A discussion on the effect of climate change on moths

Effect of climate change

Climate change is a major change in the environment that effects every aspect of the biosphere, but our analysis of the effects of climate change (quite properly in some respects) is restricted to the statistical trends that we can measure in our data, or observations of possible mechanisms, for the measured statistical changes, surrounding individual traps or small groups of traps. But in doing this we should remember the other aspects of climate change that may complicate our thinking about what we observe.
For the farmland ecology branch of an agricultural research organisation, this is particularly important, as when we publish papers noting the decline of species it is all too easy for the public to be persuaded that, once again, “modern agricultural methods” are entirely to blame. (Even if those methods were specifically design to reduce harm) Modern agricultural methods might be responsible for the damage, but it would be very odd if major changes happened to the climate without wildlife suffering, regardless of what we were doing otherwise.
It is almost proved that neo-nicotinoids harm bees, and agriculturally speaking it is crazy for farmers and growers (even domestic gardeners establishing wild-flower meadows) to use the same insecticide to protect their seedlings. (What were the regulators thinking when they banned Lindane when there was only one alternative?) I am not defending the pesticides, but at the same time as bees suffer a pesticide challenge, they are also suffering major changes in the temperature, and the timing and quality of their food supply. I don’t know of any discussion of these complexities, and the research in these areas, that I feel sure must be taking place, seems to receive very little publicity.
If the purpose of Insect Survey is to help make farming more wildlife friendly, then we should be investigating the true complexity of the farmland environment, not just the easy bits. The light trap network is set up to measure moth population trends, but the data is being dangerously extrapolated to point to conclusions about farming (and perhaps urban) practices that are very probably only part of the problem


Moths can respond to temperature by becoming active or increasing their activity as the temperature rises. As temperatures falls particular species may become less active, or stop their activity, either changing their life form or becoming totally inactive. This effect is limited by the upper and lower extremes tolerated by the particular species. Species vary in their response to extremes of temperature, some can remain active at temperatures that should otherwise harm them, by changing the way they behave, while other might become inactive or even die when temperature crosses a much narrower threshold. This means that ecological significance of maps divided into particular temperature zones will vary with the individual species being considered, and with its detailed response to temperature
Insects tend to become active at particular temperatures, but this also depends on season and life stage. A mouse moth starts to come out of hibernation as soon as temperatures rise enough, but is this a simple process? Some species with similar behaviour may only wake when the temperature rises at the same time as they can detect that a food plant has reached a particular growth stage. The mechanism for this would be the pheromone like chemicals (allelochemicals) that plants release either as an evolved signal to a co-evolved pollinator or incidentally as a by-product of metabolic processes. (Even CO2 can work in this way.)
As implied by the last paragraph, the relationship between moths and their food plants can be changed by climate change. Some plants are heavily dependent on day length while others, typically weed species can germinate and grow at any time when the temperature is right. So, moths that feed on weeds may not be very affected by climate change, while those that feed on plants that are heavily influenced by day length may be very badly affected once they lose coordination with their food plants
It is easy to talk about a northward migration of moths in response to climate change, but this response is not quite so simple. Some species may indeed have nomadic lifestyles that allow them to fly to any area of suitable food plants in places where other environmental factors including temperature are correct. As the low latitudes become too hot, then this behaviour translates naturally into a northward migration. But other species are not so mobile. If the insects are highly evolved pollinators, then there might be a positive interaction between plant and pollinator, with both exploiting new territory at higher latitudes.
It is a fairly conventional idea that the non-flying females of some species of tree feeding moths have evolved wingless forms because it makes sense for them to lay their eggs on the food plant on which they were born. These species cannot migrate any further than the females can walk, probably not much further than the next tree in any one year. However, if their population is evenly spread over large areas, then increasing temperature will kill out the moths that are nearer the tropics, while moths at higher latitudes will thrive. The northern edge of the colony will gradually move to even higher latitudes at the speed that the wingless females can walk; providing, of course, that there are food plans and otherwise suitable habitat to invade.
As the temperature rises some species will escape by climbing hills to benefit from cooler air at higher altitudes, though like the Hollywood villains they will eventually run out of escape routes as they reach the top. But the sides of mountains are often unsuitable sites for rooted food plants so only a few species will be able to benefit from the upper areas of mountains. Shade also restricts the habitat on a mountain with little vegetation surviving on the side toward the pole.

Day length

If temperature causes moths to emerge earlier in spring , then they fly in a period of shorter daylength. That means that the plants they feed on have a shorter period of photosynthesis each day and may accumulate less sugar and other nutrients. Caterpillars will have a shorter period for daylight feeding and will be eating less nutritious food. Adults will have a shorter flying period each day and may find less nectar which is less nutritious. They also have a shorter period in which to find mates.

Month Daylight hours as at beginning of each month Daylight hrs % of midsummer day length. % increase per month
January 8 47
February 9.25 55 8
March 10.75 64 9
April 13 77 13
May 14,74 88 11
June 16 95 7
July 16.75 100 5
MAX 16.75

The table shows the approximate difference in day length as one month gives way to the next. Each figure in the daylight hours column is taken from one day near the beginning of each month. The third column shows the % of daylight time in each month compared with that for July, and the last column shows the difference in %daylight as one month is succeeded by the next. It is notable from column 4 that the major increase in daylength happens in March and April (Remember the raw data – in the first column- is from a day at the beginning of each month.)
As, weather permitting, daylight changes as a smooth curve and there are approximately 30 days in each month, the amount of daylight received changes by approximately 8/30 % in each day in February, 9/30 in March and so on.
For individual species that change their activity period at any particular time you can estimate the approximate challenge from that change by adding the number of days by which that that activity has become earlier and multiplying by the daylength change for that period. (This might be a step too far for some, as other things happen in the environment – but this is a crude description that needs refining for individual species.) Thus, in March, emerging 10 days earlier is likely to reduce the available daylight relative to mid-summer values by about 3.33%. But relative to the original flight period by 7.6%. It would be interesting to check those figures using real data about real changes in the behaviour of a range of real moths and comparing the results with recorded population changes. This is rather beyond my superannuated ability(!) and has probably already been done.

In autumn, of course these changes are likely to be similar, with species that normally ended their activity in September, continuing into October and also suffering the effect of a reduction in available day length.


Latitude controls everything in agriculture and ecology, as it affects temperature, seasons, daylength, and even the quality of light. You cannot talk about daylength without describing the latitude you are in. And data about the behaviour and population change of individual species is meaningless if the range of latitude in the study is not specified and limited. (Usually it is specified in terms of the nation, national park, or defined study area in scientific reports.)
It is fashionable, at the moment to forget latitude, as is evident when people propose vegan, planet or Mediterranean diets to save the world. The high protein crops required for these diets cannot grow at high latitudes, so those who support these diets are in favour of extending “food miles” and expanding agricultural production in the tropics, regardless of the desirability to preserve tropical habitat and human communities. What will happen to the new farms as global warming desiccates the tropics, and as the increased frequency and severity of storms forces Lloyds of London and other insurers of ships and aircraft to pull the plug, I dread to think.
But can the global ecosystem stand an increase in the transport of biological material to higher latitudes? We have seen so many tree diseases moving northward into this country on nursery stock. Previously our hard winters might have killed them, but no longer. It is thought likely that Ash will be wiped out across most of the UK as, only a short time ago, Elm disappeared under attack from Dutch Elm disease. The cost to the nation due to removing dangerous Ash trees, and the loss of timber, firewood and shelter belts is likely to exceed £34billion according to some estimates. And as Elm, Ash and perhaps even Oak are driven into extinction by human “mistakes” we will lose the hundreds of species that depend on them.
At the Equator the sun is directly overhead (or within a few degrees) for much of the day, and the light intensity is very high. As the latitude increases so the angle from vertical also increases, so that at the polar circles the sun barely rises above the horizon at any time of year. From intense Equatorial light the light reaching the poles is of very low intensity and filtered through miles of the atmosphere Not only is the intensity low, but some frequencies are partially filtered out.
So as moth populations are squeezed northward by a warming environment (climate change) they live in new habitats with shorter daylength, less intense sunlight and a poorer quality of light.


The study of soils suggests that soil quality changes with changing latitude, changes in temperature, rainfall etc. Generally mild climate in middle latitudes produce the most productive soils. Extremes of heat and rainfall tend to degrade tropical soils, while in higher latitudes (notably towards the Arctic circle) the cold encourages specialist vegetation such as birch forest, tundra, peatland etc, The exact response to increasing latitude depends on underlying geology and prevailing weather, but the dominant vegetation that grows up in response to these conditions effects the soil type and, of course is affected by it. In very-very general terms, however a move northward will be accompanied by a reduction in soil quality. Many farmers would, of course deny this, but that is because they adapt their management to the soil type they have, so an experienced farmer who has farmed their land for decades will be able to match crop yield and quality to southern colleagues, but usually with a different mix of species, and growing techniques.
Soils are formed from eroded rock, forming gravels and then finer gravel or sands in which roots can grow. The roots bind the fine dust and reduce any tendency for erosion, while leaves protect the soil from physical damage from wind and rain. A soil ecosystem can then form around the root, and any dead root or leaf material. Bigger plants arrive and their roots follow cracks in the bedrock to find water or scarce mineral nutrients. This root action gradually deepens the soil, and by maintaining moisture and nutrient levels helps encourage a stronger, more vigorous and diverse ecosystem. In general, the more diverse, and vigorous the ecosystem the more organic matter is returned to the soil and the deeper and healthier the soil becomes. This is certainly born out by high yielding agricultural crops, where, with careful management, higher yields are often accompanied by higher organic matter levels in the soil. But this encouraging observation is limited to soils in areas where the environment is generally benign. Any restriction limits crop growth and ecological diversity. Droughts and floods reduce root activity and organic matter, leaving the soil more prone to erosion, and increasing temperature means that evapotranspiration exceeds the capacity of plant root systems to supply the water the plant needs for growth.
The moths that we study have no management system to adapt and must make the best of the environment that they can survive in and may find that food plants are influenced by prevailing temperatures, daylength, latitude, and soil type. As the insects “move” northwards, they may find that sun loving food plants are stimulated by shorter daylength to produce stems more rapidly with fewer low-level leaves. Their rush to the sun might produce very bare plants that simply flower very quickly and die. Other plants may produce relatively low-level leafy rosettes that do little until a particularly sunny spell encourages a rapid flowering. What I am suggesting is the changes in the quality of soil may contribute to short term adaptive changes in plant form. Where this happens leaf feeding insects might find that their host plant (adapts to the new environment and) has fewer leaves or has changed in other ways that might reduce insect productivity.
Short term changes in weather can also effect soil productivity. A waterlogged soil is pretty inert while waterlogged, and as a consequence of the biological disruption, will leach nutrients. Drought has similar effects. But recovery from both may take weeks, weeks that insects cannot afford to wait. Natural soils that have suffered heavy leaching may be nutrient deficient for years, and agricultural soils can only recover if the farmer can afford to buy in nutrients. Consequently, plant growth will be slow, plants will be small, and may flower profusely and much earlier than normal. By the time the insects that feed on them emerge the food plants may be dead.
We are all used to nursery rhymes that predict the weather in each month of the year, and in spring we all expect March to be windy and April to be showery. Moths that are active in March may have evolved that trait in response to fungal diseases that might have killed them in warm and wet April weather. Other species that were active in April may have evolved because of the difficulty of flying in the March winds. When climate change encourages these species to fly earlier then they will be forced to fly in windy weather, where they may be damaged or may be blown out of their favoured habitat. Or if they avoid flying in poor conditions may not find mates at all. In other conditions, sex pheromones may be dispersed too rapidly for males to find females.
But climate change means that these “traditional” weather patterns are breaking down. We all remember the continuous rain of 2000 and 2012, and after much earlier experience on Rothamsted Farm and Field Experiments, I grieved over the horrible seedbeds that were consequently produced for autumn crops all over the country. The effect of bad weather does not end on the day that things return to normal, it can take weeks for waterlogged soil and damaged plants to recover. Insect communities can also be devastated We remember the “Beast from the East” that caused so many problems in the spring of 2018. The snow at the end of February, just when we were expecting mild windy weather, delayed spring sowing, killed seedling crops and developing buds on fruit trees as well as stopping transport infrastructure. These events must have been at least as bad for wildlife as for us.
Extreme weather can irreversibly damage trees or the soils on which insect food plants depend. Soils can be eroded as flood water is channelled through fields or more natural environments, floods can waterlog vegetation killing some plants after days, and perhaps encouraging moulds that will spread through other plants in the next few weeks. Snow is a mixed blessing, killing exposed plants and animals, while at the same time protecting those that are hibernating, in a winter life stage, or subject to diseases that spread in milder weather.
Climate change is predicted to produce more frequent extremes of weather, more storms, more droughts, more floods, and even more blizzards. Climate is not just about rising temperatures and sea levels. While most features of climate change weather have subtle of indirect effects on moths, rising seas levels are a direct threat to the coastal habitats of many species of moths. While predictions of sea level rise are given in millimetres a year, the actual local effects may be much more dramatic, as storm surges destroy coastal defences flooding hundreds of acres on a single day. Much of the water may drain away, but salt will remain, favouring some plant species, but killing others. Subsequent salt water flooding will cause more damage, replacing a coastal lowland fauna with a salt marsh fauna.


My ‘O’-level Geography teacher taught me that for every 100’ increase in altitude the temperature dropped by 1C. Whether this is still thought to be accurate, I don’t know, but the change in vegetation from lowland to hill, and then mountain barrenness are obvious, as is the tree line near the top of mountains and slightly higher up the line where grass and herbs give way to bare rock. Snow lingers at the top of mountains, and on the highest snow survives all through the year. But back in the 1960s the seasonal variation in temperatures differed little from what it had been for thousands of years. Now things are changing.
Temperatures have risen so much that even on the highest mountains snow melts and the permanent snow fields are much reduced. Precipitation on the mountain tops, instead of being held at high altitudes in the form of ice or snow, runs down the mountains side immediately, flushing soil and wildlife out of its high refuges. A recent BBC film showed the plight of the Diuca finch – also known as the glacier bird which is the only bird known to build its nest inside glaciers. The gradual retreat of the glaciers due to climate change has much reduced the habitat in which it is safe for these birds to nest and threatens their extinction.
Lower down the mountains the lack of water storage in glaciers means that in many areas a steady flow of fresh water has been replaced with seasonal floods and droughts, the floods eroding soil and the droughts destroying what is left. Whereas back in the 1960s the variation in temperature at the same altitude around the lower slopes of the mountain would have been no more than one or two degrees, today the sunny side might warm much quicker at midday than the shaded side, pulling up much stronger convection currents from the valleys. (Daily variation due to convection is also apparent in coastal areas where hot sun at midday often pulls in cold winds off the sea. This is particularly obvious where I live in South West Wales where we have sea, within 30 miles to the North-West, West, and South.)
Insect Survey statistics show moths that have found refuges at higher altitudes. Some species have retreated to the very tops of the hills before abandoning their new homes as temperatures continue to rise. This seems like a fairly simple story, but as the preceding paragraphs attempt to demonstrate, climate change produces threats that are a direct consequence of temperature but threaten insects by destroying habitat rather than simply by excessive temperature.

Does Climate Change effect Insects directly or through food plants?

Most of the factors discussed above will affect food-plants, and this will, of course have an effect on the insects that feed on them. Most of the factors will affect food plants adversely if they grow at a higher latitude than their normal range.
To assess the effect of climate change on insects one would have to take a “year zero”, a time when climate was more or less the same as it had been for the previous millennia. But climate varies naturally so any “year zero” would be a bit arbitrary. For the purposes of this discussion I will choose some time in the 1960s, when coincidentally, I first saw a Rothamsted Light Trap in the “Botany Garden” at my school in Somerset. This was one of the first traps in the national survey and marks the beginning of the formal insect survey records, although of course the Barnfield trap had already been running for almost 40 years, and the traps had been used as far afield as Egypt.
Because of the work of the Insect Survey we know the distribution of most moth species going back to the 1960s, and also the distribution of the food plants for much of the same period, due to the work of BSBI and others. From these data sets it should be possible to assess whether individual species distribution matched that of the food plants. For those moth species that have moved northwards within the pre-existing range of the food plant we can speculate that the “post migration” moths will not be at a disadvantage as their food plant has (might) not have been adversely affected by climate change. (The food plant is continuing to grow in a traditional location within the northern edge of its normal range.) Other moth species might have to move beyond the range of their normal food plant, in which case they will be feeding on food plants that have extended their range northwards and may be suffering from the effects mentioned in preceding sections, or the moth will be feeding on alternative host species.
Of course, any new moth colonies, may experience challenges from predators, parasites and diseases that may perhaps have limited their preferred range, before climate change disrupted their home range. If climate disadvantaged host plants or alternative hosts fail to provide adequate nutrition, then the moths will be more vulnerable to these attacks. And of course, there is the risk of new interspecific challenges when moths move into a new range.
Heat alone can make a habitat unpleasant or dangerous for a month and is the conventional explanation for recent apparent migration of insects to higher latitudes or altitudes. But having migrated to escape the heat, further physical challenges are not so obvious. Warmer nights, however, may increase the activity of moth predators in the new moth territory, such as bats, and the arrival of new species of moths in a bat colony’s hunting ground may significantly improve the nutrient availability to that colony, resulting in more successful brood rearing, and perhaps even a bigger colony and more trouble for the moths in the following year.
Day flying moths suffer the same problem of predator activity but potentially also risk more direct physical challenges. For example, the change in intensity and frequency of light at higher latitudes may make it difficult for moths to recognise their own or similarly marked species, especially where wing patterns are due to the interference patterns cause by the micro-ribs on moth scales. This would have a larger effect when moths were long distances outside their normal range, especially when their move brought them into contact with very similar species.


There are many potential challenges for moths that result from climate change. Simply moving to higher latitudes or altitudes to escape the warmer climate, in no way guarantees safety. In fact, it is possible that the challenges of the new environment are so severe that we must expect declines in moth diversity and abundance regardless of any other human activities.
While this does not absolve humanity from doing more to help wildlife it is very important to separate declines that are entirely due to climate from the direct effect of specific human activities, so that we can more accurately measure those direct effects and use resources appropriately to mitigate the damage that we do.
Changing human activity because we think that it is likely that that activity is doing all the observed damage to wildlife may be useless, if we ignore that portion of the decline that is caused entirely by one or more elements of climate change
Rothamsted Insect Survey is uniquely able to do this work.

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Climate, Bombs, Protest and Fire

Easter Sunday in Wales was the hottest on record, and on the same day over 200 people were killed by bombings of Churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Mike and his family were enjoying the holiday of a lifetime only a few miles away from the explosions. Today, Easter Monday, we are enjoying another beautiful Spring day in Carmarthenshire, and as I walk around the yard doing my morning chores and listening to BBC Radio 3’s analysis of Handel’s Messiah, it is difficult to do other than marvel at “the Glorious works of the Lord”.

But in truth our beautiful spring weather, the glorious resorts of Sri Lanka, and the bombings of Churches and hotels are all works of man “gone astray”. We have known of the risks of climate change since I left school in 1969 including the risk of war as the climate warmed. We chose to do nothing and enjoy the benefits of burning more and more fossil fuels, and now the atmosphere has been damaged, and we suffer the oft predicted consequences of global warming.

