What is BAWC all about?
First off, how do you pronounce BAWC?
As in ‘Damn, those birders have seen us, this could be BAWCward’, or as in a Star Trek-like ‘We are BAWC, resistance is futile’.
What does BAWC do?
We are a campaign group set up to help tackle wildlife crime. Our primary aim is to help as many people as possible to Recognise, Record, and Report wildlife crime. We also want to see wildlife crime taken seriously and made socially unacceptable.
How long has BAWC been around?
We launched in April 2014 (so we’re really only just getting into our stride!).
Is BAWC a charity?
No, we’re a constituted group with a proper bank account but we’re not a charity (and we haven’t applied to be one).
What is a birder and do you have to be a birder to join BAWC?
A birder is simply anyone who goes bird watching – or even someone who just likes birds! As we are not a membership-based organisation there is no need to ‘join’ BAWC to support us, and while we will be actively working to mobilise birders (because we’re birders and that’s probably who we know best) we most definitely welcome anyone who supports our aims whether they are a birder or not.
Your website has a blog. Do you post articles from external organisations or individuals as well?
If they’re relevant and we think our audience would get useful information from them then yes, absolutely. Please get in touch if you have something you think we might like to post (and thanks).
Is there anyone BAWC won’t work with?
We want to help tackle wildlife crime and much prefer to think in more positive terms: many groups and organisations want the same things that we do and we are pleased to work with them and with any individuals and groups who wants to help us tackle wildlife crime, wants to campaign with us to strengthen legislation relating to wildlife crime, and who will report wildlife crime to the relevant authorities. Like anyone else, though, BAWC does of course reserve the right to decide who we will and won’t work with.
What is a wildlife crime?
The laws on wildlife crime are extremely complex and change as legislation is enacted, but in the UK one simple legal definition of a wildlife crime is “People buying,selling, harming or disturbing wild animals or plants that are protected by law”. This then includes, for example,the illegal persecution of raptors, egg-collecting, disturbing nests and bat roosts, trapping and poaching protected species, the illegal use of traps and snares, and much more.
Who does BAWC think is responsible for wildlife crime?
Criminals. We’re not ‘blaming’ one group, one set of individuals, or one profession. That’s not our purpose. We want to help tackle wildlife crime whoever it is that is committing it.
Do birders ever commit wildlife crime?
If birders/photographers/countryside users break a law relating to wildlife, then yes of course they are committing a wildlife crime. The information on our website is aimed as much as helping concerned people AVOID breaking the law as it is in trying to help us all tackle wildlife crime being committed by others.
Are any of you serving police (or ex-police) officers?
No, none of the organisers of BAWC are police officers, but we work with Wildlife Crime Officers and Investigation Officers (and would welcome a serving or former police officer onto the team). We are all passionate about wildlife, active in conservation/activism, and want to help tackle wildlife crime though. Which is why we started this website and group.
Collecting information on wildlife crime is surely the job of the police and qualified investigation officers, not the job of a campaign group run by birders?
Investigating wildlife crime most certainly is the job of the police and investigation officers, but in theory anyone could collect information if they had the staff capacity and the support of people willing to give them that information! As it is we don’t ‘collect’ information at the moment (though we’re happy to pass it on if asked). The fact is though that both the police and investigation officers can only prosecute a crime if they have the proper information to do so, and at the moment many crimes are either going unrecognised, unrecorded, or not reported properly. What we want to do is to help other birders and countryside users know what to do if they see a wildlife crime being committed and what to do with any information they might have. Our recommendation will always be that any information needs to be with the proper authorities who can then work with it, and if there is sufficient evidence prosecute an offender.
Does BAWC guarantee the accuracy of the information on its website?
We work extremely hard to ensure the information we provide is as accurate as possible, but (on the advice of our legal friends) we don’t make any guarantees, no. The law is complex, changes regularly, and is open to some interpretation: we do our best to keep everything up to date and have the pages checked by police officers and investigation officers. If any errors are found/reported to us we correct them as quickly as we can.
Where does BAWC stand on the legal control of foxes, crows etc?
BAWC was established to help tackle wildlife crime – crime is by definition illegal.
Isn’t it dangerous to approach and tackle people you think might be committing a crime?
Do you think that BAWC is the answer to wildlife crime?
We’re part of the efforts being made to tackle wildlife crime, and our aim is to make people more aware about wildlife crime and what they can do to help tackle it. The answer to wildlife crime is for criminals to stop committing it!
Can BAWC really hope to change anything if you work within the law?
Definitely. There are far more of us who want to protect wildlife than want to harm it. The number of wildlife criminals is tiny compared with the millions of birders and other countryside users (dog walkers, hikers, horse riders etc) who are out and about right now. And that’s just in the UK. Across the world there many millions more, Right now many of us don’t realise the changes we could bring about if we worked together, campaigned together, and challenged illegality together. Think of the difference we could make if we realised how many ‘eyes in the field’ we would have if every time we went out birding we all knew how to recognise wildlife crime and what to do when we see it.
There’s absolutely no need for us to break the law to help tackle wildlife crime. We can do it right now armed with nothing more than knowledge (and perhaps a camera-phone!).
Membership and funding
How do I join BAWC?
We are a campaign group and not a membership-based organisation. We want to make our information available to everyone, and if our supporters would like to ‘join’ an animal welfare/conservation/wildlife crime organisation there are plenty of existing wildlife charities we’d be happy to recommend.
How can I support BAWC?
How is BAWC funded?
At the moment we are all volunteers. No-one is being paid to do any work for BAWC. As we develop we may get to the point where we have paid staff, but that point has not been reached yet. We do plan to organise crowd-funding for specific campaigns, but money raised in that way will never be used to pay salaries/fees to organising committee members.
Wouldn’t BAWC benefit from an affiliation with a larger group?
There is far more benefit in being a truly independent group. We make up our own minds about – well, about everything.
Is BAWC really just a campaign group against shooting?
No, we’re a campaign group against wildlife crime.
Some birders are also shooters, does BAWC represent them?
We’re birders and we want to help tackle wildlife crime, but we don’t claim to represent other birders or any other group and we never will.
BAWC says it is an independent, non-affiliated group but doesn’t the team behind BAWC include a trustee of the League Against Cruel Sports? If so, can BAWC be truly independent?
Of course we can. Certain members of some shooting lobby groups seem to think that this is a ‘revelation’ that will impact BAWC. However we openly state that in fact two of the team behind BAWC – Charlie Moores and Lawrie Phipps – are LACS trustees, and it’s hardly surprising that we have some sympathy with other organisations that are also concerned about levels of wildlife crime. In fact, though, all our decisions on strategy and policy are made by an organising committee and no one member has more ‘influence’ than any other. As a committee we are determined that BAWC will focus entirely on wildlife crime, will remain independent, and will continue to provide the most useful, unbiased information that we possibly can.
Is BAWC a politically-affiliated organisation?
No. Some animal welfare and conservation issues are thought of as ‘politicised’ but we are not specifically aligned with or affiliated to any political parties.
Does BAWC endorse violence or damage to property?
No. BAWC supports non-violent direct action, but we will not support, advocate or encourage any type of direct action if that action involves threats of physical or personal abuse or of violence or damage, actual abuse, violence or damage, or breaks the law. We make no exceptions to that.
Is BAWC just raising an army of vigilantes?
Of course not. As we have stated many times, “We are vigilant, but not vigilantes”.
Page updated December 2014.
Any comments, corrections, additions? Please let us know.