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'British farmers can't let rewilders shape their future'

All farmers, not just those in the uplands, needed to be on the front foot when it came to promoting the benefits the industry had to offer.

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'British farmers can't let rewilders shape their future'

Farming in the hills, in particular, has found itself at the centre of the debate about whether certain areas should be rewilded.

 

And while plans to release lynx or replant hills in ancient woodland are often branded as ‘mad’ by the farming community, there is no doubt controversial newspaper columnists such as The Guardian’s George Monbiot, or BBC presenter Chris Packham, who recently launched his Manifesto for Wildlife, garner public support and the ear of some politicians.

 

Rewilding will crop up time and again throughout this uplands series, but there was a belief farming needed to be positive about the environmental benefits the industry produced.

 

NFU uplands chairman Thomas Binns suggested Mr Monbiot should focus his energies on big issues, such as plastic pollution, rather than releasing lynx into the wild.

 

He added: “I have no doubt George Monbiot is passionate about his agenda and rewilding, but Less Favoured Area land covers about 17 per cent of England and a lot of that is privately owned, so they simply could not afford to do it.


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“Rewilding will only ever happen in pockets. It is like the vegan agenda – it is there, but we should not be frightened of it.”

 

National Sheep Association northern region vice-chairman Thomas Carrick, who farms Swaledales and Mules at Garrigill, Cumbria, said once you engaged with the public about farming’s contribution to the landscape they often appreciated it in a different light.

 

He said: “They [rewilders] have a dream about the landscape being wild and without human influence, but it is exactly that, a dream.

 

"We have a lot of people cramped on a small island and farmers have a right as part of that to continue to forge a living in the uplands.

“Most people we meet love the countryside and they are understanding of why we do what we do and want to see food production and environmental work go hand in hand.”

 

Joyce Campbell, who farms 830 North Country Cheviot ewes at Sutherland, in the north of Scotland, said the story behind upland farming often centred around heritage and provenance and this was a powerful marketing tool.

 

She added: “As farmers, I think we have to realise we are natural storytellers. We just need to learn to lose our inhibitions and speak from the heart.”

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