Sunday, 30 November 2014

Gone But Never Forgotten

It is with great sadness that Allan Mustoe my dear husband passed away suddenly yet peacefully on Sunday 23rd November.
Thank you for all your support.  Allan was extremely proud of all the reads he achieved.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Badgers are Perplexed at the Russian Bear

News announced this week of the recent Badger Cull costings, showed that each Badger killed was despatched at a cost to the British tax payer of £5,200 per head. Tax payers’ money totally wasted on disenfranchising the countryside of one of its noblest inhabitants. You would think with the government continually rambling on about new austerity measures, the money would have been far better placed obtaining food for our ever increasing number of food banks scattered in and around our country. With winter just around the corner, the demand for this facility has sky rocketed enormously in the last three to four years. 
The G20 meeting in Australia, with President Putin’s fleet of four ships, which include a cruiser, a destroyer, a tug boat and a refueller, poised in international waters North of the Coast of Australia brings it home to one on just how fragile these global meetings have become.  The travesty of Ebola out in Africa will surely be a talking point and so it should be.  Five thousand lives have been lost to this wretched disease so far with no real sign of containment.  A disease which has been inflicted on the African people for no real apparent reason but certainly made worse through the years of conflict, especially Sierra Leone where government monies could have just as easily been put into hospitals and health centre structures in years gone by rather than armaments that have just succeeded in ripping some of these countries apart.  How much easier it would have been right back in March if these facilities had been in place to treat and contain the march of this ongoing disease.  We are in the twenty first century and lessons are still continually not being learnt. Yet another African crisis with a Bob Geldof and Midge Ure Christmas tune.
5000 lives lost is 5000 too many lives lost. This is a huge figure to have lost in such a short space of time, especially when it is quite apparent that swift aid and education could have averted a large portion of this. However, far less media coverage and condemnation has been given to the 4000 lives lost in the conflict of Eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine’s only crime for this misery is wanting independence. The Russian Bear has remained slumbering since the fall of the Berlin wall but his awakening to strengthen the hand of the Ukraine Separatists has been really alarming and does nothing to reinforce a peaceful and stable Europe.  In fact, quite totally the opposite. 
In the 100 year anniversary of the 1914-1918 war you would think that the Russian Bear’s paw along with the rest of the hands of Europe has been burnt enough. 
An interesting interview this week with Jon Snow of Channel 4 News with Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhinaa, two girls from the Pussy Riot pop group who were arrested and imprisoned simply because their views were not entirely in step with the Russian government, reinforces the view that free speech and any real criticism of the Russian government is still a long way off from being the norm.
As if the aforementioned crises have not caused enough devastation and loss of life, this morning we have learnt of yet another barbaric beheading of an aid worker my militants in Syria/Iraq. Peter Kassig, an American, was out in the region aiding refugees when he was brutally murdered. How nice it would be on this centenary year for the Heads of State around the G20 table to draw up plans for the Russian Bear to turn East alongside the American Eagle, the French Cockerel and the British Lions to join together and rid the Middle East of this un stabling disease, Isis, and put an end to this butchering of the innocents and let the Middle East once again enjoy the peace, tranquillity and quality of life that every region has the right to deserve.
Please watch my short film of my Badgers playing and frolicking over a fallen tree on an August Evening.

Daddy Cool at his playful best.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Badger’s Remembrance of Slaughter

We have been blessed this weekend with a visit from our son Sam whose weekend break back home from his studying at his university has been most welcome.  However, his sister was unable to join us due to her ever more demanding diary dates but the return of Sam’s banter and his sense of humour has been most uplifting and a constant source of amusement. 
The weather across this part of The Cotswolds has turned colder and wetter.  Autumn is most certainly doing its level best to run into winter. 
My Badgers have gained exceptional condition throughout the summer months and I feel sure they will all be able to withstand the harshest of this winter’s weather which has been forecast.
Not all British Badgers have been as fortunate as the ones that I have been honoured to observe.  The Badger cull has wreaked havoc in the culling zones of Gloucestershire and Somerset where it has been implemented.  For these groups of Badgers who have suffered the full force of Defra’s aggressive, violent, nonsensical attacks, their winter will be nowhere near as reassuring for even the survivors who have witnessed the butchery of their families, the trauma has been shown to last throughout their lifetime and the family groups seldom re-colonise. 
A hundred years have passed since the start of the 1914-1918 Great War. The war that was supposed to end all wars has been marked in a most spectacular fashion. 888,246 ceramic poppies have been planted in the moat surrounding the Tower of London.  A most symbolic tribute to lives lost in a blitzkrieg of carnage that affected large parts of Europe and the rest of the world.  Flanders, Eypes, The Somme, names of places that are totally synonymous to war and death.
As the ice caps on the two Poles start to subside you are seeing countries once again starting to stake their claim on the riches that lay beneath the frozen ocean.  The Russians earlier this year sent out an ice breaker to the North Pole where they launched a small submersible submarine from which they planted the Russian flag at the bottom of the ocean to lay their claims to the riches of oil and gas that they hope will reside there.  Greenland, the United States and the Nordic countries all laying claim also to plunder this wilderness, probably for the first time in history.  The mapping out of this frozen region will be done in a diplomatic, non-confrontational fashion we hope.  We have surely all seen in our history books which have taught us that land grabs and border changes have been the blight of civilization.  But when you see the Russian armour amassing on the Ukrainian border one has to ask one’s self what exactly has been learnt in a Europe that has been ripped apart twice in one century?  Some nations have obviously learnt more than others.  But with all this oil and gas it will no doubt buy more Premiership football clubs and more London fashionable property at the expense of an up till now undisturbed part of the globe, the two Poles.  Let us hope that the extraction of these minerals which will undoubtedly happen have nature’s interest at the very heart of any exploration and extraction.
Please watch my short film of a female Badger busy grooming on an autumn evening. 

