Nature’s guardians?

Peter Cooper

Whose countryside is it anyway? It’s the ultimate question and has been batted around much of the media recently between two ‘sides’ – the conservation community and the shooting/landowning fraternity – with the attitude we hold towards wildlife and nature as a whole at its core.

Perhaps the most notable incident involved the star of Springwatch, Chris Packham. He provoked the Countryside Alliance to demand the BBC sack him due to him calling on conservation NGOs to increase campaigning pressure against badger culling, fox hunting and illegal hen harrier persecution on grouse moors. This in turn led another columnist, Robin Page, of the Telegraph, to accuse Chris Packham of “knowing nothing” of the countryside.

I wonder how many students at this university have been similarly accused, simply because they love wildlife but don’t necessarily want to shoot  it. As someone born and raised in a landscape of woodland and farmland, who has devoted their studying to conserving wildlife in the field, I find this a highly offensive view. I’m not overly sentimental about nature; I understand the need for culling where necessary, and that wildlife is very much red in tooth and claw.

But, nature needs space too, and that is the point which many fail to recognise: their countryside is an industrial landscape as man-made as the towns they claim to despise. Many also state they are ‘real’ conservationists, yet this generally only seems to be of species that can survive in the conditions that intensive farming creates, and if it can, then make absolutely no impact on their activities.

Cooperation is necessary if we are to improve the future of the UK’s nature. But as long as these attitudes still stand, in many of those who manage a lot of the land where it could best flourish, it will be difficult.