Common sense is needed over care of the countryside
It's our duty to protect it -- even if it means culling
I frequently despair at the attitude of some of our environmental commentators, especially in springtime when nature is at its busiest.
Often they attempt to make us view the natural world as something out of a children's storybook, where all the animals have names and behave like humans. It can be amusing, but can also lead to serious misapprehension about life in the countryside.
In their eyes, the deer that have just destroyed acres of recently planted trees are not really wild ruminants enjoying some greenery and a good scratch but are in fact Bambi and his playful friends. Culling them is not acceptable.
Likewise, the rabbits that have stuffed themselves with our spring salads and veg are the lovable cousins of Beatrix Potter's creations, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail. Ms Potter, with her tales of Benjamin Bunny and Kenneth Graham who wrote that wonderful book The Wind in the Willows, has a lot to answer for, as do the imaginative authors who popularised cute little rodents such as Sammy Squirrel.
Like so many others, I too have been guilty of the crime of anthropomorphism -- the granting of human characteristics to animals -- and once kept two pigs called Hamlet and Omlette.
It can be tough being a farmer as most of us are fond of animals. I recall the words of an elderly cattle haulier who told me that we had a moral duty to ensure our livestock had the best possible life while in our care and that we also had a duty to ensure that they were dispatched as humanely as possible when going for slaughter. This meant being present when they are killed, a task many find distasteful.
We all know people who cannot bear to see a bird or animal meeting its end but will happily tuck into roast chicken or lamb, provided it only appears as meat on a butcher's counter. It's a bit like those who claim to be vegetarians on moral grounds but who still wear leather shoes. Or the woman whose letter I read in some organic gardening magazine asking where she could source vegan food for her cat.