Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Landscapes without Livestock? ‘Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold’

Let’s remove or reduce livestock from England’s countryside and we’ll save the planet! So there you have it. Simple. That’s that troublesome global environmental issue taken care of.

For some time the beef and sheep sector has been demonised by some pressure groups with calls to reduce meat eating to help the environment. The domino effect dictates that it would ultimately lead to a reduction in beef cattle and sheep numbers.

Ironically, at EBLEX’s recent annual conference, one delegate astutely pointed out that some of the very same people who knock the industry had moved to his neck of the woods because the landscape is so appealing. And the reason it’s so appealing? Wait for it. Exactly, the land is managed by the very livestock they deem so detrimental.

Now of course everyone is entitled to their opinion on the subject but the debate needs to be balanced. With this in mind an EBLEX has commissioned an independent report examining what could potentially happen to some of England’s most cherished landscapes if beef cattle and sheep were either removed or their numbers significantly reduced through a drop in demand.

'Landscapes without Livestock' has been produced by Land Use Consultants (LUC )with input from farmers, ecologists and landscape specialists and adds considered, expert evidence to the debate about the beef and lamb sector and its positive impact on the environment.

After identifying five distinctive environments in accordance with Natural England’s National Character Area descriptions and Defra’s agricultural survey, striking panoramic photographs were taken to illustrate the status quo. Photomontages at years 3, 10 and 30 have been produced to highlight the visual impacts of change at each location if livestock were no longer there, accompanied by narratives for each landscape to set out the ‘story’ of future change.

So, what has it unearthed? Well, it’s said that ‘simple solutions seldom are’ and this certainly appears to ring true with the argument that by simply removing or reducing livestock from England’s landscape, the environment will be all the better for it. In a nutshell ‘Landscapes without Livestock’ has revealed that simply cutting livestock numbers will have knock-on effects which will themselves have a negative environmental impact - lowland wet grassland to drained and intensively cropped arable land on Romney Marsh, and open grass and moorland to wild fire-threatened rank grassland and scrub on Dartmoor. The impact is clear to see.

All too often much is made of the negatives when discussing the beef and lamb sector and its impact on the environment at the expense of the many positives. It seems that when looking at the current numbers of livestock in the landscape, to coin a phrase, ‘too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold’.

  • The report can be viewed by clicking here.