Female Badger in a relaxed manner grooming before her evening excursions.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

A Badger’s Poetry in Motion

A new found stability of conscience was found at the beginning of the week on the ending of the 2014 Badger Cull.  A gigantic weight has now been lifted from the back of nature and the countryside on the ending of this needless, futile, slaughter.  And once again, the official figures are showing and Defra are saying the quota of Badger deaths have nowhere near been met.  Great news for the British Badger and yet highlighting the total incompetence of the people who set the numbers on this barbaric slaughter. 
The second year of the Badger Cull and the resulting information is the same as last year.  The culling in the cull zones has not generated the number of deaths that had been hoped for.  It should be now quite obvious to Defra and the Ministry of the Environment that the quota of dead Badgers is not being met simply because the countryside as I have said so many times before, is not awash with the black and white beasts, yet the damage done on each of these culling sprees is so very often irreversible.  For the first time this week a poll from one of the broadcasters announced that nine out of ten people are dead against the Badger cull and the total misspend of tax payers monies, and yet the culling goes ahead regardless.  For the time being at least, let us celebrate with the British Badger on the ending of the 2014 Badger cull.
A meeting this week with my old game keeper friend, Nimrod, in which he was pleased to announce that his employer, Lord and Lady Foxton’s Badger sett was doing extremely well and the family’s summer night time excursions Badger watching had been exceptionally enjoyable.  The programme of walling and tree planting to protect the sett had proved to be most advantageous. 
My own Badger sett is also doing exceptionally well.  The behaviour from this week I found to be greatly amusing.  Early in the week the gales were quite severe in this part of The Cotswolds bringing down an abundance of autumn leaves.  The Badger being an animal not to miss out on any opportunity from nature made vast inroads into gathering as many leaves from this autumn harvest as possible.  Dragging them away to their sett with their front paws in a most efficient manner.  The Badger values dryness and comfort almost as much as a full stomach. 
Nights are now turning a lot colder, the remedial effect of this showed itself in the form of a first noticeable frost down in the valley last Wednesday morning.
The Badger’s life is a very wholesome one.  He is the hand that fits so beautifully into nature’s glove.  An animal so at home within our woodland.  The two are sheer poetry. 
After the setbacks of the 2013 and 2014 Badger culls along with the unhelpful remarks from our Princess Royal on how gassing Badgers is the most humane way of dealing with them and the general public being kept pretty much in the dark on the wellbeing of our British Icon, I feel that there is the smallest glint of light through the trees towards the end of the woodland.  The British public are now slowly becoming more aware of the plight of the British Badger and more sympathetic to the Badger cause.  Information is key in any form of preservation and when one sits and looks at both sides of the argument and the weight carrying evidence on both sides I can only honestly come to the conclusion that the Badger culls are unjust, unscientifically proven and the whole thing can only be described as unscientifically proven Badger butchery.

