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Britain’s countryside is dominated by bullies – as Chris Packham has found

15 903 0
01.05.2019

I’ve often thought, watching the felling of ancient trees, the slaughter of wildlife and the stripping of topsoil: “I love this land more than the owner does.” While there are plenty of careful landowners, there are others who seem to despise their own property. Those of us who love the land struggle against its owners to protect it from ruin.

For centuries, challenging the way the land is used has been treated as a trespass: we are told that it is none of our business. Yet this is the very fabric of our nation. Conflicts over its treatment are portrayed in the billionaire press as a war between town and country. But his isn’t about rural versus urban – it’s about power. As Guy Shrubsole’s crucial book Who Owns England? shows, major rural and urban landowners are often the same people.

There is one real difference between town and country. In the countryside, people are often afraid to speak out. You can see why in the recent treatment of the television presenter Chris Packham. After an organisation he helped to found – Wild Justice – successfully challenged the unlawful killing of several bird species, two dead crows were left hanging from his gate, whose lock had been glued shut.

Harassment of this kind is familiar to rural people who challenge shooting or foxhunting interests. Bullying and intimidation associated with foxhunts that run riot in the north of England while the police look the other way have been reported,, one in the Independent, the other in the online magazine The Overtake. There’s an almost Sicilian culture of fear: people are frightened into silence or forced to move house. Locals complain of mob rule as hounds and horses rampage through their gardens and trash their businesses. Hunt monitors, documenting blatant lawbreaking, are beaten up with impunity while their vehicles are........

© The Guardian