Vegan for the Wildlife

In the time since my last blog, we have accepted an offer on the house and the sale is progressing. I didn’t want to sell but had no choice since my husband and I have split up and I can’t afford to buy him out.
However, I have accepted the fact that I must move on and am very lucky to be moving just along the road to my neighbour’s cute little cottage and, even better, I can take my animals with me, so it’s all good.

The trouble is, I worry about the wildlife I am leaving behind. These last couple of weeks I have been watching the second broods fledge; awkwardly flying short distances to be fed by attentive parents. I even spent an hour one evening keeping vigil over a fledgling Wagtail to see that it was being fed! Not that I could have done much if it wasn’t but I had to know! It’s been a stressful time watching over all these babies!

I have been watching the bumble bees enjoying the clover flowers in the lawn and the ‘bee friendly’ flowers in my new flower bed and the Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells feasting on the many Buddliea bushes around the garden.

There is a wild rabbit that lives under the shed and spends many hours sat with my rescue rabbit, up against his run ( yes I have struggled with the fact that Burt is confined but he is small, black & white and has a deformed foot so I don’t think he would survive in the wild).

As vegans, we always think of the farmed animals that we are trying to save but does our veganism have an effect on wildlife, beyond feeding the birds and insects in our gardens?

The good news is, apparently yes.

The State of Nature report 2019 tells us that human activity is driving huge changes in UK wildlife numbers with 15% of UK species at risk of extinction. It says that the ‘abundance and distribution’ of wildlife in this country has declined since 1970 with that decline having accelerated in the last decade. The report refers to ‘pressures’: factors that have caused the decline and are continuing to have a negative effect. The top 2?

As vegans, we always think of the farmed animals that we are trying to save but does our veganism have an effect on wildlife, beyond feeding the birds and insects in our gardens?

Industrial farming and Climate change. No surprises there.

Of course, we know that these two go hand in hand, with the former being a huge contributor to the latter but, in addition to causing the suffering of billions of farmed animals and being one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, industrial farming is also one of the major contributors to UK wildlife species decline.

“This research identified that changing agricultural management had the biggest single impact upon nature in the UK over recent decades, with the great majority of that impact being to drive species’ populations downwards. The second most significant driver was climate change, which is causing range and population change in sensitive species, alongside landscape-scale alteration to vulnerable habitats.”

The report lists the  changes in farming that have had the  biggest negative impact and these include; specialisation (arable or ‘livestock’), an increase in the mechanisation and size of farms and the loss of nature-friendly features like hedgerows, woodland, ponds and field margins. (A quick note on field margins; farmers are paid a subsidy for leaving a portion of their land for wildlife but the farmer near me just doesn’t plough it; he makes no effort to plant it for biodiversity!)

Intensive production has had a dramatic impact on wildlife that is typically found on farmland with populations of farmland birds having more than halved since 1970!

Turtle doves, grey partridges, corn buntings and tree sparrows have all declined by more than 80%!

The State of Nature report 2019 also breaks it down to different countries within the UK and in Scotland, 48% of species populations have decreased in the last 10 years!

“72% of the UK’s land is managed for agriculture, about one third arable and two thirds pastoral. Half of the arable land is used for cereal crops (mostly to feed ‘livestock’) and the pastoral land is used to raise sheep (over 30 million) and cattle (over 10 million).”

As vegans, we already know that boycotting animal agriculture means we cut our emissions and save lives but, it turns out, not just farmed animals. By avoiding animal products we are also not contributing to the destruction of our native wildlife species.

So, why am I worried?

Well, unfortunately the people that are buying the house are from farming families. I didn’t meet them and I didn’t know this until after the offer had been accepted. Not that I could have refused them because it’s not just mine to sell, but I am horrified that my home  is going to farmers.

I have cultivated a lot of hedgerow with native species such as Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Hazel.

I have planted trees such as Willow and Silver Birch and I have left plants like thistles and nettles in the field for the wildlife.

I have deliberately left the bottom of the field to grow to give homes and cover to small mammals and birds like pheasants. The new owners will probably cut it all.

The rabbit and the birds feed on the ‘weeds’ growing in the gravel drive; they will probably spray them with weedkiller.

The bees and other pollinators feed on the rich clover in the lawn and I have deliberately left large areas of grass wild; they will probably mow and strim.

And the rabbit? Well, I hope he moves away and finds some new friends but the thought of him looking for Burt breaks my heart.

On top of this, it is rumoured that they may use the 2.5 acre field for the quick rotation of ‘stock’! I could cry. I am supposed to be doing everything possible to reduce the exploitation and suffering of animals and yet, now I have sold my home to people who contribute to it!

I will have to drive past here every day so will bear witness to what they do to my beautiful, wildlife friendly home but it will only strengthen my resolve to do more for the animals, farmed and wild! One day, I will again have somewhere I can turn into a haven for wildlife but, until then, I will do what I can and that includes having as little impact on nature as possible.