Anton Coaker: George Monbiot ...........again


George Monbiot? I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle, before having my tuppenny worth. And remember, it’s my family, my local community, and my extended culture up and down the country that he’s attacking with his ‘rewilding’ gibberish. And that’s been my major problem with George. What he advocates in rewilding would destroy my culture…and my forebears have been doing what I do since before the clergy started writing down the names of the peasants around them.


Now, I harbour strong feelings about certain other sections of society, both here and abroad, but if I voiced my simple direct resolutions for what I see as problems, I would be denounced as a Nazi. George would very likely be at the front of the queue. Yet he can viciously and repeatedly attack me and mine, and pretend he’s a jolly sensible chap. That isn’t right.

Never mind that, as I’ve observed previously- having been and seen him speak to a hall full of adoring acolytes -, while he’s a slick and persuasive speaker playing to the gallery, his understanding is superficial, and very wrong. I put meat, raised on poor hill pasture, on the table of something like 250 family households, and I could continue to do so more or less forever. Meanwhile, so much of what I see elsewhere cannot carry on for much longer. If nothing else, we’ll simply run out of ground to concrete over, come the end. He’s throwing stones in the wrong direction….but then, I suppose there’s more urban Guardian readers than hill farming ones. Perhaps they don’t like to look too close to home.

Yes, what I do is heavily subsidised. I didn’t ask for the system to evolve as it has, that’s historic. And it would be fair to say that most of the payments going into the uplands are simply recycled around the wider community. We spend the money, and not much of it goes on holidays in the sun, Porsches, or numbered Swiss bank accounts.

And if one more person tells me how nice it would be to reintroduce Lynx –which apparently wouldn’t dream of eating domestic sheep- I’ll simply introduce some farmers from elsewhere in Europe who’ve had to give up their historic mountain pastures, grazed for many centuries, because large land predators -now protected, including Lynx-, simply eat their livestock. This is absolutely the case, I know people affected. The rewilding lobby are lying through their teeth on this.

Anyway, things move on. Since trotting out his accustomed message about rewilding to a recent National Parks jamboree- to which I manifestly wasn’t invited - George has run an article elsewhere, singing a different tune. He’s been much admiring a book by one Simon Fairlie, who busts all sorts of myths about the meat industry, condemning feedlot beef, but concluding that raising meat animals on by-products and the rough might actually be a very good thing. And George, to his credit, has to admit that this is news to him. In his article, he’s still got a lot of mileage to make up, and I couldn’t tell whether some of the dodgy stuff was his take on the book, or the books errors- I could go and research this further, but I’m too busy. There still seems to be a blanket assumption that all ‘grain’ fed to farm animals would be fit for human consumption, while the reality is a very great proportion of grains used in animal feed is of a lower grade than we’d like to stomach. At Chateau Coaker, for instance the cattle ‘cake’ used features a high % of rape seed hulls, sugar beet leftovers etc. And the supposedly simple equation about how much land is needed for producing a tonne of pork or beef, against what the same area of land could produce growing vegetables is woefully oversimplified.

It’s infinitely variable, factors including the quality of the land, the local weather, the distance from market, road/trade infrastructure, the national political state. I’ve suspected for years that the militant veggie lobby simply quote figures from US feedlot beef production, and such distortions. George- and this book- now seem to be acknowledging it.

I’m led to wonder, if he continues in this direction, will Mr Monbiot have to come to terms with the idea of using domesticated livestock to convert unimproved rough vegetation on rainy hillsides. Places where cultivation isn’t really a good option.

And from that sensible base, discover that a vast interconnected social structure has built up over centuries, utilising what we’ve got whilst creating the patchwork landscape running up the sides of the hill districts.

George has been trotting out his irresponsible disrespectful rewilding garbage for too long. It’s time for a new message.

About the author

Originally published in The Western Morning News, these articles are reproduced for the enjoyment of TFF members World-wide by kind permission of the author Anton Coaker and the WMN

Anton Coaker is a fifth generation farmer keeping suckler cows and flocks of hill sheep high on the Forest of Dartmoor and running a hardwood and mobile sawmill.

A prodigious writer and regular correspondent for The Western Morning News, NFU and The Farming Forum, Anton’s second book “The Complete Bullocks” is available from


How about he talk to some of us over here who deal with predators you haven't seen for centuries if ever! Local range sheep person lost 300 lambs in 80 days to predators and he's only 1 person. Some folks were losing 3-5 sheep a night to major predators this year and it wasn't even a really bad predator year! Monbiot has absolutely no clue about managing for wildlife and biodiversity. Maybe he should come over here and we'll leave him out in our forests for a while. Wait till he's being stalked, might change his tune then.

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