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People before animals

(88 Posts)
FlicketyB Sat 08-Feb-14 17:02:06

Over the last few weeks it has become very clear that the Environment Agency has had a succession of heads who have put the protection of animals/insects/birds and 'biodiversity' far too far ahead of the protection of our, predominantly man made landscape, those who get their living from it and those who get their food from it.

There have been many cases from the failure to properly maintain the rivers and ditches that protect the Somerset Levels to the rejection of the Severn Barrage, that could have provided 5% of our renewable, carbon free electricity, 24/7/365 and not just when the wind blows, where the welfare of wildlife and plants have been protected at the cost of the welfare of those who live and work in the area and in the country as a whole.

I am fast coming to the conclusion that in Britain the human/wildlife pendulum has swung too far in the favour of wildlife and an adjustment back towards the needs of the humans who live here.

A good start would be to curtail the powers of unelected bodies that make decisions that result in farmland being degraded or being taken out of agriculture as a result of their policies

margaretm74 Sat 08-Feb-14 17:17:44

It will be bad for the environment when we produce less and less food and have to import more from overseas because these quangocrats do not understand the countryside and how it works.

Yes, we should all have access to the countryside and be able to enjoy it, but they fail to realise it is not just a pretty place to tour at weekends. It is the main source of our food , a working environment and livelihood for many people. Farmers have enough pressure from supermarkets and they do not need the added pressure from government and bureaucratic meddlers who have little or no knowledge of food production and best practice in rural affairs.

POGS Sat 08-Feb-14 17:30:19

I don't think anybody watching the threads will expect me to argue with the sentiment you express Flickety and Margaret m. smile

merlotgran Sat 08-Feb-14 17:37:09

I'll second all that just so long as we don't go back to the sixties and seventies where the countryside was ripped apart to enlarge fields for over production of cereal crops.

margaretm74 Sat 08-Feb-14 17:45:06

Agreed, USA style farming methods are not good or suitable for this country. More and more farmers are conscious of environmental issues and are encouraging wildlife anyway without too much meddling from government and unelected quangos.

granjura Sat 08-Feb-14 17:51:43

It was interesting on Countryfile last week- that one expert blamed part of the flooding on de-forestation and over-grazing and trampling (packing) of the soil by too many sheep in uplands areas- which do no longer absorb rain but let it run down ill to low lying lands.

Galen Sat 08-Feb-14 18:11:03

Couldn't agree with you more Flick,

FlicketyB Sat 08-Feb-14 18:16:37

I am not suggesting we should go back to the wholesale destruction of habitat and hedgerows that occurred in the past but I think that the pendulum has now swung too far the other way.

Agriculture, like every other industry has to be run in a responsible manner, and overstocking sheep in upland areas is not responsible, but if you do not graze the land gets over run by bracken! I confess I am puzzled that it has been considered to lead to deforestation, most of this land has never had much in the way of trees on it anyway. Look at any landscape paintings of the past, trees in the valleys, but not on the uplands. Not until the Forestry Commission came and planted pines everywhere because it was all that would grow on the damp acid soil of most uplands.

I think farm stewardship plans, where conservation goes hand in hand with farmers is by far the best way to protect habitats, but when protection of habitat is clearly damaging to existing human occupation and land use then those in possession should be preferred.

thatbags Sat 08-Feb-14 18:30:47

If the environment were managed by elected people in regional groups (people who understand how the local environment works) rather than unelected quangos with heads too full of often mistaken ideology, I think a far better job would be done for the benefit of all nature, be it wild or rather less wild.

We were having a discussion of this very subject, and saying more or less what you have said in your OP, flick, on the way to archery this afternoon.

jinglbellsfrocks Sat 08-Feb-14 18:59:58

Well I feel sorry for the wildlife. People generally choose where they live. Animals can't. Dreadful to think how wildlife must have been decimated by the flood waters. Think rabbit burrows flooding. And badger setts. sad

margaretm74 Sat 08-Feb-14 19:02:14

Should we blame the EU? At least it would all our politicians/quangocrats off the hook - "just following EU directives gov'"

jinglbellsfrocks Sat 08-Feb-14 19:05:04

I feel very sorry for the farmers. They do have to live in places like the Somerset Levels. Others don't have to. They have a choice.

Rough with the smooth?

Ana Sat 08-Feb-14 19:05:24

That had crossed my mind too, margaret, but I don't know enough about it. Sounds likely, though...(to some extent, at least).

margaretm74 Sat 08-Feb-14 19:13:15

When the financial crisis came the Queen said "how come no-one saw this coming?"

Well they all saw this coming, but didn't take the necessary steps in some areas. Perhaps it was not anticipated that other areas would flood so drastically.

