“Townies” Have Every Right To Comment On Rural Affairs

The above quote is one I have heard uttered numerous times of late, and see aired fairly frequently on social media. Usually  by members of rural factions, disgruntled when their practices and pastimes are called into question by those removed from the rural bubble. By “townies” and other urbanites. These infuriating words indicative of an increasingly common view – that because those speaking out against rural workings do not share the rural way of life, that our opinions are somehow invalid, or at the very least, less important than those of the people who live and work in the countryside. A rather silly view, that I fully disagree with.

Claims that “townies” and “armchair conservationists” do not live and work in the countryside are all well and good. Many of them do not, yet continue to campaign, and voice concern over rural issues nonetheless. With each and all well within their rights to do so. Particularly when said issues, centred in the rural world,  have far-ranging impacts, as is so often the case. Not that you would believe that said people have the right to comment, at least if the concerned outpourings of a select few rural folk are anything to go by. Indeed, some seem positively perplexed (and rather angry) when “townies” take a dislike to their antics and take a stand for the countryside.

Let’s take the quagmire that is the driven grouse shooting debate for an example. Many people – over 116,000 – have currently taken up arms against the hobby. Due, in no small part, to a wealth of scientific evidence that suggests the pastime is having a negative impact upon our countryside. Many of these people live in cities and many, I suspect, have never picked up a shotgun, nor ventured on to a game estate in their lives, yet they continue to exercise their right to freedom of speech nonetheless. Only to find themselves attacked, in some cases rather vigorously, for holding an opinion on something from which they, themselves, are apparently detached. At least in terms of location. With such attacks usually centred on the belief that because someone does not live in the countryside, that they are therefore ignorant to its workings. And that because “townies” have never tended a herd, performed a controlled burn, or shot a grouse, that they boast no knowledge of the areas where such things take place. This is far from the truth.

Now more than ever, “townies” are educated thoroughly with regards to rural issues and are easily able to form an accurate opinion following a few precise Google searches. There are, after all, a number of experts in the countryside who share their findings quite frequently with the world, therefore educating many people. People who, once enlightened, many then choose to act – much to the annoyance of those living in the thick of it. Some of whom, appear to view these people as outsiders commenting on an issue that does not affect them. A wholly preposterous trend, apparent in everything from the fox hunting debate to the current badger cull.

The truth of it is, townies – I really hate that word – have as much right to comment on rural issues as those living in rural areas. They are people, and people are entitled to both hold and act upon an opinion. As I said in my recent post regarding attempts to gag Chris Packham, and will not discuss again. They are also, in some cases at least, the people who appreciate our countryside the most. Often utilising it as an escape from the tedious grey and general monotony of urban life. With many choosing to spend their hard earned cash and valuable time in a rural setting – thus contributing to the workings of the rural community. Are they not then entitled to a view on what the countryside should look like?

In visiting the countryside many towns folk develop a liking for certain aspects of it. Whether that be forests, hen harriers or bumblebees. As a result, many visit rural areas to see these features first hand and to enjoy them in a natural setting. What then happens when, because of the actions of rural people, their visits draw a blank? With no hen harriers to admire due to illegal persecution, or bumblebees due to the willy-nilly use of pesticides. Are they not then entitled to want them back? and thus, to do all that is within their power to ensure that this happens?

I am, by all accounts, a townie – I live in a town, and always have. Not a sprawling urban metropolis, but a town nevertheless. Despite this, I also work in the countryside, and when I am not working, visit it for recreation. To view the species that I personally care about. Every day now I see another slight inflicted upon said species, every day I witness (and read about) the slights inflicted upon our countryside by those who live and work within its reaches. Am I not entitled to want to rectify these, despite my choice of abode? To work towards ensuring that the species I treasure remain alive and well.

For me wildlife is a hobby, and a way of life, much as it is for many other “townies”, and we are entitled to defend it. In much the same way as those in favour of rural hobbies – shooting and the like – are entitled to defend theirs. A townies opinion is just as important as any others, and people must remember that. Especially given the number of passionate townies out there. Enough to prove a deciding factor in any debate surrounding the wildlife we have come to love.

– For more from James, you can follow him on Twitter here, and check out his personal blog at commonbynature.co.uk

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James Common
James is a nature writer, conservationist, blogger and birder; holding an MSc in Wildlife Management and working previously in the fields of ecology and practical conservation. He maintains a popular natural history blog at commonbynature.co.uk, writes regularly for Northumberland Wildlife Trust and, as its managing director, runs New Nature - the youth nature magazine.

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2 Responses

  1. Avatar rob yorke says:

    James – would be nice to know where the comments went?! Best, Rob
    ps in your neck of the woods early Dec

  2. James Common James Common says:

    Hi Rob – You commented on the same post on my personal blog I believe, the comments are still there. Or should be! and excellent, what are you doing up here?

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