Ed­i­tor’s com­ment

Cotswold Life - - FRONT PAGE -

IHAVE come to dread the words “Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey...” In this topsy-turvy Brex­itim­mi­nent world, they are in­evitably fol­lowed by bad news of one kind or an­other.

We be­gin this month’s round-up with the claim that “one in eight young peo­ple has never seen a cow in real life”. While they may have spot­ted a cow on tele­vi­sion (thank you, Adam Henson and Coun­try­file), 12% of 18 to 24-year-olds are so un­fa­mil­iar with the coun­try­side that they have never seen cat­tle in per­son. A fifth say they have never even left the city in which they live.

While this is pre­sented as a dire warn­ing that the younger pop­u­la­tion are los­ing touch with how their food is pro­duced, I’m not so sure that it is as ter­ri­ble as it seems. Turn the fig­ures around and you find that 88% - al­most nine out of 10 – have seen a liv­ing, breath­ing cow and that four out of five have fled the tower blocks to head out into our green and pleas­ant land.

And let’s be hon­est, would we want the other 20% of dis­af­fected ur­ban ‘yoof’ ram­pag­ing around our fields in the first place, their base­ball caps back to front, their trousers around their bot­toms and their in­de­ci­pher­able thump­ing mu­sic pol­lut­ing the ru­ral idyll? Plus they’re all car­ry­ing knives these days. Prob­a­bly best quit while we’re ahead.

IMORE or less got away with the re­marks I made in a re­cent col­umn about the need to ex­ter­mi­nate grey squir­rels. There were only three writ­ten com­plaints (one in crayon) and the bag of dog poo left on the of­fice doorstep could just have been co­in­ci­den­tal. But there are al­ways new ways for the per­pet­u­ally out­raged to be per­pet­u­ally out­raged.

An­drew Hodgkin­son is a ‘red squir­rel ranger’, shoot­ing grey squir­rels in a bid to pro­tect the na­tive species. I would re­mind read­ers that this ac­tion is backed by the Wildlife Trusts and a £3mil­lion grant from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund, so we’re not talk­ing ‘lone nut­ter with an air ri­fle’ here.

Now the squir­rel ex­ter­mi­na­tor has been branded ‘racist’ by op­po­nents of the cull be­cause he’s only shoot­ing grey squir­rels. The word ‘xeno­pho­bic’ has also been bandied about on the grounds that pro­tect­ing red squir­rels amounts to pro­mot­ing Bri­tish species at the ex­pense of in­com­ers.

Ap­par­ently 105,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing for an end to the cull. As there are now only 140,000 red squir­rels re­main­ing – down from a pop­u­la­tion of sev­eral mil­lion 50 years ago – I know whose side I’m on.

MORE mis­con­cep­tions about the coun­try­side. The same sur­vey that high­lighted the cow­less­ness of cal­low youths also threw up the fact that one in four adults liked the idea of giv­ing up their day job and work­ing on a farm, with a farmer’s yearly in­come guessed, on av­er­age, to be £46,801.

(Please for­give the sud­den out­break of col­lec­tive hys­ter­i­cal laugh­ter from the six mod­est farms within a mile of my house.)

The harsh re­al­ity is some­what dif­fer­ent. Av­er­age farm in­comes fell be­low £20,000 in 2015, to the low­est since 2007. Fall­ing far­m­gate prices have forced many farm­ers to bor­row money, some­thing which has al­most dou­bled in the past decade. Twothirds of UK dairy farms have closed since 1995 and many that re­main rely on credit in order to sur­vive. And this is be­fore we hit the Brexit buf­fers.

En­cour­ag­ingly, half the peo­ple sur­veyed said they were will­ing to pay more for food to sup­port lo­cal farm­ers, but just 15 per cent said UK pro­duc­tion was the main mo­ti­va­tor when buy­ing food, com­pared to 42 per cent who said it was price. Per­haps the threat of hav­ing to rely on im­ported food, po­ten­tially pro­duced to lower stan­dards of an­i­mal wel­fare, might change that. Chlo­ri­nated chicken, any­one? Hor­mone-in­jected meat? Dis­in­fected eggs? No, I thought not.

IN OUR fea­ture last month on the new­lyre­stored and rather splen­did Tet­bury Goods Shed, one res­i­dent was quoted as say­ing: “When I win a bil­lion pounds, I will re­in­state the Tet­bury to Kem­ble rail­way.”

Well said, that man. I can think of noth­ing that would en­hance the town more, ex­cept I would go fur­ther and ex­tend the line all the way back to Cirences­ter. Al­though it must be ad­mit­ted that such a scheme would make our pre­cious pas­toral patch more ac­ces­si­ble to the cow-spot­ting young ruf­fi­ans of Swin­don.

mike.lowe@archant.co.uk Fol­low Mike on Twit­ter:

@cot­slifeed­i­tor

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