CFE ‘doomed to fail’ says former RSPB chief

The Campaign for the Farmed Environment is doomed to fail, a leading conservationist has claimed.

Former RSPB director of conservation, Mark Avery, said the voluntary campaign for farmers to pledge to make environmental improvements on their land was not working in the way it had been hoped.

And he warned the government would have to step in and legislate when farmers failed to meet the campaign’s targets.

Speaking at a debate on the government’s “big society” plans at the CLA Game Fair in Blenheim on Friday (22 July), Mr Avery said the farming industry had a big challenge ahead to prove it was serious about taking responsibility.

“Everyone says CFE is a good example of the big society,” he said. “It’s a big task and I’m not sure the CLA or the NFU would say that the targets will be met by this big society route.

“It’s a test on whether we can rely on people to do the right thing, but maybe the government does have to intervene. Personally I think the campaign will fail and the government will have to step in.”

DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman had used her appearance at the debate to call on farmers to sign up to the campaign voluntarily so that government could fulfil its pledge to ease the burden of red tape on farmers.

“We want to start from the assumption that most people are trying to do the right thing and take a lighter approach to regulation,” she told the audience.

“CFE is something we want to strongly endorse and industry leaders have been clear about the importance of the campaign.”

CLA president William Worsley said the farming industry was engaging with the campaign and proving that it was able to self-regulate.

“It shows we can take responsibility and push for risk-based regulation,” he said. “That saves money for farmers and for government. We don’t need the myriad of inspections we currently have. The campaign is a really good way for farmers being able to show we can do big society.”