This week from the editor, Ben Briggs.
That George Monbiot has once again weighed in to the debate about the uplands should come as no surprise. No matter the hardship faced by farmers where the fires are raging, or the bravery of the firefighters tackling the blazes, Monbiot is ultimately paid by a national newspaper to prompt debate. And he does it well.
His column in the Left-leaning The Guardian panders to his audience, as it naturally would. So when his recent column laid the blame for the moorland fires at grouse shooting’s door and he then called for that pastime to be banned, the publication’s readers will no doubt have nodded in agreement.
The issue, however, is that Monbiot’s views merely enflame an already binary debate about the future of the uplands. His followers might be in agreement, but now is not the time for such comments to be hurled as they merely distort the argument about the best way forward.
As the National Sheep Association rightly points out, more livestock grazing in the hills could have a beneficial roll to play in some areas, and while it is not as simple of taking one route or the other, looking carefully at all the options will be vital if the interested parties are to achieve the right balance for some of our most iconic rural locations.
It is also key that farming has a strong and reasoned voice in the debate as it will be farmers who act as the long-term custodians of the land. That is why Nuffield Scholar Anna Jones’ call for more farmers to act as communicators (page 12) is so timely. Her Nuffield report is also worth a read as it delves into the complex role played by figures such as Monbiot.
At a time when all farmers, both lowland and upland, are grappling with the impact of the ongoing hot weather, the fires on tinderbox uplands have once again thrown their future in to the spotlight. Once the flames have been doused, however, it is essential the debate about upland management is fuelled by common sense and not the hysterical ramblings of critics with axes to grind.
And finally, news of the Tesco-Carrefour collaboration will come as further proof the big retailers are knuckling down for a price war.