Nature’s no battleground
Last week was Red tractor Week, when the NFU took to the road in a campaign to highlight to consumers best practice in food and farming. at the same time, some 50 environment groups combined to produce a report that blames farming practice for the continuing diminishment of British biodiversity (Town & Country, page 50 and Agromenes, page 57).
the two factions look to be engaged in an increasingly disagreeable battle for the higher moral ground in readiness for the distribution of the treasury funding they will both be reliant upon from 2020 when EU subsidies stop.
Unsurprisingly, countryside bodies that were not invited to participate in The State of Nature 2016 are critical of the report, which, owing to its scope and the fact that it’s heavily reliant on a culture of volunteer observation, which is stronger in some parts of the country than others, lacks specifics. It offers random statistics, such as the fact that bats (which species?) have increased by 23% over 17 years, but farmland birds have declined by 54% over 46 years. Some 15% of the species surveyed are approaching extinction, but we’re not told what they are or what they need.
Surely there can be some optimism? We are told that ‘over the long term’, 44% of all species have actually increased— we can hazard a guess that these include badgers, buzzards, deer and mink, but there are thousands more—and that 50% of plants and lichens have increased.
the 2013 report, which was not as extensive, put some blame on lifestyle factors, such as tourism, gardening, water sports and the renovation of old buildings. this latest one points more accusatively at ‘intensive’ farming, which is lazy because farming is patently not allowed to be as intensive and competitive as it was 40 years ago due to EU legislation and the creation of stewardship schemes. Britain’s self-sufficiency is decreasing and our global competitiveness is uncertain.
that is not to say that all farmers are perfect. Soil degradation, the spraying of pesticides and the spreading of fertilisers, the unattractive proliferation of maize and unchecked run-off into rivers are all issues.
However, until the environmental lobby acknowledges that not all of their own reserves are as populated as they could be, that it’s impossible to have every species in every part of the country due to a changing climate and an increasing population and that a balance of wildlife can only be achieved through management techniques such as predator control, we simply will not progress.
Nature is powerful enough to recover, as long as it’s given the opportunity. Political point-scoring between factions that, essentially, want the same things, will destroy that opportunity.