Rewilding Europe – Making Europe a Wilder Place

Source: Rewilding Europe – Making Europe a Wilder Place

Mixed feelings about this, to be honest. I am, as a rule, in favour of restoring habitats and ecosystems; however, I am less sanguine about European folk leaving the land and congregating in cities.

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In defence of blood sports – Epigram

Blood sports. An unethical, unsustainable stain on the landscape. Blasting defenceless animals out of the sky. Sounds harsh right…?

Source: In defence of blood sports -Epigram

More on field or so-called “blood”-sports, from a British perspective:

It is not a question of human rule and dominion but a case of stewardship. I am deeply concerned about the environment – I wouldn’t splash out on free range eggs or endure the seven hour train journey instead of a flight home if I didn’t – but providing species as a whole are conserved I won’t lose sleep over the death of an individual animal.

And if anything, shooting offers a more honest relationship between man and beast than the average consumer could ever hope to have with their beef lasagne (or was it horse?)… When you eat game meat you know where the animal has come from, how it was killed and that it enjoyed a free and wild life – something that cannot be said for much of the meat coming through our industrial abattoirs and supermarkets.

Indeed!

I am reminded of one of the great Aldo Leopold’s essays in his seminal A Sand County Almanac, “Wildlife in American Culture,” where he notes the value of hunting, as inculcating both knowledge and respect for the food chain – much diminished if the only thing we are “hunting” for is the best price on styrofoam-and-plastic-wrapped supermarket meats – and what he calls “split-rail value,” or anything that reminds of of our national (or more broadly, cultural) origins and evolution.

Hunting, and related disciplines like fishing, trapping, etc., are not the only ways to inculcate these values, of course, but they are particularly poignant and visceral means of doing so. They allow the practitioner to be a participant in what is sometimes called “the circle of life,” rather than a mere observer of it, in a way which no other activity save agriculture can do. And of course, farming (or gardening) and hunting are two activities which have always been very closely linked, in human history.

The whole question of field sports is made out to be a class issue. It isn’t. It is a city vs countryside issue.

I am sure the majority of those 80% who condoned the fox hunting ban were city dwellers with little appreciation of the tradition hunting carried for hundreds of years. ‘Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean it’s right’ I hear you say, so let’s look at it another way.

To people in the city, who have never come close to anything wilder than a cat, the concept of an aggressive fox seems alien, but in the countryside, foxes are vermin. Straight up. They terrorise lambs causing real damage to farmers. Growing up in the countryside, foxes were not some fluffy creature. They were the stuff of nightmares, crawling into the chicken run and butchering the lot for fun.

Unfortunately many people, both here and abroad, have grown up with a more-than-a-little “Disney-fied” version of how the natural world works. I have spent years working and teaching in environmental, outdoor, and conservation education, and I can assert with 100% confidence that predator (including foxes, coyotes, and even those adorable “masked bandits,” raccoons – ever seen one ticked off? they’re not adorable then!) numbers need to be controlled, to limit the spread of disease and protect domestic animal populations.

And prey animals (“game animals,” to us) need to have their numbers controlled, also – especially in the absence of “top predators” like wolves, bear, and mountain lions – to avoid overpopulation, resulting in starvation, disease, etc. In a totally natural environment, absent the influence of human beings, of course, that would not be necessary; nature would maintain the balance – but the means it would use, namely the aforementioned tools of predation, starvation, and disease, are hardly cute and cuddly. Again, this is not “Bambi,” this is the real world.

Again, those who are opposed to field sports like hunting (“shooting” and “stalking,” in British parlance), trapping (more of an economic activity than a sport, per se), and mounted foxhunting tend to have an excessively romanticized, fictionalized view of the world. It is particularly ironic when those opposed to field sports are willing to eat packaged meat! Such animals frequently live much worse lives, and suffer less humane deaths, than those hunted ethically (poaching, of course, cannot be defended under any circumstances).

Finally, from a philosophical viewpoint, the reality is that we are not separate from Nature, either above or below it; we are part of Nature. We may have abilities of self-reflection, cognition, and communication that are greater than our fellow-creatures, but we are still what Leopold called “plain members and citizens of the land community.” And we are, biologically and evolutionarily, predatory omnivores, like raccoons, opossums, and bears. Pretending otherwise is dishonest, and does both us and our fellow-citizens of the land community a disservice.

Unless we evolve the capacity to photosynthesize, we will be dependent upon killing something – whether animal or plant – to survive. And what many people do not realize is that vegetable production, even organic vegetable production, is not benign. Many animals are displaced or killed to plant, cultivate, harvest, and protect those fields of greens, roots, and other veggies. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, please be clear-eyed enough to realize that this choices does not remove or immunize you from the deaths of animals, it merely makes those deaths less visible.

(Just as “Leave No Trace” camping relies heavily on extractive industries to produce the synthetic materials, stove fuels, etc., that replace more traditional camping techniques… but I digress.)

We cannot escape from our mutual interdependence on the rest of the natural world, and we cannot escape from the fact that a portion of that interdependence requires us to kill in order to survive. We may as well – in my view – do so in a way which is ethical, and which teaches us other lessons about the proper way to interact with the rest of the rest of the natural world, and with each other.

“Outrage” as Theresa May confirms a fox hunting vote

The League Against Cruel Sports said there was ‘no justification’ for scrapping the law against hunting with dogs. Theresa May announced her plans for a vote at the Tory manifesto launch.

