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Richard Mawdsley, The Dash, Bassenthwaite, Keswick. Cumbria. CA12 4QX


Keith McDougall's "The Gulf of ignorance" article (Farmers Guardian 18th October) appeared at an opportune moment.

On Tuesday 12th of October an official of the RDS (Cumbria) decided, unilaterally and publicly, to re-interpret the ESA. rules. This would have had serious implications for all moorland ESA schemes throughout the country. As he has admitted and corrected the error he may now remain anonymous.

The cause of this? Ignorance: he had no idea of the agricultural consequences of his action. Confusion: after more than ten years of ESA. schemes the RDS rulebook still has grey areas capable of misinterpretation, and zealots willing to do it.

Talking to friends in the county and elsewhere in England and Wales I was greatly cheered by the unanimous verdict; "Name and Shame". Not just the "foot soldiers" but their managers, who either condone or order the action. We can fight back, and ridicule is a powerful weapon.

All the "spin" and innuendo to which we have been subjected can be shown for what they are; lies, half-truths and distortions.

Where to start? English Nature is as good a target as any. Much of the science with which they justify their actions can be shown to be flawed; especially that used to justify their enforced reductions of sheep numbers on the moors and commons. One mistaken belief is that if one reduces the sustainable grazing level by a half, dramatic change (improvement?) will ensue. In practice, after a short time, the most vigorous plants become rank and unpalatable thereby reducing the stock carrying capacity and the biodiversity, because the more delicate plants are smothered.

Spin can and must be countered by the truth; by hard verifiable fact. The accrued wisdom of generations, of sound local custom and practice, is rubbished as "anecdotal evidence". Despite the EU Habitats Directive EC Directive 92/43/EEC (a modest 12 pages) which states in Article 2 paragraph 3. ".Measures taken pursuant to this Directive shall take account of economic, social and cultural requirements and regional and local characteristics". This is strongly reinforced by Article 8 (j) of the Berne Convention and the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

Defra is swamped by a plethora of self inflicted regulations. The UK Habitats Regulations (1994), the gross child of the above, runs to 72 pages, and I can find no reference to taking account of "economic social and cultural requirements." If you think somebody ought to do something about it; it's you. Make sure of your facts, write to your local paper, and bring it to the notice of a wider public.

Yours etc.
Richard Mawdsley.