In a line from the ballad ‘Michael’, it was left to the unseen curlew in the damp grass to tell the world that the ‘Big Fella’ had fallen at Béal na Bláth. 

Who will it be left to, to tell the world that in the Irish countryside the decurved bill one is gone?

The curlew, a wader resident of rough pastures, meadows and heather, could be extinct as a breeding species in Ireland before 2030.

From agricultural intensification, disturbance, pollution, climate change, and shooting (outlawed in 2012), the curlew is ecocide hemmed in.

Conservation of the curlew

While the conservation efforts such as the Curlew Conservation Programme and the Irish Breeding Curlew European Innovation Partnership (EIP) and Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) have been striving to help the bird, the factors that brought a 98% decline in 30 years have been, and continue to be, very much present and active on a larger and more intensive scale.

If we lose the curlew it will represent a totemic milestone that Ireland has failed in the protection of its biodiversity and its inhabitants.

63% of Ireland’s bird species are flying into conservation trouble. 

If the battle to save the curlew is lost then our view of other bird species will be through a digital prism.

We get an insight into where our government’s eyes are focused when for 2023, €72.8 million was allocated to the horse racing industry and €18.2 million to the greyhound racing industry.

Allowing taxpayers’ money to flow annually into the veins of two industries that promote animal abuse conservation, while science-driven conservation projects have a funding model based on receiving penny scraps, shows a government with a serious vision problem. 

The ‘Big Fella’ was felled by one shot.  

With the curlew we really have only one shot at saving this sentinel of the shoreline or else its lonesome call of ‘cur… lee, cur… lee’ will stream no more across the sky.

From John Tierney, Association of Hunt Saboteurs, Dublin.