Opinions. Everybody Has 'Em.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mary had a little lamb...

Let’s be clear: I’m no lover of being in the outdoors. I simply fail to see the attraction in yomping through mud and cow shit in search of the perfect mountaintop view. The idea of getting soaked and freezing my ass off in a kayak or some other water-borne conveyance that ought to have been consigned to pioneer history, just leaves me confused. And a little scared, quite honestly.

That said, neither do I wish to see the entire countryside disappear under concrete and barbed wire. It has lately been lambing season in these parts. This has brought forth the yearly cries of  “ Foul!” from island citizens concerned about our rocky lamb mortality record. The problem is that the Northern Isles are super-exposed. There are few trees to speak of, and nothing you could actually call a hill whilst keeping a straight face. But there is wind a-plenty. In fact, if the wind ever stopped blowing here, we would all probably freak out, convinced the world had just ended. Oh, and it rains a lot, too.

Look in any direction across the islands, and you will see open fields and miles of five-strand barbed wire. You can’t help wondering - how do the lambs find shelter? The answer is, with great difficulty. Many die of exposure before the farmers can bring them inside sheds.

Right here let me just state that I’m not about to get into a discussion on the rights and wrongs of modern livestock farming, okay? That’s for another day, another blog. They've been farming in these parts for centuries, they still farm today, and that's how it is. This blog is about making better one aspect of that farming.

Every year the suggestion is made in the local paper that we replant the hedgerows to counter this death-by-exposure problem. Hedgerows attract birds and wildlife, and they give handy instant shelter to livestock. Apparently they are also good for strengthening the ground, but that’s more technical-environmental than my brain can cope with. The task of replanting could be carried out by the volunteer sector, which happens to be pretty extensive in these parts ( They have to be…they picked up most of the slack when the island council decided, in the best tradition of all out-of-touch government, that elderly and disabled services would make the best budget sacrifices ). Work training and much-needed jobs could be created through continuing care and maintenance of the hedgerows. Farmers would stop losing so much livestock and, in many cases, their livelihoods. And best of all from the point of view of the island council -? The tourists wouldn’t be traumatized by seeing poor dead little Larry The Lamb. Hedgerows make a much prettier picture to show the folks back home.

But will the island council ever get around to undertaking a project like this? Will they implement it by digging into the £90million fund they amassed through cutting vital services over two years? Will they hell.

They’ll spend the money on erecting another white elephant of a building that the tourists will never bother to use and the locals will have no use for, and then they’ll complain of being skint again. The lambs will continue to die of exposure and the farmers will continue to be out of pocket. And a landscape that could be beautified, will instead still be marred by miles and miles of rusty, stabby barbed wire.

Because heaven forbid any sensible decision should ever be made by local government. Imagine the dangerous precedent that would set?!

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