Tag Archives: Farming

Rewilding Scotland – A Film by George Tomlinson.

Posted on social media this morning, Trees for Life highlighted a film by George Tomlinson, a fellow MA student at Fulham University which features commentary by their very own Alan Watson-Featherstone,  a longstanding advocate for Rewilding, as well as interviews with a number of well respected conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists. Tomlinson balances this evidence against commentary from rarmers and representatives in the meat & dairy industry as well as the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

This excellent documentary provides an informative and very balanced portrayal of some of the key issues and actors involved in the Scottish rewilding movement and is well worth a watch!

Rewilding Scotland – George Tomlinson.

The Results Are In: Public Support For Lynx Re-Introduction.

Yesterday, Lynx UK announced the results of their public survey to assess the level of support for plans to re-introduce wild lynx around the UK.

The proposal has attracted significant public support, with 91% of the 9500 surveyed voting in favour of the proposed release of which 84% said they would like to see this happening within the next 12 months.

Potential release trial sites under consideration are Aberdeenshire, Cumbria, Galloway, Kielder, Norfolk and Wales. The trust hopes to release four to six lynx at each trial site.  Opposition comes primarily from the agricultural community, who fear the animals would threaten their livelihoods by predating on livestock.

This is what Lynx UK had to say on their facebook post yesterday:

The survey we launched just over a month ago is what we call a pro-active survey; people have to make an effort to do it so it gives you an idea of what people who feel strongly about reintroduction, positive or negative, think. We had about 9,500 responses to this, a really big number in terms of opinion polls.

Of course, it is not perfectly representative of the UK population and inevitably ends up weighted in certain ways because you can’t control who does it, however it turns out our data is unfairly weighted in a couple of interesting ways. Rural communities make up 20% of the UK, but 50% of our sample, and young people aged 18-35 make up about 25% of the UK and 50% of our sample. So, our figures are weighted towards those who will live alongside lynx, and those who will live with the long term effects of a reintroduction, two important groups of people.

Out of interest, we also ran a typical opinion poll (a “passive” sample) recording a representative survey of UK people; just over 1,000 people roughly matching age ranges and so forth of the UK population. The figures here recorded a very high “Don’t Know” response, so we filtered them out of the below numbers just to get some clarity of opinion.

Amazingly, the figures weighted towards rural communities and young people came out most positive, but the positivity overall has really stunned us; positive responses are above those recorded for beaver reintroductions in Scotland, and negative responses are a really long way below those recorded for beavers.

And with all that said, here’s some pro-active data; 91% back a trial reintroduction of lynx in the UK, 84% believe it should happen within the next 12 months. 

These charts are the intellectual property of Lynx UK. Permission pending.
These charts are the intellectual property of Lynx UK. Permission pending.

Statement: National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS)

The complexities of re-introducing a predatory species are many, and while it would appear that there is plentiful support behind them, there are a number of groups and individuals who are less welcoming of the idea.

In an age of confirmation bias, it is all too easy to dismiss opposing claims and concerns however, as a democratic country it is imperative that all questions, concerns and corresponding information are given full and equal consideration.  Our right to question and air our doubts is one often taken for granted in the UK, but these projects by definition will have a wide impact on our environment, and ultimately the lives of everyone who lives here. The National Farmers Union for Scotland, representing the agricultural community, have raised questions about the cost implications of returning Lynx to the UK both to the farmers and to the public purse – primarily as a result of increased Sheep depredation. Due to the issues currently being experienced in Norway, this is a topic of great debate and one that will be looked at in more detail in a separate post.

Speaking on behalf of NFU Scotland, Andrew Bauer, Deputy Director of Policy  has provided us with the following statement:

Over the last month there has been considerable media coverage of the proposal by the Lynx UK Trust to trial the reintroduction of Eurasian Lynx to a number of sites across the UK, including one near Huntly in Aberdeenshire.

Most headlines have implied that such a reintroduction is an imminent certainty.  The reality is that it is neither imminent nor certain.

Whilst the prospect of lynx reintroduction has left some breathless with excitement, there are good reasons why the farming community is more wary.

In some parts of Europe the impact of lynx is moderate and while very distressing and damaging for those who lose lambs, it is not a widespread problem. There are other parts of Europe, most notably Norway, where the impact is far greater with official reports concluding that thousands of lambs are being predated each year in Norway alone. That would be unacceptable here.
Farmers are quite right to question why and how lynx, absent from Scotland since medieval times, should be reintroduced. Alongside trumpeting the benefits, those who advocate lynx reintroduction should be up front about the potential impacts on sheep farming and the potentially very significant cost to the public purse in compensation.

Anyone who is concerned about lynx reintroduction should take heart from the fact that any such proposal would be subject to a considerable level of consultation. 

