Mike Clough

Japanese Knotweed and …Chickens

Author: Mike Clough

Date Posted: Monday 11th April 2016

I have been reading the latest articles regarding chicken production with great interest. Liz Truss the Environment Secretary has tasked the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs to make legislation less onerous on chicken farmers to allow increased food production.

This has angered animal welfare groups who feel that the progress made in reducing pain and suffering to animals will be put back decades allowing the return of animals being badly treated prior to a painful death. This case has been argued by farmers who argue that advances in veterinary services and improved conditions will ensure this doesn’t happen.

How does this relate to Japanese Knotweed I hear you ask?

Well – exactly the same thing is happening with the government’s stance on Japanese knotweed (ok not exactly the same…but similar). The industry has to date been ‘governed’ by the ‘Code of Practice’ produced by the Environment Agency and until recently easily accessed on the EA website. The Environment Secretary has asked that the industry take on more responsibility via the Trade Bodies that have sway over their members – and that to a certain extent the industry becomes self-governing.

Why, oh why, do these ministers not see what they are doing?

Legislation has been put in place for a reason.

Cutting something to save money may look good on paper but generally the rules have been produced – in simplistic terms – to stop something bad from happening. If you remove the rules – the ‘bad thing’ will start again!

Generally it’s because an industry has been behaving in a ‘cavalier’ manner. If you allow industry to self-govern the likelihood is that these cavalier operators will return and happily ignore any letters or requests for them to manage their business in a more prescribed fashion. Without the power of government legislative procedure this threat is unlikely to have any impact.

I know the theory is that DEFRA’s position is still clear and that with Japanese knotweed the Environment Agency could still enforce any serious breach of practice guidelines – but to send the message that industry should self-govern will be a disaster.

There are already TWO trade bodies – so you already have a split in the way guidance is given. INNSA (The Invasive Non Native Specialists Association) takes the stance that these types of works should be carried out under strict codes with clearly set out standards. The ‘other’ trade body has been asking for a ‘relaxation’ of the codes so that their members can work to ‘appropriate’ standards …as suits any particular project (…or more likely any particular budget).

How can this not be anything other than an environmental disaster?

Many improvements have been made in the last decade to empower developers and land owners to manage their resources in a manner that benefits us all. If we allow a weakening of this environmental policing the less scrupulous developers will simply run rough shod over guidance and return to the days of making money at the expense of our native countryside.

Aaaarrrrgggghhh…at times – I just feel like giving up.


Mike C

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Mike Clough

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