FlicketyB Sat 08-Feb-14 19:19:58

The rabbits here are on the sides of the railway embankment and on the down behind us. They are home and dry!

Galen Sat 08-Feb-14 19:40:15

They're imports, came over with Normans!

Ana Sat 08-Feb-14 19:47:23

Those pesky Normans...!

JessM Sat 08-Feb-14 20:01:38

Lots of blaming EA. What about DEFRA and the treasury who set policy and budgets? DEFRA is the government. And who voted the government in?
The EA is not a quango because the ministry sits above it. It is more like the operational wing of DEFRA and has wide responsibilities: coastal erosion, the possible environmental impact of fracking and nuclear power, bathing water quality, pollution by salmon farms, business dumping toxic waste, air pollution, preventing drought as well as flooding. Protecting wildlife habitats one small bit of their work on which little money is spent.
This year DEFRA are giving them 569 million for flood defences and £88 million for all the rest of their environmental protection duties.
So it does not really look as if the EA are spending all their money on voles and otters and putting them first, really, does it?
Governments quite rightly need to follow EU directives. if there was no EU directive on issues like bathing waters our seas would still be seriously polluted by sewage.
bags I have to say that local authorities did not make a good job of managing water services before the private water companies took over. The local politicians did not want to increase local rates to raise revenue for improvements. Post privatisation when the water companies were formed and the NRA set up the quality of drinking water, bathing water and river water all improved rapidly.
If you don't like the situation then write to your MP objecting to the cuts being made to DEFRA funding and the fact that these mean that EA is having to make 500 redundancies of their flood management staff.
FlicketyB the uplands of Britain have been grazed by the stock of farmers for thousands of years. Even the mountains would get covered in trees again if this ceased. But it would take decades for the bracken and gorse to be succeeded by birch, oak, scots pine etc. Even if there were a massive tree planting programme it would take several decades before the woodland was established enough to make a difference to water catchments.

POGS Sat 08-Feb-14 20:13:40

Jess m
'And who voted the government in'

I will say again.

People are blaming The Environmental Agency because it was they who elected to stop dredging. It has been going on for almost 2 decades and whilst I accept that this government could have done more, making it a political issue for this government only is ridiculous and if we are applying blame then Labour must take their fair share of responsibility.

Sometimes you cannot defend the indefensible.

margaretm74 Sat 08-Feb-14 20:17:26

Thank you for clarification JessM

And I think it has been successive governments who knew but did not act

jinglbellsfrocks Sat 08-Feb-14 20:45:49

There could be an upside to this for farmers. If enough badgers get..... Oh, never mind. shock

margaretm74 Sat 08-Feb-14 20:55:45


JessM Sat 08-Feb-14 21:08:48

Well the electorate voted the government in didn't they/we - its politics not the EA per se. They do what their political masters tell them to do and spend what they get given having agreed their budget with their political masters.
Prioritisation of flood defence money has probably focussed on areas of higher population. But they have not been spending the money they are given for flood defence on water vole habitats.
All I am saying is that they may have made a wrong decision in relation to the drainage of the somerset levels but if you want to get cross, get cross with the people who are cutting EA budgets not the people who were running the EA in the past. Because that is utterly pointless.
Also seems to me that the somerset levels are getting all the publicity in the press.

FlicketyB Sat 08-Feb-14 22:08:49

The EA has been headed by people who quite consciously and explicitly placed the reinstatement of biodiversity above human use of land.

Lady Young, Chris Smith's predecessor said that she would like to put a limpet mine on every pump. That means by choice letting the Somerset Levels, the Fens and other areas of reclaimed land return to being salt marshes. If that is not a clear indication that has been EA policy to put biodiversity ahead of agriculture, what is?

The EA is a government Agency that by definition works at arms length from the government, although it is dependent on it for funding. Therefore it takes direction from and has policy decided for it by its executive, headed by successive chief officers whose first loyalty was to wildlife not agriculture.

If someone who had a long association with the National Farmers Union was made a chairman of the EA, the wildlife supporters would be up in arms and get the appointment quashed. Someone who has a long association with the RSPB is appointed chairman and no-one makes any comment, yet it is just as inappropriate appointment.

thatbags Sat 08-Feb-14 22:16:19

Was drinking water bad before privatisation? I don't remember problem drinking water.

EA sold off its river dredging equipment as soon as they took over from Somerset local authorities– clearly because of a different ideology from what had gone before. If what the Somerset people are saying is correct, then this was not a good idea with regard to current flooding. Extra flood defences are not needed if flooding is prevented in the first place because runoff has somewhere to go.