A new report highlighting the crucial role livestock plays in maintaining the English countryside has been backed by the Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Andrew George MP.
EBLEX chairman John Cross (left) and Andrew George MP (right) launching the EBLEX Landscapes without Livestock exhibition at Westminster.
Mr George (Lib Dem, St Ives), yesterday launched EBLEX’s week-long ‘Landscapes without Livestock’ exhibition at Westminster, showcasing the potential impact on some of England’s most cherished landscapes if beef cattle herds and sheep flocks declined or disappeared as a result of the industry becoming unsustainable.
Mr George said: “Generally humans don't shape the topography. However, farmers have played a critical role as custodians of the countryside. We’ve taken for granted farming’s beneficial impact; particularly livestock grazing animals in some of the most commercially marginal land on these islands. Its contribution to conservation and biodiversity.
“This exhibition provides an opportunity to emphasise the importance that our countryside custodians - our farmers - have in protecting and maintaining what we appreciate about our countryside.”
‘Landscapes without Livestock’ is an independent report commissioned by EBLEX and produced by Land Use Consultants (LUC). It was compiled with input from farmers, ecologists, landscape specialists and experts from EBLEX. Sites typically grazed by beef cattle and sheep and in which the livestock help maintain the distinctive character were identified, in accordance with Natural England’s Natural Character Area descriptions and Defra’s agricultural survey. They were:
- Less Favoured Area (LFA) Upland – North York Moors
- Less Favoured Area (LFA) Hillsides – Exmoor
- Rotational Pasture – Vale of Pickering
- Permanent Pasture – Romney Marsh
- Moorland – Dartmoor.
Panoramic photographs of each landscape in its current state were taken and additional photomontages produced at year three, year 10 and year 30 to illustrate the visual impacts of the changes at each location if livestock were reduced or removed altogether. Narratives for each landscape also set out the ‘story’ of future change shown graphically by the photomontages.
MPs and EBLEX chairman John Cross were among the delegates who attended the exhibition launch.
Mr Cross said: “Our ‘Landscapes without Livestock’ report has already generated a great deal of interest and prompted further debate on the subject. We are delighted Mr George is supporting our efforts in drawing parliamentary attention to the role of livestock in maintaining the English countryside and the potential future impact of a reduction in beef cattle herds and sheep flocks
“Too often the negatives are dwelled upon, prompting calls for people to reduce meat consumption, which would have a negative impact on herds and flocks. Livestock bring many benefits to their respective environments. As such, the positives about livestock production should not be ignored. This independent and authoritative project adds expert evidence to the debate about the beef and lamb sector and its impact on the environment.”
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