No one wants to see the last remnant breeding population of the Greater Spotted Watzit hunted to extinction. So passing Endangered Species Legislation internationally was a piece of cake. Hunters and animal rights enthusiasts came happily together, beaming with joy, as our political leaders a generation ago signed measures providing such protections into law.
No one foresaw that, in the United States, obscure and totally uninteresting weeds, rodents, or newts would soon be utilized to block developments opposed by selfish neighbors or mere crackpots.
It was also overlooked that somebody, i.e. a committee of obscure and unknown academics meeting happily during well-funded junkets to Geneva, would be empowered to identify as “Endangered” anything they pleased, with no appeal, or recourse to the facts, available.
Big game hunters soon found that many trophies of legally shot game species could no longer be brought back from Safari, because, for instance, the reduction of numbers of leopards in certain portions of the big cat’s historic range (and the politics of preservationism) proved perfectly adequate to persuade the Olympians meeting in Geneva to declare all leopards “endangered,” even where leopards were superabundant or where leopards locally represented a hazard or a pest.
In today’s Britain, superabundant badgers are causing problems for farmers by spreading bovine tuberculosis, but Brock the Badger is utterly and completely protected by law. So much as mess with a badger’s den, and you may get six months in chokey for every badger you’ve theoretically inconvenienced.
The Times of London notes:
Once a species manages to creep on to a protected list, there is no shifting it. Badgers have gained their untouchable status because, in the 1950s and 1960s, farmers were ploughing up their setts. A law requiring farmers to seek licences before destroying setts was passed in 1973. As a result, badgers featured in the Council of Europe’s Bern Treaty in 1979, which committed Britain to protecting the species for ever after. The more badger numbers have increased, the more the Government has defended them. The 1992 Act does include provisions for farmers to seek licences to control badgers, but hardly any have been issued since 1997.
In other words, whether an animal is protected or not owes little to its current numbers; it just depends on how EU ministers were feeling after a good lunch in Switzerland 29 years ago.
Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.