In the UK in 2003, 2045 more people than usual died in just 10 days when the temperature rose above 30C. Across Europe, in the same year, more than 70,000 more people died than usual. Crop yields were typically reduced by 15%, though some Eastern European countries recorded yield loss as high as 80% due to both the heatwave and late frosts, which are another “high energy” event typical of global warming predictions.

While a 15% reduction in crop yield does not sound too bad, one should remember, that according to conventional economics, that a 10% reduction in food availability will result in a doubling of food prices. When the yield reduction applies to a single country, then the result is that imports are sucked in until the price and availability reach normal levels. When large areas – like the whole of Europe – are affected prices will rise. (And they did). As global warming continues the whole world will be affected and we will see a 15% reduction in availability and perhaps a trebling of prices.

In London the Extinction Rebellion protests are at last drawing political attention to the problem, and Greta Thunberg who started the Schools Friday protests has addressed Parliament and the Extinction Rebellion protestors. I have heard people dismiss these protests as “misguided”, just “Hippies” or only “Kids”. They should not be dismissed so lightly. Science is behind them. Local climate change due to human activity was first noted by a pupil of Aristotle something like 4000 years ago, and the scientific principles of the Greenhouse effect worked out in the 19th century. By 1970 pretty well all we now know about climate change had been sketched out, and most of what has happened since has closely followed predictions made then allowing refinement of theories based on observations of real changes. Now is the time for action.

Climate change deniers have now largely morphed into people who say that the “my country is whiter than white; it is other countries that should be taking action”. They must learn that any reduction in activities that contribute to climate change will save lives. And if we could change to zero emissions tomorrow, then we would have invented technologies that others could use. We were leaders in the industrial revolution that created global warming, we must be leaders in the industrial revolution that cures it.

But don’t get the idea that we can engineer our way out of climate change. A simple calculation of the solar energy received from the sun each year, and the published energy use by all nations on earth shows that the natural state of the atmosphere is over 1000 times more powerful that humanity. By burning fossil fuels made from plants accumulated over millions of years of earth’s history in a couple of hundred years, we have unbalanced a giant. We can reduce our inputs and allow the climate to regain its equilibrium, but we cannot engineer climate change out of existence. We are just too puny.

Various ideas have been discussed to reduce our greenhouse emissions, but as the low emission areas in London and other cities show there are complications. While rich people who buy new cars every year are unaffected, poor people who must buy second hand cars are left stranded. Commercial vehicle fleets must be replaced and the cost of doing so will be passed onto consumers, some of whom will benefit from the low emission zones, and many of whom will not. In this sort of change the rich always benefit, and the poor will suffer, at least financially. Low emission zones might benefit some, but they also contribute to the divide in society that leads to knife crime in London, or bombs in Sri Lanka. Possibly even to the death of journalists in Derry – Londonderry.

People are now talking about changing their diet, but that is unlikely to make a big difference for very good reasons. However, I would like to say that as a meat producer, we eat far too much meat. I was born at the end of the 3ozs of meat per week per adult, wartime rationing., although I was too young to remember it. However, I do remember the wonderful meat that we used to get in the 1950s and 1960s and regret the sad imitation we get from supermarkets these days. The difference is the amount of fat the meat contains which has been removed due to the supermarkets’ overreaction to medical worries about the link between saturated fat and heart disease. While the medical establishment now suggest that initial data had been misinterpreted, we are stuck with the continental breeds of cattle that produce tasteless lean meat in huge bulk. Because they produce less body fat these breeds cannot survive outside during UK winters, and need housing for much the year, fed on the special diets that cause so much climate worry today. Simply returning to the old meat production system with native breeds of grass-fed cattle will reduce climate worries. The extra fat in the meat, while making it much more succulent and improving the taste will reduce the intake of meat (as fat is an appetite inhibitor), and almost certainly reduce human obesity and the prevalence of related diseases.

Now to human diets. If you live in the UK and eat a traditional British diet you can get all the nutrients you need from within the British Isles. That is within 500 miles from where you live. If you become vegetarian or chose the Mediterranean diet you will need to buy nutrients from perhaps 1500 miles away. But if you become Vegan you will need to eat tropical pulses from perhaps 7000 miles away. The bulk transport of food obviously contributes to greenhouse gas emission, but as the climate warms the increasing frequency and ferocity of storms will disrupt transport networks. Rising sea levels will also flood or otherwise damage ports. (As happened recently to Beira in Mozambique, which until the 1960s was one of the most important ports in the British Empire.) But the tropics will be one of the first areas in the world where agriculture will become impossible due to climate change. Long before the crops die there, people will move away because of the heat and perhaps lack of drinking water, and this migration will initiate wars – unless of course we have learned a more civilised attitude to migration. And if everyone becomes vegan then there will be a huge increase in demand for tropical food, with an increased threat to valuable tropical habitats. Habitat destruction to supply human demand before it is destroyed by climate change seems an odd way to fight global warming. We need to facilitate the natural “escape” of valuable tropical wildlife species to higher latitudes for as long as we can.

Unfortunately, there are few easy answers to climate change. We must recognise that we all need to change our behaviour. To demand less, to be happy to restrict ourselves to essentials, and to restrict our movements to within our own communities. Life need not be miserable under such circumstances, providing we remember to treat each other with respect, and perhaps to value learning and adapting over novelty. New climate refugees will provide plenty of novelty, which we should welcome. As the climate makes us uncomfortable, they will already have the skills we will need to endure it.


It is now Wednesday 24th April only 3 days after the Sri Lankan bombs, and news is coming in about them and other events over Easter. Daesh (otherwise the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” or ISIS) have claimed that they organised the Sri Lankan bombings. Why any one should want to associate themselves with such disgusting behaviour just shows why most Muslims refer to them by the derogatory term Daesh. They say that the bombing of Churches was in revenge for the recent Mosque massacre in the New Zealand town of Christchuch, as if a true Christian (or true Muslim) could do such a thing. I am sure that the victims or the grieving families and friends from the Mosques or Churches would have more in common with each other, both before and after the outrages, than Daesh actually has with any religion. The mental confusion of the murderers whether in Sri Lanka or New Zealand must have been very similar.

Journalists are getting excited about the biographies of the people that DAESH claims to have been the bombers. Some of them are said to be “middle class”, and therefore protected from social division or poverty. But DAESH itself is a product of the despair of suffering people who will follow those who promise a meaningful way out of their current situation. The “Middle Class Bombers” may be personally protected, but they will see the despair and degradation all around them. I get angry after about 30 minutes in London or other big cities because of the great shows of wealth next to absolute poverty, so it is not hard to see how people could be drawn into organisations like DAESH. Most people like me try to persuade others to change, but many people prefer to march, or run soup kitchens or food banks. For some even that is not enough, and perhaps spectacular self-sacrifice such as setting fire to themselves or even suicide bombing is the answer. The suicide bombers cannot imagine the suffering of their victims, rather like the middle-class politicians who cannot imagine the suffering of those on benefit sanctions, or victims of the United Kingdom’s “hostile environment”. These people are the middle-Class suicide bombers.

Meanwhile my daughter had been enjoying a family holiday in Snowdonia. One day they had a trip on the Ffestiniog Mountain Railway, a trip in wonderful weather where they could take full advantage of the wonderful mountainous scenery, except that the side of a nearby mountain was burning. The following day they had a day out in Beddgelert, but once again the day was spoiled by a different wildfire. I was brought up on the edge of Exmoor and have seen many such fires and helped burn straw on farms before the practice was banned. During the run up to the ban I helped conduct straw burning experiments so that suitable alternative practices could be developed. In order to do that we had to get hot straw fires to run to all four edges of experimental plots and stop exactly on the line. I know what it is like to work with fire and was trying to “read” the fire from the pictures that Sian sent me. And then it struck me that this is the month of April Showers. All the wildfires and farm fires that I had worked with were in August and September when you would expect the vegetation to be tinder dry. But NOT in April. There should not be wildfires in April. Even the people in the Peak District who had accidentally set fire to Marsden Moor with a £2 barbecue should have been safe. That fire and all the others are the product of climate change. What is more these wildfires convert vegetation, which should have acted as a carbon capture mechanism, directly into green house gases and smoke which adds to the greenhouse effect. Climate change feeds on itself.

So whether you are a Government Minister who scoffs at the antics of Extinction Rebellion or an ordinary person whose life is disrupted by wildfires, floods, gales, heat-waves, or blizzards, you must listen to Greta Thunberg, even if you have been ignoring the global scientific consensus for 50 years, climate change is here now. IT IS HIGH TIME THAT WE DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Oh, Mike who was on holiday in Sri Lanka is on his way home with the family. In spite of everything, they had a brilliant holiday, and tell us all not to avoid visiting Sri Lanka where they were so well looked after by wonderful people who had no interest in harming anyone. Sri Lanka is not a wealthy country and is still recovering from a prolonged civil war. The last thing they need is more bombs or a break in their economic recovery. Staying away would play straight into the hands of Daesh. But remember we all need to limit our carbon footprint!


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Reintroducing Lynx to the UK: Should sheep farmers be worried?



I got interested in the Lynx project last summer, due to a farmers discussion (http://www.fwi.co.uk/livestock/finnish-farmer-delivers-stark-warning-lynx.htm) , and did a lot of reading about Lynx in Europe and the proposal to reintroduce them here. A lot of farmers are very worried about this, and some of the spokesmen for the Lynx project were being rather unsympathetic and harming their own case. I have tried to find how worried farmers should be, and whether the Lynx project can fulfil its own aims. Unfortunately family illness took my mind off this project and it never got properly finished, but I hope that the following might be helpful. I will try to improve this as soon as possible, but if I don’t start now, I will never get anything done!

The Lynx Project: What is it for? Purpose of reintroduction


It is difficult to work out why the Lynx Trust want to reintroduce Lynx, apart from some idea of justice to a species that has been extinct in the UK for 1,600 years. The nearest thing that I can find to a “Mission statement” from the Lynx Trust is the following: –

“The Lynx UK Trust is made up of a group of expert feline conservationists with specialisations in areas such as wildlife reintroductions, field research, ecology, biology and genetics, determined to return a sustainable population to the UK over the next decade.

We are currently engaged in a range of research to identify potential release sites and carrying out stakeholder and public consultations on the reintroduction of these cats to the UK. “

So perhaps their motive for a reintroduction is simply that they want to.

There is no doubting their very considerable expertise in protecting endangered species in this country and internationally. They are certainly experts in studying and working with animals. For part of my career I worked as an ecologist, and can sympathise and even share their obvious enthusiasm for Lynx and for the possibility of reintroducing long extinct species. However, I have some reservations about the way that they are going about this project, and about the claimed advantages of reintroducing the Lynx.

European Union Habitat Directive


The Lynx Trust say: –

“Under the EU Habitat Directive, UK Government is obliged to study the desirability of reintroducing select species to their former range which are threatened in Europe but have become extinct in the UK, if this is likely to contribute to their conservation. The Eurasian Lynx,

Lynx lynx, is one such species”


But in my researches, I have seen no evidence that the Lynx is endangered in other EU countries. Indeed, most research includes official figures on Lynx shot by hunters. If Lynx were endangered in these countries I would expect that data might include reports of hunters imprisoned.


In their opinion research, they divided people into proactive respondents, those who actively seek out and fill in forms, and passive respondents, about 1000 people contacted by a sub contracted polling company. The results show huge levels of support for Lynx reintroductions. The majority in favour, far exceeds any similar poll that I have seen, which makes me wonder who might have responded, and whether those organising the poll had selected their audience fairly.


Most people who might be affected by lynx reintroductions, might be local farmers, but 50 % of those in the active survey described themselves in urban categories, while only 10 % were in the most rural category. Only 3.8% describes their “interest” as farming, land management or forestry.


The survey was carried out in March, when many of the farmers most likely to be affected by the presence of Lynx would have been working around the clock supervising lambing or calving. While members of the farming organisations listed were only about 55% against the project, it seems likely that many must have been arable farmers, or land owners who pay others to look after livestock for them.






Claim that Lynx will reduce numbers of Roe Deer


Deer in general seem to have fairly good density dependent population control mechanisms. Red deer in the Red Deer Project in the Scottish Isles regulate their population so that it stays within the ability of the environment to support it. According to Polish research Red Deer populations fluctuate on a 7-year cycle just below the biggest population that the environment can support.   On the other hand, Roe deer regulate their population a little bit nearer the maximum possible population, but the Polish researchers found that Roe Deer populations fluctuate at around a 4-year cycle, suggesting finer control at a level that is a little bit nearer the overpopulation level. The means of controlling population include the age at which females first produce young, numbers of young born, and death of older animals etc. As measurable damage is occurring to the plants on which Roe deer feed, one must assume that the Roe deer in Kielder forest are near their optimum level. If that is true, any loss in numbers due to predation will be compensated for by a relaxation of the population controlling activity. The birth rate will increase, and older animals might live longer.


Roe deer probably regulate their population at a higher level than Red deer because while Red Deer are big enough to be able to stand greater exposure outside the forest and eat mainly long lived perennial plants like grass and heather on the moors or shoots on trees that they can reach, Roe deer with their small size are specialists at eating low growing shrubby plants strictly within the shelter of trees – or at least hedges. Species like bramble or elder can be eaten down to the ground at the end of one year, and grow back to the same height in the next year. If we present them with fresh young saplings of other species the deer expect those saplings to behave in the same way as bramble and elder. (Or seedlings or suckers of hardwood trees. Oak seedlings on the Park Grass experiment at Rothamsted Experimental Station have produced 2 leaves every year since the experiment began in 1843, but been cut down when the rest of the plot was cut for hay. Scientists have dug out a few of these seedlings and counted the tree rings at the base of the stem to prove that his longevity of seedlings is more than just a theory,)   Eating things down to the ground is a good way of regenerating the food that Roe deer eat, if there is still enough light for regrowth the next year. Old brambles and shrubs would smother the regrowth, and are themselves, much lower yielding and less palatable then young growth. Brambles and Elder can get too high for Roe deer to reach, if left to grow. So in regulating their population to such a high level, relative to their apparent food supply, you could say that Roe deer are the farmers to the Red deer’s hunter gathering lifestyle.


Roe deer are considered a problem in Kielder forest because when they eat the growing tips of coniferous trees they kill the tree. As more hardwoods are planted this will be less of a problem because hardwoods grow from the base, and as the Rothamsted example, above shows, can survive an almost unlimited amount of pruning. And an oak sapling may only need to be missed by the deer for a couple of years before it starts to put on woody growth that is less attractive to the deer, and which will give the sapling a head start for the next year.  A sapling growing up a protector tube will be almost as high as a Roe deer can reach by the time it gets to the top of the tube.


Roe deer are creatures of thickets, understory vegetation, and young trees. Kielder Forest, is relatively young woodland being open moorland just over 100 years ago. It has been managed as a commercial softwood plantation with a relatively short rotation, with nursery stock growing for a decade, before thinning and then growing for a couple of decades before being clear felled so that the process could start again. While one part of the forest was growing, another was being felled and another being planted with nursery stock. The young trees form what roe deer would see as a thicket, and areas that had been clear felled would soon be covered with brambles, providing the roe deer with additional patches of food before being planted. The thicket of new trees would remain attractive to Roe deer at least until smaller trees were thinned out. This method of management is ideal for Roe deer.


Recently management has changed to produce a longer rotation with hardwood trees in the nursery stock, and with plans to create a more natural forest by felling taller tree on their own, letting light down to ground level to encourage new shrubby growth, again ideal for Roe deer.


Under the old clear-felling system, Roe deer could be kept out of nursery areas by fencing, by patrols or other means of creating disturbance. Under the new management system this sort of control is made much harder. However, as the trees grow, and there are shaded areas devoid of shrubby growth between areas of light and shrubs, deer will have to keep moving from one small shrubby area to another. They will feel exposed on these frequent short journeys, and this offers an opportunity for management. Choosing trees to fell that avoid giving the deer too easy a route between thickets will help, and perhaps arranging various types of scarers between thickets, and moving them around so that deer do not get used to them will help. This work is never easy, and I am reminded of a high-tech bird scarer we used to use. It imitated the distress call of a troublesome species, and the leaflet with it boasted of how one man had kept a pest species off 2000 acres of seedling crops single handed. As we read through the leaflet we realised that he was working full time, and the unit was bolted onto his car. As he drove around the estate, he stopped whenever he saw a flock of birds, switched on the scarer, threw a hand grenade into the middle of the flock, and then shot any birds that did not fly off, or which returned…..or which were already dead?


Keeping pests off a crop is never easy, or cheap, and I can understand the Kielder Forest Authorities wanting some help with this task



Lynx, on average eat 60 deer a year, so 6 Lynx might eat 360 roe deer a year. But with a population of 6,500 deer it would take 18 years for them to eat all the existing deer, even if no new deer were born. But potentially 6,500 roe deer could produce 10,833 fauns a year (assuming 5 fertile does to each buck.) That being the case the hope that the population of roe deer could be reduced very much seems very far-fetched.

Within the 250 sq miles of Kielder forest there would be room for, say 10 male Lynx territories. Assuming that each male mates with two females and they each rear 3 kittens to maturity, then the number of lynx in the wood would rise to about 90 Lynx, which could eat 5,400 roe deer in a year. This is still well below the reproduction rate of the deer. But of the 60 kittens reared to maturity, each year, perhaps half would have to find new territories of their own, and as all the potential territories in the forest would be occupied, they will all have to set up new territories outside the forest. That is unless they are killed by fights over territory, or disease. Though territorial fighting and disease do not appear to be major factors in population control as described in the literature. Indeed the large size of the territories appears to be an adaption towards avoiding aggression and disease spread.


Of course, these surplus kittens could be culled, but that does not fit in well with the Lynx Trust’s hope that the presence of Lynx will increase tourism in the area. Tourists are quite likely to mount campaigns to prevent culls, especially as the chances of seeing wild lynx seem so slight. For tourists to see Lynx there would have to be feeding areas, presumably baited with meet from human culled roe deer. This would be the Lynx’s natural food and may reinforce the hunting instinct of young cats. However, there would be a temptation to feed cheaper butchers offal, especially when weather made hunting roe deer difficult. Hotels and tourist attractions away from official feeding areas may also be tempted to set up their own illegal feeding sites, nd being unregulated may opt for cheaper butcher’s meat as well. The feeding of meat from farm animals in either scenario would train Lynx to attack farm animals, just as we have seen with urban foxes. (Whereas wild foxes feed almost entirely on worms, beetles, small rodents, and carrion, I have seen an urban foxes fed on kitchen scraps and butchers scraps attempting to kill an adult ewe, perhaps ten times the foxes weight Though the fox only succeeded in grazing the ewe, she was very traumatised and required 3 days of care away from the rest of her flock, which is itself a very unpleasant experience for a sheep.


While the adults released at the start of the project will have radio collars, and will be easy to track, the kittens may not carry collars, and will be capable of roaming over vast areas. Finding Lynx in the wild can be difficult as the story of Lilleth the Lynx that escaped from Borth zoo in 2017 has demonstrated. When Lilleth escaped, the owners and public knew where she had escaped from, and as a zoo bred animal she was not used to fending for herself and was seen near the zoo very soon after her escape. In spite of this it took several days before she was shot. A wild born Lynx will be a very different prospect, being used to hunting from cover and travelling long distances every day. A kitten, nearing maturity, will be driven by the need to establish a territory, and may travel away from their birth territory, covering many miles in the same direction every day, until they find a suitable unoccupied territory or some natural barrier that makes them change direction.


