Last May, it was widely reported that the beaver population of Tayside in Scotland was decimated under licence from NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage - SNH) which is possibly the most incongruously-named of the Scottish Government's Agencies.
Quite why the organisation decided to give out licences to shoot beavers was never really made clear. Neither was the rationale behind the number killed - 87 in one season.
This amounts to a fifth of the population.
At the time these actions alarmed even the normally moderately spoken environmental charities such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust who said:
“These are alarming figures. Such a heavy cull has almost certainly had a negative impact on the conservation status of a protected species. If lethal control continues at this level, we would have grave concerns for the future of beavers in Scotland," (Director of Conservation Sarah Robinson).
The man responsible for directing these activities was Robbie Kernahan, at the time SNH’s Head of Wildlife Management, and promoted in March this year to Director of Sustainable Growth in the organisation's rebranding exercise from SNH to NatureScot.
Mr Kernahan is no stranger to controversy, having previously overseen SNH's consultation on the mass killing of wild birds in which he enthusiastically endorsed the mass killing of thousands of innocuous birds like swifts, which were equally enthusiastically shot.
The reasons given were variously to 'protect crops' and to 'protect public health'. I assume this was in response to all those occasions where the humble swift has deliberately targeted people?
It is worrying indeed that a government agency responsible for protecting wildlife is doing quite the opposite. Yet NatureScot cannot take all the blame. If no-one was interested in killing these birds, no licences would be issued. Yet 500 individuals did ask, and were granted, the right to blast them out of the sky. One can only imagine that the majority were landowners (most licences were issued for crop protection) and therefore likely to be farmers.
Herein lies the rub. Farmers tend to have poor margins so one can understand how they will do everything to keep those margins - even at the expense of a species. Yet the issues this raises is even more important. If farming is such a down-to-the-bone problem, what does this say about the way humanity is living?
One word comes to mind: Unsustainably.
There is no long-term solution. Just as the loss of thousands of birds and animals is being seen now, so will the loss to the long-term future of humanity be felt in the future.
It is this short-sightedness that will determine how long our species can survive.