‘All thy trees and the fruit of the ground shall the locusts consume’: (Deuteronomy 28:42)

It’s that time of year again; the time when the viral presence of alien creatures are loosed free upon my land and devour all before them.  For nature, in these parts, the end of the world has arrived, as it does each  summer’s end.  Once more the anachronism of the ‘shoot’ brings forth the all-consuming locust hoards, the pheasants.

Pheasants destroy the local ecology

Every field looks like this as the all-devouring plague sweeps across the landscape. No seed or insect escapes the hoards and all so that a few idiotic rich people can ‘pretend’ to be macho hunters.

Each September I despair for this land, this year it is worse than ever.  After a summer where incessantly high rainfall has resulted in a severely damaged and fragile ecology in which few butterflies, moths, bees or wasps are to be seen, the release of thousands of ‘locust-like’ pheasants is an absolute disaster.  Problems already exist along the hedgerows and in the orchards.  There is next to no fruit to be seen, wild or cultivated.  Many trees have not been pollinated and many grasses and flowers have suffered a similar fate.  In many pastures the crop of hay lies flat and rotting.  Hence the insect count and seed stock is already at a critical low creating a real threat of long term decline which in turn threatens the bird population and, ultimately, us.  Winter visitors are going to find the larder bare, resident birds and small mammals are already struggling as the usual late summer harvest of berries and insects on which they fatten, in readiness for the long hard winter, did not occur.  Thus to then loose a plague upon the depleted natural resource seems to me insane.   Unfortunately I have no say in the matter.  Unfortunately a man for whom I have a high regard and a man for whom I have no regard, the ‘Laird’ and the gamekeeper, are locked in an anachronistic time-warp which annually sees the pursuit of rearing, releasing and then shooting, those thousands of alien creatures which, by the time of their demise in the deep winter, have so destroyed the local ecology that no amount of money earned from their pursuit could undo the damage.    Lets not even  mention those poor birds and animals, classed as vermin,  that are exterminated because they threaten the ‘highly prized’ real vermin being reared in pens all over the area.

I am at a loss to comprehend such senseless activity.  In a world where more and more people, farmers especially, are realising that nature needs support, to have this ‘scorched-earth’ equivalent sweep across a part of my homeland angers me.  This year more than most I find myself wanting to eradicate the birds and those that indulge their out-dated perception of ‘country pursuits’.

All over this area, from farmers, householders and tenants, on and off the estate and even those who are not actually living close to the estate, there exists a deep seated animosity toward the ‘estate’ because of the invasive nature of the birds which roam free once released.  It is indeed unfortunate because the ‘Laird’ and his wife are the nicest of folk and yet, for the sake of some inherited sense of ‘tradition’, they are content to stand apart and oblivious to the discontent of others, the upset, the concern that many in the area have for the damage that several thousand uninvited alien animals wreak each autumn.  Democracy is shackled and consideration for neighbours is set aside just so that, for a dozen or so days,  a small number of outsiders with absolutely no interest in, or attachment to,  OUR land,  can come and indulge in a bizarre show of fancy dress and death.  Clearly I have no liking of the birds themselves but even so I find it hard to find any pleasure in the massacres that take place and the numerous maimed and wounded animals which it is all too often my task to despatch as they hide or lie in my garden.

This autumn there is a different feel about the frustration.  I sense that the gamekeeper, disliked in position and in person, has far exceeded his own shoot-by date and in any case the economics of the business he runs is increasingly fragile – it seems even the rich are beginning to think twice about wasting thousands of pounds on shooting animals they don’t actually eat.  I sense the muted anger and helplessness of those afflicted by the activity has reached a turning point.  I have already been approached to attend a meeting which aims to establish a ‘local protest movement’, underground activities have long been part of the protestations but now people seem willing to stand up and be counted.

Maybe, at last, mine won’t be the only vehicle with a rear window sticker which reads



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