Brexit is terrible, but….

… it might just save the British countryside by destroying our farming industry.

The European Union pays out €50bn of public money in farm subsidies; to qualify, the land must be kept bare. Consequently, hectare upon hectare of native forests and wildlife has been cleared to claim the funds.

George Monbiot suggests here that the area devoted to sheep grazing in the UK roughly equates to the amount of land used to produce all of our crops, yet lamb and mutton provide 1.2% of our diet. This production is clearly not worth the destruction it causes – and grazing sheep radically alters and erodes the landscape.

Nearly half of the average farmer’s income comes from EU subsidies, so it’s quite reasonable to believe small to medium farmers when they say they will go under without the subsidies. But why should public money fund such a destructive and unproductive industry?*

Monbiot suggests an alternative: we pay our farmers to be conservationists instead.

The only fair way of resolving this incipient crisis is to continue to provide public money, but only for the delivery of public goods – such as restoring ecosystems, preventing flooding downstream, and bringing children and adults back into contact with the living world. This should be accompanied by rules strong enough to ensure that farmers can no longer pollute our rivers, strip the soil from the land, wipe out pollinators and other wildlife, and destroy the features of the countryside with impunity.

*I’m talking in general terms – I know there are huge differences in types of farming in terms of productiveness, and sheep grazing is probably the most extreme example. Overall, it is just my opinion that mostly it does much more harm to wildlife than good.


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Hello! I'm Clarissa, a green lifestyle blogger from Norwich, UK. I write about environmental concerns, animal rights issues, and also my hobbies of birding, gardening, and nature rambling, as well as sharing vegetarian recipes and reviews on cruelty-free products. Feel free to comment and connect with me on social media; you can find me on: Instagram: Twitter:

5 thoughts on “Brexit is terrible, but….”

  1. The Common Agricultural Policy is one of the reasons that I voted against the EU, ie for ‘Brexit’. That and never having had a vote on ‘Brentry’ to begin with. Incidentally, this Tuesday, 7th March marks the 25th anniversary of John Major signing the Treaty of European Union, having refused to allow a referendum beforehand, why is why the issue has dragged on for a quarter of a century. The longer a referendum was deferred, the more likely a ‘Leave’ vote became amongst those who were of voting age back in 1992, but who were denied a say for so long. My generation, in other words (who were too young to have had a vote in the 1975 referendum on the ‘Common Market’).

  2. It’s a very complex issue, and there is good reason for leavers (and remainers) to be frustrated by the main EU directives. The sudden loss of actual written environmental laws is very worrying but I’m beginning to think that maybe, under the right leadership, this might be an opportunity to restore some our lost habitat. Or it could be the final nail in the coffin – could go either way.

  3. Thanks for publishing my comment. There is an obvious erratum above in that it should say 7th February, being the date when Major Major signed the Treaty of European Union (7th March I have on the brain as I am stopping over in Manchester). The removal of Soviet-style EU directives is to be welcomed as is the devolution of all decision-making back to national level; and hopefully further as per E. F . Schumacher’s ‘small is beautiful’ principle, which was one of Ecology Party’s founding principles (that its Green Party successors have recently betrayed by supporting the EU). Britain regaining its independence should mean that there is a greater chance of banning live animal exports to continental Europe. It will not mean an end to farm subsidies, but it should mean some democratic accountability over them, where presently there is none.

    1. I hope it will mean an end to live animal exports and that agri-business is scaled down as it will give the industry a chance to prioritize welfare for a change. The supermarkets are not likely to cooperate with this though as they may have to allow farmers a little more than the pittance profit they currently get.

  4. It is very complicated you are right. Some EU schemes such as set aside have paid farmers to leaves strips of field uncultivated and this has left food for birds and mammals and without this payment there will be no reason not to plough up every inch of land. I hope you are right that more wildlife will be encouraged without such payments. Like so much about Brexit, we just don’t know!

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