March of the beekeepers
As part of the ‘Save the Bees’ campaign, EJF, in association with, Avaaz, Buglife, Client Earth, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Natural Beekeeping Trust, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, Soil Association, The Wildlife Trusts and 38 Degrees organised the ‘March of the Beekeepers’ on Friday 26th April.
The march saw beekeepers, campaigners and concerned members of the public come together in a colourful congregation at Parliament Square, demanding that the UK vote in favour of a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides at the European Commission (EC) vote on Monday 29th April.
The march was headed by Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett CBE who marched to Downing Street to deliver a letter calling on Owen Paterson MP, and by extension the UK, to vote in favour of the proposed two year ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. They also delivered the petition supporting the ban, signed by 700,000 people in the UK and 2.6 million worldwide, demonstrating the overwhelming public support for greater action to be taken to protect bees.
The protesters, numbering between three and four hundred, created a stir with their bright yellow banners demanding the end to the use of neonicotinoids. Some choice examples were, “We Are All Bee-Keepers!” and “Mr. Paterson. Don’t Get Left Bee-Hind. Say No to Neonics!”. The vibrant crowd also had a number of beekeepers in full beekeeping garb, as well as people dressed as bumble bees and a disgruntled Winnie the Pooh, clearly worried about the threat to his honey supplies. These elements all came together to make a powerful visual statement to curious passers-by and, not least, the MPs around Westminster.
At the time of writing (Monday 29th April), the two year ban appears likely to be brought in by the EC, although no qualified majority was reached amongst member states at the vote. Fifteen member states voted for the ban, 8 against and 4 abstained. The UK appears to have been one of the countries that voted against the ban, disappointingly changing from their abstention at the last vote in March.
Despite the UK’s ‘No’ vote, and the lack of a qualified majority, Health and Consumer Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said:
“Since our proposal is based on a number of risks to bee health identified by the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks." To conclude: "I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over €22 billion annually to European agriculture, are protected."
While EJF are disappointed at the UK’s position, we are delighted that the Commission is likely to push ahead with the ban. That said, the next two years will be crucial in ensuring that the ban becomes permanent and encompasses a greater range of neonicotinoids.
In the meantime EJF will continue to campaign for a complete moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids, the implementation of a Pollinator Action Plan and development of pollinator-friendly farming methods. We are still calling for action from the UK Government and local authorities in funding independent studies of the impacts of all neonicotinoids and other pesticides and the development of incentives and support for farmers to adopt bee-friendly agricultural practices. We will work with other retailers, food-producers, individuals and with the coalition of 12 organisations that came together for the March of the Beekeepers, to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our pollinators and the practical steps we can all take to do so.
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