Saturday 23 February 2019

Kevin Myers: The essence of good land management is murder

Kevin Myers

It's a simple truth that no Green politicians are elected by rural constituencies. Why? Because country people there know that nothing is naturally natural. Everything in the countryside is managed, either through the brutal methods of nature, or by the hand and will of man.

The Irish countryside is an utterly man-made artefact. Our hedgerows were planted centuries ago, and they naturally replenish themselves. But our tree population does not.

The Irish countryside, as we now know it, was the creation of conscious policy: just over 200 years ago, Irish landowners were given grants to plant trees. Those trees -- especially the beech -- are now coming to the end of their natural lives. This means that major strategic policies must be implemented in the next decade. We must soon start planting millions of trees in order to prevent an arboreal calamity devastating our landscape.

And just about the greatest threat to young trees are deer: yet it is this pest which is not merely now rampaging across the countryside, its population now out of control, but it is also emblematic of the Green's totally unreal relationship to nature.

The hunting ban lobby is perhaps the most powerful single element in the Green Party. Their imagined countryside is populated by wily, intelligent foxes, and stately proud stags. They're against cruelty of any kind. And "cruelty", in their Holy Child, Killiney, way of thinking is humans being beastly to animals. Well, actually, the term beastly means beastly for a reason: because this is how beasts behave.

The Ward Union stag hunt now faces closure. No doubt the squealing teenage girls of the Green Party have an image of the noble stag being torn limb from limb by the hunt, though this never happens. On the very few occasions where a stag is killed, it is shot by a hunt marksman, after being cornered by hounds. Natural selection genetically engineered most stags to escape the hounds' forebears, the wolf pack, so there is nothing more natural for a stag than to be hunted.

What is not "natural" is the simultaneous plantation of millions of saplings around the countryside. This is what we must start doing soon, if Ireland is to preserve the existing ecological balance: and the greatest threat to this project to replenish the tree population is our huge populations of deer.

Thousands of these animals must be killed, and the surviving population must be controlled by regular and systematic culls, which will probably involve flushing and shooting of hundreds of these animals annually, in systematic and measured massacres.

But it's almost impossible to raise this with the Green lobby, and thereby with a government over which it has a preposterous whip hand (if I may use that hunting expression), when the Green's interpretation of the "natural" world is largely informed by the culture created within Enid Blyton's nursery romps. Prepare, then, for the squeals of girlish horror when pictures of the mass killing of deer become public. And then think of the weepy response from Emma in Dublin 4, and her two friends Emma and Emma, plus Emily, Emily and Emily, plus possibly Jessica, Jessica and Jessica, when they see the heaps of hind and doe corpses that hunters have had to slay, so that these Emmas' and Emilys' and Jessicas' children may grow up in a land with proper, treed countryside.

The lifespan of our tree population is coming to its natural end. We have to embark upon the greatest project of conscious land management in two centuries, indeed, perhaps ever in Irish history.

What kind of trees do we want? Do we attempt to re-establish the elm? Should we restore our many Derrys as oak-groves? Do we opt for the indigenous oak and ash and lime? And if we go for the irresistibly handsome but imported beech, shall we then have to conduct a ruthless genocide of that American immigrant thug, the grey squirrel, which strips the bark off, and permanently deforms, beech saplings?

These are massive questions of land husbandry which Ireland must face, and almost immediately. We cannot embark upon a national re-plantation policy only when the trees start dying, or else we shall soon have a denuded landscape, with tree corpses, and tree babies everywhere, but with no young adult trees. Which will certainly happen if we allow an infantalised political agenda to inform our land management policies, in which a fantasy countryside of Bambi and Reynard colonises the decision-making faculties of government. For then, as when a tumour takes over in a brain, the patient will start talking tumourish.

Meanwhile, uncontrolled fox populations will mass slaughter chicken runs, simply for the fun of killing, as the demographically exploding deer population destroys entire young woodlands.

The essence of good land management is murder. Forget that truth, and you do not have a cultured landscape of woodlands and pastures, but a brutal, meadowless and malarial wilderness, in which wide-eyed fawns are recreationally torn limb from limb by wild animals. And when death is not violent, it comes through age and hunger, and cold, when a huntsman's bullet, or the almost instant end wrought by a pack of hounds, is mercy itself.

That's the dilemma, Emma.

Irish Independent

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