Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
It is sometimes easy to look at the rural rites of Christmas and think that nothing really changes in the countryside. However, beyond the iconic images of hounds and huntsman on the village green, or friends and family gathering for a Boxing Day shoot the countryside is ever changing, as are all the activities within it.
Adapting to a changing landscape (actual rather than metaphorical) is always difficult for those of us who are quite happy as we are. For instance the extraordinary rise in popularity of game shooting has great economic benefits for many parts of the countryside and the scale of participation can only be a good thing as far as political influence is concerned, but it also raises questions about ethics and sustainability. That is one of the reasons the creation of credible self-regulation through the British Game Alliance has been such an important project in 2018.
Hunting faces change as well mostly as a direct result of that changing landscape. In many parts of the country the sheer volume of people, the amount of development, the number of cars on every road have made hunting increasingly difficult. Meanwhile the expense and voluntary input needed to run something as complex as a hunt increase year on year. The challenge for hunting is taking an infrastructure created in the middle of the 20th century and adapting to address the reality of the countryside we can expect in the middle of the 21st.
And what will that countryside look like? Well much depends on the outcome of Brexit and therefore remains utterly uncertain. We know the direction the Government wants to go as signalled in the Agriculture Bill, with the end of direct farm support and policy moving towards payment for the delivery of ‘public goods’. Just as important, however, is a trading environment in which British farmers can export produce successfully in international markets and sell competitively to domestic consumers.
One thing remains certain, however, and that is whether it is shooting, hunting or farming there remains a passion and commitment within the rural community which will ensure that every challenge will be met. The Countryside Alliance exists to channel that passion and will be working for you all throughout all the challenges of 2019, as it has done throughout 2018. Happy New Year.
Follow me at @ca_TimB