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Biodiversity conservation The key, reducing meat consumption
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Tavascarow



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 12:19 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote    

Sheep are the 'white plague' of Dartmoor says activist.

One of my favourite places on Dartmoor is Wistmans wood.
Part of it has been fenced to protect it from livestock.
The difference is very noticeable indeed.

I was reading a blog post only a couple of days ago, written by one of the Dartmoor National park rangers.
He was reviewing a book about the history of the moor.
Something he highlighted (through the author) was the traditional Dartmoor breeds of Grey faced Dartmoor sheep & Ruby Red Devon cattle weren't winter hardy, so had to be brought to sheltered pastures about this time of year.
On the moor now you see Scotish Blackface (plus a few Herdwicks) & Belted Galloway, all winter hardy, & grazing the moor twelve months a year & consequently causing a lot more damage.

George makes a good point about benefit tourism.
With subsidy going from headage to acreage there are a lot of tenant farmers who don't see a penny, their absentee landlord getting every cent. With some estates running in the tens of thousands of acres that's a big cheque that we supposedly can't afford (If you believe the politicians).
That money would be better used to work in the community encouraging both economic & environmental diversity.

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

All my previous points about Mr Monbiot's view of the world still stand, he's not presenting anything new here.

Under headage he didn't like it because it encouraged more animals, at least he's not still pretending that headage payments are being used. What he fails to mention is that area payments can also have the direct opposite effect where land owners can get a return on their investment via the subsidy and let land at lower rents than would otherwise be the case.

Also, an increasing amount of the basic payment is *already* being shifted towards pillar 2 which funds things such as HLS. Whilst I agree with him in so much that the consumer should be paying for this, that doesn't necessarily mean they will, given the choice.

The fatal flaw in his rewilding plans is that you can't have an undistrubed wildnerness and then ship in tens of thousands of people to look at it without it being disturbed. Much of the uplands is already supported by tourism, people visit the landscape for it's current beauty - where in the analysis is there any evidence that more people would visit to see a landscape without those views? Personally I think you'd struggle to keep the same numbers, never mind increase them.

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 10309

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I agree with you about Montbiots ideas about re-wilding. They are totally impractical. Who is going to pay for all of it, where are the animals going to live? What is going to happen to the ecosystem that has built up there over the years of open ground?

I know what the effect of 'wildness' has on woodland and downland, and the result is ecologically pretty well sterile. You lose butterflies and birds that are obvious and there are a lot of other things that are less obvious. The 'wild' downland I know is a mix of yew and whitebeam woodland, and the last I saw of it the ground was mainly chalk scree, as no light for any cover at all.

Tavascarow



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Rob R wrote:


The fatal flaw in his rewilding plans is that you can't have an undistrubed wildnerness and then ship in tens of thousands of people to look at it without it being disturbed. Much of the uplands is already supported by tourism, people visit the landscape for it's current beauty - where in the analysis is there any evidence that more people would visit to see a landscape without those views? Personally I think you'd struggle to keep the same numbers, never mind increase them.
I agree there is nothing more destructive than human footfall but with regards to Dartmoor most visitors rarely stray out of eye shot of their vehicle.
The vast majority of the moor is only visited by the intrepid & serious & they tend to be very environmentally concious.
Managing the movement of human visitors is probably far easier than managing livestock on an open site like the moors.
You only need to put a car park & an ice cream van where they can do least damage, & not where they can, & your problems solved.
Over grazing by livestock is easily solved to. But it needs commitment from all parties.
George Mombiot isn't saying anything new or controversial.
There has been talk about limiting the numbers of stock on Dartmoor for years but so far it's all talk.
One way of doing that would be a return to the native & less hardy breeds as I said earlier.

Tavascarow



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Mistress Rose wrote:
I agree with you about Montbiots ideas about re-wilding. They are totally impractical. Who is going to pay for all of it, where are the animals going to live? What is going to happen to the ecosystem that has built up there over the years of open ground?

I know what the effect of 'wildness' has on woodland and downland, and the result is ecologically pretty well sterile. You lose butterflies and birds that are obvious and there are a lot of other things that are less obvious. The 'wild' downland I know is a mix of yew and whitebeam woodland, and the last I saw of it the ground was mainly chalk scree, as no light for any cover at all.
& I'm sure you will agree that overgrazing is just as destructive, if not more so?
Sensitive environments need sensitive management.
The current systems in agriculture don't encourage or provide for that, unless the individual environment is particularly threatened & valuable like Robs Ings.
Keeping very small pockets of nature perfect whilst letting the rest go to hell in a hand cart doesn't work.
You only have to look at flora, avian & invertebrate species distribution & population studies to see that.
Of all areas farmland species have declined the most.
That is a clear indication that farming isn't working for the environment & that has to change.

GrahamH



Joined: 23 May 2015
Posts: 427

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I have read that the natural habitat of Dartmoor was destroyed by the activities of people in the Bronze Age.
Same with Bodmin.
Before these activities the moors were not moors. They were not an open environment.

