Farmers expect to lose the odd lamb to fox attacks, particularly since the hunting ban. But foxes do not attack ewes, they mainly attack new born lambs before they get to their feet.
These brutal attacks on ewes and lambs, leaving their bowls, and in some cases unborn lambs, scattered across fields, are caused by people’s pets running wild and out of control.
The British system of open footpaths offering the public access to farmland is relatively unique. In Ireland there is no access to private farmland. There people may only walk in designated public parks.
My Spanish friends are horrified that here the public can roam freely across privately owned farmland, and in the USA the public have no right to roam without permission or a licence.
If these annual massacres continue, and it is certain they will, as dog owners become increasingly irresponsible, and few appear to have a genuine interest in the countryside, let alone the livestock and wildlife, maybe now is the time to re-evaluate the rules of the countryside.
The South Down National Park authority originally had notices asking dog walkers to keep their dogs on leads. These have now been replaced with notices asking the public to keep their dogs under control! Clearly they are not.
It is time for the SDNP to take a more responsible stand. Instead of bending over backwards to accommodate the public, they should ensure that their priority is to protect wildlife, farmers and their livestock. It is farmers who are the custodians of, and responsible for, the stunning down land landscape. Without them the Downs would become an impenetrable wilderness.
In 1992 the Rio Convention on Biodiversity expressed some caution about the potential effect of unlimited access, especially in tropical rain forests. For this reason, broad public access rights are challenged in some countries’, resulting in the Biodiversity Action Plan.
Some years ago when plans were afoot to create the Diamond Jubilee E above Firle, one of the arguments against the idea, put forward by the SDNP, was that the South Down’s open grassland was ‘more precious than tropical rain forests’! If that is the case, then I would suggest that open access to the public and in particular their out of control dogs, should be re-examined.
As was stated at the Rio Convention, All People’s Rights threatens the essence of ownership and the “management practises” of property owners. They may or may not have created and preserved environmentally important qualities, but their efforts and the environment which they create, is unique, and therefore should be protected not abused.
It was said last week, that the Labour party will not stick up for the middle-class, as now they only support hippies, activists and people who read the Guardian, but not people who actually work. And the Lib Dems just appear to represent Brussels, and their own eccentric hobby horse.
Mrs May said that she wanted to stand up for those who are ‘Just About Managing’ or ‘Ordinary Working People’. It seems that neither she nor the Chancellor have grasped the fact that many of these are self-employed, and run small businesses which employ people, and take risks. The very people who decided to stand on their own two feet, rather than resort to the state.
They work unlimited hours, often well beyond the normal retirement age, with no sick pay, no maternity pay, and no paid leave. They already pay a huge amount in taxation and overheads, without any of the perks and ‘entertainment allowances’ that salaried people get.
These are the ‘working people’ who are now the middle class. These are the people that a conservative government should be supporting, not kicking. Many will jump ship to a party who does support them – when there is one. So, who will speak up for the ‘working middle class’?