPS, the European Commission and EU Member States, to combine forces and to outlaw the needless and cruel mass-killing of badgers across Europe.

With tens of thousands of badgers being killed across Europe as a result of Government sanctioned culling programmes, illegal persecution, hunting, building developments and death on the roads, the species is under greater threat than ever before.

Eurobadger calls upon the European Institutions and Member States to particularly focus on effective cattle-based disease reduction strategies to reduce bovine TB, a serious cattle disease that is once again on the increase This is rather than to allow EU funds or resources potentially to be used, or to support large scale, scientifically ineffective and cruel badger culls in England, Ireland and other countries where the disease may now spread.

Presenting a new Eurobadger report focusing on one of the many threats to the survival of badgers across Europe to MEP’s meeting at the European Parliament Intergroup on Animal Welfare and Conservation in Strasbourg, the Chief Executive of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to the Born Free Foundation, Dominic Dyer said:

“The badger has lived in the landscape of Europe for over half a million years but its future today is under ever increasing threat. The crisis in the European dairy industry is directly linked to the fate of the badger. With falling milk prices, dairy farmers are already having to increase the size of their herds, keep more cattle indoors for longer periods of time, and move and sell more cattle to remain profitable.

All of these developments are increasing the risk of the spread of bovine TB. To make matters worse, any steps to introduce a TB cattle vaccine are being put on hold in view of the danger of losing key export markets for meat and dairy products in the EU or countries such as China. We cannot allow the local extinction of badgers from certain parts of EU Members States, to enable increasingly desperate dairy farmers to produce powdered milk for the China market.

We must develop food and farming systems that encourage nature and landscapes to thrive as well as supporting livelihoods and local communities. Public health, animal welfare and wildlife protection must be at the heart of good policy. To do this we must recognise that bovine TB is primarily a cattle- based disease and that limitations within TB testing regimes combined with inadequate biosecurity and movement controls are all leading to continued spread of the disease and not badgers”

Team Broc (Ireland) Meles (France) Das & Boom (The Netherlands) The Badger Trust (England & Wales)

Team Broc (Ireland), Meles (France), Das & Boom (The Netherlands), The Badger Trust (England & Wales)

Source: Badger Trust 14th April 2016

Badgers to Cull Britain’s Tories

A Saturday special – enjoy!

A systematic cull of Britain’s Tory population looks set to go ahead after senior badgers brushed aside objections from scientists and conservationists. Badgers have been arguing for years that the cull is necessary to protect Britain’s dairy farms from diseases like xenophobia and a poor grasp of basic science. Having rejected as inhumane a plan involving copies of the Daily Telegraph laced with strychnine, the badgers instead will use specially trained badger marksmen and intend to reduce the Tory population by one third over two years.

“We understand that the public have a nostalgic affection for Tories,” said the spokesbadger for the Department of Rural Affairs, “so we promise not to shoot that scruffy blonde one in London that everybody likes.”

The prospect of gun-toting badgers roaming the House of Commons worries some, but farmers are delighted. “I had a Tory on my farm last week,” said one frustrated landowner, “and since then the cows have been jeering at the sheep and telling them to go back home to where they came from. I had to have the whole herd destroyed.”

“All my cows keep going off and protesting about windfarms,” said another. “Our milk production has almost stopped!”

One farmer was more directly affected. “Eric Pickles sneaked onto my farm last week and ate half my cows,” he said.

However, the badgers’ plan is not backed by scientific evidence.  “Culling Tories won’t reduce xenophobia among cows.” said one scientist. “We believe the increase in Bovine Xenophobia and scientific ignorance is caused by the new practice of feeding cattle pulped copies of the Daily Mail.”

Some bloke off Springwatch agreed. “Tories are a vital part of the political ecosystem. If you kill too many, then more dangerous animals will move in to fill the vacuum, like Ukippers. Last time the Tory population dwindled too far, we got ten years of Tony Blair. I think the badgers need to think a bit more about this policy.”

 

Happy acknowledgements to Edinburgh flip side

Hedgehog Highways

Article by Katie Dickinson Feb 18th 2016

A Cumbrian firm is getting behind hedgehog conservation by becoming the first homebuilder in the country to create hedgehog highways.