As a member of the National Species Reintroduction Forum, NFU Scotland would be involved in the scrutiny of any application and would feed in the many views and concerns likely to be voiced by our membership.

Should it be clear that the risk to farming is unacceptable, NFU Scotland would act accordingly”.

Rewilding the World – Monbiot’s Mission.

Author, journalist, political and environmental activist – George Monbiot wears many hats. A controversial figure, Monbiot has become the UK’s most vocal pioneer of the rewilding movement. His long standing column in The Guardian and his most recent book, Feral, are both well read and his eloquent and provocative style is well known for instigating debate and discussion .

Check out his Ted Talk on the subject of Rewilding and then let us know what you think:

A sad loss: Dick Balharry.

As we consider the urgency of the challenges facing conservation efforts in Scotland it is with much sadness we received news of the passing of esteemed conservationist Dick Balharry just days after he was awarded the Geddes Environment Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to conservation by The Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Born on the outskirts of Dundee, Dick became chairman of the John Muir Trust in 2003, before becoming a long term council member of the National Trust for Scotland (NTD) and even served as interim chairman in 2009/2010. Prior to this, Dick had worked as a gamekeeper and warden of the National Nature Reserve at Beinn Eighe in Wester Ross.

Speaking to the Herald Scotland Sir Ken Calman, NTS Chairman said: “We will never forget his boundless enthusiasm, friendliness and his deep love of Scotland’s natural treasures. He was feisty and forthright to the very end and we will do what we can to honour his legacy as we strive to protect this country’s unsurpassable wild lands.”

Animal Conservation in Scotland.

Despite only being April, 2015 has already been an important year in Scottish Conservation. As the Knapdale beaver trials draw to a close and ministers begin deliberating the success of the programme, conservation group Lynx UK is also waiting for the outcome of their public consultation regarding the release of wild Lynx in the UK.

Scotland has a mixed history with wildlife re-introductions. Successes over the last 10 years include Red Kites, Northern Goshawk as well as Reindeer and based on early reports, Beaver are soon likely to be added to this list. Less successful, Scotland’s infamous Capercaillie population has decreased so rapidly that, despite significant investment in their protection, these iconic birds are facing extinction for the second time.

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Ideally, the concept of returning an animal to its native environment should be fairly simple, however the world is a very different place today than it was 500 years ago. The relationship between humans and wildlife is more distant than ever. As a result, the possibility of returning large mammals to the Scottish countryside is fraught with complications and controversy. To ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of human and animal,   Its imperative that the correct foundations are in place. This means, that not only do we need to ensure the science and environmental factors are appropriately considered but that a sustained, consistent and measurable education process is undertaken to alleviate public concerns and provide accurate and practical advice for those likely to be affected by this change to their surroundings.

Currently there are a number of actors for and against these projects, and it could be argued that both sides are more concerned with dismissing their counterparts without consideration rather than making serious attempts to understand or appreciate the quality information that is generated as a result of a debate born of differing perspectives.  This may well be a result of what has become commonly known as confirmation bias – or the tendency to dismiss any information that does not align with your preferred agenda – or it may simply be, the result of major communication challenges between the motivations of the diverse stakeholder base involved. Whatever the cause, the time has come for everyone to stop talking and start listening when it comes to rewilding.

While I generally support the concept of returning animals to their native lands, I can not condone the release of animals into an environment that is sociologically unprepared to accept them, for this is little more than animal abuse as a result of human intervention. We need to understand the full implications, opportunities and benefits that these projects present to ensure that any actions we take are in the best interests of animals and the local community and to do that, we need everyone’s input. Here I give you a platform to ask your questions, state your concerns, have your say – and then listen to the responses you get back, weigh it up and respond until you are satisfied. Ultimately, animals are design to adapt to changing conditions and the primary threat to their successful re-establishment comes primarily from people and human intervention. Many of these animals are extinct as a result of our meddling in the past, we have an obligation to learn from our mistakes, take our time and do this right – or maybe not at all? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Rewilding Interview: Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust.

This morning, I was privileged to undertake a skype interview, with Mr Peter Smith, Scientist, Conservationist  and CEO of the Wildwood Trust, a Kent based Charitable Organisation, which has been instrumental in many captive breeding and wildlife reintroduction projects including  the Konig Horse, Beaver and Wild Boar.

His passion for the subjects of rewilding and land reform is clearly evident and he raises some very interesting points which create a greater economic and political context into this complex subject. In order to ensure his perspective remains contextually intact,  I would like to share with you his perspective, as he sheds light on some of the challenges these projects face and providing deeper insight on the potential release of wild lynx in the UK.

Rewilding Interview: Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust (Audio)

As always, any thoughts, opinions and feedback are all greatly appreciated. Comment below or email: twilightexistence@gmail.com.