28 February 1997

Green threat to UKsheep?

ENVIRONMENTAL legislation could threaten the long-term viability of the UK sheep industry.

Speaking at a sheep prosperity conference in Edinburgh, NSA chairman, David Raine, said the Wildlife Trust view that uplands, moors and mountains rich in wildlife depended on upland agriculture being viable and sustainable, had the full support of NSA.

But he was less supportive of the view put forward by many conservation organisations that numbers of sheep grazing hill and upland areas should be reduced in order to reduce overgrazing.

"We believe there is a proper stocking density which will allow farms to be farmed to optimum levels and provide environmental return, the two objectives can work hand in glove.

"The fall in sheep numbers, 2.5m during the past four years, could undermine the ability of the sheep industry to make its proper contribution not only to the national economy but also to the ecological balance," he said.

"Sheep have played an important part in developing the rural environment to the present state which people now want to conserve. Great care must be exercised to sustain the elusive balance which is the key to maintaining our stratified industry."