Russell Armer Homes is working with Hedgehog Street – a partnership between the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) – by supporting its campaign for hedgehog conservation.

All of the company’s new homes have a 125mm x 125mm gap in their fencing, which allows hedgehogs to move from garden to garden.

Hedgehog Street says that more secure fences and walls are one of the main reasons why the hedgehog population is declining in Britain.

Creating corridors in fences will establish ‘habitat corridors’ for the hedgehogs, which will be too small for most pets to use but will allow safe passage for a little hedgehog.

The first homes to become part of a Hedgehog Highway, will be Russell Armer’s new homes at OverSands View, Grange-over-Sands and the Sheiling, Arkholme.

There will be 42 properties with hedgehog gaps at Grange-over-Sands and 14 properties on a Hedgehog Highway at Arkholme.

Russell Armer Homes’ managing director, Martyn Nicholson, says: “We are delighted to become Hedgehog Champions by creating what we believe to be Cumbria and Lancashire’s first Hedgehog Highways.

Lovely news. It’s a small start, but hopefully other builders and developers will follow Russell Armer Homes’ enlightened lead. Because our beloved hedgehog is in sad decline. Not mentioned in the article is gardeners’ profligate use of slug pellets. The pellets not only kill off the hedgie’s staple food, but can kill the poor hedgie himself if he eats enough poisoned slugs. And they have the potential to harm other wildlife – frogs, toads, cats, dogs, foxes and badgers can also fall victim if there is enough build up of the toxins in their systems.

If you’re looking for a wildlife-friendly way of protecting your precious plants from the predations of the slimy beasties, click here for some hot tips. Just ignore no.2 on the list though –  I don’t like that one!

 

Ama’s Story

Ama Menec, artist for the animals, reveals fascinating insights into her life and #art.

So Ama, can you tell us a little bit about yourself. Were you always making art as a child? 

Yes, I’ve always made art and always been creative. The first sculpting I did was around the age of 8 when I carved back some wax crayons with a penknife to make a row of little people all with different characters.

Tell us about your background. Were you brought up in a #vegan family?

I spent some of my childhood on my grandparents’ farm, and at that time I started to question how we treat animals. My grandfather tried to harden me to ‘country ways’, so I took issue with him at age 10 and 11. I lived on their farm during a drought in 1976. It was fen land and the earth opened up with such deep fissures I could plunge my whole skinny 10-year-old arm in and not touch the bottom.

A nearby pig farm burned to the ground from a spontaneous fire and hundreds of sows burned alive because they were held captive in farrowing crates, as were the sows on my grandfather’s farm. I remember having a furious row with him about farrowing crates, and he had to agree with me in the end that they were wrong. images-1

I also refused to eat the pheasants shot at the end of the wheat harvest….the guns stood in a semicircle around the last stand of corn as it was cut, and shot madly at all the fleeing animals bolting for cover. It was industrial slaughter, and I knew it was, while my grandfather tried to get me to see thus was ‘sport’ and ‘vermin control’. I pulled all the pheasant tail feathers back out of the bin after they’d all eaten the poor bird. They were too beautiful to throw away.

My parents tried to be hippies, with only partial success, but they did go vegetarian as many did in the mid 70s , and campaigned to save the whale and raise funds for #Greenpeace [that was me folks!]

Was there a particular event in your life that prompted you to choose vegan?

I went vegan twice, the first time in my early 20s after seeing a lone farmer herding some cows and beating the ones at the back with a stick. They had been bred to produce so much milk they were kicking themselves in the udder whilst trying to run away from the farmer and his stick, and then crashing into the cows in front. Their eyes were white and rolling in fear and pain, and I thought, “They are going through this hell because I love milk chocolate:” Back then vegan #chocolate was hard to find, so I had about 10 years of Bournville dark, and not much else.

After 10 years of being vegan I started a new relationship. My partner went from meat-eater to vegan by default which proved too much for her at the time, so I compromised by joining her as a lacto-vegetarian.