Lynx and sheep


The biggest numbers of Lynx attacks on sheep happens in Norway, where an old breed of Forest sheep (similar in habit, but smaller than the rare British Whitefaced Woodland breed), graze within the forest. In other countries lynx attacks are rarer, though happen throughout Europe from Greece to Spain. Studies have been carried out, particularly in Norway, Poland, Switzerland and France. Lynx’s normal target is young Roe Deer, of about 15kg, which it hunts in woodland, by ambush from thickets of bramble or similar small shrubby plants on which the Deer are feeding. Young sheep are vulnerable in similar situations, and within about 200metres outside edge of woodland. However, Lynx have been known to travel along hedges between more suitable areas of woodland, and also to hunt smaller animals like rabbits from cover within hedges. So, where Lynx become so numerous, that they have to accept lower quality territories, there is a danger that young sheep would be vulnerable within 200 metres of a thick hedge that links small areas of woodland. However, Lynx have a very strong preference for roe deer, and will not attack sheep if there are Roe in the area. There is some evidence that fully fleeced adult sheep are not in danger from Lynx, as Lynx are not equipped to penetrate thick wool


As Lynx prefer their prey to weigh about 15kg, sheep are most vulnerable from birth to shortly after weaning, meaning from January until mid-summer.


There have been cases of “rogue animals”, usually larger male Lynx in the mating season, when they are extremely territorial, killing up to half a dozen smaller adult sheep at a time, and nursing females taking sheep of any size that the individual can manage to kill, if the population of roe deer collapses for any reason. In these cases, the recommendation is that rogue Lynxes should be shot immediately, because these uncharacteristic killings suggest a change in the environment that has forced the nursing animals to return to the site of a successful hunt. (Though its should be said that Lynx do not normally return to the site of a hunt for many weeks)


So, most of the time, adult sheep are safe from Lynx, and the periods when immature sheep are at risk are well known, and there is a certain amount of knowledge about how to protect them. (Such as choice of grazing area, suitable companion animals, guard dogs etc). However, there is little practical knowledge in this country, with its relative lack of woodland compared with the rest of Europe. Historically it was believed that Lynx became extinct in Britain at about the time that the Romans left in about 450 AD. However recently the Lynx Trust has made a case for Lynx having survived here until the middle ages, which is convenient for them as the EU scheme suggests reintroducing animals that became extinct up to 1000 years ago. However, the middle ages, was a time of great expansion in the woollen trade, and it could be argued that Lynx were exterminated then because of the they threat they posed to sheep. Of course, the evidence, either way, is pretty shaky. For example, you could argue that Lynx died out because of habitat destruction, when forest was cleared to make way for sheep. All we can really say is that habitat suitable for sheep is not suitable for Lynx, which brings us back to the point that when lynx have to share land with sheep, sheep are vulnerable, if Roe deer (who prefer woodland to fields).


I would guess that when Lynx are introduced in particular forests, sheep will be safe, until all the potential territories in that forest have been occupied by a Lynx. Under the scheme proposed for Kielder that would be at least 8 years (assuming maximum birth rates and survival of Lynx kittens, and no dramatic changes in the Roe Deer population apart from that caused by the Lynx. (Though changes to the planting regime in favour of mixed woodland may result in a gradual lowering of the deer population, but probably on a much longer time scale.)  While lynx numbers are building up in the forest there will be a few surplus (unmated) Lynx moving out of the forest, but they will tend to move long distances to find suitable habitat where there are many roe deer. They (males and females) will try to hold that territory until a suitable mate arrives, after which the population of Lynx in that forest will build up as it will in Kielder.  Once all the territories in Kielder or secondary woodlands have been filled, new kittens that can find a mate before being expelled from occupied territories will try to set up territories overlapping forest edge and surrounding farmland, and the local danger to sheep may increase. In secondary woodland, in which individual areas are smaller than Kielder all potential territories will be filled faster than Kielder. Because there will be fewer of them in smaller forests, so the danger to sheep will rise much quicker. However, it is important to remember that the danger only normally exists within 200m of Lynx habitat or thick hedges that can give a lynx cover for a short ambush attack.


What farmers can do to protect sheep from Lynx


One of the things that farmers must care about, apart from the general welfare of their sheep, is developing strategies to protect sheep from Lynx if they are released into the wild in this country.


Campaign targets to reduce potential damage.

  • Limit number of lynx released
  • Ensure that all individual animals introduced into the UK, and all their offspring carry radio collars, that allow them to be continually tracked.
  • Set up a compulsory and continuous permanent monitoring system, so that in 50 years’ time there will be a continuous record of the exact position (within 50m) of every Lynx in the UK for the whole 50 years.
  • Fence the lynx into any area in which it is released. So, in Kielder forest, for example the whole area of the forest should be surrounded by a lynx proof fence, with all entrances and exits monitored to such a degree that lynx can never escape from the forest.
  • Cull all lynx that are surplus to the numbers required to hold territories within the release area (for example Kielder forest.)
  • If territories become unsustainable due to habitat change, disease etc, or if numbers of roe deer fall, then the number of lynx living in the release area should be reduced appropriately.


Assuming an irresponsible release of Lynx (that does not comply with the above campaign targets), then farmers may have to consider the following: –   


  • Ensuring that no sheep have access to forested or scrubby areas, especially at times when the Lynx are mating (when male lynx may be a threat), or when young kittens are being fed (when female lynx may be a threat.)
  • Consider keeping larger breeds of sheep, where the breed is hardy enough to withstand the climate on the farm.
  • Consider other uses for fields, all of which, or part of which, are within 200m of woodland edge. On lowland farms this may be using vulnerable fields for conservation – hay or silage making, or even for arable crops. On hill land consider grazing cattle on these fields, as even young calves are, in theory too big for lynx to kill
  • Cattle health will have to be monitored carefully as small weak animals may become targets for aggressive male Lynx in the mating season, and may suffer trauma if not actual injury from being chased around
  • If vulnerable animals have to graze near woodland edges in a difficult season, consider electrified fencing, which has proved to be semi effective in against the American lynx. (But be careful and take advice, as the small amount of literature that I have seen suggests that the American fencing is very different from that used in this country and may be a danger to humans.) The Americans seem to backup the fencing with war fighting weaponry!
  • Where thick hedges form a link between areas of woodland, consider placing lynx proof barriers across the hedges that force the lynx into the open, and make the hedge a less attractive route.
  • Control rabbit populations in hedges that link areas of woodland with thriving Roe Deer populations and in fields where sheep graze, as Lynx will hunt rabbits when young, or if Roe Deer are scarce. (Take advice on whether the presence of rabbits may help protect small lambs by providing an alternative food supply. This may apply on farms where lynx are present, but habitat will not support large populations of Roe Deer)
  • Keep lambs indoors, or away from areas where they may be vulnerable to attacks from Lynx until the lambs weigh at least 15kg.
  • Keeping guard dogs, ponies, cattle, or animals like llamas are claimed to be effective deterrents to predators in some places. However, other animals in fields with sheep usually cause the sheep some stress (and may transmit parasites etc) , and this can be damaging unless very carefully managed. While there are many enthusiasts for this practice (usually with guard animals to sell) I would be very careful before going down this route. Monitor someone else who says that this is a successful technique, for at least a year before you make a decision. Are the sheep their top priority, or the animals they hope to sell to you?




All these actions to protect lambs from Lynx, will have a cost, that will vary considerably from farm to farm. If particular methods prove effective on many farms, then the cost of equipment may be reduced over time, but as most suggestions above involve management rather than equipment, the costs may increase with wages paid to do the job. Experience with bird scarers on arable crops suggests that even the most expensive equipment only works well if it is constantly moved or swapped with other methods, to ensure that the pest species do not get used to it. Effective use of elaborate scaring equipment takes a lot of labour and is expensive.

Shooting Lynx on sheep farms is likely to be ineffective, as the territories of lynx are so big, and lynx may return to any particular point fairly infrequently. In Europe, there are people for who Lynx shooting is a hobby, or even perhaps a minor business, and farmers would perhaps have more success in working with “professional” hunters than hanging around at dawn and dusk for half the year before they even see a lynx, which may be a very small and distant target. Indeed even hunters may prefer to do their shooting in woodland where (with their skills) there may be  a greater chance of finding a Lynx, but in the woodland they may be in conflict – or even a danger to  – people working with the lynx. Trapping has also been used in surveys and to a lesser extent to capture known problem Lynx, but again my involve a long period of checking several traps 2 or 3 times a day.

Because of the variability of costs on individual farms, it might be a good idea for groups of farmers to calculate costs of their favoured method of protection on their own individual farms, before arriving at an average cost for a particular Parish, say. This may be used as an argument in campaigns or for grant funding etc.







References and notes


Extract from IUCN red List


The Eurasian Lynx occurs in a wide variety of environmental and climatic conditions (Schmidt et al. 2011). Throughout Europe and Siberia, it is primarily associated with forested areas which have good ungulate populations and which provide enough cover fur hunting. It inhabits extended, Temperate and Boreal forests from the Atlantic in Western Europe to the Pacific coast in the Russian Far East (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Würsten 2008, Schmidt et al. 2013).

In Europe it can be found in Mediterranean forests up to the transition zone of taiga to tundra and lives from sea level up to the tree line (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Würsten 2008).

In Central Asia, Lynx occur in more open, thinly wooded areas and steppe habitats. The species probably occurs throughout the northern slopes of the Himalayas, and has been reported both from thick scrub woodland and barren, rocky areas above the tree line (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Matyushkin and Vaisfeld 2003, Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Würsten 2008). Lynx occur sporadically throughout the Tibetan plateau, and are found throughout the rocky hills and mountains of the Central Asian desert regions (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In Armenia Lynx are strongly associated with true forests and arid sparse forests and to a lesser extent with subalpine meadows. Lynx have been observed up to 5,500 m (Guggisberg 1975).

The Eurasian Lynx is the largest lynx, and the only one to primarily take ungulate prey, although they rely on smaller species where ungulates are less abundant. Lynx kill ungulates ranging in size from the 15 kg musk deer to 220 kg adult male red deer, but show a preference for the smaller ungulate species, such as Roe Deer, Chamois, Reindeer and Musk Deer. Occasionally, Lynx also hunt foxes, hares, marmots, wild pigs, beavers, birds or domestic animals such as sheep and goats, or, in Scandinavia, semi-domestic reindeer. In European Russia and western Siberia, where Roe Deer are absent,Mmountain Hares and tetraonids form the basic prey base. Hares and birds are important prey also in other Central Asian regions where habitats are dryer and less forested (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Würsten 2008, Matyushkin and Vaisfeld 2003).

Home range size varies widely from 100 to over 1,000 km² (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Würsten 2008). Home ranges averaged 248 km² for males (n = 5) and 133 km² for females (n = 5) in a radio telemetry study in Poland’s Bialowieza forest (Schmidt et al. 1997). Average home range sizes in Switzerland were 90 km² for females and 150 km² for male Lynx. Male home ranges generally enclose 1-2 female territories (Breitenmoser and Breitenmoser-Würsten 2008). Densities are typically 1-3 adults per 100 km², although higher densities of up to 5/100 km² have been reported from Eastern Europe and parts of Russia and lower densities of 0.3/100 km² from Scandinavia (Jedrzejewski et al. 1996, Schmidt et al. 2011, Sunde et al. 2000). In the Saihanwula nature reserve in Inner Mongolia the density was estimated at 1.7-2.1/100 km² by camera trapping and track survey (Bao et al. 2014). In Turkey, a density of 4.2/100 km² has been estimated for the Ciglikara Nature Reserve, Antalya. However, this high Lynx density may be temporarily and may decline with major prey (hare) fluctuation (Avgan et al. 2014).




Kielder Forest occupies 250 sq miles (http://www.visitkielder.com/ )


In 1970 the population of Roe deer in Kielder forest was estimated to be about 6500 animals and increasing. http://www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk/interests/mammals/mammals-north-east/roe-deer/


Comparison of methods for analysing diets of carnivores http://www.biosbcc.net/bio130/readings/ScatAnalysis_ComparisonMethods.pdf




The lynx is a pure carnivore and hunts smaller cloven-hooved animals such as deer, chamois, reindeer and musk deer. A stalk-and-ambush hunter he usually hunts in the evening when the prey is also active. If a surprise attack fails the lynx does not follow the prey. In attack, it leaps onto the prey sinking the claws of its fore-paws into its flesh and kills it with one bite at the throat. If it has killed a deer or chamois and is not disturbed it will come back on several nights until it has completely devoured the prey. Only the large bones, the head, the pelt and the innards remain. A lynx needs to kill one deer or a chamois a week, which means around 60 animals a year.  https://www.euronatur.org/en/what-we-do/endangered-species/lynx/fact-sheet-lynx/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwub7NBRDJARIsAP7wlT8ThjAp7an6pXK0iqhnSidwdO_OBskz1TBAfZfpugM33XRHFG-JmkwaAnRSEALw_wcB

Typically crepuscular, lynx are active at dawn and dusk often sleeping out day and night in dense thickets and other safe hiding places; they are good climbers and will use trees and high rocks as places to lay up, watch for prey and even launch ambush hunts from. As with most cats they are solitary except for breeding season, however males and females overlap territories and carry out some form of communication through scent marks left around their borders. Territories vary hugely depending on density of prey species, some territories are just 20km2, some are over 400km2. Lynx make an unusual range of vocalisations through breeding season; growls, coughs, grunts and meow-like caterwauling, the rest of the time they are very quiet but will mew, hiss, growl, purr and chatter at out of reach prey just as pet cats do.

Life cycle and Reproduction
Breeding season focuses on February/March when females come into oestrous for about a week, this is typical of cold weather cats which have their young just in time for spring/summer so they can grow strong before winter. Eurasian lynx will not breed at any other time of year, though occasionally females who lose a litter will attempt a second in April. Through scent marks and vocalisations females will broadcast their availability for breeding to males in neighbouring territories who will then seek them out. Pregnant females find a secluded den and line it with feathers, fur and grasses for warmth and comfort, usually having 2-3 kittens after a 2-month gestation period. Kittens are born blind and helpless, but by 6 weeks are eating solid food and ready to leave the den. They are fully weaned by 6 months and become independent around 10 months, usually breeding for the first time at 2-3 years of age. Eurasian lynx can live to over 20 in captivity, but usually just to their teens in the wild.



Causes of mortality in reintroduced Eurasian lynx in Switzerland.

Schmidt-Posthaus H1, Breitenmoser-Würsten C, Posthaus H, Bacciarini L, Breitenmoser U.

Author information


Seventy-two lynx, found dead in the Swiss Alps and the Jura Mountains (Switzerland) from 1987-99, were evaluated to determine the cause of death. Seventy-two per cent (52/72) of all animals died because of noninfectious diseases or causes such as vehicular collision and poaching. Eighteen percent (13/72) died from infectious diseases, including some which could have been transferred to the lynx from domestic animals or other wild animals such as panleukopenia and sarcoptic mange. If only radio-tagged animals (included in a monitoring program) were taken into consideration, the percentage of mortality caused by infectious diseases rose to 40%, indicating that infections might be underestimated in randomly found mortality events. We hypothesize that even a few cases of infections in a small population like the lynx, which are additionally threatened by noninfectious causes, may threaten the long term survival of the population.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11838233


PLoS One. 2015; 10(3): e0120570. __Published online 2015 Mar 25. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0120570 __PMCID: PMC4373782

Large Impact of Eurasian Lynx Predation on Roe Deer Population Dynamics

Henrik Andrén* and Olof Liberg __Benjamin Lee Allen, Academic Editor

Abstract__ The effects of predation on ungulate populations depend on several factors. One of the most important factors is the proportion of predation that is additive or compensatory respectively to other mortality in the prey, i.e., the relative effect of top-down and bottom-up processes. We estimated Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) kill rate on roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) using radio-collared lynx. Kill rate was strongly affected by lynx social status. For males it was 4.85 ± 1.30 S.E. roe deer per 30 days, for females with kittens 6.23 ± 0.83 S.E. and for solitary females 2.71 ± 0.47 S.E. We found very weak support for effects of prey density (both for Type I (linear) and Type II (non-linear) functional responses) and of season (winter, summer) on lynx kill rate. Additionally, we analysed the growth rate in a roe deer population from 1985 to 2005 in an area, which lynx naturally re-colonized in 1996. The annual roe deer growth rate was lower after lynx re-colonized the study area, but it was also negatively influenced by roe deer density. Before lynx colonized the area roe deer growth rate was λ = 1.079 (± 0.061 S.E.), while after lynx re-colonization it was λ = 0.94 (± 0.051 S.E.). Thus, the growth rate in the roe deer population decreased by Δλ = 0.14 (± 0.080 S.E.) after lynx re-colonized the study area, which corresponded to the estimated lynx predation rate on roe deer (0.11 ± 0.042 S.E.), suggesting that lynx predation was mainly additive to other mortality in roe deer. To conclude, this study suggests that lynx predation together with density dependent factors both influence the roe deer population dynamics. Thus, both top-down and bottom-up processes operated at the same time in this predator-prey system. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4373782/

Density of Wild Prey Modulates Lynx Kill Rates on Free-Ranging Domestic Sheep

  • John Odden , Erlend B. Nilsen, John D. C. Linnell


Understanding the factors shaping the dynamics of carnivore–livestock conflicts is vital to facilitate large carnivore conservation in multi-use landscapes. We investigated how the density of their main wild prey, roe deer Capreolus capreolus, modulates individual Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx kill rates on free-ranging domestic sheep Ovis aries across a range of sheep and roe deer densities. Lynx kill rates on free-ranging domestic sheep were collected in south-eastern Norway from 1995 to 2011 along a gradient of different livestock and wild prey densities using VHF and GPS telemetry. We used zero-inflated negative binomial (ZINB) models including lynx sex, sheep density and an index of roe deer density as explanatory variables to model observed kill rates on sheep, and ranked the models based on their AICc values. The model including the effects of lynx sex and sheep density in the zero-inflation model and the effect of lynx sex and roe deer density in the negative binomial part received most support. Irrespective of sheep density and sex, we found the lowest sheep kill rates in areas with high densities of roe deer. As roe deer density decreased, males killed sheep at higher rates, and this pattern held for both high and low sheep densities. Similarly, females killed sheep at higher rates in areas with high densities of sheep and low densities of roe deer. However, when sheep densities were low females rarely killed sheep irrespective of roe deer density. Our quantification of depredation rates can be the first step towards establishing fairer compensation systems based on more accurate and area specific estimation of losses. This study demonstrates how we can use ecological theory to predict where losses of sheep will be greatest, and can be used to identify areas where mitigation measures are most likely to be needed. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0079261


Mortality in the Eurasian lynx population in Croatia during the 40 years

Magda Sindi , Tomislav Gomerˇ, Josip Kusak , Vedran Slijep cevi , Ð uro Huber ,

Alojzije Frkovi ́

Suggests mortality may be about 15%, but the most important factors are human related, eg Shooting, poaching, trapping and motor accidents. More males are shot than females, probably due to their larger territories. Main month for mortality is February, with 32 deaths in study of which 10 were kittens and 22 were adults.



Roe deer face competing risks between predators

along a gradient in abundance


Melis, C., E. B. Nilsen, M. Panzacchi, J. D. C. Linnell, and J. Odden. 2013. Roe deer face competing risks between

predators along a gradient in abundance. Ecosphere 4(9):111. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES13-00099.1

Vulpes vulpes the Red Fox http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/f2013/eidensch_matt/interactions.htm



Game and Wildlife Trust Conservation surveys



Commissioned by the Deer Commission for Scotland

A review of available data on natural mortality of red and roe deer populations.

