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All about forests, rivers, oceans
Australia orders Japanese whalers to stay away
Esther Woolfson's urban nature diary
Ladbrokes is gambling with fish extinction and so is the government
US wildlife officials propose endangered status for wolverines
The hare's death-scream tells of a history soon over
The ethics of keeping a killer cat
It's as if the landscape and stream are caught amid their own owl dreams
Many more seabirds may be affected by Channel pollution, RSPB says
Leading paper firm pledges to halt Indonesian deforestation
Fishing campaigners urge MEPs to vote for discards reform
Dog attack law to be extended to cover incidents on private property
The return of grey wolves 'not enough to restore Yellowstone's ecosystem'
Oil additive polymer PIB may be responsible for seabird deaths
MEPs vote to ban discards in historic reform of fishing policy
All dogs in England to be microchipped by 2016
Some of nature's mysteries are all the better for going unsolved
First the internet, now Monopoly cats have got our attention
Polar bears 'may need to be fed by humans to survive'
Invasive mussel poses ecological and economic threat to island community
Ancestor of humans and other mammals was small furry insect eater
Conflict in DRC Congo threatens chimpanzee tourism programme
The intruder, a raven, passed through the treetops into view
The horsemeat scandal: could there be much more to come?
Circuses remove last of the big cats from UK's big tops
  What the horsemeat scandal and fish quotas tell us about Europe
The scandal of horsemeat its being declared as beef and smuggled across borders and then into processed food is sweeping Europe. According to the Financial Times a few days ago, the process involved "horse meat from a Romanian abattoir being sold to a French supplier by way of a Cypriot trader, and then passed on to a French food processing company before landing on British and French supermarket shelves". Since then the "horseplay" has spread to Germany and from beefburgers to lasagne.

What needs to be recognised beyond all the immediate hullabaloo is that the scandal shows just how illusory it is to imagine that Europe can function as a "common market" without all the red tape and constraints on sacred national sovereignty that Eurosceptics so ferociously decry. Production for the market requires regulation. And if we want to enjoy the benefits of a highly developed international division of labour and they are real then we need agreement on common rules between the trading partners.

Now, in principle, such rules could be established without pooling sovereignty. All you have to do is to get a legitimate representative of 27 countries to sign up to a common set of rules and have it ratified by 27 sovereign national parliaments. It is just that you then give each country a veto and a huge temptation to use it to play strategic games with the other 26 trading partners. And every time circumstances change, you need to get the 27 representatives together and to agree again. Such intergovernmentalism does not look likely to generate efficient solutions. And that is what you need to remember the next time you read about EU regulations running to thousands of pages. Even then you are not done: what happens if a country fails to apply the common rules? If they are to have any clout, supranational elements will certainly be necessary in the area of enforcement. All of which shows how fatuous it is to criticise, on principle, supranational meddling in national affairs and the associated loss of national sovereignty. (And no, this does not, of course, mean, that everything that Brussels imposes on member states is beyond reproach.)

The recent debate on the EU budget also clearly shows the limits of intergovernmentalism. Wherever unanimity is required, things rapidly descend into a zero-sum scrap in which national politicians are rated according to how successfully they have bullied their partners, and even serious newspapers score the event like a 27-way boxing match: Cameron winner!; Merkel winner!; Hollande loser! The problem is that this obscures the real news, which is that the outcome is a budget plan that is completely illogical from the point of view of rationally addressing the challenges faced by European citizens.

A more striking, and encouraging, recent example, also comes from the food counter: fish. For decades, EU fishery ministers have regularly met and solemnly agreed to carry on overfishing Europe's territorial waters. They have cynically allowed even the excessive quotas they had established to be flouted with impunity. They would presumably have carried on their intergovernmental bickering until the very last fish had been caught: Le poisson est a nous! Nein, der Fisch gehört uns! I want my fish back!

Now the European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly for an ambitious proposal to prevent overfishing. It takes a supranational institution to do what everyone knows is the right indeed the only thing to do. (The bad news is that this proposal now will now be sent to the council representing the member states which will almost certainly water it down.) Here, too, Europe's media have largely failed Europe's citizens by not looking beyond the specific matter at hand and pointing out the bigger issue.

The tragedy is that when things don't work in Europe and they often do not the reaction of most people is to call for competences to be brought "back home". The reality is that it is the still largely intergovernmental nature of Europe that in most instances is what prevents it working effectively. When 27 countries defend national sovereignty they maintain it individually but lose it collectively. Everyone suffers from races to the bottom, free-riding, externalities and myriad other problems that require effective collective action. The euro area crisis is vivid testament to that. It is sensible supranational solutions that are required to address the prime concerns of European citizens. Not just meat and fish, but jobs, inequality, living standards, a sustainable future.
In the British countryside, alien species are not always undesirables
Pandas keep Scotland guessing over mating game
US plan to control Guam's snake population with toxic mice angers Peta
African lions the killer kings in mortal danger from man and sham medicine
EU fish discards deal welcomed by UK
Pilot badger culls set to go ahead
Scientist calls Hugh's Fish Fight 'a tawdry piece of hack journalism'
A couple of interesting visitors have arrived at the lakes in the past week
Sea Shepherd conservation group declared 'pirates' in US court ruling
Schmallenberg virus found in farm animals in almost all of Britain
Gardens: wildlife surveys
Tackling the illegal trade in wild animals is a matter of global urgency
100 million sharks killed each year, say scientists
The snipe's 'drumming' sound is perfectly evocative of Welsh hill country
Sharks at risk of extinction from overfishing, say scientists
Thailand's prime minister pledges to outlaw domestic ivory trade
Humans are not the only animals to enjoy alcohol
China must send a clear message to consumers on ivory trade
Google shopping adverts fuel ivory trade, conservation group warns
Two-thirds of forest elephants killed by ivory poachers in past decade
US and Russia unite in bid to strengthen protection for polar bear
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Above the loch, the scene was dominated by the abundant birch trees
Lion kills intern at California animal sanctuary
Bid to halt polar bear trade fails
Deer culling on massive scale backed by expert
Scores on the paws: how one man changed the shape of dogs to come
Cites: bid to curb sale of ivory and rhino horn voted down
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Geoffrey Matthews obituary
World's largest captive crocodile dies in Philippines
Urban foxes: the facts and the fiction
Albatross astonishes scientists by producing chick at age of 62
Knut the polar bear lifesize model to go on show in Berlin
Horsemeat scandal: Owner of Yorkshire abattoir denies wrongdoing
Foxes' friends and foes say an urban cull is not the answer
Golfer pierces leg with tee to remove spider venom then finishes round
Chinese appetite for shark fin soup devastating Mozambique coastline
A peregrine stands on one foot and imperiously looks out from her ledge
Action on dangerous dogs has been 'woefully inadequate', MPs warn
Why Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight is still necessary
What the horsemeat scandal and fish quotas tell us about Europe
New to nature No 99: Phagocata flamenca
We can overlook the aesthetics of gulls, but they make grey beautiful again
Birdwatch: Stonechat
Environment Pollution Pollution that killed seabirds cannot be traced, rules investigation
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Bid to solve mystery of 50,000 red-breasted geese lost in migration
How a ferret took me on a journey to a saner world
Panda eyes focused as Yang Guang and Tian Tian seek each other out
So entrancing are the clouds that the deer are unnoticed until I shift my gaze
Anyone for camelcino? Camel milk set to be big business for east Africa
Red squirrel finds pine marten a fearsome ally in its fight for survival
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