BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
Trying to brush up on eco matters in light of recent events, I took it upon myself to read Ian Coghill’s ‘Moorland Matters: The Battle for the Uplands against Authoritarian Conservation’ when the publisher, Quiller, sent through a review copy to the magazine.
I chose well.
This is a masterful book and it’s written in such a refreshing way. It offers such pragmatic solutions that the reasonable majority of which Coghill often writes cannot fail to appreciate the nonsense of the position taken by so many bodies and institutions in the current, toxic eco climate – too often emanating from an overpowerful RSPB spurred on by the BBC.
After a foreword written by Owen Paterson MP, Coghill explains his love of moorland and how his progression as a public servant (Coghill ended his working life at Birmingham Council as Director of Environment and Community Safety) was built on a knack for solving complex problems by doing simple things. Hence the tone is set for his book and what follows blends forensic detail gleaned from careful research with pragmatic, simple solutions. Distilled into two conclusions – that leaving nature to itself (rewilding) is neither viable nor desirable, and that the gamekeepers so derided by eco-chuggers have on the whole achieved wonderful ecological success with their grouse moor management while remaining open-minded to new science all along.
This is not a heavy read at all – it’s written in such a way that novices such as I could get to grips with the subject matter relatively quickly. There are key points that jump out at you such as learning that Britain’s islands hold more than three-quarters of the Earth’s stock of heather moorland – making it one of the world’s rarest habitats. The conservation industry has too many supporters of banning driven grouse shooting – if they are not checked they will destroy the way of life of the communities who currently live on and manage Britain’s moors. Should these people get their way then the land will change hands and evidence suggests that a change of management will be disastrous. Those who have owned and managed Britain’s land for centuries clearly know best – top down bureaucracy and preposterous amounts of regulation are not helping, while those in power are being too easily swayed by antis’ loud campaigns. The people who have looked after moorlands, often for many generations, are simply not being listened to right now.
There is one chapter in Coghill’s book titled Ethics and Politics and it is the best synopsis I have read anywhere about the pretended moral position of proselytising vegans and fruitarians. It should be obligatory reading for all MPs and any others who fall for the claptrap of activists like Chris Packham and others who claim the moral high ground against meat eaters and hunters. In it, Coghill points out nuances that should be obvious, but which are too often drowned out by noise, making politicians even more fallible in their decision making.
Coghill is fair to those who hold positions contrary to those he holds as a keen participant in country sports. Regularly throughout his book there are references to how such people should be listened to and this gives even more authority to his complaints about how those managing moorlands are not being heard, while highlighting the success of their conservation techniques. The chapters of this brilliant book are go-to resources for clearly written outlines of the arguments about moorland fires, floods, predation, the raptor ‘persecution’ issue, ticks, and the economics and politics associated with a potential shooting ban.
Essential reading for which I am most grateful. Thank you, Quiller, and thank you Ian Coghill.
Moorland Matters by Ian Coghill is available from Quiller Publishing here.