Professor R.J.Putman



Major causes of deer mortality include harsh winter

s, disease, poaching, predation,

and deer-vehicle collisions (Harris et al. 1995, P.

O.S.T. 2009, Langbein 2011). However,

by far the biggest cause of mortality is culling; a

lthough nearly 35000 deer are culled

annually in Britain, this number will need to be in

creased if we are to keep populations

in check (P.O.S.T. 2009).




  • Milder winters;
  • Changes to agriculture such as the planting of winter crops;
  • Increased woodland cover;
  • Escapes and releases from parks and farms; and
  • Greater connectivity between green spaces in urban areas




Predation has a greater impact in less productive environments: variation in roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, population density across Europe



Behavioural and spatial adaptation of the Eurasian lynx to a decline in prey availability

Home range sizes of lynx showed a tendency to increase with declining prey densities, as indicated by relative percentage increases in average yearly home range sizes amongst different sex/age groups. In response to lower availability of their main prey, lynx increased their daily straight-line movement distances by 44% and doubled the ranges covered in 5-day periods. This illustrated that, with declining prey abundance, the lynx increased their hunting efforts by either spending more time actively searching for prey or continuing foraging even after a successful hunt. Spatial analysis of the distribution of ungulates and lynx indicated that deer were evenly distributed throughout lynx ranges in BPF and spatial proximity of the predator to prey sites did not play an important role in the efficiency of hunting. Lynx may adapt to changing prey availability by increasing search effort, but this was not sufficient to prevent the negative influences of the prey decline on the lynx population. Prey depletion has an immediate effect on lynx spatial organization and, in consequence, on their density. This information has to be considered in prioritizing lynx conservation measures and management of ungulates




  • 22 June 2016

Plans to reintroduce the lynx to the wild in Cumbria and Norfolk have been scrapped.

The Lynx UK Trust said the animal, which has been extinct in Britain for 1,300 years, would help control deer populations and attract tourists.

But it has now ruled out Ennerdale in the Lake District and Thetford Forest in Norfolk, as too small to support populations of the big cat.

Sites in Northumberland and Scotland are still being considered.

Opponents argued the animals would be a threat to livestock and wildlife.

Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor with the Lynx UK Trust, said Kielder Forrest in Northumberland and two further sites in Scotland had a “much stronger” suitability due to factors such as bigger forest blocks and fewer roads.

‘Substantial impact’

The trust previously said it wanted to place up to six lynx at different sites across the UK as part of efforts to repopulate the species and has targeted lodging a formal application with Natural England to begin the trial later this year.

However, the National Sheep Association (NSA) expressed fears the move could damage the livelihoods of farmers.

Chief Executive, Phil Stocker, said: “NSA has been active in highlighting the many reasons why the UK is unsuitable for this project and is pleased that these reasons have forced Lynx UK to discount the Lake District and Thetford Forest as potential release sites.

“Our work will now continue to highlight issues with the sites in northern England and Scotland still under consideration.

“It is unacceptable to threaten the welfare of sheep and the livelihood of farmers with this scheme and it is NSA’s aim to ensure Lynx UK and its supporters cannot continue to ignore the vital role of sheep in underpinning countryside management and supporting rural communities.”


Consultation underway for lynx reintroduction


Following the recent submission of an application for a trial reintroduction of lynx into Kielder Forest, UK, the Lynx UK Trust has announced that it has continued with further consultations.

The consultations focused on Argyll and Inverness-shire in the Scottish West Highlands.

For the previous 12 months, the Lynx UK Trust has been in discussions with major landowners regarding a trial reintroduction of Eurasian lynx in Argyll and Inverness-shire, confirming access to potential release sites in each county.

The Trust aims to explore the potential for lynx in the area, including benefits it could bring to the ecology by controlling deer populations and helping to protect the capercaillie, the endangered largest member of the grouse family of wild fowl.

Deer are well known to be over-populated in Scotland, damaging forest habitats and restricting forest regeneration. A reintroduction of the lynx is expected to act as a potential natural control to help with the problem.

Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor for the trust, said: “This is a classic example of the negative impacts that come with removing species like the lynx from an ecosystem.

“Over development and climate are certainly having an impact on capercaillie but the elephant in the room is the exploding pine marten population. It’s fantastic to see them doing so well, but too much of anything creates imbalances, and they have a big impact on capercaillie by stealing their eggs.

“Pine marten overpopulation is a direct result of them having no natural predators in the ecosystem.”

“The effect has already been observed in Europe,” continues O’Donoghue, “Scottish forest ecosystems are wildly out of balance; overpopulations mirrored by underpopulations of iconic Scottish species such as the capercaillie, now on the very edge of extinction in Scotland.

“Without doubt, lynx can help restore some balance and save this species.”



Plans submitted for lynx to be reintroduced at Kielder Forest

Eurasian lynx Photo: Chris Godfrey

The Lynx UK Trust has submitted an application to Natural England for permission to carry out a trial to reintroduce the medium-sized wild cats into Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

It is the first time an application has ever been made in the UK for this species or any apex predator.

If permission is given, six Eurasian lynx (four females and two males) will be reintroduced in the Kielder Forest region for a five year period, wearing satellite collars to monitor their movements.

The application comes just over a year after the Lynx UK Trust announced their intentions to explore the possibility of bringing the Eurasian lynx back into the British ecosystem.

It’s likely the wild cats were wiped out by fur hunting and the loss of their natural habitat. But, the trust says their absence has contributed to an over population of their favourite prey; roe deer. Currently estimated at double the sustainable population size, the UK’s deer species are said to be damaging the UK’s native forest ecosystem causing problems all the way down the food chain.

Eurasian lynx have already been successfully reintroduced in countries including Germany, France and Switzerland. There are now thought to be around 10,000 of them across Europe, when numbers had dropped as low as 700.

The Lynx UK Trust says reintroducing them into Northumberland could be a major boost to the tourism industry.

Lynx have a shy and secretive nature that makes them a perfect reintroduction candidate; no attacks on humans have ever been recorded by a healthy, wild Eurasian lynx anywhere in the world. They have a very low impact on livestock with lynx in Europe killing, on average, less than one sheep every two years. The charismatic cats can also be major drivers of rural economies with the potential to brings tens of millions of pounds of tourism money into the Kielder region.”

– The Lynx UK Trust

Sorry, this content isn’t available on your device.

Eurasian lynx Credit: Chris Godfrey

An international team of experts have spent the last year detailing an approach to a reintroduction, consulting with national stakeholders, studying potential release sites, and consulting with local communities and businesses about the lynx and how a reintroduction might look.

Their findings have been extensively recorded and submitted this week to the statutory agency responsible for licensing species reintroductions in England, Natural England.

Whilst any releases would take place in England, the lynx may cross the border into Scotland and as such Scottish Natural Heritage are also remaining fully informed of all details of the application.

The Chief Scientific advisor on the project, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, said: “It is incredibly exciting to see it all come together…”

Tens of thousands of man hours of work by a huge team of people have gone into consultations shaping this final application which marks a significant milestone in the history of UK conservation; potentially the first return of an extinct predator, which could prove to be a really keystone species for our ecosystem.

“And the Lynx can bring huge benefits to the Kielder region; we could see a wave of economic regeneration as it becomes known as the kingdom of the lynx; a unique eco-tourism destination right in the middle of Britain. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from local businesses and it would be amazing to work with them developing that, from the Angler’s Arms pub in Kielder Village, already sporting a life-size replica lynx above the bar, to all kinds of new guest houses, guided walks and wildlife watching activities creating new jobs in the area.

“We’ve now reached a point where we feel every piece of research has been done, every concern that can be raised has been raised, and the only way to move truly forward is with an intensively monitored trial reintroduction of a small number of cats. That can tell us exactly how suitable the lynx would be for a larger reintroduction. We very much hope the lynx has the opportunity to prove it can bring so much to the local community and the UK as a whole.”

The Trust will now wait on a response from Natural England.

Last updated Mon 17 Jul 2017





15th  November 2013. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNG) Battleby


Agenda item 4.

Presentation and discussion of a proposal to reintroduce lynx to Scotland

For this item we were joined by Dr Paul O’Donoghue, Director of the Lynx UK Trust. Earlier in the year Dr O’Donoghue had stated that the Lynx UK Trust was interested in submitting a licence application to reintroduce lynx

to Scotland. Since any such proposal was likely to be of interest to a wide range of conservation and land use organisations, he was therefore

invited to the NSRF to set out his initial plans. The item began with a presentation from Dr O’Donaghue entitled a “Scientific trial to assess

the viability of lynx reintroduction into Scotland”. The scientific, economic and ethical reasons for undertaking a trial were set out, and some details on the methodology. The proposal would involve a three year local feasibility study, with an initial release of two males and four females which would be tracked using GPS collars, and a programme of post – release monitoring. The details of possible release sites were not given but discussions had been held with landowners. The importance of engagement with local communities/stakeholders was seen as essential. Impact on livestock would be measured and compensation paid for  livestock lost. Discussions were also being made with key stakeholders in England and Wales to examine potential releases there.

The presentation was followed by a question and answer session, during which a number of issues were raised, such as the area required by the released lynx during a three year trial period, the criteria that would be need to judge the success or failure of any trial, and technical issues surrounding the use of GPS equipment.

There was a further discussion of the proposal after Dr O’Donaghue had left the meeting , having been thanked for making the effort to travel to Battleby and give the presentation .

It was clear that the presentation had been thought provoking and had generated a lot of interest but there were a number of uncertainties or concerns over a range of issues (such as the lack of clarity over the selection of a trial site, resourcing, and how local people would

be engaged and involved).

It was agreed that SNH would try to summarise the comments

and views of NSRF members and send this feedback to him. It was also felt that any such project would need to take into account the issues and approaches set out in the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations which is being drafted.

Action point 8.7

SNH to collate and send comments to Dr O’Donaghue

Application to Natural England for the Trial

Reintroduction of Lynx to England


Carcasses provide food source for mustelids. TB risk?


David Andrew Hetherington

M.A. (Hons) Environmental Geography, University of Aberdeen, UK


………Skeletal remains of lynx have been recovered from cave sites across Scotland, England and Wales. Recently acquired radiocarbon dates, as well as etymological, linguistic and cultural evidence, show that lynx continued to

inhabit areas of northern Britain until at least the early mediaeval period. This contradicts theories that lynx died out in Britain because of climatic processes. Anthropogenic factors, such as severe deforestation, declining populations of deer, and persecution driven by protection of livestock, are

instead likely to have brought about the species’ extirpation in Britain. As lynx did not become extinct in Britain due to natural processes, they qualify ethically as a candidate for reintroduction. ……

………A Population Viability Analysis using the Leslie matrix-based software package RAMAS/age suggested that a lynx population living at a carrying capacity of 400 would be viable in the long term. However, a lynx population at a carrying capacity of 50 would be too small to be viable in isolation. Movement corridors between the Highlands and the Southern Uplands, which run through benign habitats and avoid significant barriers, are therefore essential for the long-term viability of a Southern Uplands lynx population. In order to have a high probability of surviving for 10 years after release, the minimum size of a founder population composed of 1 to 3-year old lynx should be 12 to 32 individuals, with an equal sex ratio. The most suitable lynx for a Scottish reintroduction would come from the wild of Latvia, Estonia and SW Finland……..

…….High densities of deer can have deleterious effects on forestry, agriculture and natural vegetation. Browsing, bark stripping, fraying and bole-scoring by deer can inflict substantial costs on the forestry industry in particular. The Forestry Commission owns around 35% of Scottish woodland and budgeted for a net deer management cost of £4.85 million for the year 2003/2004 (Hunt, 2003). These costs however do not include those

incurred through damage caused by deer to trees, which can be extensive. Forestry damage caused by deer in the Galloway area of south-western Scotland was thought in 1990 to be costing around £2 million per annum

(Allison, 1990). ………………


Stahl et al. (2002) identified three scenarios for the interaction of livestock and large carnivores in Europe: 1. Livestock receive high levels of protection

either by being fenced in, constantly herded by shepherds and/or dogs, or confined at night. These practices are typical of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania and Slovakia where numbers of wolf, bear and lynx are high. Under these circumstances, damage to livestock caused by lynx is non-existent or negligible, although wolves and bears can be problematic locally (Kaczensky, 1999; Mertens & Gheorghe, 2002; Rigg, 2003). ………………..

…………..This is typical of several parts of Norway where each summer over 2 million sheep are grazed in the forest (Odden et al., 2002). They are unsupervised and scattered as individuals or small groups over large areas of forest, thus replicating the behaviour and occurrence of roe deer, the lynx’s favoured prey. As densities of roe deer over most of Norway are low, lynx territories are much larger than those in other countries (Sunde et al. 2000b; Linnell et al. 2001a), and in those parts of Norway where free-ranging sheep

occur, most lynx will have sheep grazing within their home ranges (Odden

et al., 2002). This results in relatively high levels of depredation of sheep by

lynx and other forest dwelling carnivores. Almost all lynx, and especially males, are thought to kill sheep, although the roe deer remains the lynx’s

principal prey despite its limited abundance (Odden et al, 2002). Lynx kill several thousand sheep, mostly lambs, each year in Norway, with a high of 9000 in 1999 representing around 0.4% of the national flock 51 (Linnell et al

., 2000; Warren, Mysterud & Lynnebakken, 2001). The extent of the problem in Norway contrasts sharply with neighbouring Sweden, which supports a larger lynx population. Based on a Norwegian lynx population of 500 killing over 4700 sheep annually, and a Swedish lynx population of 1000 killing 48 sheep annually, Kaczensky (1999) calculated an annual loss per capita of lynx of 9.5 sheep in Norway, but less than 0.1 in Sweden. …….

………………As sheep are unevenly distributed in the landscape, only occurring in pastures, they are not found in the home range of every lynx. In addition, it is thought that the sudden and rapid movements of sheep in flocks may make hunting sheep more difficult for the lynx (Stahl et al ., 2002). spatial variability of sheep distribution combined with specific site factors, have resulted in sheep depredation by lynx involving only a few problem individuals at limited “hotspots”. Numbers of sheep killed or wounded by lynx in the French Jura vary from around 100-400 each year, but more than

70% of attacks occurred in nine small hotspots representing 1.5% of the area affected by lynx attacks (Stahl et al ., 2000; 2001b). The majority of affected sheep flocks in the French Jura experience only a very low level of depredation, i.e. 1-2 attacks per year……………

……………The distance of the pasture from woodland or scrub has a strong bearing on levels of depredation (Angst et al., 2000; Stahl et al, 2002). In the Swiss Alps, 88% of lynx kills occurred within 200m of the forest edge, and 95% within 360m (Angst et al., 2000). Sheep less than one year old are more susceptible than older sheep, with 78% of those killed falling into this age group. Of those sheep owners who lost livestock in the Swiss Alps from 1979-1999, 80% lost three or fewer sheep during this period (Angst et

al., 2000). In the French Jura, it was discovered that shooting a nuisance lynx would often solve the problem for a few months, but that ultimately a new lynx would take over the home range of the dead lynx and sheep depredation would commence once again (Stahl et al., 2001b). In these circumstances it is clear that site-specific, environmental factors are determining the likelihood and extent of depredation……………

………..4.1.2 Lynx habitat requirements Home range  prey, and the cover from which to hunt it, are the major natural constraints on lynx range

and population density in the temperate and boreal zones (Breitenmoser et al

., 2000). Small ungulates are the most important prey item for the Eurasian lynx, and where they are found, roe deer are usually the single most significant prey species. Indeed, lynx and roe deer are virtually sympatric right across Eurasia. Roe deer are predominantly browsers and are found most often in coniferous and broadleaved woodland, or in open areas near to the woodland edge (Fawcett, 1997). Wooded habitats, therefore, provide the lynx with an important food resource and, as the lynx is an ambush hunter, also the cover in which to stalk its prey. However, some areas of lynx range in Eurasia are not well wooded, and so roe deer are scarce or absent (Breitenmoser et al., 2000). In these cases, lynx use the available cover to hunt other species. For example, in the Swiss Alps, lynx often forage above the altitudinal treeline, using montane shrub and rocks to ambush chamois, while in the mountains of Central Asia lynx exist in treeless environments

, hunting instead on scrubby mountainsides (Breitenmoser et al., 2000…….

……….. Dispersal Juvenile lynx usually become independent of their mothers at between 9 and 11 months of age (Schmidt, 1998). At this stage, they disperse from their mother’s home range in search of a home range of their own, and they may have to travel some distance to settle in an unoccupied territory. For example, in the Swiss Jura Mountains, dispersal distances for 11 subadult lynx varied from 11 km to 98 km, with a mean of 43.4 km (Zimmermann, 1998). In the Swiss Alps, 19 subadult lynx were followed with radiotelemetry which revealed dispersal distances from 2 km to 164 km, with a mean of 68 km (Breitenmoser-Würsten, et al, 2001). In Bia

Łowież a Primeval Forest in Poland, six subadult lynx dispersed between 5 m and 129 km, with a mean distance of 42.5 km (Schmidt, 1998). In north-east Poland, subadult lynx followed areas of forested habitat during their dispersal, and open farmland appeared to be a barrier, with lynx changing direction whenever they encountered it (Schmidt, 1998)………..

………..In Switzerland, where lynx have adapted to more open environments, roaming lynx can use other land-uses during their dispersal. In the Swiss Jura, although 75% of radiotelemetry locations from dispersing lynx came from woodland, 25% were in open habitats, such as natural open habitats (11%), pasture (11%) and agricultural land (3%) (U. Breitenmoser,

pers. Comm .). Nevertheless, lynx tend to use woodland and scrub as they move across the landscape and are rarely more than 400 m to 500 m away from such cover (Zimmermann & Breitenmoser, in press ). Lynx have also been recorded swimming up to 30 m across rivers and 200 m across lakes (Zimmermann & Breitenmoser, in press). Furthermore, despite stronger habitat preferences than other European large carnivores (Breitenmoser, 1998), lynx have shown adaptability in human-modified landscapes. radiotelemetry from Switzerland has revealed that lynx will often rest during

the day in close proximity to human settlements, roads, golf courses, logging areas, ski lifts and even military training areas when shooting is actively underway (Zimmermann & Breitenmoser, in press) …………

………….3.The minimum patch size capable of containing a female home range was 45 km². For patches to support both a male and a female, the minimum patch size was 74 km².

4.A habitat patch capable of supporting one or more lynx must contain

≥24 km² of woodland and be ≥ 38% forested. ……………….

………….. Continued in table on next page









Continued from previous page

Roe deer


Red deer


Composition of

population (%)


Composition of

lynx diet (%)


Composition of

population (%)


Composition of

lynx diet (%)


Adult males


25 23 27 0


Adult females 46 41 46 39


29 36 27 61

Table 5.1 Percentages of age/sex classes of roe and red deer killed by lynx in

Białowieża Primeval Forest, Poland during 1987/88-1996, compared to their mean percentages in the living populations in March.From Okarma et al.(1997)…………………..