Source: Outrage as Theresa May confirms a fox hunting vote

As a former car-follower with the Carrollton Hounds, you will find no “outrage” from me at this news! Indeed, I find it outrageous that it was banned in the first place. I deeply appreciate the history and heritage of foxhunting in the UK and America – where the sport got its start in my home state of Maryland:

“The earliest record of the importation of hounds to this country was on June 30, 1650, when Robert Brooke arrived in Maryland with his family, 28 servants and his hounds. By the early 1700’s, mounted foxhunting was spreading rapidly in Maryland, Virginia and probably other colonies. Hounds were also used for other forms of hunting. Early planters with sporting English blood imported red foxes from England in 1730 and celebrated the event at Chestertown, Maryland” (Masters of Foxhounds Association & Foundation – “History of American Foxhunting“).

Lest anyone get all up-in-arms over the alleged “cruelty” of the sport, let me note that here in the U.S., the fox (in the case of red foxes, an “import,” anyway) is rarely killed, while in Britain, mounted hunts have historically served a useful purpose in limiting the numbers of foxes, which otherwise can become quite a pest.

To my mind, the ban on mounted foxhunting with dogs in Britain is part and parcel of the “politically correct” agenda to suppress history, heritage, and traditional activities, as well as attitudes, that seems currently to be on the ascendant throughout the West, and which it is part of this blog’s intention to help counteract.

5 Steps To Raising A Viking Child

Here are five steps to help you raise your own little Viking, Scandinavian-style, through outdoor play.

Source: 5 Steps To Raising A Viking Child

Sweden has gotten a bit of a bad rap (not entirely without justification) recently, in some quarters, for bringing a butt-load (*) of misery on itself by its misguided and excessively lenient immigration policies. Or perhaps one should say, by adopting, rather than resisting, ones foisted on it by the EU, and doing so with rather more enthusiasm than was wise…

(* … a medieval reference to a large wine-cask, not a derriere)

But there are some things that Sweden has done, and is continuing to do, very well, and this is one of them! As this article points out,

“In Sweden, 80% of children between the ages of one to five years, attend Swedish daycare which promotes play, napping and eating meals outdoors. There are also some preschools that have no physical building as all of their learning occurs outdoors—in nature’s classroom…

“Outdoor play offers not only physical benefits like increased balance, endurance, and hand-eye coordination but has also shown to improve cognitive and social/emotional development. When outdoors, children are more likely to invent games and understand why rules are necessary — something that does not happen when playing a pre-programmed game on a tablet or the computer.”

Follow the link to discover the “five steps to help you raise your own little Viking through outdoor play“!

This state school in England teaches kids how to shoot, and to gut and cook pigeons.

Source: Channel 4 News | Facebook

Amazing state school in the UK teaches children from “a varied demographic,” most of whose families are on various forms of social assistance, how to shoot, hunt, dress and cook the game they take, and otherwise function effectively in the outdoors.

The video shows them gutting squirrels, plucking pigeons, splitting wood for the fire with a mallet and fro, and cooking and eating the proceeds.

The most dangerous thing you can do to a child is to not expose them to an element of risk and danger.” – Mike Fairclough, Headteacher, West Rise Junior School, who adds that “If children are excited about coming to school, if they’re being inspired and enthused by being outside, then that has an impact back in the classroom.”

The school gets the best exam results in the area, and won the 2015 T.E.S. Best School of the Year award, according to the video. “Teaching the children to shoot is controversial,” the video notes. “But the school argues it teaches discipline and responsibility.”

“The cotton-wool culture of Britain has got a little bit out of control,” Fairclough comments, referring to the modern desire on the part of many – schools, parents, media, etc. – to wrap children up and insulate them from many of the realities of life. “It’s only really peoples own sort of limiting beliefs, and a few media myths that people have invested in, which have stopped children from having these sorts of activities.”

Kudos to Mike Fairclough and West Rise Junior! You’re doing it right.


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Wendell Berry on children and Nature

More excellence from Artaman: The Hyperborean Garden… and this time, author Wendell Berry, one of my favorite writers!

“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.”

– Thomas Berry


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Weeds, Immigration, and Culture | The Southern Agrarian

Several years ago, in an effort to improve the quality of the soil in my garden, I bought a truckload of topsoil. It was carefully spread, then tilled and worked into the soil. The original soil and the new topsoil were mixed until they became as one. At first, it was great. The soil was darker and richer looking than the native sandy soil, and the plants that I grew there were bigger and stronger. Then came the weeds…

Source: Weeds, Immigration, and Culture | The Southern Agrarian

A superb allegory for our present crisis.

As an ecologist, environmental educator, and sometime organic farmer, I have long seen the parallels between “invasive aliens” in natural ecosystems – or gardens! – and in our cultural ecosystem. Diversity in an ecosystem, or in a diversified small farm, is a strength; it increases the robustness, the resilience, of the whole. But it must be native diversity.

Import aliens – kudzu, Japanese stilt-grass, autumn olive, multiflora rose (or allow, through negligence or oversight, even more perilous and secretive invaders like chestnut blight or emerald ash borers to sneak in), and the list could go on – and they quickly choke out the natives. And once introduced, they are difficult or impossible to ever totally eradicate. At best, one might achieve a tenuous and combative equilibrium. Likewise, as The Southern Agrarian notes,

“Culture is a very precious thing, and it must be cared for and defended. A culture – just like agriculture – requires work to maintain. There are no shortcuts. Bringing in, or allowing in, foreign elements into a native culture brings with it serious risks. While on the surface, there may appear to be benefits to mixing cultures, the hidden costs will quickly show up. Like an invasive species in nature that finds no natural enemies, it takes over and the original culture disappears. Forever.”

Words to the wise. Those who have ears, let them hear!