Ty Gwyn



Joined: 22 Sep 2010
Posts: 4145
Location: Lampeter
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Interesting post Tav,which highlights to me that the Dartmoor commoners do not have the same rules as similar commons in Wales.

Many commons in Wales farmers have to remove their stock from the common for a short period,
Brought up on a farm ajoining a common,we like other ajoining farmers were only allowed to turn to the common a certain number of stock pertaining to the acreage of inbye land owned,
In other words,the common was not to be used to increase your acreage,but to release land for fodder conservation.

The trouble with Monbiot is he does`nt understand how cattle have evolved over the years,the Devon cattle of old have been improved similar to other breeds,and today`s cattle look nothing like the old cattle,but the majority reading his articles would be has ignorant as him about these things.
On the higher reaches of Dartmoor i would say Galloway cattle are more suitable on the rough herbage,but managed similar to i mentioned earlier,
But they would be much better of with Welsh Glamorgan ewes,lol.

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Tavascarow wrote:
Rob R wrote:


The fatal flaw in his rewilding plans is that you can't have an undistrubed wildnerness and then ship in tens of thousands of people to look at it without it being disturbed. Much of the uplands is already supported by tourism, people visit the landscape for it's current beauty - where in the analysis is there any evidence that more people would visit to see a landscape without those views? Personally I think you'd struggle to keep the same numbers, never mind increase them.
I agree there is nothing more destructive than human footfall but with regards to Dartmoor most visitors rarely stray out of eye shot of their vehicle.
The vast majority of the moor is only visited by the intrepid & serious & they tend to be very environmentally concious.
Managing the movement of human visitors is probably far easier than managing livestock on an open site like the moors.
You only need to put a car park & an ice cream van where they can do least damage, & not where they can, & your problems solved.
Over grazing by livestock is easily solved to. But it needs commitment from all parties.
George Mombiot isn't saying anything new or controversial.
There has been talk about limiting the numbers of stock on Dartmoor for years but so far it's all talk.
One way of doing that would be a return to the native & less hardy breeds as I said earlier.


So what form does this ecotourism take? If you are correct people will flock to buy an ice cream at the side of the road through the forest. I don't think that is very accurate. When I think of my own experience of travelling across the moors, the one place I don't stop to appreciate the view is at the side of a wood. I appreciate that I'm not you're average punter but c'mon, I'm not that different.

As I said above, Monbiot seems to be blaming subsidies for the present situation (ie too many sheep), what is not clear is how the area based payments are in any way responsible for this. Under the present system you can do *anything* with the land and get the payments, it doesn't matter if you have one sheep or one thousand. This is a cause of undergrazing, not over grazing. As Ty suggests, this may be more of a local bylaw problem than a national subsidy one.

Tavascarow



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I'd be the last to say George knows everything there is to know, but he's very good at pointing out issues that should be addressed.
The breed thing came from a blog I follow by some one else, but makes perfect sense, & fits in with the Western Morning news article.
If Dartmoor had a similar system to your commons then numbers would be limited to the holding capacity of the home farm.

I don't know much about the North Devon cattle history.
I know one of my (& my Dads) favourite breeds the South Devon bear no resemblance now to even the cattle that where around thirty years ago.
They have gone from an excellent multi purpose breed to a poor impersonation of a Limousine IMHO.
(edit in reply to Ty).

Tavascarow



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Rob R wrote:
Tavascarow wrote:
Rob R wrote:


The fatal flaw in his rewilding plans is that you can't have an undistrubed wildnerness and then ship in tens of thousands of people to look at it without it being disturbed. Much of the uplands is already supported by tourism, people visit the landscape for it's current beauty - where in the analysis is there any evidence that more people would visit to see a landscape without those views? Personally I think you'd struggle to keep the same numbers, never mind increase them.
I agree there is nothing more destructive than human footfall but with regards to Dartmoor most visitors rarely stray out of eye shot of their vehicle.
The vast majority of the moor is only visited by the intrepid & serious & they tend to be very environmentally concious.
Managing the movement of human visitors is probably far easier than managing livestock on an open site like the moors.
You only need to put a car park & an ice cream van where they can do least damage, & not where they can, & your problems solved.
Over grazing by livestock is easily solved to. But it needs commitment from all parties.
George Mombiot isn't saying anything new or controversial.
There has been talk about limiting the numbers of stock on Dartmoor for years but so far it's all talk.
One way of doing that would be a return to the native & less hardy breeds as I said earlier.


So what form does this ecotourism take? If you are correct people will flock to buy an ice cream at the side of the road through the forest. I don't think that is very accurate. When I think of my own experience of travelling across the moors, the one place I don't stop to appreciate the view is at the side of a wood. I appreciate that I'm not you're average punter but c'mon, I'm not that different.

As I said above, Monbiot seems to be blaming subsidies for the present situation (ie too many sheep), what is not clear is how the area based payments are in any way responsible for this. Under the present system you can do *anything* with the land and get the payments, it doesn't matter if you have one sheep or one thousand. This is a cause of undergrazing, not over grazing. As Ty suggests, this may be more of a local bylaw problem than a national subsidy one.
With regards to Dartmoor you put a few picnic tables in a picturesque spot within easy walking distance of the carpark & with a few 'wild' ponies that like to scrounge tit bits & everyone's delighted.
Picturesque & environmentally sensitive/valuable are very different things as you know.
The vast majority would rather cut off their right arms than trek ten or fifteen miles across bog & tor to see some rare plant or animal.
Unfortunately sheep, cattle & horses aren't so bothered.