Parameter Value
Age (years)Female first breed 2
Max age (years) 14
Sex ratio at birth 1:1
Fecundity 2.5
Annual survival of female age 0-1 0.5
Annual survival females age 1-2 0.75
Annual survival females age 2+ 0.7

Table 6.2. Lynx life history data (part of table, survival rate rounded figures from Norway)

















So, sheep are a normal, though small, part of the Lynx diet. There is evidence that sheep predation happens when roe Deer density falls. 95% of sheep killed by Lynx are free ranging mountain lambs. In one study a density of 6.5lambs per square kilometre was regarded as a high density, and if Roe deer were scarce a male Lynx would kill about 6 lambs over a 30 day period. Though males sometimes killed 6 at one time. Females kill fewer lambs and when Roe Deer are abundant, do not take lambs.

When Roe deer are plentiful Lynx prey on them to the exclusion of other prey, and this makes sense when one considers their apparent vulnerability to non-infectious diseases, probably resulting from wound when hunting unfamiliar prey. (see below) This may explain their normally solitary habit as they also appear to be vulnerable to infectious disease caught from other Lynx.

Lynx are thought to have become extinct in the UK in about AD400. Their main prey the Roe Deer almost became extinct in the UK in AD1700, and that population decline could not have been due to to predation by the Lynx, which had been extinct for 1300 years.

Lynx live mainly in forest, but can also live in open country, including for example barren rocky areas above the tree line. The territory of a single male Eurasian lynx can extend to 1000 sq km, or about three times the area of Kielder Forest, so even if a Lynx has all it needs within the forest they are quite capable of making long excursions outside the boundaries.

Lynx eat approximately one Roe deer a week, or 60 a year. There are estimated to be about about 6,500 roe deer living within Kielder forest (or about 4% of the English population of roe deer) , so once Lynx are introduced there is potential for a population explosion, to perhaps 15 Lynxes before the population of Roe deer is affected. The smallest territory occupied by Lynx is about 100 Sq Km, so once the population of Lynx exceeds 4 animals their territories will have to expand beyond the boundaries of the forest. To start with, part of each territory may be in the forest where there would still be plenty of deer, but in patrolling the boundaries of their territory male Lynx will come into contact with prey that are not roe deer, and sheep will be at risk.

Roe Deer

The Deer Initiative blame the following factors for the increase in wild deer populations

  • Milder winters;
  • Changes to agriculture such as the planting of winter crops;
  • Increased woodland cover;
  • Escapes and releases from parks and farms; and
  • Greater connectivity between green spaces in urban areas

Milder winters are a very likely contribution as about 20% of Roe deer mortality is said to be the use of winter crops in farming may explain increase of due to winter cold. The milder winters also mean that many plants have a longer growing season and growth starts earlier in spring, meaning that a week animal does not have to wait as long for an improvement in diets. Farmers use of winter crops might explain some increase of deer populations in arable areas, but surely not in grassland areas to the west of the UK, though even here the change to continental breeds of cattle may leave fields vacant for longer.


In Scandinavian studies deer populations were between less than 1 per sq km to over 2.7 per sq km. At the lower of deer population (below 1 roe deer per sq km or 2.6 per sq mile) Lynx killed free ranging sheep in their territories. At a deer population of 2.7 roe deer per km sq(or 7 per sq mile) Lynx did not kill sheep in fields with electrified “predator proof” fences. The population density of roe deer in Kielder forest is 26 per square km. At this deer population it seems likely that the population density of Lynx will depend on social factors, with mortality due to fights for territory and general aggression between males, and the emigration of subdominant males and young adults.

It seems likely that the population of Roe deer in Kielder forest is currently being controlled by foxes, opportunistically taking fauns. The introduction of Lynx may reduce the fox population as Lynx will kill foxes.

Population dynamics of Roe deer has not been a popular area of study and published data is usually more about sustaining levels for human hunters, or protecting trees, rather than providing knowledge of Roe deer. Mortality in radio tagged Roe deer appears to be 20% due to disease, cold, starvation etc. predation could be up to 50% from Lynx and 30% to foxes. However, these studies on deer that have died only indicate what small numbers of deer have died of and do not indicate the effect of an introduced predator on a natural population of deer. In Kielder Lynx will use up the land area before they have much effect on the deer population, so opportunist control by foxes will e likely to remain the main mortality factor.

The following statement indicates the reason why it is particularly difficult to assess te affacte of introducing a new predator “Major causes of deer mortality include harsh winters, disease, poaching, predation, and deer-vehicle collisions. However, by far the biggest cause of mortality is culling;” (G Palmer)


The roe, are less social, resident species, which are also selective foragers.  Given

their small body size and physiology, these species select easily digested, high-quality vegetation such as new growth of grasses and tree leaves. Shoots of Rubus species are the main component of their diet, but they also eat many other plants including ivy, grasses, root vegetables and the shoots of broadleaved trees such as beech Fagus sylvatica and holly Ilex aquifolium.  Roe deer are usually solitary or found in pairs of either mating male and female, or a female and offspring. The home ranges of females sometimes overlap, but individual core ranges are exclusive.  Males aggressively defend their territory from other males during the rut, which occurs during July and August for roe deer. Roe deer are associated with deciduous or open coniferous woodland, occurring at high densities in young woodlands. during the autumn and winter.


The preference for young growth suggests that the Roe population of Kielder forest will decline as the trees mature, after which their “less social” behaviour will make them less susceptible to predation then sheep which are more social.


Figure 1 From G Palmer PhD Thesis  (MaxK is numbers per Km sq)



Males and females occupy overlapping territories, (In some studies male territories encompassed two female territories.) but are solitary hunters, so probably do not share prey. This information confirms the predictions in the last paragraph. Breeding takes place in February and March so after a 2-month gestation period kittens are born in April and May being weaned 6 months later, probably in June and July. Thus the most active period of the Lynx’s life coincides with the traditional lambing period and the period until lambs are weaned.

Kittens are fully independent at 10 months probably in about February, suggesting a great deal of disruption in Lynx communities as newly independent animals will be competing with their parents for food at the same time as their parents are starting to breed. This implies a time when some young Lynx will be forced to set up new territories outside Kielder forest.

A simple calculation of population growth, assuming a mature pair introduced in year 1 and that 3 kittens survive from each mating, suggests that by the time that the first adults die – in their mid-teens, say 15 years, and each new pair breeds first in their third year, there could be 30 Lynx in Kielder forest, which would be unsustainable.  A study on Lynz mortality in Switzerland suggests that the biggest cause of mortality is accident, or non-infectious diseases (presumably infections resulting from hunting injuries, or fights over territory) 18% of deaths were due to infectious diseases some of which would have been caught from domestic animals.

In practice mortality is likely to increase sometime after the population exceeds 4 territory holding males and territories start to expand beyond the forest itself. At this point, aggressive encounters by males defending territory will increase, and so will encounters with domestic animals from which the Lynx can contract infectious diseases. There will be a further increase in mortality when the number of Lynx in the colony exceed 15 and the population and growth rate of Roe Deer starts to decline. At this point there will be regular sheep kills by Lynx living outside the forest, and there may begin to be organised attempts at culls of Lynx.


Note that Lynx trust suggests smallest territory is only 40sq km. (probably for single females?)


  • No change to control of deer in Kielder forest. Population will rise to about 120,000, ground and shrub vegetation will decline by about 20% as will deer sensitive woodland birds. Timber productivity will remain largely unchanged.
  • As single female Lynx is introduced, deer population and other wildlife will be largely unaffected. (the Lynx will only eat 60 deer a year, perhaps less)
  • A breeding pair is introduced. After about 8 years the Lynx population will have risen to a level where it will begin to have an effect on deer population, but competition between Male Lynx for territory mean that some lynx will have territories outside the forest, or sveral will have part of their territories outside the forest. From this point sheep kills will increase, as will road traffic accidents or even Lynx culls.


1sq km = 0.386sq miles

1sq mile = 2.59 sq km


O area of Kielder forest = 250 sq miles =648sq km

Male Lynx territories occupy about 100sq km females about 50sq


6,500 Roe deer in Kielder forest = 10 /sq km IN Scandinavian studies 2.6 / sq km was considered a high population


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Unravelling PIP (Personal Independence Payment)


PIP is the new Government “pension” for people who are disabled, and replaces the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), from which disabled people pay for any extra costs that arise from their disability.

The change from DLA to  PIP has not been handled well by politicians with the result that there has been a lot of controversy about it, and the change has been viewed with dread by most disabled people who are or will have to claim it.

In the following pages we try to analyse a real assessment of a PIP application. We hope that this will help people who have not yet applied, or who are having trouble understanding the decision made afterwards.We also include criticisms of the process, the forms used and the assessments carried out, which we hope will help officials improve the process.

For the people who depend on this type of payment, this is far too important not to try and make it work.

About his case study

Disability has many forms, and no claimant of PIP is typical. The subject of this case study is described as “severely disabled” and his disabilities include both learning and physical disabilities, a mix which would challenge any system designed to test his qualification for PIP. In some cases it appears that the severity of his disability exceeds levels foreseen by those who designed the assessment. The difference between reality and the model used by the designers means that answers given to some questions may be misleading.

The subject was assessed as qualifying for PIP, which is not surprising as he had previously been assessed as qualifying for DLA  perpetually. He is a relative of the author

Description of client before assessment. (He is still the same)

Client has severe Downs syndrome, and Autism. He also suffers from asymmetric gait, poor muscle tone and nystagmus. He is registered as partially sighted, and has been prescribed deaf aids in both ears. Because of his behaviour and low levels of stamina he has been supplied with a wheel chair.

the RNIB say: –

“Nystagmus is constant uncontrolled movement of the eyes. The movements are usually side to side but can also be up and down or in a circular motion. Most people with Nystagmus have reduced vision.

When visual pathways or parts of the brain that control this movement don’t develop properly or get damaged later in life, eye movements can become poorly controlled causing Nystagmus.”

His education was entirely in SLD (Severe Learning Difficulties) schools. And he has been assessed as having a mental age of “up to 3”.

Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD): Pupils with severe learning difficulties have significant intellectual or cognitive impairments. This has a major effect on their ability to participate in the school curriculum without support. They may also have difficulties in mobility and co-ordination, communication and perception and the acquisition of self-help skills. Pupils with severe learning difficulties will need support in all areas of the curriculum. They may also require teaching of self-help, independence and social skills. Some pupils may use sign and symbols but most will be able to hold simple conversations. Their attainments may be within the upper P scale range (P4-P8) for much of their school careers (that is below level 1 of the National Curriculum).
(Further information about P scales can be found in Supporting the Target Setting Process, DfES Guidance March 2001. Ref: DfEE 0065/2001)

If a pupil is working at P1i-P3ii in English, then using reading, writing, speaking or
listening performance descriptors would not normally be appropriate. If a pupil is working
above P3ii in English, then separate performance descriptors (P4-P8) can be given in
reading, writing, speaking or listening and an overall English performance descriptor
is not expected.

He has had constant antibiotic resistant ear infections for several years, and reacts violently to pain. In the past, this has extended to pulling water pipes off walls, causing flooding, breakage of furniture etc. Water has flowed through the main fuse box when he overflowed a sink. He has blown light bulbs by obsessively playing with light switches. For the last year, he has been spitting compulsively and frequently at all times when he is awake. Social services have assessed him as needing two care assistants at any time that he leaves the home. Car journeys can often be exciting as James tries to communicate with the driver by grabbing their arms, or the controls. He also passes lose bits of shopping etc. For this reason, he always has two adults with him on car journeys, and we also use a specially made safety seat belt clip to make sure that he stays in his seat. (The clip was made by the Cerebra innovation Centre at Swansea University, and can be pulled off in emergency, while blocking the normal release mechanism.)

Downs syndrome is a complex genetic disorder (also described as a trisomy on chromosome 21). This means that every nucleated cell (all those except red blood cells) of his body is affected. In spite of recent advances in genetic science, there are no new treatments for Downs syndrome, and Government policy seems to be to encourage terminations of pregnancy once tests have confirmed a Downs diagnosis. Client was born before any such tests were reliable.

Wikipedia says: –

Down syndrome (DS or DNS), also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability.

The direct effect of the third strand of DNA, is that the genes under it cannot be expressed properly, resulting in cells that have a missing function. This reduces the abilities of the person who’s genes are masked in this way. From the severity of his disablement it seems likely that the client has a “long” trisomy which is masking many genes, including those responsibly for site, hearing, nasal sinus formation, muscle tone, gait, learning etc.

Client can neither read, write nor speak, and has no sense of danger, cannot see approaching vehicles, and in unfamiliar places cannot tell the difference between floor tiles and steps. In the past, we have found him standing on a first-floor window ledge quite happily waving off some visitors without any sense that this was unusual. He couldn’t see or fear the drop. In public places, he might walk up to random strangers and hug them (when he is well) if he is ill, he might grab at whatever body part is nearest and pinch hard. On one supermarket trip, a few months ago he got overwhelmed by the crowds and lay down on the floor spitting at the food shelves and wouldn’t stop until he had been manhandled out of the shop, upon which he rapidly calmed down. Since then we have found that the security of a wheelchair helps him.

He needs help to dress in the morning. He has to be given his medicines as he does not know what they are, cannot distinguish one from another, does not like the feel of them in his mouth, cannot count them, and unless made to drink will often chew medicines designed to be swallowed and vice versa. Until he is in the right mood, perhaps an hour after the due time he will spit any medication out. Breakfast can take over an hour even with constant help. Other meals are the same, he often refuses to take his first mouthful until after everyone else has completely finished their meal, whether he is served with everyone else or in a separate room. Persuasion of any kind is counter-productive, and all foods and drinks are treated in the same way. His diet has been assessed as OK by a nutritionist who has monitored his diet over a couple of weeks, and rings periodically to check how he is doing.

He tries to help with household tasks with his helpers, but making his bed (with two helpers) can take over an hour, peeling a potato might take an hour using a special peeler, and with constant prompting. Outside, (with helpers) he will pick up sticks if he thinks that the weather is suitable, but it might take an hour to fill one wheelbarrow, or he might lose interest after a few seconds and insist on returning indoors. His poor stamina limits the time he can spend on any outside task, and the speed that he can walk. His asymmetric gate means that he never runs or jumps. He cannot be left on his own outside as – without realising it, or the danger he could potentially be in – he will get lost.

How he was assessed for the Department of Work and Pensions: –

A low score means that he is fully able. A high score that he cannot perform at the target level.

The scores are as recorded on the PIP.7006 letter

Test (scored out of) PIP score Based on this information
Preparing Food (8) 4
  • Special appliances? :  not applicable
  • Do you need help? Yes

Extra information “I cannot cook at all. Someone prepares all my meals for me. Cooking would be unsafe as I have no awareness of danger. I don’t understand how to use a microwave. I can’t boil a kettle. I can’t use sharp knives to cut things up. Had not finished peeling one potato with a special peeler after half an hour. Can sometimes butter toast that someone else has cooked.

Eating and Drinking (10) 4
  • Do you use an aid or appliance? No.
  • Use a feeding tube? No
  • Do you need help to eat and drink? Yes.

Extra Information: I have some food cut up as I choke. Someone has to be with me in case I choke. I take an hour to eat a plate of dinner. Our speech therapist has drawn up guidelines for eating and drinking after several events when Heimlich manoeuvre was necessary. Cannot eat rice etc as they are choking hazards.

Managing your treatments (8) 1
  • Do you need to use an aid appliance: Yes
  • Do you need help: Yes

Extra information: I cannot take any medication on my own.

I do not like swallowing my tablets so I can be very awkward when taking them. All my medication is given to me at the correct times by my parents or carers.

Blood sugar monitor

Washing and bathing (8) 2
  • Aids and appliances: Yes
  • Do you need another person to help you: Yes

Extra information: I have to have my bath run for me. I use grab rails to get in and out. I need someone to tell me where to wash, or do it for me. I cannot be left on my own. I need someone to clean my teeth for me, and to shave me. I can’t cut my finger and toe nails, as I cannot control scissors. I have a wet room upstairs, though I prefer to use the bath, but this is used if I have an accident or am sick at night. A podiatrist cuts my toe nails at home.

Managing your toilet needs (8) 0
  • Incontinence: No
  • Do you need help: Yes

Extra Information: I quite often need help to clean myself. About three times a week I wet my cloths by accident when I am on the toilet. I also have leakage from my bowels on occasions. My carers use a lot of baby wipes to clean me as I spread it up my back when I am trying to wipe myself. About 4 times a year I get a urinary infection, but I cannot tell anyone, so it often takes  few days before anyone realizes.

Dressing and undressing (8) 2
  • Do you need aids: Yes
  • Do you need help: Yes

Extra information: My parents or carers get out my cloths, but sometimes I refuse to put them on, and then they dress me. I can’t do up buttons. I can’t lace up shoes, although that is what the hospital podiatrist has recommended. I wear Velcro fastening shoes, but if a strap becomes unthreaded then I need help to put it back. I mostly like to wear Jogging bottoms, but I also like a shirt and tie. I will often change my shirt two or three times a day, but need help each time to do up buttons etc. I discard clothes all over the house.

Communicating (12) 8
  • Aids: Yes
  • Help: Yes

Extra information: I have hearing aids, but cannot wear them as I have constant ear infections. I have a communication book, and an i-pad with communication software, but I generally use it just to look at pictures, not to say what I want to do. I get very frustrated when people don’t understand what I want and will grab them, or cough or spit in their faces. I will also pick up things and throw them. I can do some basic signs to communicate some of my needs such as toilet, drink, cake, banana. About twice a week I use my voice to say a word. Mostly I hum, mutter or scream.

Reading (8) 4
  • Aids: No
  • Help: Yes

Extra information: I cannot read or write. I recognize some signs and symbols in my communication book I need glasses but refuse to wear them as they don’t help very much as I have nystagmus. I am registered as partially sighted.

Mixing with other people (8) 4
  • Help: Yes
  • Do you find it difficult: Yes

Extra information: When I go out I need 2- 1 as I may behave inappropriately. I will go up to strangers and grab them or give them a hug. I also lie down in strange places if I feel uncomfortable, such as the aisles of shops, pavements etc. I there are a lot of people in my house I go to my bedroom, otherwise I get very agitated. I can sit still, sometimes for example, at a meeting with social services, but I don’t know what is going on and get fed up and either leave or start picking up and throwing things.

Making Budgeting decisions(6) 4
  • Help on prices? : Yes
  • Help manage budget? : Yes

Extra Information: When I go into a shop I will pick up anything that is shiny or sparkles and want it. I have no idea of money. If it is appropriate my carer might buy it for me. I could not handle money as it is meaningless to me.


Comment on scoring system: Apart from the inaccuracies of assessment, this score is statistically meaningless as the total available score for Eating and Drinking, Communicating, and Budgeting have a different base. The different scores appear to relate to skills that are considered basic and those that are considered advanced. To be statistically correct, and to avoid confusion, basic and advanced skills should be treated separately.

Comment on actual scores. Many scores (especially “Managing your treatments ” and “preparing food”) do not seem to relate to the information given.) Perhaps the following, might explain why the client was continually offered credit cards before the banks crashed: –

“How can someone who cannot  read, write or speak and who cannot count be 33% good at making budgeting decisions?”


Test (scored out of) PIP score Based on this information
Planning and following a journey (12) 12
  • Do you need help to plan a familiar route? : Yes
  • Do you need help to get to somewhere you know well? : Yes
  • Are you unable to go out because of anxiety?:  Sometimes

Extra Information: Sometimes I ask (by pointing to a picture) to go somewhere. I need 2 people to go with me. In the car I need 2 people because otherwise I will grab the driver to communicate. Often I refuse to go out and lie on the floor. I cannot follow a route without another person. I use a wheelchair in shops otherwise I sit on the floor. I cannot see or hear cars coming and trip on steps or pavements as I have no depth perception.

