Farming on the Edge: The Nature of Traditional Farming in Europeby D. I. McCracken; E. M. Bignall

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  • Farming on the Edge: The Nature of Traditional Farming in Europe by D. I. McCracken; E. M.BignallReview by: R. AndersonThe Irish Naturalists' Journal, Vol. 25, No. 6 (Apr., 1996), p. 235Published by: Irish Naturalists' Journal Ltd.Stable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2014 07:03

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  • //: Nat. J. Vol. 25 No. 6 1996 235

    G. M. S. Easy) and its spiny fruit adorns the front cover twith the flower on the back cover) and it really does

    look like an Alien plant! An excellent book, not the sort of book to be read from cover to cover but a mine of

    information; well worth the money.


    Farming on the edge: the nature of traditional farming in Europe edited by D. I. McCracken and E. M.

    Bignall. Proceedings of the Fourth European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoral ism held on 2-4

    November 1994 at Trujillo, Spain. 214 pages. 1995. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough. Price

    ?17.50 stg paperpack. ISBN 1 873701 74 8. Obtainable from the Natural History Book Service, 2-3 Wills Road,

    Totnes, Devon TQ9 5XN (P & P ?4.00).

    The immense importance of maintaining traditional farming methods in Europe both to nature conservation

    and the maintenance of rural communities, is not as well appreciated as it might be by either policy-makers or

    members of the public. With the current emphasis on the sustainability (if agricultural practices, and the strictures

    of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity not to mention the Rio Conference, the maintenance of traditional

    pastoral practices is becoming a topical subject. The organisers of the Fourth European Forum concentrated on

    three main issues, namely the implications of current EU livestock policy reforms for traditional farming, the

    effects of future enlargement of the EU upon current practices and the effects of a pervasive and continuing rural

    abandonment upon regional diversity. In summing up conclusions of the Forum, Eric Bignall enumerates a number of failings or contradictions in

    the CAP. These include the strong tendency for support to subsidise intensive systems in farming and to

    disadvantage extensive or low-input systems which are often in areas of high environmental quality. Member

    states often lend extra weight to this bias rather than evening the balance towards environmental benefit. A further

    serious deficiency is that little attempt has been made to plan rural development along the lines of sustainability ? the line usually taken by Brussels is still very produetionist orientated.

    Suggested remedies include support for the use of a greater variety of traditional breeds in extensive

    systems, the maintenance of traditional, labour-intensive methods to keep people on the land but also suitably

    employed, the need to make the CAP more compliant with the Biodiversity Convention, and the need to put nature conservation controls in the Appellation Cant role system at both national and local level. Concern is also

    expressed about the possibility of too rapid or deep a cut in subsidies for animal production in response to GATT as this is envisaged having more negative than positive impacts upon the environment. Diversion of support

    monies to improve environmental quality is recommended rather than the removal of support per se.

    Papers submitted to the Forum range from the very narrow, titles such as grassland management in relation

    to the coleopteran prey of wading birds, to the more general, reviews of the many extensive farming systems in

    Europe being to the fore, from traditional farming in Russia to the transhumance farming practice of certain parts of Spain. These subjects are tackled with various degrees of rigour, but give a picture of the dependence of many

    landscapes and ecosystems upon traditional practices, and of the steady erosion of both these and of rural

    communities with time. It is reckoned that by the middle of the next century accelerating rural abandonment will see the bulk of the world's population living in cities. The Forum asks whether this is either a desirable or

    sustainable trend and what can be done to halt it. This is not music to the ears of de-regulators or free marketeers.

    But the EU has always 'managed' the internal market and if money is to be spent in this way there is a very strong case for using it to support rural communities and environmental protection, an intention of the original CAP

    conveniently lost sight of in recent years. An increasingly powerful consumer lobby disillusioned with the fruits

    of production-orientated policies, is also demanding more accountability on the subject of environmental

    protection. Contributors to the volume make a particular case for the protection of regional diversity in human

    populations, something which may otherwise become lost to a bland, urban multiculturalism, It remains to be seen whether regulation can prevail over the lemming drift towards pan-urbanism, but it is perhaps worth a try.

    Overall, an interesting and thought-provoking book.


    Insects, plants and setaside edited by Adrian Colston and Franklyn Perring. Proceedings of a conference held at the Royal Entomological Society's rooms, 41 Queen Anne's Gate, London on 14 April 1994. 55 pages. Botanical Society of the British Isles, Peterborough. 1995. Price ?6.50 paperback. ISBN 0 901158 26 7,

    Obtainable from BSBI Publications, Green Acre, Wood Lane, Oundle, Peterborough PE8 5TP.

    Set-aside is regarded as a waste of food-growing resources by many farmers. The conservation

    organizations in Britain tend to view it rather differently. The biodiversity of cereal growing areas of southern

    Britain has been declining steadily with increased mechanization, the consequent removal of hedgerows and

    increase in field size, and increased use of fertilisers and pesticides. Set-aside has been seen as a potentially useful

    way of redressing the balance. In 1992-3 approximately 500 OOOha were included in the Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) in Britain. This is an area the size of Northumberland, so the landscape and ecological

    This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 07:03:31 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    Article Contentsp. 235

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Irish Naturalists' Journal, Vol. 25, No. 6 (Apr., 1996), pp. 193-236Front MatterObituaryDr. Ann Healy 1917-1995 [p. 193-193]

    Previously Unpublished Records of Microlepidoptera to Be Added to the Irish List [pp. 194-207]Sandeel Species Recorded in the Inishmore Area, Co Galway [pp. 207-209]The Distribution of the New Zealand Flatworm Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy) in the Republic of Ireland [pp. 210-212]The Distribution and Status of Carabus nitens L. (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in Environmentally Sensitive Areas of Northern Ireland [pp. 212-218]An Aplysillid Sponge Hexadella racovitzai Topsent, 1896, New to the British Isles with Notes on Its Habitat and Distribution [pp. 218-221]First Record of the Toadfish Chaunax suttkusi (Caruso, 1989) (Pisces: Lophiiformes, Chaunacidae) from Irish Waters, Together with a Review of North Eastern Atlantic Records of C. suttkusi and C. pictus (Lowe, 1846) [pp. 221-224]Zoological NotesBadgers Preying on Nestling Birds [pp. 224-225]Pipistrelle Bats Pipistrellus pipistrellus Schreber Injured during Fly-Fishing [p. 225-225]First Record of Bimodality in the Echolocation Calls of the Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus in Ireland [pp. 225-226]

    Geological NoteRadiocarbon Dates for European Elk Alces alces from Ireland [p. 226-226]

    Turtle NotesLeathery Turtle Dermochelys coriacea (L.) [p. 226-226]Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta (L.) [p. 227-227]

    Fish NotesOxynotus paradoxus (Frade 1929) [p. 227-227]Albino Angler Fish Lophius piscatorius L. [pp. 227-228]Oxynotus paradoxus Frade [pp. 228-229]

    Report32nd Aer Lingus Young Scientists' Exhibition [pp. 229-230]

    CorrespondenceThe Dublin Naturalists' Field Club Report for 1995 [pp. 230-231]

    ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 231-232]Review: untitled [pp. 232-233]Review: untitled [pp. 233-234]Review: untitled [pp. 234-235]Review: untitled [p. 235-235]Review: untitled [pp. 235-236]Review: untitled [p. 236-236]

    Back Matter


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