NSA backs call to protect nature

27th September 2021

As the momentum builds towards COP26 (1st-12th Nov) the National Sheep Association (NSA) is backing calls for all of society to do what they can to protect and enhance nature.

With a multitude of voices using the run up to the conference to offer thoughts on nature recovery, NSA is reminding commentators and policy makers that much of Britain’s biodiversity is farmland dependant and without grazing livestock we would lose many habitats and food sources that are essential for farmland based nature.
NSA is also taking this opportunity to remind that true sustainability is multi-functional and while rebuilding nature is vital it has to be done alongside being more climate friendly, improving the quality of air, soil and water, and keeping people healthy and happy, which of course includes providing the population with a nutritious and delicious diet.
The sheep farming association recognises that by further enhancing and maintaining a biodiverse farmed, and semi-natural environment, the UK can also deliver on a number of other sustainability criteria, and provide social, economic and environmental resilience. It is a belief and understanding adopted by sheep farmers, working to produce a quality, sustainable product while supporting the needs of local wildlife and evidenced by independent surveys by a variety of local nature organisations.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “We appear to be in an era where it’s too easy to forget what we have, and easy to create a future vision of eutopia without any practical evidence. Yet you only have to look around the countryside, and glance through your wildlife identification books, to realise that the UK’s grasslands, in the uplands and lowlands, with patchworks of fields, hedgerows including grazing livestock, are central to Britain’s landscape, ecology, and well-being. So many of our birds, mammals and insects have a relationship with farming and while there is more we can do we should recognise the ecological foundation that farming provides.

"As we have seen through some 35 years of agri-environment schemes, production of high-quality red meat can go hand-in-hand with providing for nature and it’s something that improves our reputation and helps secure our marketplace. We now need to ensure that our next generation of environmental schemes appeal to farmers and give the flexibility to deliver for the farmed environment alongside allowing climate friendly and productive farming to prosper.”

The Nature Positive 2030 report, released last week, establishes how the UK can meet its pledges for nature protection to play it’s part in the path to Net Zero. The report outlines how natural solutions can be used to tackle climate change, highlights the essential role of nature and emphasises nature’s ability to do so depends upon biodiverse ecosystems resilient to change.
Mr Stocker continues by outlining how farming continues to evolve: “There has been an expectation to keep farms looking ‘tidy’. On the surface this may have looked more appealing, depicting an image of a well-kept and managed environment - but views are changing. What we may have previously perceived as being a little ‘shabby’ can now be welcomed as being a haven for wildlife. Allowing hedgerows to grow taller and not regimentally trimmed, leaving areas of grass untopped with longer sward lengths, and creating unmanaged buffer strips alongside streams, are now practices increasingly found across the many different sheep-farmed landscapes in the UK. Sheep farming in Britain today is increasingly providing a nature-rich future, with enhanced ecosystems, resilience to climate change, and providing highly nutritious food, with a multitude of economic and social benefits to the public.”