Moving around (12) 4
  • Distance: It varies.
  • Appliance : No
  • Wheelchair: Sometimes

Extra Information: I cannot go out on my own. Most days I get tired easily and will sit/lie down – anywhere. When going out involves walking I take my wheelchair which my carers push. I get out of the wheelchair when I have had enough sitting down. I need constant supervision as I cannot see dangers, I have no depth perception, kerbs are a problem. Downs syndrome, Autism, Severe learning disabilities, asymmetric gait makes me unsteady. Blood sugar levels make me tire easily. I also have low blood pressure. Kerbs, paving slabs, unfamiliar stairs and steps are all hazards to me and cause me trip or stumble. Nystagmus means that I cannot see oncoming traffic or pedestrians.


Comment on scoring system: Planning a journey seems like an advanced skill compared to Moving Around, so it is odd that planning comes first.

It is not clear how the “Distance you can walk” is interpreted, or even why it is there (for this client at least) as there is no guarantee that he would ever get to any destination, no matter how close. The question suggests that the designer of the form only thought about physical disabilities such as suffered by amputees or people who have paralysed legs. Asthmatics may be able to walk miles on good days, and not be able to go anywhere on bad days, as their problem is entirely due to the oxygenation of the blood and has nothing  to do with their basic ability to walk, but for many people asthma can be totally debilitating for a good part of the year.People with learning difficulties are yet are another case, where they may be able to walk , but only in random directions, and never getting to a destination without someone to guide them. The question does not allow for people whose disability is a combination of these types.

Comment on actual scores. Planning a journey: Certainly client could not plan a journey.

Moving Around :  Client has functional legs and arms, but low stamina, asthma, asymmetric gait, and mental incapacity for directed action. He can move around in the home and for very short familiar journeys in the garden. But even so all these journeys have a random element, partly caused by poor stamina and partly by his inability to concentrate on achieving any particular aim. In essence, most of his movement is non functional, unless he is directed by a carer. Carers are also needed to protect him from all kinds of dangers from the most trivial to the most obvious and dramatic.

Q15: Additional information

Client has severe learning difficulties and needs constant supervision day and night. He often does not sleep until 1:00am although he usually asks to go to bed before 10:00pm. He then rearranges his room and strips the bed, flicks switches on and off, and gives blood curdling screams. Rescuers are often, but not always, met with a big grin. He starts screaming again at about 6:30am, but then sleeps until 8:00am. Sometimes the screams are genuine and he is in great pain. He is very stubborn and hates taking medications, although he will usually take his routine inhalers. In the last 18months he has lost weight going from 9stone 8pounds to 6 stone 9pounds. He is being monitored by a dietician at the Hospital. He is having high energy/protein drinks to increase his weight. He has constant help from the Severe Behavioural Difficulties specialist at the County Community Learning Disabilities Team, and the Consultant Psychiatrist attached to the team. He has had a CT scan to try to identify the cause of his current problems and it was discovered that his sinuses were not formed properly at birth and were blocked and severely infected. (He is now 33 years old!) He is awaiting exploratory surgery to cure the problem. He is also awaiting an appointment for restorative dentistry.

Client has 2 adult carers by day and night. He cannot be left alone for more than a few minutes.

He enjoys going out to familiar situations, and with his carers, was “volunteering” at a bowling alley, cleaning balls etc. but this has had to stop because of his constant spitting. If he stops spitting, we hope he can return. He goes to Pembroke college Equine Studies department for a half day a week course, and in the summer, he spends the afternoon carriage driving for the disabled.

He likes music, but very loud, otherwise he cannot hear it.

He has to have his blood sugar checked at intervals as it has gone so low that he fainted. He has low blood pressure.

Q15 Additional information (continued)

Q2A Autism diagnosed 2005.

The phenomenon of combined Down’s Syndrome and Autism is a relatively recent  discovery, since when it is thought that the Autism develops between the ages of three and seven, but the following list (compiled by The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection) describes many of the client’s behaviours: –

Does not orient to people, —Is non-verbal, makes unusual vocalizations, says words , without actual communicative intent, repetitive speech, Stops using speech, signs or other means of communication, Seems happiest playing alone, Exhibits inappropriate laughing or giggling, Lacks imaginative play, prefers repetitive play with objects, Insists on sameness and routine, has great difficulty with transitions —Has difficulty understanding gestures and does not use gestures to communicate, e.g. pointing, Shows no real fear of dangers, Appears to be insensitive to pain, May not want to cuddle or hug, —Has eating problems– limited foods, textures, etc., —Has sleep problems, —Exhibits repetitive motions – flapping, twirling, tics, rocking, head, shaking, spinning, twisting the hands at the wrist, Exhibits sustained odd play and inappropriate attachment to objects, —Exhibits self-stimulating behaviours (“stimming”), Has meltdowns

Comment: During his “volunteering schemes” the team (client plus carers) are suppose to achieve the same work rate as a normal worker, though in practice the carers do most of the work. However volunteering does provide vital socialisation, and a little “work experience”. Without carers it would be impossible for client to take part in schemes like this.

He strongly objects to most of the medicine regime, and will not take morning medicines from anyone who is in the house before he has his breakfast (This may be 2 hours after he has got out of bed even if offered within minutes of getting dressed.) Generally he will take medicine from anyone coming into the house for the first time in 24 hours between 60 to 90 minutes after getting up – who, it does not matter.

Section 4 -What to do now

Tell us about any help you would need if you have to go to a face-to-face consultation: –

Client would need at least 2 carers with him. It would be extremely distressing for him to attend (please contact Social Worker regarding this) Stairs would be a problem.



The PIP assessments must be a nightmare for assessors who do not have very extensive expertise in all the forms of disability that are relevant, and I have almost as much sympathy for them as for those who may be inadequately assessed at the end of the process. However, while the assessors can go home at the end of the process with lives that are virtually unchanged by it. Those who received the wrong assessment may be put in grave danger, because of subsequent withdrawal of resources that are essential to life.

The following table enlarges on the PIP questions. The comments are an attempt to work towards identifying the vital questions that were not asked in the PIP process. They are also an attempt to identify areas of knowledge that PIP assessors should have before making this type of assessment.  They need more work, and I hope to add to this in the next few days.

Test (scored out of) PIP score  
Preparing Food (8) 4 He has no concept of food preparation, He does not know why or how food needs preparation.
Eating and Drinking (10) 4 For the client this is the major task of the day. Physically, he can feed himself liquid or soft food, but does not have the manual dexterity to manipulate a knife and fork to cut harder or tougher items. (Even spaghetti must be cut up for him, because although he can cut through it, he cannot understand that if he cuts a strand in half he needs a second cut to make the spaghetti a manageable size.) He cannot cope with other types of food manipulation methods – such as twirling on a fork, or chop sticks. In a “medieval banquet” he even refused to eat cooked food with his fingers, and would not eat until he had been given a knife and fork. At times the physical characteristics of the food (even “favourite items”) are unpleasant in his mouth and he will violently spit it out. The spat items landing 6 ft or more from him. This might first happen with the first mouthful, or half way through a meal. Sometimes he might clear a plate of the same food and ask for more.

Some foods, like mashed potato build up in the top of his mouth (he has a “high dome”) causing him to gag and panic. Rice and similar foods can stick in his throat, blocking his airways and result in the need for rapid performance of the Heimlich manoeuvre (abdominal thrust)

Managing your treatments (8) 1 Client’s list of (10 different ) medicines was supplied with the original form. Client has no idea what medicines are for, cannot read the instructions, and cannot count out the tablets or extract medicines from the jars. He does know that liquids poured into his ears provide transient comfort, and asks for them at any time of day when his ears are particularly painful. He does not know the difference between an antibiotic ear drop and olive oil and could not safely use either the glass olive oil ear dropper or the antibiotic sprays. His asthma inhalers are a familiar routine, and while he accepts them with good grace in the morning is often resistant at night when he is tired.

He is normally very resistant to tablets or capsules given aurally, and it may take an hour or more of appropriate persuasion before he begins to take his solid medicines. He is better at taking things like liquid painkillers that are flavoured for use by children, but even so may spit them out. This makes it dangerous to use penicillin type antibiotics in liquid form as several family members are allergic to penicillin. At present he will resist taking his morning medicines until someone new comes to the house. It does not matter who, as the successful carer one day may have failed the previous day.

Washing and bathing (8) 2 He does not like washing, and gets very stressed with the routine. He has smashed up a clothes-horse and laundry basket on separate occasions in the last couple of years. His evening bath is part of his routine. He may ask for it in the morning – several times. After tea, he really wants it, but we have to run the water for him as putting in the plug or turning the taps are beyond him. We must also put in the correct dose of “Oilatum” which he needs as part of his treatment against skin complaints including psoriasis. He will get into the bath in his own time – often an hour after it was first run, although at other times he may become very agitated by any delay. We have to keep checking the water temperature. Once in, he is usually out very quickly unless we stand over him and try to persuade or help him to wash. At others, he will enjoy a soak even when the water has returned to room temperature. When he gets out of the bath he will often put on his pyjamas without drying, so again we have to stand over him, and persuade or help him to dry. At every stage, we must test to see whether persuasion or helping is going to work. A wrong decision can end in total non-cooperation or a violent response. Neither is directed at us personally, but either can last an hour and can result in personal injury even if  only because we try to lift a passive “client” from an awkward position or one in which he might hurt himself or others. (There is not usually the option of persuading him to move to a more suitable position first!)
Managing your toilet needs (8) 0 He does not go to the toilet when he gets up, and may hold on until midday. He will often react violently to persuasion to use the toilet.

When he needs to go to the toilet he needs to go straight away. He cannot cope with public toilets on his own, so often two of us need to squeeze into a normal WC, when disabled toilets are occupied or not available. He cannot use a urinal, and prefers to sit to urinate. He does not understand that others need privacy.

In disabled toilets, he is fascinated by all the extra facilities, grab handles, disposal bins and emergency chords. (When at a play scheme, years ago, he accidentally called the fire brigade by pushing the glass in an attempt to play with the switch underneath. The noise – and personal associations – of the alarm bells ringing, proved extremely traumatic for one of his friends who was present.)

At home, he can often use the toilet on his own, but even then, may urinate over the rim of the toilet, wetting his clothes. If his faeces are soft, or he has diarrhoea he cannot clean himself, and often he drags faecal material up his back as far as his shoulder blades. If help is not immediately available a lot of it lands up all over the floor, toilet seat, the tank and the wall around the toilet roll holder, and of course can be trodden all over the room and elsewhere.

Dressing and undressing (8) 2 He is usually helped to dress when he gets up. If not, he often chooses inappropriate clothing or puts clothing on back to front or inside out. He cannot cope with buckles, buttons or cords that need tying. He cannot recognise the heal of his sock, and may pull it half way up his calf, or put the sock on back to front. If a button fronted shirt is put away with only the top button done up he will put it on with the whole collar, still done up behind his head, and will carry on even though the shirt must be very tight under his arms and not covering most of his chest.

He cannot regulate his body temperature so that it is important that he wears appropriate clothing, but he does not know whether he is hot or cold. Often he would chose the opposite clothes to those he needs. He also finds it difficult to assess outside weather conditions or whether he needs a sweater or coat. If he is dry inside, he does not understand that he needs a coat to go outside into the rain. If not reminded, he would go outside in his socks without shoes of any kind. He does not like wearing safety hats to ride his tricycle, although he recognises it as part of the routine. He will ride without it if he thinks that no one has noticed. He cannot do up the safety hat straps without help.

He does not like the feel of wet clothes and will try to change many times a day, even if only a single drop of water has touched his clothes, resulting in a tiny wet patch only a few millimetres across. When he chooses clothes, he will empty many items on the floor or throw them round the room. Some may end up in random places throughout the house. Once the chosen items are on he will often need help to turn them right way out, or do them up.

He often brings pyjamas downstairs at odd times of day, and leave them around the house. At bed time, he will not remember where any of them are, and will go upstairs to fetch yet another pair, but may go and find yet more, before he has his bath.

Communicating (12) 8 He can neither read, write, count or speak. (The hearing of Downs people is different from the rest of us. While learning phonics, typical children can recognise about 6 sequential parts of each sound, and mentally add these sounds together to build up a phonic sound putting several phonic sounds together to build up a word. People with Downs syndrome hear only four sequential parts of a phonic and so confuse different phonics which makes it difficult to hear words or convert what they hear to speech or writing.) While high achieving Downs people can get over most of this difficulty, the problem increases with the length of the trisomy on chromosome 21 and other complications. This is a case of someone who is severely handicapped (low achieving), and who is also deaf, and with constant ear infections. He can hear conversation as if it is coming through a double-glazed window, and often imitates the sound when he “hums” to himself. He finds speech comforting, but largely meaningless.

He can point at things he wants, or things that he thinks represent the type of thing that he wants. Sometimes when he points at an object or symbol it is not clear whether he wants that thing, or whether he is opening a conversation about something else. Sometimes he is just breaking the silence and announcing his presence.

It is not always obvious when he is offered a choice of two things and points at one, that that is the one that he wants. He might point at it because he likes the colour, or some other feature of it, but he really wants to eat / play with / wear the other.

Client is a good communicator (of his most basic needs and wants) with people who know him, and are used to these complications. But others might find it difficult to understand him.

He is good at recognising emotions in others and is a sympathetic nurse /carer to those he knows, and as far as he is able. At times his efforts at comforting his patient may be overenthusiastic, though very well meant.

Reading (8) 4 Client cannot read. See above note on phonics. Nystagmus and short sight are also problems.


While I am engaged in this project we are learning about the PIP process all the time. I have already commented on the different scoring base for each question but I have discovered something even more shocking.

We already know that the maximum possible score varies for each question, (e.g. The maximum score for preparing food is 8 points, while Eating and Drinking is 10, presumably because the loss of the ability to feed oneself is more important than the loss of ability to cook. While it is reasonable that there is a hierarchy to the assessment system, the grouping of questions without regard to the hierarchy, so that adjacent questions are given different weights is bound to cause confusion, and one wonders whether anyone has proof read the forms, or if they have what was the motive for allowing them to be used in this confusing manner. Conventionally the questions would all be marked to the same base, and then a properly explained correction applied further down the “report form”, or the questions would be divided up into “basic skills” and “advanced skills”.

But the new discovery is to do with the scoring on the question about “Managing your treatments (8)”. Although this is scored out of 8 points we are told that no one gets more than 2 points. So someone whose management of medicine is so bad that they are regularly taken to hospital to have their stomach pumped would still be scored in a way that suggests that their ability to handle medicines is 25% that of the ability of a fully qualified doctor! But that is not the worst bit of this wheeze. The qualification for being paid PIP is the total score achieved from all the questions, that is 33 for “daily living” of which you must gain over a certain threshold, say 28 points. But the maximum number of points that you can actually get is only 27 points, so in this scenario everyone fails, however disabled you are.


The form clearly mixes basic and advanced skills which is why several questions are scored differently. This is a simple mistake to make, and is well known to  produce false results as some people will misinterpret the status of particular questions. If the scoring is by humans then they may also make mistakes because of the mixing of basic and advanced skills and the different weight to be giving to each point awarded.(Familiarity with a bad scoring system is no help when scorers are working under pressure.)

It also makes it difficult to interpret the results as people will assume that each question answered has equal weight, when in fact  it does not. People who do not realise how the scoring system works (and this would include many of the most deserving cases among those with learning difficulties or mental health problems) may not appeal when they should, while some who do not qualify may be able beat the system, by  taking advantage of the scoring system.

Some very basic questions were not asked, and this gave rise to invalid answers being given to some of the questions that were asked. For example, if the first question asked for a particular skill is “do you need aids” and the answer is “no”, then the scorer might correctly award no points at all. However if, before the question about needing aids, there had been a question like “do you understand the need for that particular skill”, and the answer was “no”, then the scorer might understand why the question about aids was answered with “no” and full points might be awarded.

It was disgraceful that full points could not be awarded for managing medication, as being unable to do so could be fatal in many cases. Clearly those who cannot administer their own medicines safely must have help. There can be no question about that. It seems that part of the reason  for the dangerous way that points are awarded in this area is that the designers of the form have confused medicine and therapy, and combined them under the heading of medication – an American catch-all expression which is itself fairly meaningless. The authorities should consider separating medicines from therapies, and applying the potential for full points to each. But even here there is likely to be confusion as I know one person who has exhausted all available physiotherapies, but still has to carry out recommend exercises, at their own expense, nearly every day of the week. In the client’s case, no therapies seem to be applicable, although if he did not have congenital learning difficulties, anyone else with his physical problems would also be having treatment almost every day.  And how do dialysis patients fit into the picture?

To solve the problem of form design and scoring, the authorities need to take a serious look at the full range of disabilities that people have. Having done that they then need to decide if it is appropriate to make one form fit all types of disability. It is very difficult to imagine how one form could cover sensory loss, loss of use of limbs and learning difficulty at the same time. But this form seems to cover long term and terminal medical conditions as well.

Having decided on which disabilities are to be covered, then the form needs to be set out as a decision tree, so question 1 must be about the type of disability with a link to appropriate basic questions   for that type of disability. So question one might say “if you have a learning difficulty go to section A”, if sensory impairment “go to section B” etc. Section A might have questions about understanding the need for basic skills, like preparing food, washing etc. Following that there would be questions about aids. In sensory impairment the first question might be “do you have any sight”, “are you registered blind or partially sighted”, and then “do you use aids like sticks, radar, spectacles, or optical spectacles” etc. In that way  officials can build up a verifiable idea of the ability of a claimant that can be cross checked with medical or social service records. IT should allow more genuine claimants to get the help that they need and weed out those who make false claims.etc. With a clearer form and a simpler scoring system, appeals could made on errors of fact, not errors of interpretation.

Later questions can still be about more advanced skills like planning a journey or cooking, perhaps even owning and driving cars, as some very severely disabled people can do fantastic   things if the appropriate treatments and technology are available to help them. Sadly some disabilities have no treatments of technologies to help them, and none appear to be likely, and these are the people who need most help. But most people who are made disabled during their lives, or who are born disabled, suffer a period, often of several years either of intensive treatment, or “waiting until they get used to or grow into it”, and this is a time of great need as well.

People who have genetic disorders will never get well. Technology or gene therapy may help eventually, especially if they are suffering a condition caused by a single gene. But even they are likely to have periods of greater disability between courses of therapy, or when newer technology leap frogs their condition, and the their favoured technology is phased out. Disability, even for those fortunate enough to receive a “cure”  never completely goes away. But many genetically based disabilities that are based on multiple genes will probably never be “cured”, and will rely on many types of technology, that will be unlikely ever to be at the same phase of development at the same time, so that what seems like a great help one week, will be unavailable in a month or a years time. These technologies are expensive to produce, and as markets become saturated, manufacturers lose interest. For the most vulnerable people there is a constant and confusing cycle of technological and commercial advance and retreat, that will make them forever disabled.



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Response to Question asked by 38Degrees policy questionnaire

I would guess that not many agricultural ecologists were involved in formulating your environment policy – you obviously need more help in this.

Agricultural ecology is obviously a very big and complex subject as it covers almost the whole human interaction with the farmed landscape, and something like 2000 different species in every acre. (Many of these are small animals, fungi, bacteria, virus etc.) Simple solutions, such as you propose are bound to have unexpected results.

