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"It's a chance to create countryside for food, wildlife and people"

Posted: Tuesday 23rd May 2017 by General Election 2017

David GregoryDavid Gregory

David Gregory takes a look at what wildlife means to him at the election.

Growing up in London, the natural world is something that could easily have passed me by, limited to what I saw on documentaries filmed in far-flung locations.

Fortunately, my parents would often combine trips to see family and friends outside of London with walks to expend the energy of me, my brother and Holly, our Border Collie. Here, we could visit farms that were indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside, both to me and to the wildlife. Birds would sing loudly from trees, insects buzzed between fields, bushes and hedgerows, and streams teaming with aquatic life would meander in and out of farm boundaries.

But to get to these special places we would pass by hectare after hectare of farmland that was an unbroken stretch of a single crop, or a patchy network of grass and barren land intensively grazed by cows or sheep. What little wildlife we saw here seemed to be doing the same, passing through to get somewhere better.

This type of agriculture is harmful to British wildlife. According to the 2016 State of Nature Report, between 1970 and 2013, 56% of species surveyed in the UK declined, with the majority of these declines being classed as moderate or strong. The report states that “policy-driven agricultural change was by far the most significant driver of declines”. The annual £3.2 billion paid in farm subsidies to the UK through the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can, in many cases, fund intensive farming practices that damage or destroy key habitats. While the report does credit some schemes within the CAP, which focus on integrating farming with the natural environment, as benefiting certain species, it describes the increasing intensification of agriculture as “overwhelmingly negative”.

Farms can work incredibly well with nature, maintaining and improving habitats for wildlife. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s very own Stirley Community Farm is an excellent example of wildlife friendly farming. But the current farming subsidy system does not, as a whole, reflect or encourage that.

This General Election, in the light of the forthcoming UK departure from the EU and the CAP, is a chance to redress that. It’s a chance to create, as the Wildlife Trusts and other environmental charities have called for, countryside for food, wildlife and people, and keep it a special place for ourselves and our children.
 

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, as part of the national Wildlife Trusts movement, would like to see parties commit to the environment at the election and beyond. This includes asking for new sustainable policies for our farmland to allow wildlife to thrive alongside food production.

Read more about this and other policy asks, plus how you can take action here.

Read General Election 2017's latest blog entries.

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