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Princes call for an end of illegal trade in wildlife

The Prince of Wales and Prince William are to host a conference later today which will call for a global partnership to stop the illegal trade in wildlife.

Wildlife losses have reached unsustainable levels, with tens of thousands in some places, the World Wide Fund for Nature said.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

It added that the world is currently faced with an "epidemic" of poaching and trafficking of illegal wildlife products, caused by an increase in demand, particularly from south-east Asia.

The conference, in conjunction with Defra will be the first stage in a process which will result in key countries signing a declaration at a meeting this Autumn, to end the illegal trade in wildlife.

'Badger' flash mob protest against government cull plans

Members of the flash-mob perform outside Defra headquarters today Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

A badger-inspired flash mob performed outside the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in protest against a government-led cull of badgers.

Around fifty "badgers" performed to Queen guitarist Brian May's own version of The Badger Song, which was inspired by his band's hit song Flash. May is a vocal opponent to the cull.

Protestors with their faces painted as badgers demonstrate against badger culling outside DEFRA Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

The protesters are urging the Government to abandon "inhumane and impractical' plans to cull the animal to control bovine TB, in favour of using badger vaccinations.

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Defra pledges £250k to snow-hit sheep farmers

Defra has announced it will pay up to £250,000 to farmers who lost sheep killed in last month's freak snow in England. Credit: PA

Farmers whose sheep were killed in last month's freak snow in England will be reimbursed for their losses, Defra announced today.

Farming Minister David Heath said up to £250,000 will be available to farmers to cover the cost of removing livestock that perished in severe weather conditions.

Heath said: “As I saw on my recent visit to Cumbria, the loss of sheep in recent snow has taken a terrible emotional and financial toll on farmers. We have been working with the National Fallen Stock Company to find the fairest way to help them meet the cost of removing their stock."

Defra has already permitted farmers to bury or burn livestock onsite if snow makes it difficult to get them to a collection vehicle, and has relaxed rules on driver hours to allow extra time for essential deliveries of animal feed.

EU deal struck to ban dumping of dead fish

The Government today hailed an EU agreement to introduce a blanket ban on dumping dead fish back in the sea.

Fisheries minister Richard Benyon called it "a historic moment".

"The scandal of discards has gone on for too long and I'm delighted that the UK has taken such a central role in securing this agreement," Benyon said after marathon talks in Brussels.

Earlier this month MEPs overwhelmingly backed the biggest-ever Common Fisheries Policy reforms, crucially including an end to so-called "discards".

In the UK, TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched a "Discards Campaign" that has so far attracted more than 850,000 signatures on a petition.

The EU Fisheries Commissioner said almost one quarter of all fish caught in European waters is being dumped at sea due to discards.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall takes fish fight to Parliament

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led a march to Westminster today to urge the Government to do more to protect UK seas.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, pictured in London today said. 'If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done.' Credit: PA

Accompanied by hundreds of supporters - many in fish-related fancy dress - Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said it was "vital" that ministers act to increase the number of "marine conservation zones" (MCZs).

Campaigners get into the spirit in fish and diving costumes outside Westminster. Credit: PA

More than £8 million was spent on identifying 127 areas where dolphins, seahorses and other rare species most need protection. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has so far planned to create 31 sites by the end of this year, while the majority of MCZs have no timetable.

Campaigners marching outside Westminster to urge ministers to increase the number of'marine conservation zones.' Credit: PA

Speaking outside parliament, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said:"This is the sort of opportunity that may not come again. We might not have such a vital and appropriate time frame as we've got right now to make real changes.

"If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done. It will be hard for a lot of the areas to recover."

155 cases of ash dieback disease across Great Britain

There are now 155 cases of the deadly tree disease, ash dieback, across Great Britain, according to the Government.

Defra minister David Heath gave MPs an update on the situation in the House of Commons today. He said:

As of today the results of that survey show 155 cases of ash dieback caused by Chalara across Great Britain, 15 of these are in nursery stock, 55 are in recently planted sites and 85 are in the wider environment.

Further suspect cases are currently under investigation and we'll continue to provide updates on confirmed cases through the Forestry Commission website.

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New plan of action to tackle ash tree disease

The government has unveiled its new plan to tackle the ash tree disease Chalara after an emergency meeting this morning:

  • Newly-planted diseased trees and diseased trees in nurseries will be traced and destroyed, as once young trees are infected they succumb quickly
  • Mature trees will not currently be removed, as they are valuable to wildlife, take longer to die and can help us learn more about genetic strains that might be resistant to the disease. Infection does not occur directly from tree to tree
  • Better understanding of the disease will be built through research and surveys, which will look not only for diseased trees but for those that show signs of genetic resistance to Chalara
  • The search for the disease will include trees in towns and cities.

Foresters, land managers, environment groups and the general public will also be informed about how to identify diseased trees and those likely to be resistant to the disease, and know what to do if they find a diseased tree.

Ash tree dieback plan to be announced

The Government is set to publish an action plan today for tackling a disease which threatens to devastate the UK's ash trees.

The plan to deal with Chalara ash dieback will be outlined after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson chairs a second meeting of the Government's emergency committee to agree how best to deal with the problem.

The Chalara fraxinea fungus, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death in ash trees, has wiped out 90% of ash trees in some parts of Denmark and is becoming widespread throughout central Europe.

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