But first of all you ban GM crops, probably because of fears about the behaviour of large chemical companies which I share. (Ownership of genes should NEVER have been allowed, and the present gene owning multinationals are demonstrating why!) What you do not seem to realise is that Genetic Modification is one of many breeding techniques. It has the advantages over other techniques in that it is very precise, and can produce crops that can cope with rapidly changing conditions in about 10 years instead of the 30 years of conventional techniques. Faced with climate change, this ability to produce modified crops very quickly, may be crucial to the survival of agriculture in many localities and thence to the well being of humanity. Yes there are potential ecological risks, but in the situations that GM is ideally suited for, it is a question of human survival or a potential extra risk to a local ecosystem that has already been severely disrupted by rapid climate change – and perhaps local environmental disaster.
Whether or not you allow the continued development of GM, the need for crops that can withstand unpredictably changing conditions will continue, and breeders will have to go back to the older techniques of mutagenisis using radiation or mutagens such as sodium azide. While these techniques are potentially dangerous for the personnel who carry them out, they also have the potential to create monsters with severely disturbed genomes and with entirely unpredictable effects on the environment. Of course you could ban these old techniques as well (though scientists breathed a sigh of relief once GM was perfected) but that is no guarantee that the replacement techniques will be any better.

As to pesticide bans, you have to remember that pesticides were originally produced to protect human health, so they are not all bad. AT that time farms were small, and farmers could deal with local outbreaks of disease etc without causing mass environmental problems. It is the current cheap food policies coupled with supermarket distribution systems that have forced farmers to rush for economies of scale, so that spraying huge farms can cause local extinctions. The RSPB’s figure of a 60% decline in farmland bird populations is closely mirrored by the decrease of farm numbers from 300,000 when I did my farm training in 1970, to 100,000 now.
IN the 1970s, in spite of the elimination of some terrible 1950s products following “Silent Spring”, there were several alternative chemicals (or formulations of the same chemicals) available to farmers for almost every crop situation. Since then the numbers of alternative pesticides has decline considerably, and now most farmers have to use the same chemical, at the same time for almost all purposes. This is bound to cause environmental damage as wildlife that is sensitive to the chemical being used has no where to escape to.
This was graphically illustrated when the seed dressing Lindane was banned, leaving farmers (and gardeners) with no alternative but the neo-nicitinoids. Although there is plenty of evidence that wildlife has declined where neo-nicitinoids have been used there is less clear evidence that neo-nicitinoids are actually causing death. IN other words an unpleasant, but “essential” chemical is causing major global problems because of the way that society has chosen to use it, rather then its intrinsic properties. (I do not dispute that it harms some – perhaps many – species, I am just saying that it is not toxic in the conventional sense.)

Pesticides can be described as essential if they protect human health. But most of the time, some plants will grow a bit without pesticides. They might even set some seed. However a farmer, even a hobby farmer, must cover their costs. That means that “some plants surviving ” is not good enough. Many plants must survive in order for the farmer to cover their costs and keep suppliers, the bank manager and the tax man happy. To achieve this fertilizers and some pesticides become essential. Government policy has been to supply food as cheaply as possible, and that means that the prices farmers receive for their produce has been going down, in real terms. And that means that the survival of individual plants is no longer the issue, yield becomes more important, and high yields depend on efficiently control all the yield reducing weeds, pests and diseases. And now supermarkets demand produce that looks perfect, and that means that pests and diseases that do not effect plant survival, and that do not effect plant yield have to be controlled. SO although we know that pesticides can do harm, we continue to make more of them “essential”. That has nothing to do with farmer’s choice, it has to do with the demands that you and I make on farmers.

Cheap food without pesticides is an impossible dream – like a perpetual motion machine. I came into farming having read “Silent Spring” and had (like many others) an ambition to develop a “light touch farming system”. I have spent over 45 years in the industry including 25 years in Agricultural Research, and seen many exciting developments. But as soon as such an ideal looks as if it can be reached then society (you and me) moves the goal posts, and there is only so much that the land can produce without help.

There are of course techniques that can reduce the need for pesticides and one of these is crop rotation. In the 1970s I worked on farms that grew many different crops and could practice long rotations. However, since then globalisation has meant that more and more of these crops have been imported, undercutting British farmers, and making it uneconomic to grow these crops any more.

Imports also risk the importation of pests and disease, and we have seen things like Rhizomnia of sugar beet, vine weevil, Dutch Elm Disease and various tree die back disease being brought into this country on imported produce. In livestock farming, foot and mouth and swine vesicular disease are the most famous imports, both of which require significant medical or environmental interventions. Each disease imported will eventually become one for which another pesticide is “essential”.

But we aren’t the only ones importing diseases. Some are being driven this way by climate change. Schmallenberg and blue tongue viruses of sheep and cattle are the most famous animal diseases that need treatment by both insecticides and vaccination. It is expected that the Silver Y moth amongst many others will soon be able to survive British winters and could (based on previous autumn plagues noticed, even by the national press) turn out to be as damaging as locusts, if we cannot find a way of controlling it. (SIlver Y caterpillars feed on almost anything that is green.)

PLEASE think more carefully about your agricultural policy. I am probably old enough for it not to effect me too much, but your and my grandchildren will depend absolutely on us getting things right now.

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Is this Independence Day or Doomsday?

Its 24th June 2016 and we are now a third world country. Out of the EU, without a Prime Minister, and with no plan for the future. The population in general is divided 52:48 on the EU, but the youth vote is mainly in favour of the EU. The pound has crashed the stock market remains closed as I write. Scotland and Northern Ireland have both voted in favour of the EU, and in both countries there are calls for  independence referenda, which would mean the end of the United Kingdom.
Extraordinarily, the regions of the UK that benefited most from the EU have voted against while London, which paid most to the EU has voted to stay. This suggests that people voted on their view of the Westminster Government (which has always neglected the poorer regions), rather than the EU itself. But generally there is a lot of ignorance about the EU, as was demonstrated by someone I heard who asserted that the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were un-elected. The Leave and Remain campaigns did very little to educate the public about the EU, or to be specific about what they liked or did not like about it.
The lack of thought by the Leave and Remain campaigners is best illustrated by the reaction of the Leave campaign to the overwhelming evidence presented by the Remain campaign of the economic benefit of the EU. The Leave campaign had no answer and simply shouted “project fear” and refused to discuss the points made. The Remain campaign let them get away with it.
But now we have to survive the aftermath of 24th June (which I would describe as “Doomsday” rather than the Brexiters “Independence day”). The first issue I suppose is whether the pound will survive? If it does not,  the Leave campaign presumably have a plan to crawl into the Dollar or maybe even back to the Eurozone?
But I would hope that the Brexiters have a detailed plan for a soft exit from the EU, and for opening up new markets for our industry. I wonder whether they have enough man power to put their plan into action at the speed required? Actually their panicky letter to Cameron, last night suggests that they had just realised that they did not have a plan.
Now Cameron has called their bluff, and we will have to put up with Johnson who invented the straight Banana and was largely (according to press reports about his staff) an absentee Mayor of London, and Gove who has plans to make the NHS based on Insurance, and who as Minister was criticised by the courts for many of his decisions.

To add to the general air of confusion about the Leave Campaign Boris Johnson is now In a speech this morning) saying that we might not actually leave the EU after all. Does he understand anything at all about politics, referenda, and democratic majorities, let alone the rules of the EU? Why did he campaign to leave? What will those who voted to leave think about that? So Cameron has announced his resignation, Johnson has ruled himself out of the running, Gove is an unlikely candidate for a ministerial post let alone a PM, and there aren’t many alternatives. Perhaps the Theresa May or Ken Clark as care takers, but they were pro-EU. Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems are not ready for a general election…But the Nationalists and ultra right parties should do OK….

And still no one mentions our new trading partners in NAFTA, MERCOSUR, AEC, ASEAN, and The Cairns Group who might demand political and currency union as the price for trading agreements.


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Summing up the Great EU debate: First thoughts

Well its Wednesday 22 June 2016, and the “Great Debate” is now over. We vote tomorrow. So what have we learned? Well, very little really. You would have thought from the leaders on each side that the question being debated was quite trivial. We have heard nothing from the Remain Campaign about how they might try to reform the EU, if they are successful, and nothing from the Leave side about how they might manage the economy if they are successful. We have heard almost nothing about the principles or the history of the EU. In fact, the basis of the debate has been topical trivialities.
So what have the campaigners talked about? Mainly Immigration – a subject that has plagued governments all over the world since history began, and over which none has ever had control. They have also talked about Trade, the EU is after all a trading community, but we have heard absolutely nothing about the dozen or so other trading communities with which we might have to deal, if we step out from the protective shadow of the EU. They have talked about the NHS which has a budget of over £95 Billion, which the Leave campaign claims can be significantly helped by the few £billion of small change left over from the UK’s contribution to the EU, and which will also compensate for the lack of EU staff. And not much else other than abuse.
Whereas the Remain Campaign has sought financial predictions from all sorts of authoritative individuals and organisations, the leave campaign has simply labelled these as “Project Fear” and refused even to discuss them. Its own financial predictions seem to have been picked out of the air, by largely unqualified, or “rogue” commentators. But in fact financial predictions are notoriously hard to get right. They arise from Business budgeting, and depend on the planner including all relevant factors. However, no company accountant or economics professor can predict the effects of natural disasters, civil wars or financial crashes in distant countries, on their budget. The purpose of financial predictions of all kinds is so that at a future date you can more easily see whether the performance of a country or business is in accordance with the plan, or whether you need to change the plan or the system being managed. If we leave the EU, and the predictions by the leave campaign turn out to be wrong, we cannot change the system by returning to the EU. A new strategy will have to be used to make up the deficit, but the leave campaign has not suggested what that might be. In the past a reduction of national income has been balanced by strict incomes policies, exchange controls, and even power cuts.
On a household scale all the financial predictions have been pretty useless, as most of them predict changes that are less than the effect of starting a new job, getting promoted, moving house etc Yes it is nice when a prediction, for what it is worth, suggests that you might be able to do these things earlier, and not so nice when they suggest that you might have to do things later, but the predictions given suggest that you will be able to do better, or alleviate the problems by your own efforts.
There have been accusations that the EU is controlled by unelected officials, but the remain campaign failed to publish the readily available information that the EU has 34,000 civil servants, while the UK (in line with most other countries of similar size has 440,000. (London alone has 79,000.) Above the European Civil Servants (many of whom are British) is the European Parliament which we all elect, the Council of Ministers, where we are represented by the relevant Ministers from our Government, and the Commissioners, who are appointed by our Parliaments. It was a British Commissioner, Roy Jenkins, who reformed the appointed European Assembly and turned it into the elected European Parliament. The debate on democracy in the EU has been sadly failed by both sides.
The EU has also been accused of imposing laws on us, but most relevant laws are debated in the UK Parliament before being enacted in this country. Some EU laws that appear to govern us actually have no relevance to this country as (for example) they apply to crops that cannot grow this far north. But some of the most unpopular regulations have only taken the form that they have because some of our elected representatives failed to even turn up for meetings that could have changed them. And then there is the problem of the difference in interpretation of law arising from our legal system based on case law, compared with the Europeans adherence to a written constitution. We are used to writing a law, and then allowing judges to decide how it should be applied. But in Europe the law itself is interpreted flexibly. This means that we write regulations that adhere closely to the written law, and wait for judges to relax or tighten various parts. In Europe the regulations reflect the spirit and not the letter of the law. Over the years our failure to accommodate these differences has been largely ignored, and it has indeed been left out of this debate as it is apparently considered too complicated for ordinary voters to understand. But if we leave the EU, this problem will continue – perhaps even more strongly when we try to trade with younger democracies.
And what else – we are scraping the barrel now – there was a mention of the formation of a European Army, which is topical because America (especially if Donald Trump becomes US President) is getting more isolationist, and Europe is experiencing pressure from Russia on its eastern borders. But NATO complains that not all EU countries are contributing their fair share, and that being the case it seems very unlikely that there will be enough financial support for a European army. And then you have to think of the effect of the formation of a European army on Russia. If it is additional to NATO, then Russia might see it as a hostile act and react appropriately. If it replaces NATO, then they might see it as something that they can cooperate with in the UN etc. But if NATO is wound up what will America do? If America withdraws completely from European defence, then all of a sudden we would need to consider a full war fighting European Navy and Airforce as well. But it really does seem that there is an awful lot of diplomacy to be completed before we have to worry too much about a significant European Army.

Professor Dougan of Liverpool University gives an excellent review of the main facts here https://www.facebook.com/LiverpoolSchoolofLawandSocialJustice/videos/1043216935715117/

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EU referendum; Wider Issues

EU: In or Out?


People ask for facts about the EU, but seem not to consider the wider issues, or the context of the facts that they were interested in.


I was born shortly after the Second World War, and my early childhood was soaked in the black dread my parents felt at the mention of the “old days” before I was born. At the beginning of the war my parents were students in Cardiff, my father studying medicine and my mother studying to become a teacher. Later she taught in a “Blitz School” in London that had been re-opened to accommodate teenagers who had escaped from their evacuation homes and were now causing trouble in the capital. After that she taught in Great Yarmouth and recalls a Doodlebug flying down the street below the level of the room in which she had her digs. Fortunately, it passed through the town without hitting anything and exploded in a nearby field, but she always remembered what so nearly happened.

My father saw many war related injuries, and in his spare time, acted as an air raid warden, and was strafed by a German bomber as it turned for home after dropping its bombs. But that wasn’t what played on his mind. The University hosted Jewish refugees from (I think) the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Dad was interested in their music, and got to know them. Throughout the War they learned of their family members who remained in Austria, from other friends who had managed to escape. This constant drip of awful personal news of friends and relatives, killed or sent one by one, to concentration camps, sapped the strength of both the refugees and their friends. It was made worse by the fact that there was nothing that they could do to protect their friends and relatives who had so far remained free, beyond what they were already doing with civil defence fundraising, delivering materials for NAAFI to camps around the country etc. Some of the students also manned Anti-Aircraft guns and associated equipment. But this great activity seemed feeble compared to the threats that their friends and relatives faced, yet for many, more active service, was not an option. (This awful, miserable, frustration must be what many of today’s refugees from war zones must be experiencing now.)

The EU (and its predecessors) offered a chance to ensure that war would never happen again, that the states of Europe could become so interdependent that they could resolve frictions before they became major rifts. To work there had to be some pooling of sovereignty, but that was a very low price to pay for what people had been through almost every thirty years for many generations. The fact that people throughout Europe and at all levels of society shared a common history, and were interrelated had not protected us from periodic bouts of mass slaughter. We needed something stronger.

And just in case you think that conditions in the 1950s were so different, just remember what happened when Yugoslavia broke up and the regions fought each other between 1991 and 2001. The war crimes trials are still going on. But since 2008 the warring states have been pooling some of their sovereignty to join the EU. Croatia and Macedonia are well on the way to become members, and Montenegro and Serbia are now negotiating.  Whatever the frictions in the area, whatever the rights or wrongs, people who have experienced war do everything that they can to prevent repetition.

The 1950s were the last years of the British Empire. Britain was very heavily in debt due to the borrowings that had helped us survive the war.  The “winds of change” were blowing through our Empire. In return for support in the war we had promised many colonies their independence, and others were actively fighting for theirs. We could no longer afford to suppress rebellious colonies, even if we had wanted to. Our Navy had become distorted by all-out war to convoy protection, protection of beach landings and battle groups designed to engage enemy fleets. We no longer had the peacetime ships for Empire service, or diplomatic duties. The navy needed rebuilding, but we could not afford to do it.  The “Little ships” (fast Motor gunboats and Torpedo boats) that had maintained our dominance in the Channel and North Sea, and which had according to some authorities, had been as important to deterring invasion during the “Battle of Britain” as the Hurricanes and Spitfires of the RAF, were decommissioned.  British manufacturing companies were world leaders in many fields, but as colonies achieved independence they lost guaranteed markets and often a supply of raw materials. There was a desperate need to re orientate manufacturing industries towards suppliers and markets in stable countries that did not require long uncertain transport by sea. Once again Europe seemed to be the answer to our dreams.

The war had tested Scientists and Technologists to the limit. Each Scientific advance by one side was countered by an equal advance on the other. This was not just in armaments, but also in computing, medicine and engine technology, to name just a few areas. Each side was curious about how the other had achieved its advances, and there was a feeling that now peace had been restored there was an exciting opportunity to pool resources across the continent

During the war many British fighters had died in Europe, and families wanted to visit their graves, veterans wanted to visit comrades who had fought in other European Armies, and refugees from Europe who had taken British citizenship wanted to maintain links with their families and pre-war homes.

By 1950 it was clear that Europe no longer dominated world trade. The USA had largely escaped the damage that Europe had suffered due to war. It had also increased its influence by helping the allies against Hitler. As a bankrupt Europe struggled to rebuild, the USA was in a position to take over European markets around the world. European Russia had been invaded and suffered horrendous loss of life and damage to its infrastructure. But with undamaged resources in Asia, a determination that this should never happen again, and a command economy, that could direct labour to rapid rebuilding along modern lines Russia too could push into markets previously dominated by Europe.

However you looked at it, international peace, economy, science, business and personal, a closer relationship with Europe was inevitable. The structures of that relationship were only just being built, and could take a variety of forms from a loose trading union to a new United States of Europe. The first moves towards a new relationship between European countries were made in 1944, by the “low countries”, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg who formed the Benelux Union. In 1952 this was enlarged and became the basis of the European Coal and Steel Community, with Germany, France and Italy. By 1957 the Coal and Steel Community was beginning to expand its ambitions and became the Common Market by signing the Treaty of Rome.


Britain and other countries wanted a weaker trading union and in 1960 formed the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), but while EFTA nations struggled, those of the Common Market benefitted from a more disciplined organisation and their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at up to 6% a year. When Britain belatedly decided to join the Common Market Charles De Gaulle was president of France, and felt that Britain’s economy was not in a fit state to join. He was also suspicious of Britain’s closer relationship with the USA. Our application for membership was rejected twice.


Sadly, countries like Britain have been so set on opposing any move towards a United States of Europe, that we have forgotten to establish democratic control over the trading association that we had. (Although the European parliament became democratically elected under the British Presidency of Roy Jenkins in June 1979.) The domination of the Commission and the Council of Ministers has meant that the EU sometimes makes decisions that seem dictatorial. But these are because of our failure to reform the structures; not fundamentally because of any empire building motive by European leaders.

But who are we to complain about Empire building anyway? We built – and lost – the greatest global Empire in the last 500 years. If we think of the EU as an empire, then it is the duty of us patriotic British to ensure that it is an empire that works in our favour. Often the aspects of European law that some British people find objectionable are due to over strict interpretation of the law by British Civil Servants in the Ministries in Westminster. Legal experts say that this is partly because we don’t have a written constitution and rely on a strict application of case law, made by judges in real cases based on particular British laws. In contrast the European countries have a written constitution which requires a more flexible interpretation of law to avoid injustice. We have to learn to interpret laws made in Brussels in the same way that our partners do. Once the European law is interpreted into the sort of working documents that our EU partners use it can be written into our own law and gradually modified by case law (where appropriate) as our own laws are. However lazy politicians in this country have failed to understand the problem. Penny pinching politicians have failed to fund a solution that would be acceptable here and in Brussels, and politicians who are in the hands of multinational press barons and currency speculators have used the resulting muddle to create anti EU feeling.

