First, thanks to all of you who read and liked my blog posts about Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, and thanks to my hosts for having me on their blogs. Also, welcome to the new followers!
I wanted to post this link to a radio show on the BBC about rewilding, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p026lnqs
and features among the guests, George Monbiot, author of Feral – book I haven’t yet read, but don’t really need to in order to know I agree with 95% of what it says.
I was intrigued to hear George talk about the feelings he got when spear fishing for flounder in Wales at the start of this programme: George is against hunting, I think, especially the kind of hunting that goes on in Scotland among the rich (one of the reasons he was for a Yes vote last week) and he knows many of his readers are, too, yet the passionate feeling he experienced in the tidal flats were identical to what hunters feel when stalking. It is one of the reasons why, my non-fiction book about the sociology of hunting will argue that hunting will continue and become in some circumstances accepted by nature lovers of all stripes.
Hunting makes one feel part of the ecosystem, part of nature. Our genetic memory, our brains, cannot separate us from these feelings because we hold a gun rather than a trident like George did: the concentration is the same, the intensity of the feeling is the same, one becomes immersed in the hunting experience.
I also wanted to post a few photos from just beside my house in the country outside Pamplona from two weeks ago.
This for me was a metaphor for rewilding.
It’s a privilege to be able to see such spectacles still, since Spain still has a lot of wildlife now lost to much of the rest of western Europe.
A dead cow had been left in a paddock (used for storing straw and farm machinery nowadays) on Friday. The truck that normally collects dead livestock since the BSE crisis was busy. Nowadays, the carcasses are taken to a place where vultures and other scavengers can feed from them – Spain has large populations of endangered scavengers as well as other bids of prey – because starvation was affecting breeding successes, and causing some vultures to harass non-quite dead yet lambs, at least according to some farmers – otherwise these large scavengers might end up the way they did elsewhere.
On Sunday, the carcass was spotted by some vultures and within minutes, there were dozens. It was spectacular. The great birds came in from all directions, making a bee line for our village when they saw others descending.
And I thought, this is the way it is supposed to be. Nature is out there, waiting to come back in, and if we just let them, wild creatures will return, swoop in to take their former places.
Then the farmer realised they’d landed.
And he was worried that if he didn’t have a carcass to show the collection truck on Monday morning, he could get a fine – even though he’d reported the death and was told that they’d have to wait till Monday – so he came over and chased away the vultures.
They reluctantly took to the air and wheeled around above us, waiting, then hoping he’d leave. But he stayed all afternoon. And eventually, the last of the great birds stopped circling and glided off in a straight line, making for a roost on the last of the afternoon thermals, disappearing off into the blue distance from whence they’d come and the sun set on a dead cow as if they’d never existed, had been extinct for years.
And that was another message for me – we expend energy in keeping Nature at bay, with our rules drafted only because we now do extremely badly what we had once done well, for centuries.
The dead cows of yore were taken by mule team to a spot not 200 metres distant and left for vultures. But now the same farmer chases them away.
And if we let Nature do what it wants to do, it would be so much easier for us in the end – who needs to call a truck if the birds come to you for free? Nature does for free what we waste time and money and carbon dioxide doing ourselves.
Time to rewild.