Please watch my short film of Mrs Badger gathering leaves to bed down her sett.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Woodland Patriarch Will Never Stand Alone

This October weather is so unseasonably mild.  Temperatures that you would normally associate with the middle of May have enveloped this part of The Cotswolds.
My Badgers seem to be getting their fill, their body condition looks superb.  They are in the type of condition that will enable them to withstand the forthcoming winter’s worst. 
The Badger cull has gone on regardless.  A meaningless, pointless exercise that can only result in more impoverished, Badgerless landscapes and will do nothing to reduce the TB in our cattle herds.  An argument that continues to fall on Defra’s deaf ears. 
As I sit up at my Badger sett on constant guard night after night, I watch Daddy Cool and Mrs Cool with their entirety of their family.  A sight that excites and intrigues me with equal measure.  Where deep within the woodland their behavioural antics are filled with respect, caring and loving relationships that seem to thrive on togetherness and the wellbeing of each and every member of the group which is paramount.  I have watched Daddy Cool from the moment his cubs were born, take them this way and that within the woodland in an ever changing programme of protection.  I have witnessed poachers come right to the boundaries of the Badger’s woodland and each time of danger Daddy Cool has gathered his family and withdrew from the situation.  He has marched his family away from the danger by as much as a quarter of a mile in one evening and dug in ferociously by the end of it. 
An unconfrontational patriarch whose presence symbolises the very word wild, for the British Badger is fundamentally wild to his heart and graces and honours any woodland habitat that is lucky enough to host him. 
As I watched Daddy Cool and his entirety of his family saunter amongst the massive beech, oak and ash trees brevetting around for the fallen beech nuts and woodland mushrooms, I am watching nature that has not changed for thousands of years, but the devastating acts of the 2013 and 2014 Badger culls has unleashed demons amongst the British Badgers that in some cases nature will be totally unable to rectify.  The robust, strong hard man of the woodlands needs the kind, tenderness, caring hospitality that he shows to his family and his environment through every heartbeat of his life. 
Please watch my short film of Daddy Cool and his whole family enjoying his wild woodland in the manner that nature intended and when you have watched the film, ask yourself honestly, is raising a gun, setting a snare or laying poison in any way a just measure, backed by government or otherwise to treat a British icon?

My old friend, Daddy Cool and Patriarch of his woodlands will never stand alone. Long live Daddy Cool, Lord Protector of our woodlands.

Daddy Cool with his entire family.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A Badger’s Blood Moon.

The season of autumn now reigns supreme over this part of The Cotswolds.  The season that never ceases to delight me with its beauty.  A transformation of the newly drilled cereal fields and the changing of colours throughout the bushes and trees captivates as if by magic every morning’s and early evening’s differential of colour. A tapestry of beauty unequalled by anything else that I have ever seen outside of nature who seems to be able to trumpet it each passing month.  Throughout all the seasons and changes of the landscapes one thing is always, thank goodness, so very constant, the degree, quality of beauty and richness, so diverse in every detail is always there.  A joy most certainly to behold. 
This week the Badgers up at my Badger sett have thoroughly enjoyed their nights out under the Blood Moon.  The fullness of which, has lit up their woodland wilderness to such a degree, they  could be seen from some distance. Their enjoyment of these evenings I have witnessed once again first hand.  Their community, their loving, caring behaviour for each other keeps me in as much of a trance now as it did thirty years ago.  The Badger truly worships his environment and the environment truly worships the Badger. 
I stayed out with them every evening while the moon lit up their playground for when nights are this light, I always feel very uncomfortable for the Badger.  For nights like these, he is at his most vulnerable to the rifle.  But I am so happy to report there was no blood spilled of my Badger colony on this breath taking, glorious Blood Moon.
The government still goes ahead with the futile, brainless, devastating Badger cull.  Attacking a part of nature and an eco-system that works so scientifically beautifully against all the evidence that the killing of these black and white beasts of nature will do absolutely nothing to eradicate Bovine TB in our cattle herds.  For an animal of such presence to be treated in such a hostile fashion is a crime and in my humble opinion, it is a crime against nature herself.  We must all stand firm and protect the Badgers that we know about, for, once a Badger sett has been destroyed, the Badger seldom returns and that part of our countryside that hosted the great Black and Whites is disfranchised forever. 
The two great diseases filling the news at the moment that does require everyone’s attention is Isis and Ebola.  The prescription for the Isis problem is going to require an international force with boots on the ground.  Air strikes alone cannot possibly dislodge them.  Again, we are months and months behind the curve.  So many lost and ruined lives, all actions have been totally inadequate to contain this rampant disease across the Middle East. 
On the Ebola side of things, the measure for screening at our airports and the Euro Star, St Pancreas station, London, taken by our government this week seems all rather unsettling.  To a layman like myself it seems an absolute non brainer that you must have all the screening done in West Africa before people travel, rather than let people travel from these destinations where Ebola seems most rife.  Travelling on airplanes, trains, cheek by jowle with all other passengers.  It seems to me that if you want an Ebola epidemic we are going about things in just the right way.  Basic Foot and Mouth precautions seem light years more advanced than the procedure put in place to contain something like Ebola.  Quarantine and isolation is the best start of prevention.  Fundamental measures that have been left wanting. 
Scientists worldwide are working around the clock to produce an ever better vaccine for this cursed Ebola, for this is how it will be combatted like all other major diseases.  The world’s best intelligence working together to create a retaliatory vaccine, something that should have been put in place for our own Bovine TB cattle programme because, without the vaccination of our countryside Badgers in oral form or otherwise, means this horrendous Badger cull will have to continue year on year because the denominator laid down by Defra is that killing Badgers is the only alternative to the ongoing Bovine TB problem in our cattle herds.  Vaccination is and always will be the driver that will eradicate Bovine TB in our cattle herds.

