Farming – Wildlife Friend or Foe



When I was a young lad (many years ago) I lived on the edge of a town, but with a large garden backing onto a small farm. The farm was run by one man, with pigs, beef and a small dairy herd. Everything was done by one farmer and his horse (called Blossom), ploughing and carrying with a horse and cart. No cars, vans or tractors, just one man and his horse. The farm and surrounding gardens were full of wildlife, birds, bees, butterflies, bats, hedgehogs, rabbits etc.

Those days are long gone, and will never return. Today’s farms are larger, much more intensive, more monoculture, with powerful machines and using much more fertiliser and pesticides. There is no room for wildlife on most farms.

Farmers generally are on hand 24 hours 7 days a week. Many are self employed, so no days off, no holiday pay, can’t take a “sickie”, can’t strike (unlike many others, who will be nameless). As far as I am concerned, farmers are generally overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated. They are probably the most important profession in the country, if not the world. We can live without bankers, lawyers and politicians. We can live without teachers, policemen and the rest of the public sector. Most of us could live without the N.H.S. But how long would we live without farmers to produce our food ? Even the city “fat cats” would soon become skinny rats, if they had to feed themselves.

The agricultural revolution is here to stay, we cannot turn the clock back.

With the pressure to provide sufficient food at prices often dictated by supermarkets, it is unacceptable to expect, or even ask, them to be responsible for the nations wildlife. Paying farmers to preserve something which is against their interest, is simply absurd. If we want to preserve wildlife, we need a radical and complete overhaul of the present system, before it becomes too late.

Here are a few options.

  1. Diversify – some farms already use wildlife as an asset. “Roskillys” in Cornwall, is a dairy farm using it’s own produce to provide top quality ice cream and other products. It also has a busy cafe and superb wildlife garden, which you are encouraged to visit.

  2. We have many wildlife parks and zoos, showing exotic foreign animals. Why are there no wildlife parks with local endangered species ? As we are always being told “when they are gone, they are gone”

  3. Some selected farms should be listed as heritage sites, given funding to maintain old traditions and open to the public as museums are. Is our wildlife not as important as old buildings ?

  4. Critical species should be given special sites and protection to preserve them for future generations. Money saved from paying farmers can be used for this.

  5. We get bombarded for donations to adopt a leopard, giraffe or other exotic animal, but rarely, if ever, asked to adopt a hedgehog, dormouse or any of our own threatened species.

At some stage the question must be asked “Do you want wildlife, or don’t you really care ?”

People reading this would mostly say “yes”,but I wonder how many people really do care.

If we do care – what are we doing about it ?

There must be many people younger and cleverer than me to work out the best way to save our own wildlife.

John White

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John White

Now retired, but creating an ongoing wildlife garden/ sanctuary on my 6 acre smallholding.

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