Plans set out in a new wildlife manifesto to rip farmers from the uplands and bring the land into public ownership have been slammed as ‘dictatorial’ by agricultural groups.
The radical proposals were set out in the ‘People’s Manifesto For Wildlife’, edited by BBC presenter and green campaigner Chris Packham.
The ‘manifesto’ is a series of essays written by 18 contributors, including Guardian columnist George Monbiot and chief executive of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer.
Its launch was accompanied by a ‘People’s Walk For Wildlife’, which saw around 10,000 people march on Whitehall to call for the policies to be implemented.
One proposal in the document is to pay upland farmers for environmental measures, but only on condition that the money be considered a down-payment on eventual state purchase of their land.
The manifesto also demands Government switch a ‘significant sum’ of the money spent on agriculture to reintroducing wildlife such as beavers, lynx and golden eagles to the uplands.
Welcoming the report as an ‘important contribution to the debate around our environment’, Defra Secretary Michael Gove said he would ‘consider it in-depth’, while his counterpart on the Labour frontbench, Sue Hayman, is planning a meeting with Mr Packham to discuss its contents.
But Farmers’ Union of Wales director of policy Nick Fenwick slammed the proposals.
He said: “A few of the suggestions seem to make a bit of sense, but when you look at the document in detail it is clear they hide very extreme and sinister agendas which would be catastrophic for nature and rural communities and would sit quite comfortably in the manifesto of some dictatorial regime of the 1930s.
“The suggestion that upland farmers, many of whom have only recently gained control of their land after being tenants for hundreds of years, should effectively be driven off the land so Government can take control and rewild it says it all, and conjures up images of natives being herded from the land and driven into reservations.”
Liam Stokes, head of campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, also hit out at the document, describing it as a ‘recipe for the destruction of upland family farms and communities’.
“It is beyond time policy makers stopped listening to celebrities and started building coalitions with the people who actually live in the countryside and work on the land,” he added.
Other demands in the manifesto include stopping the badger cull, banning glyphosate, introducing pesticide and fertiliser taxes of between 34-55 per cent of the sale price and launching a public education campaign to reduce meat consumption.
NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall said: “For the successful delivery of environmental objectives, the agricultural perspective must be at the heart of all measures and not marginalised or demonised as the over-used rhetoric in this report suggests.”