YOU might not agree with George Monbiot over his call for the Cumbrian fells to be ‘re-wilded’, but he has to be admired at least for being prepared to argue his case face-to-face with those upland sheep farmers he has undoubtedly angered.
Rather like Daniel venturing into the lion’s den, the controversial environmentalist has agreed to be quizzed on his views at annual general meeting of the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners next month.
It is certain to be a lively session.
In his book, ‘Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding’, Mr Monbiot attacks sheep farming as ‘a slow burning ecololgical disaster, which has done more damage to the living systems of this country than either climate change or industrial pollution. Yet scarcely anyone seems to have noticed’.
The forceful - many might say over-hyperbolic - language he uses is unfortunate because it does not allow for an understanding of wider issues.
While he may have an ecological point to make, Mr Monbiot ignores how the beautiful landscape of the Cumbrian fells has been shaped over thousands of years by sheep farming.
The animals have not just provided a livelihood for hill farmers, they have created a stunning environment for visitors to enjoy.
Taking sheep off the fells and allowing the ‘natural’ landscape to re-emerge sounds like a romantic ideal, but it could also render the fells inaccessible to walkers.
Does Mr Monbiot really want to damage two fundamental pillars of the Cumbrian economy - farming and tourism?
It is understandable farmers are keen to counter his views and the formation last week of Cumbria Young Commoners is a timely development.
But Mr Monbiot is not their only problem. A more pressing concern is the lack of financial support for young farmers seeking to get farms of their own.
In this regard, the new group deserves help and encouragement - from both within and without the farming community.