I went vegan properly again 6 years ago, mostly because I was so pissed off that my meat-eating partner gets more veg than me when we eat out, and I just get a big slab of starch with another slab of animal fat on top, and usually no veg to speak of. Be it goat’s cheese tart or cheese pasta, it all amounts to zero nutrition and maximum calories, with awful effects on my health. Now when we eat out I often have only one option, which is salad and chips, but it’s still way better than some form of cheese on toast! I’m disgusted at the lack of nutritional education British chefs still get at catering college.

That being said, there are way more options for vegans now than there were in the mid 80s, particularly in ready made cheeses. And social networking really helps too with some fab recipes.

Are you owned by any companion animals? Tell us about them.

I have two girlies in my life, one human and one feline, and neither are vegan. Miss Squeak joined us at our studio as a starving waif of a feral #cat about 5 years ago. We were outside eating vegetarian sushi, pickled vegetables, vinegar’d rice and all, and she wolfed it down. Having avoided us for 10 years I knew she must be starving, and it’d been a very hard winter, so I started feeding her. She’s lived at our studio all that time – until this Christmas when I took her home to see if she’d like it. She refused to leave, so now I have an elderly house cat who is the opposite of the hissing fur ball she used to be. It’s lovely watching her slowly relax into this new kind of living, and I feel blessed to have her company and her trust.

Can you tell us if and how your art is informed by your beliefs?

The main drivers behind the #sculpture I make are a profound admiration and awe at the marvel of each species. And my fury at the way ‘the wild’ is squeezed out of the British countryside, often to make way for yet more cattle and sheep grazing. The issue of how much land is given to raising meat is something most meat eaters don’t want to face up to. Even those people who ‘love nature’. I live and work rurally, and each year I see more and more land turned over to grazing, or raising crops for cattle feed. Trees chopped down, copses erased, hedgerows grubbed out, verges trimmed to death. Hare-at-night

And I can hear calves and cows that have been separated, calling for each other from my bed at night. I can’t wait to see the dairy farm up the road to close….it can’t come soon enough for me.

How would you like to influence people through your art and your life?

With each sculpture I try to show something unique to that species that sets it apart from other creatures. The mantling barn owl looks nothing like any other mantling bird of prey, due to its huge head, small body, enormous wings and short stubby tail. The buzzard is caught in a pose missed by the naked eye, halfway between relaxing and being alert. The swift is having a good scream whilst holding on to a wall, the only time they are stationary.Patinated-Bronze-Swift.

I try to make my 3D animals life-sized, as scale is important. Most people have no idea how small a kingfisher is if they’ve never seen one. I they ever see it at all, it’s just a flash, a blur of blue, and then it’s gone. Badgers are bigger than most people think, and so are red kites: unless you get the chance to get up close and personal with a live one, how would you ever know? I try to give people a ‘wildlife experience’, and at the same time be able to do things they’d never get away with in real life , such as stroke a buzzard and keep their fingers!AmaMenec_Female-Buzzard-1-Ed-5-12

I make my sculptures simplified, refined down, and stylised, but also smooth to invite the hand. We are a tactile species, and we learn about what a thing is by touch, just as a badger ‘sees’ the world through its nose and sniffing things. I encourage people to touch my sculptures. Children get my sculptures quicker than most adults, and are wowed away with the awe of being eye to beak with a lie-sized bird of prey. It makes my day when some little kid breaks out in an ear to ear smile and says, “That’s awesome!”. I’m even happier when I persuade someone that a species they have hated for years is a wonder. My favourite sales are those rare conversions and they stick in my mind. I’m happy to enthuse for hours with people about wildlife of all kinds, in all kinds of places. Art is all about communication and there are many ways of getting a message across.

I believe you have won awards with your art?

It was while I was leading #TheGreatBadgerTrail from Gloucester to Westminster in 2014 (it was great to bring a bit of West Country wildness to the heart of London!) that  I heard my Female Red Kite bronze had won the Best Sculpture in Show at #NatureinArt. The Best Sculpture in Show was chosen by the public. AmaMenec_Female-Red-Kite-2-Ed-2-12

And last year, I was chuffed to bits at getting my Female Buzzard foundry bronze into the #RoyalAcademy Summer Open. And into the Royal Scottish Academy too, where she won me the Tate St Ives prize.

Thank you Ama for generously sharing your absorbing story and artistic insights with us.

See more of this stunning work on Ama’s website