GOB 107 – The Real Countryside

GOB 107 The Real Countryside

This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine September 2018

They dye the water at Augusta Golf Course to make sure the ponds are just the right shade of blue for the TV cameras. They paint the grass green, too, in the patches where it wears, and the sand in the bunkers is really quartz brought in from a quarry in Carolina, which is why it shines so white. The colours are all supposed to be ‘just so’.

Once an over privileged acquaintance of mine suggested that a summer project in the country for city kids would be ‘more funky’ if we painted the leaves of trees different colours. What was he on? I hear you ask.

Sometime back, newcomer villagers made headlines complaining about farmyard smells ruining the countryside.

As we, as a society become more urban so we increasingly idealise rural life to the point where we become totally divorced from reality.

This may not seem much of an issue until you widen the field of view and understand that it’s not just commuters and urban retirees who have some idyllic view of our ‘green and pleasant land’. Unfortunately, so does commerce and government. I rant on about ‘agribusiness’ because grand scale commercial farming has an impact way beyond supermarket vegetable uniformity and the price of milk.

The supermarket mentality of corporate farming has seen the growth of an animal husbandry that means many cows, pigs and chickens never even see a field but are mass produced in ‘units’ where slurry can be removed on conveyor belts and blunt-beaked chickens lay-eggs and feed without ever scratching a barn floor let alone the farmyard.

When farming was a generation upon generation chosen lifestyle the relationship with land may not always have been perfect, and income might have sometimes triumphed over ethics, but, by and large those who grew up with animals and land to look after did just that… look after it to ensure its there for the next generation to enjoy and flourish in. When decisions are made in city boardrooms real life is reduced to columns of figures and marginal savings made through inappropriate use of chemical scours, unseasonal hedge-flailing and questionable animal welfare.

When multi-national commerce lobbies government rather than individual farmers more bad decisions get made. Worse still, international agreements are so far away from the ground that the nonsense of badger slaughter arises. Why are badgers ‘culled’? Apparently to reduce bovine TB… despite the fact that eliminating a badger population merely draws in a new one, and such indiscriminate idiocy can replace a healthy population with a TB carrying one. Isn’t inoculation the answer, just like it is for humans? Of course, but we have signed up to international agreements that mean we can’t sell beef from inoculated cattle! I’ve no idea what a dose of bovine vaccine costs but paying £50 for a dead badger must surely make no economic sense at all. The killing (culling is a euphemistic term to make us feel less affronted) of badgers is decried by an overwhelming number of people yet is has been extended.

Until our eco-system is assigned a monetary value such rapacious stupidity will continue unabated.

Nature can be red in tooth and claw but wholesale slaughter is never done for marginal gain… even a fox in a hen house is only taking advantage of an opportunity to accumulate food with the least effort.

Short-term cost-cutting might seem like commercial sense but expressed another way it is just profiteering when a small section of society feathers their own nest at the expense of the vast majority of us.

Rant it out!