The chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA) has slammed what it calls the “anti-farming lobby” for claiming sheep farming is the cause of flooding in the UK.
Many parts of the UK have suffered extreme rainfall in the last week, leading to flood defences being breached. Houses and towns along the south coast have fared especially badly, with many people forced to abandon their homes.
According to NSA’s Phil Stocker, the idea the uplands should be used to “hold and store water”, with sheep farming preventing this as well as exacerbating it, is “unfounded and irresponsible“.
“The anti-farming lobby conveniently chooses not to mention many of our lowland drainage systems are centuries old and our wildlife has evolved in line with the farming and land practices over this period,” he said.
“They ignore the fact many of these drainage systems have fallen into disrepair – often on purpose with the aim of creating habitat museums. They also ignore the fact so much of our land area is concreted and tarmacked with no water holding management.”
Mr Stocker also slammed the BBC for giving the subject airtime. On its Countryfile programme, environmental activist George Monbiot discussed his views on sheep hill farming, where he said the grazing of sheep on uplands contributes to flooding as the vegetation removed by the sheep would absorb the run-off water.
“Sadly BBC Countryfile chose this subject to give airtime to Mr Monbiot’s ‘dreams’ at a time when global needs are about using our natural capital wisely to feed a growing population, using fewer resources in doing so and improving our environment at the same time,” said Mr Stocker. “Times change and we are disadvantaged by often only seeing with one’s own lifetime. It was only six or seven years ago that our uplands were far more industrious than they are now, yet in this era we seem to be constantly trying to make parks and museums of them instead.”
Mr Stocker said there is no “one size fits all” solution.
“We need to protect the carbon stored in our peat-lands; we need trees; we need to manage our water far more carefully,” he said.
“But we also need to feed ourselves, protect our agricultural diversity and consider people and rural communities in all of this.”