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WMN opinion: No room for bickering in great countryside debate

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 20, 2013

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It should probably come as no surprise that special interest groups act with a certain amount of special – or self – interest. Whatever the interest, that is the reason why people join and support them.

Members of the RSPCA are generally those who care about animal welfare and preventing cruelty. Supporters of the RSPB are lovers of birds. Both are organisations with huge public appeal, massive support, and considerable resource.

Both are also becoming increasingly involved in the debate around countryside management, and by becoming involved both have begun to attract considerable criticism.

The RSPCA – broadly a force for good in British society since its formation in 1824 – has been unable to resist getting deeply mired in the politics surrounding the proposed badger culls, and has taken a specific stance on an issue of great sensitivity in the countryside. It has chosen to vehemently condemn farmers who are supporting a cull of badgers on their land as a way of bringing bovine TB under control.

Today we report the RSPB's concerns that a new deal has been engineered on European farm subsidies.

The RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust claim that, under the current planned reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), hill farmers and land managers in iconic landscapes such as Dartmoor and Exmoor would be starved of cash.

Farmers – including the NFU, which of course is a special interest group itself – have hit back by saying they are totally committed to protecting the environment, accusing the bird charity of interfering and "feathering its own nest".

This type of argument goes to the root of many of the problems with debate around the management of the countryside today. There have been similar tensions around the establishment of marine conservation zones.

The intricacies of balancing man's relationship with the countryside, his need to farm and harvest it, and the protection of its animal and birdlife, their natural habitats, are delicate, and they are so important that there is very little room for petty bickering, particularly if it is politically motivated.

Successful and sustainable management of the environment has always been a question of balance. And it is imperative that balance is reflected by all those involved in shaping its future.

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At both ends of the peninsula, a bit of sporting success to really savour.

Cornwall's mighty rugby warriors defeated Hertfordshire on Saturday and now will play their first county championship final since 1999 at Twickenham next weekend. It was a performance that should make Cornwall proud. Meanwhile, Yeovil Town Football Club are looking forward to life in the championship after their nail-biting win in the League One play-off final yesterday. Well done to all, you've put a smile on the face of the West.

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