To be fair, the first past the post voting system and political colour of the tabloid press, favours the two parties which are split on Europe. This means that Cabinets have to be shared out between pro and anti-Europe Ministers. When our Governments (of either party) are representing us in The European Council of Ministers they present a vacillating and contradictory impression. It is not surprising that they often fail to win the case for Britain. At the same time as selling us short in the Council of Ministers, our Governments refuse to allow the European Parliament the authority that the term “Parliament” demands.Our politicians, as much as those of other countries vote to keep the European parliament subservient to the Council of Minsiters and the Commission.

Whatever statement a British Minister makes about Europe in Westminster, they are bound to face enthusiastic heckling from both Government and Opposition. Our weakness in Europe is entirely self-inflicted, and has nothing to do with the imagined undemocratic EU. It would help us considerably if we elected a Government that was united in its ambition to reform Europe. The problem is that our democracy has hardly changed since The Great Reform Act of 1832. Yes, no one is excluded from voting, now, and the constituency boundaries have changed a bit. But we have almost as many “safe seats”, held by the same party for decades, as we had “Rotten Boroughs” before 1832, and their existence is almost as sapping of enthusiasm for democracy. Changes in the voting system, may do something to ease out undemocratic “safe seats”, and produce Governments that have clear views on Europe.


But the EU is not the only Trading Community in the World. In fact most “developed” countries are already in their local version of the EU, and many of these trading communities are like the EU in that they already have (or are working towards) open internal borders, common currencies etc. the North American Countries (Canada, Mexico and the USA) are in NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Association, most South American countries are in MERCOSUR, the bigger South East Asian countries are in ASEAN, Australia etc are in The Cairns Group, and most African countries are in the African Economic Community (AEC) etc. there are perhaps a dozen similar groupings, and others that follow other patterns, but they all have their own rules. If we leave the EU we might find that any privileged access we have to these markets might change, or tariffs might be imposed.

But what about all the other countries that are not in these Market communities? Well there are one or two big countries like China, Japan, or Afghanistan, (at least they were independent when I last looked, although China and Japan for example are in some form of association with ASEAN and The Cairns Group). And there there are very small or remote Island states, unstable states, or nations like North Korea, which tend to avoid trading with anyone.

Free trade as promoted a couple of centuries ago by people like Disraeli, is really a thing of the past. It has been relegated to a concept used in text books. The fact is that countries that have common borders, or which are only a short sea route away from each other have much more similarities then those that are on the other side of the world. Whereas we might need to set standards for winter coats, such things would be unheard of for countries in the tropics.

I have just remembered going round a factory in Birmingham in the 1970s, that exported agricultural hand tools to what had been the British Empire. They really had an amazing range, and tools designed to do the same job were very different when designed for different markets. The most spectacular differences were in digging spades for Africa, where special versions had been designed for both Pygmy and Zulu communities, the Zulu spades being about three times the size of any others I had ever seen. But the size represented not just the height of the users, but also the type of soil that they would be digging, so the long handled Zulu spade was also quite wide as they dug in loose sandy soils, while the shorter Pygmy spades were designed for working heavier rain forest soils between tree roots. Whereas it would obviously make sense for the African Economic Community (AEC), to set standards for digging spades that allowed for these extreme differences, it would not make sense for the same variation in standard to be included in an EU standard. However, I am sure that with its long tradition of manufacture for Africa, the Birmingham company would have no  problem adapting to any new AEC standard. The problem would come for a new company hoping to break into that market. They might have to change their manufacturing process to comply with the AEC standard.

Setting standards within a trading group makes it easy for manufacturers to make things that everyone, living where the standards apply, will want and most importantly will pay for. If there are no standards you might find that your product fails to meet the needs of people living  in part of the region you wish to sell to. When trading communities set standards they help manufacturers and consumers in their region  discuss important points and come to agreement about how those points will be met, before manufactures invest in the production facilities.


Those who campaign for Brexit say that the President of the United States would not accept instructions from the EU, forgetting that the United States is a Union of about 50 nominally independent states, each with their own legislature, who have surrendered part of their sovereignty to Washington. When the American President changes the law, he acts in a way that the President of the EU cannot yet do. When the government in Washington changes a law they do so in the same way as the Council of Ministers in Brussels. Most Federal laws can be modified by state governments. Those who think that the American system is better than the European system need to make the Council of Ministers an elected body like the USA Senate and the European Parliament should become like the House of Representatives, and reign in the Commission so that it acts as a civil service advising parliament and helping put laws into action.  Given time, this will probably happen anyway.

Another of the complaints against Europe is the size of the budget, but when he was still Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (Budget of Greater London £11 Billion) complained of the £20billion EU budget one week, and asked the government for a cool £30billion the next week for Crossrail2 – a branch railway line – in London.  In the 2016 Budget the Government announced plans for a Greater Lincolnshire which was expected to increase the local economy by £8billion. One of the Navy’s new aircraft carriers will be built for a budgeted £3billion, but its aircraft could cost twice as much. We have 2 such aircraft carriers. The UK spends £153billion on pensions, £147 billion on healthcare, £110 billion on Welfare £90 billion on Education, £45billion on defence, and £230 billion on everything else. In these terms the spending on the EU is not very great. It is less than 2.5% of total UK Government spending. In the 2016 UK budget the smallest allocation of funds to a Government Department was £24Billion to Industry, agriculture and employment. (Strange that. Just think, we all work and eat, and yet less is spent on our jobs and food then is spent on “Cross Rail 2” (which most of us will never see) or on Defence which we all pray will never become a necessity!)

Rank UK Government spending based on 2016 budget Annual Cost

 £ Billion

1 Social Protection 240
2 Health 145
3 Education 102
4 Other expenditure 49
5 Debt Interest 39
6 Defence 46
7 Public order and Safety 34
8 Housing and Environment 34
9 Personal Social Services 30
10 Transport 29
11 Industry Agriculture and Employment 24
12 EU Gross contribution 20


The EU is also accused of being bureaucratic, employing too many civil servants, but to put this into perspective it actually employs just under 34,000 people (of all grades, temporary and full time.) In contrast the UK employs 440,000 civil servants. Surprisingly it is difficult to make international comparisons, because for example (I think) the huge number of French Civil Servants probably also includes the employees of Renault/ Peugeot /Citroen etc. Italy claims to have the largest number of Civil Servants in Europe, though the figure it gives is only about 100,000. Germany has two types of civil servants. However, the UK Regions comparison include figures calculated on the same basis as each other, which I must assume are comparable to the method use by the EU, The following table is the best that I can do, with the resources I have, to illustrate the relative staffing level of the EU.

Number of Civil Servants
France 5,000,000 (Approx)
Spain 3,000,000 (Approx)
UK (total) 440,000
Germany 430,000(Approx)
Greater London 79,000
North West England
South West England
Scotland 44,000
South East England 43,120
EU (Total employees of EU Commission in Europe) 34,000
Yorkshire and Humberside 33,400
Wales 31,000
West Midlands
North East England
East of England 24,200
East Midlands
Over seas
Northern Ireland 3520

Source of international stats: – various including EU Commission website

Source of UK stats: – https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/publicsectorpersonnel/bulletins/civilservicestatistics/2015-10-08


But in spite of its small size, we get a lot back from our contribution to Europe. To start with there are the huge UK refund, and Agricultural subsidies that help keep UK famers in business while selling food to the supermarkets at less than the cost of production. (That business model would never be allowed in any other industry, but politicians fear that they would not be elected if we had to pay the full cost of food, and did not have surplus cash to spend on all the luxuries which industry needs to sell us.) As the UK Government shows absolutely no interest in addressing the huge imbalance of power in the commercial food chain, many of us would starve without EU Farm subsidies. The mere fact that subsidies keep many farms in business with a variety of different management styles, does more for species diversity in the UK that any of the “environmental” legislation. At the very least, think of all those boundaries between farms that get grubbed out when farms are merged. And then there is the regional aid, on which Wales, Cornwall, and other poorer regions of England depend. The UK Government has already declared that in the event of a Brexit this aid will not be replaced. So if you live more than 200 miles from London, it is very likely that you will be considerably worse off outside the EU.

About 1/3 of the UK is eligible for aid from the EU, and over the last decade the regions shown below have received aid. This is not a complete list, but the areas shown include the homes of over 8 ½ million people. Most of these areas have been wealthy in my lifetime, but represent lack of proper investment after local industries have collapsed. The industries that have gone are tin and china clay extraction, fisheries, coal and steel, docks and ship building, the automotive industries, the potteries and the shoe industry. In these areas the average income has fallen far enough to cause concern in other countries in the EU. While there is plenty of housing in these areas, a skilled workforce in settled communities, and brownfield sites which could be turned into factories and workshops for local industries the UK government has chosen to do the bare minimum. The 8 ½ million people (and many more that I haven’t included) who have benefitted from EU aid are unlikely to receive any more aid from the UK government than they have in the past, and face a future of unemployment in their present homes, or homeless employment in London.

Area Population
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly 502,077
West Wales and the Valleys 1,854,674
Highlands and Islands 369,400
Northern Ireland 1,685,266
Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotheram and part Sheffield 979,704
Wirral 208,090
East Merseyside, Liverpool, Sefton 1,093,376
Part of Plymouth 149,991
Part Devon County Council 7,389
Part Kent 142,748
Part Luton 117,723
Part Befordshire 23,271
Part Inner E London 44,510
Part Outer London E and NE 81,649
Coventry 252,011
Part of Birmingham 158,497
Part of Solihull 45,759
Part of Worcestershire 6,925
Part Dudley and Sandwell 47,696
Part Walsall and Wolverhampton 81,893
Part Staffordshire 20,937
Part Stoke on Trent 58,747
Part E Derbyshire 159,648
Part S and W Derbyshire 159,747
Part Nottingham 31,096
Part Nottinghamshire 275,487
Etc Etc
Etc Etc
Etc Etc
Total of figures shown 8,558,311

Source: –  http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/regional_aid/2007_2013/n673_06_united_kingdom_en.pdf

Each side in the debate claims that following their course of action could make each household anything up to about £3,000 better or worse off. Most of the claims made suggest a smaller sum. Nevertheless, at first site these claims sound impressive, but in fact they represent no more than, getting a promotion, moving house, having a child, being made redundant or any number of other normal life  events. Paying that much extra is not a good thing, but most of us will cope with changes in our income on that sort of level.

Defence is a great rallying cry for the Vote Leave brigade, who say that NATO is more important to European Peace than the EU. However, they forget that for most of the time that we have been members of the EU, France was not a member of NATO. Most of the Eastern EU states were members of the Warsaw Pact, and were yet to join the EU.  The best that one can say is that the strong ties between Western European Nations through their membership of the EU the UN and NATO etc, together helped them maintain peace between each other and the Warsaw Pact. It is important that all these organisations are MULTI-national. We are safer in groups of nations than when we rely on the kind of bi-lateral agreements that lead to the First World War. In 1914 most European Countries had bi-lateral agreements to defend each other, if attacked. But in the event, the chain of agreements meant that countries were forced to defend a partner from an attack by another country which the first had also agreed to defend. The simple bi-lateral approach was not fit for the purpose of maintaining peace then, and won’t be now.

During the 1970s NATO believed that the best policy for keeping us all safe was “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) maintained at very great expense – One source suggests that by the end of the Cold War the US was spending $21,000 per head of the US population on nuclear weapons! The idea was that no one would dare launch a nuclear attack because they would be totally obliterated by a nuclear counter attack. Growing evidence of the effect of the global nuclear winter (that would result from MAD retaliation) was ignored by NATO planners for several decades. However, the “Cold War” was marked by a large number of “proxy” conventional wars (between supporters of the USA and Russia or China) in third world countries. In this century NATO failed to prevent the Russian annexation of Crimea or the incursion into Ukraine. It was negotiations by Merkel and Hollande in Moscow on behalf of the EU that had the biggest influence.

Migration is topical at the moment, and yet compared to the flows of migration predicted when global warming leads to sea level rise (and desertification in the tropics), current migration is almost insignificant. The problem at the moment is the way which we deal with migration, not the fact that it happens. At least if we can’t find ways to absorb migrants now when flows are still relatively low, we will be in a horrendous mess when migration really gets going. Problems caused by migration are said to be the risk of terrorism, pressure on housing and public services, and pressure on employment.

Terrorism is easily answered. Most people who are fleeing terrorism or regimes that employ terror tactics against their citizens, are hardly likely to employ terrorist tactics themselves, especially if they are well treated by their hosts.

Pressure on housing is a problem, mainly because we have not been good at building enough houses in the UK. Housing stock has also been put under pressure by allowing rich people to buy second homes (which then often remain empty for much of the year) and by the existence of buy to let mortgages, which mean people have to rent houses that they might need to buy. We are also very bad at encouraging employment near where people live. So we have ghost towns in the north and west, where there are few jobs, and many businesses in the overcrowded south east that have difficulty finding people to do the work. Migrants, who have no family ties to regions of low employment are free to move to places where there is a demand for work, and are happy to accept poor quality homes as long as they are protected from terrorism, and have a basic minimum of public services.

Incidentally, encouraging employment near people’s homes will also reduce commuting, ease climate change, and in turn help to reduce climate change induced migration. Properly integrated estates where rich, and poor people live together regardless of educational achievement, income, social status etc will provide a far better environment for absorbing migrants than the very large estates of social housing to which migrants are sent at present. Migrants are a mix of all levels of society and in an integrated estate will find it much easier to find local people with common interests than the sort of segregated estates that we build now. We lived for a decade in a private house in the middle of a small council estate, and it was a very nice place to live in – not a bit like the huge “sink estates” that mar many of our major cities. Yes, we had one or two “characters”, but most people whatever their “status” got on with each other, helped each other out, and had novel experiences to share with each other. We could have happily absorbed a few migrants, and already had several people who were born outside the UK, who were part of our “family”.

One of the reasons that we have a lot of migration into this country is that we have sent Government Ministers abroad, actively recruiting people to work in our public services. Famously Enoch Powell as Health Minister toured Asia recruiting people to work in hospitals. (This was about a decade before he started campaigning against (in quite a nasty way) the very people he had recruited.) There have been similar high profile tours to recruit workers for London Transport and (British) Railways. Our public services have relied on migrant labour since the 1950s, and still do. (At least, I knew someone with no railway experience who went for an interview with Rail Track – it was then – on the spur of the moment, and was immediately signed up for a train driving course.) We are still not training enough nurses for the NHS…..

But our public services are under pressure, whether you live in an area of high immigration or not. We live in West Wales, an area of low immigration, and yet if you are not already an NHS patient you might have to travel 50 miles or more for a dental practice with vacancies. (I am fortunate in being registered with an NHS dentist who is Polish, and an excellent dentist and thoroughly nice person.) One of our local maternity wards is threatened with closure leaving expectant Mothers with a trip of 50 miles to the nearest alternative, a journey, which on our roads could take a couple of hours. Our nearest library is 7 miles away, and many local schools are closing or merging. My grand daughters have an 11 mile journey to infants school. At the height of the “recession” when the Coalition Government was boasting about the new jobs it had created,  the nearest new jobs to us were 50 miles away. Anyone on minimum wage would have had to work for 3 days a week just to pay for commuting costs. But the poor quality of public services have nothing to do with the EU. The public services are poor because they are underfunded. And they are underfunded because we have been conned into voting for the politicians who promise the biggest tax cuts. If the Government cuts taxes without finding another method to fund public services then the quality of service is bound to fall. In France and Germany they invest considerably more in their Health Service than we do.

In our area most of the immigrants (apart from my dentist) who I  am aware of work slaughter houses, food processing factories , and the local recycling centres. Not jobs that people normally queue up to do! However, there is also a rash of “car hand wash businesses” which were never here before. Far from being an example of immigrants taking other people’s jobs, this seems to be an example of immigrants inventing a whole new industry. 700 years ago some of my Mother’s ancestors migrated here from Flanders – more or less where Belgium is now. They were weavers, and first moved to Norfolk, where they invented Worsted cloth. Some of the weavers then moved to South Pembrokeshire where they started the Welsh Wool weaving industry. It is to these enterprising weavers that we owe the fact that there are still more sheep in Wales than people! Incidentally one of the foreign team who work in our dental practice came to replace a local dentist who had emigrated to South Africa.


The Common Fisheries policy is also controversial. But declining fish stocks is a global phenomenon. The huge Grand Banks Fishery in the North West Atlantic is now only a shadow of what it was in the 1950s, and that has to do as much with American and Canadian fishing policy as global demand or EU policy. Our fishing fleet was also hit by the Icelandic Cod Wars when Iceland decided to claim the fishery to the full extent that it was allowed under international law. Growing demand for fish around Europe lead to the populations of many species going into serious decline, as the scarcity of adult fish meant that boats were catching smaller immature fish that had not yet bred. Something had to be done about that, and so the EU introduced quotas, licencing and protected areas. (Of course the policy of throwing back “over quota” fish, that had already been killed, was madness, but that has now been changed by the EU) All that has helped many fish stocks to recover, though it is early yet to relax the restriction on fishing most species. Indeed, the lessons of the past suggest that we should never go back to the unrestricted fishing that nearly drove so many wonderful species to extinction. Of course the EU could be criticized for the way in which the restrictions were introduced, and in the way other nationalities were allowed to fish in our waters. However much of that criticism should be shared by our politicians who were not active enough in detailed negotiations on fisheries policy and who did not sort out the fundamentals of EU democracy, leaving too much power in the hands of officials and not enough in the parliament. And we should not forget that part of the unhappiness amongst the fishing communities results from better methods of locating and catching shoals of fish, meaning that fewer boats are necessary to catch the same quantity of fish.

The global primary food producing industries (Farming and Fishing) have been largely ignored by politicians as they are so efficient that few people are employed in them, and there are very few votes dependent on these industries. There are many more votes in campaigns against what the public see as “modern methods”. The resulting changes in agricultural or fisheries law have been made by people who are not expert in the industries against which they sign petitions, and often cause more trouble than they solve. In farming each new restriction results in huge problems for smaller farms, especially those that wish to farm their land in the best way their particular fields require, and who don’t wish to be pushed into any particular system. Large farms simply employ more clerks to deal with the paperwork, or buy in yet more land to spread the cost of new equipment required by the new laws. The resulting closure of small farms results in an increasingly uniform environment and consequent loss of wildlife.  Banning pesticides often results in greater use of the remaining chemicals likely to do the same job, and this increases the likelihood of environmental damage. (As happened when Lindane was banned, and everyone (including gardeners trying to protect ornamental nectar plants) had to use neo-nicitinoids and inadvertently killed the beees.) But this chaotic situation is certainly not the fault of the EU, any more than it is the fault of poor education, or single issue campaigns, or those who would rather have lower taxes than properly functioning civil services.

As smaller businesses are forced out, the food industries are increasingly controlled by huge multinational companies, who have become so powerful that they are beyond the control of any individual nation. Our hopes (and the survival of ourselves and our ecosystem) now depend on multinational organisations such as the EU and the UN, but we must be much more active in supporting them. The alternative is a landscape of sterile monoculture increasingly damaged by pollution and erosion. Our seas will become a sterile pond of polluting fish farms and a seabed dredged to death.

As you may have guessed, I am rather in favour of staying in the EU, but am open to other ideas, especially if anyone can give me a really good reason for leaving, backed up by some evidence that leaving will actually help solve the problem.



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Hello world!

This blog is mainly about things that are important to me, Farming, Agricultural ecology, and the family craft business. We live in Wales, so our country may get a mention, and I am also interested in Politics  etc. ……

I hope that you will find it interesting, and perhaps entertaining. I hope that I wont upset anyone…

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