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Examination of Witness

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 13th February 2020.

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George Monbiot:

That is a very good question. The Bill discusses both natural heritage and cultural heritage. Both are very important values and neither should be dismissed, but there is an assumption in a great deal of rural thinking in Britain that they are one and the same. We have to acknowledge that they are often in direct conflict. Maintaining sheep on the land is highly damaging to ecosystems, but getting rid of sheep farmers can be highly damaging to local cultures and languages. We have to see that a balance should be struck.

We have so often fudged the issue, the classic example being the world heritage bid in the Lake district, where they were assumed to be one and the same. It is always resolved in favour of farming, because farming is assumed to be good for ecosystems, but in the great majority of cases it is not—the best thing to do for an ecosystem is to withdraw farming from it. But because we do not acknowledge that there is a conflict, we do not produce a balance that ever favours wildlife.