Please watch my short film of my Badgers tustling and wrestling, having the time of their lives under a Blood Moon, enjoying their woodland environment to the full.

Badgers playing in their woodland under a Blood Moon

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Badgers and Tornados.

My blog last week didn’t happen due to us taking our son Sam to settle him in at his chosen university where he is going to study agriculture and all aspects of land management.  A very exciting time for Sam but a little sad for Jackie and I.  Our daughter left home to go to Kings University London to study medicine two years ago and now with our son flying the nest, it is extremely quiet at home.  The years of them hanging on your every word and listening to your words of advice are now a memory.  The pangs of any parent being left out of the loop at this particular stage of their life can be quite traumatic.  Will they eat properly? Will they make new friends? Are they going to like it? And will they be safe?  You are only too well aware that your job as the family protector has been somewhat diminished. 
As my wife and I waited for confirmation of him enjoying it or otherwise, time seemed to pass immeasurably slowly until my wife screamed from the kitchen to the sitting room.  “He has put some photos up on Facebook,”  and there he was smiling with new found friends, another degree of confidence and all round, looked a very happy chappie, just like his sister when she started her university.  Jackie and I were really pleased and were now able to relax in our new life of just the two of us.
Politically, the autumn conferences from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party went pretty much in the direction that I would have expected.  Labour in their conference announcing that if they were to win the General Election they would put an end to this cursed Badger Cull nonsense.  While the Conservative Party’s Environment Minister, Liz Truss has said that she would like to re-introduce Fox hunting.  Such a lame, destructive voice which conjures up even more loss to our precious environment. The figures of 40% of the world’s wildlife being lost since 1945 seems to completely evade her. The Coalition Government of the last four years of the Conservatives and the Liberals on the whole have served very well although now, the marriage seems to have irretrievably broken down, with the two parties being at logger heads over almost everything.   But the true saving grace for the Conservatives was the sending of our British Tornados to be alongside the Americans in hitting this Isis menace head on once and for all.  How wonderful it would all be if the whole of our Government were to concentrate on the combatting of the Isis terror rather than needlessly generating and unleashing the Badger Cull terror within our countryside.
The Badger Cull is now half way through its proposed running time and already from the people that know, the killing targets are not being reached.  Hardly surprising, because I have said so many times before, the countryside is not awash with families of Badgers now or ever has been. 
Inhumane, brutal, barbaric actions handed down to one of nature’s total innocents, the British Badger.  Already there has been many horror stories of vicious treatment being metered out to the black and white beast which was also very predictable.  The Badger Cull in the British Isles of 2013 and again this year has diminished the protected status of the species, inevitably the consequences were always going to be thus. 
DEfRA and the previous minister of the Environment, Owen Paterson and now Liz Truss have spoken of going out on a late summer’s night and just popping off the Badgers in a most matter-of-fact childlike, naivity manner.  When in reality those of us who have studied Badgers know that they can pick up scent from two miles away, they can hear a twig crack from three quarters of a mile away and for a stranger to get near a sett to shoot one is nigh on impossible, so they were always going to be shot from range.  Blundering tactics creating and inflicting wounds which in all cases will cause a very slow and lingering death. 
The Coopers who look over my own Badger sett have dismantled their tent and withdrawn from the woodlands for their own comfort and safety.  The weather now is starting to get a lot more autumnal.  As I sit on the edge of the woodland looking out over the autumn brown landscape I see a tractor and seed drill in the distance.  Plumes of dust trailing in his wake.  We have had the driest September since 1910, the Badgers have found foraging these last three weeks difficult.  Daddy Cool, the big old male Badger has led them further and further away from their sett.  They are going outside the safety of his woodland stronghold.  This first autumnal rain that we are enjoying for some time is as welcome to the Badgers as it is to the newly drilled seed for germination. 
Please watch my short film which shows the return of Daddy Cool to the woodland slumping down, yawning and then falling fast asleep after a long night’s foraging. 

A humble, hardworking and total innocent of the senseless slaughter that surrounds him.  Long live the Lord Protector of our woodlands.