With regards to subsidy the present system is probably better for limiting stock numbers than the old which just encouraged farmers to keep more.
But like all these things they (IMHO) appear to benefit those that need it the least most, & vice versa.
It does strike me as odd how agriculture gets so much support now when other industry is left to flounder & I can only assume it's because those with the real power in the land are also the largest land owners & benefit the most.
If that money was spent in the rural communities & conservation I think it would probably have better results.

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 15 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Tavascarow wrote:
Rob R wrote:
Tavascarow wrote:
Rob R wrote:


The fatal flaw in his rewilding plans is that you can't have an undistrubed wildnerness and then ship in tens of thousands of people to look at it without it being disturbed. Much of the uplands is already supported by tourism, people visit the landscape for it's current beauty - where in the analysis is there any evidence that more people would visit to see a landscape without those views? Personally I think you'd struggle to keep the same numbers, never mind increase them.
I agree there is nothing more destructive than human footfall but with regards to Dartmoor most visitors rarely stray out of eye shot of their vehicle.
The vast majority of the moor is only visited by the intrepid & serious & they tend to be very environmentally concious.
Managing the movement of human visitors is probably far easier than managing livestock on an open site like the moors.
You only need to put a car park & an ice cream van where they can do least damage, & not where they can, & your problems solved.
Over grazing by livestock is easily solved to. But it needs commitment from all parties.
George Mombiot isn't saying anything new or controversial.
There has been talk about limiting the numbers of stock on Dartmoor for years but so far it's all talk.
One way of doing that would be a return to the native & less hardy breeds as I said earlier.


So what form does this ecotourism take? If you are correct people will flock to buy an ice cream at the side of the road through the forest. I don't think that is very accurate. When I think of my own experience of travelling across the moors, the one place I don't stop to appreciate the view is at the side of a wood. I appreciate that I'm not you're average punter but c'mon, I'm not that different.

As I said above, Monbiot seems to be blaming subsidies for the present situation (ie too many sheep), what is not clear is how the area based payments are in any way responsible for this. Under the present system you can do *anything* with the land and get the payments, it doesn't matter if you have one sheep or one thousand. This is a cause of undergrazing, not over grazing. As Ty suggests, this may be more of a local bylaw problem than a national subsidy one.
With regards to Dartmoor you put a few picnic tables in a picturesque spot within easy walking distance of the carpark & with a few 'wild' ponies that like to scrounge tit bits & everyone's delighted.
Picturesque & environmentally sensitive/valuable are very different things as you know.
The vast majority would rather cut off their right arms than trek ten or fifteen miles across bog & tor to see some rare plant or animal.
Unfortunately sheep, cattle & horses aren't so bothered.

With regards to subsidy the present system is probably better for limiting stock numbers than the old which just encouraged farmers to keep more.
But like all these things they (IMHO) appear to benefit those that need it the least most, & vice versa.
It does strike me as odd how agriculture gets so much support now when other industry is left to flounder & I can only assume it's because those with the real power in the land are also the largest land owners & benefit the most.
If that money was spent in the rural communities & conservation I think it would probably have better results.


I do think we need to eliminate subsidies and let people fund the kind of farming they want to see, but while there is potential for things to be much better, it could also be much worse. Fortunately, as I said before, they are shifting us gradually away from pillar one to pillar two payments, with more money moving over to environment & rural community projects. I still think that the way the funding is delivered is missing the mark though and as such we'd do better with headage payments returned, in terms of promoting rural employment, than a lick of paint for the village hall.

As you know I am a huge advocate of rotational grazing and I think farmers should be encouraged to manage land in such a way that the intensity and frequency of grazing can be closely controlled so that grazing is limited to less than one week in a year, but a crude measure such as reducing numbers is not the solution where overall numbers are not the problem.

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 10309

PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 15 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

The rules on commons about removing animals for a certain length of time each year are not so much to do with the environment as a man made law to ensure the ownership and other details. Each area of common land has its own rules. Some will allow pannage, some estovers, some grazing etc.

In general the animals that were bred for the area are the most suitable, so Dartmoors on Dartmoor, Downs sheep on the downs etc. Yes they do change over time, but not always in a bad way.

Graham, I think the deforestation of the moors was a mixture of man and climate. They are generally unsuitable for arable farming now except in certain pockets, and trees are very variable in their growth. Wistmans wood is said to be growing taller now than in the past, but the trees would be useless for any job for man, and not much good for anything except a substrate on which lichen grows, which may be edible by some animals. The rocks are as good for nesting as the trees. In some places planted trees have done quite well, and there are some conifer plantations, but as you know we have very few natural conifers in the UK, so the woodland cover in the past was probably just hanging on by a thread, and the climate change may well have done for it anyway.

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