Former Defra board member ‘naive’ regarding his views on sheep farming

The National Sheep Association (NSA) was is ‘incredibly disappointed’ at comments made by former Defra board member Ben Goldsmith following comments made on social media recently.
In what was seen by many in the industry as an attack on UK sheep farming, Goldsmith tweeted, ‘It’s time to talk about sheep. The unavoidable truth is that sheep are the principal obstacle standing in the way of meaningful nature recovery in Britain’s national parks and other agriculturally marginal landscapes. There is no getting around it. The sheep have got
to go.’
The NSA, along with many who commented on the tweet, suggested that Goldsmith was both naive and uneducated about the ‘valuable role that sheep have in the UK’s countryside’.
In its response, writing on the NSA website, chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Sheep have been in the British Isles since the Neolithic settlers landed on our shores around 3000-5000 years ago.
“They have created and maintained some of the most loved landscapes we see and enjoy today including nine of England’s 13 National Parks that are situated in upland areas. It is no accident that most of our National Parks are in areas predominated for generations by grassland and sheep.
“The unique environment, working for most times in harmony with sheep farming, is highly valuable in relation to water management and quality, carbon sequestration, and nature, and provides people with social and health benefits.”
In its response, the NSA conceded that past practices may not have been focused on the right aspects of farming, putting production above all else, but it stated that modern farming practices were now more in tune with the wider environment and the role that farming plays in maintaining it.
In 2021, the NSA noted, there was a 40% increase in demand and applications for Countryside Stewardship, a scheme providing financial incentives for farmers looking after and improving the environment.

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