There is a growing animosity in the conservation movement towards intensive farming. In 2017 a scientific report revealed that 76% of flying insects had vanished from German nature reserves over the last 25 years.1In March this year two studies in France recorded a decline of 30-80% in farmland bird numbers in the last 15 years,2,3matching our own UK figure of a 54% reduction between 1970 and 2015.4In all cases habitat destruction and pesticide use are implicated. And if these trends continue then we are facing 
an ecological apocalypse across Europe.
5-There is no doubt that industrial farming is a central part of the problem, but is it fair to blame farmers and will it help wildlife’s cause? No.
Farmers as individuals are very rarely the issue and many should be the most effective part of the solution. There is a large, profitable, organic farm which I visit where there is a far greater biodiversity than on the SSSI next door. It is brimming and buzzing with life, it is beautiful, I always leave with my faith in the partnership between sustainable farming and conservation intact. The problem is simply that those who are farming in harmony with wildlife are too few and the areas they are improving are still far too small. The excellent
Nature Friendly Farming Network describes this cohort as ‘many’, a ‘figure’ often quoted widely in the farming fraternity, but its subjectivity hides the fact that this ‘many’ are not yet contributing anything meaningful... because there are not enough of them to turn the tides of ecological destruction. Why? Because – just like other conservationist groups – theirs is a movement motivated by a slowly growing coalition of personally motivated energies. The broader farming movement is not being properly encouraged to join in, and one of the principal barriers to this is the National Farmers Union. This organisation is neither national nor properly representative of all farmers’ interests, and nor is it really a ‘union’, as in a democratic association of 
workers created to help represent their collective interests in negotiations with their employer. As highlighted by the Ethical Consumer investigation into the premise and practices of the NFU, ‘English Agribusiness Lobby’ would be a better name.8Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own ‘unions’. The attention of these ‘unions’ to the interests of smaller farmers is slight, compared to the focus given by them to larger intensive farming methods, and their relationships with powerful agrichemical companies such as Syngenta are notable and significant.8,9These ‘unions’ don’t appear to like science much unless it suits their agenda: in the teeth of the weight of scientific opinion they have been keen advocates of the badger cull,10they steadfastly fought against the withdrawal of the neonicotinoid pesticides and have resisted restrictions in the use of Glyphosate.11,12Why? Sadly the ‘NFU’ don’t appear to like conservationists much either, doing little to encourage relationships between us and farmers; indeed some of their members have branded us as ‘anti-farming’, thereby polarising the two obviously closely allied groups. Sadly this has found traction in the farming fraternity, especially amongst the large chemically dependent and intensive sector. This is disappointing and especially harmful when the wholesale declines in biodiversity due to intensive agriculture must be addressed by farmers and conservationists together. So what should we do? Expose the actual agenda of the farming ‘unions’, restrict their lobbying power within government, encourage them to embrace a real interest in wildlife friendly farming initiatives, including a properly proportional representation and promotion of organic farming, and press the ‘unions’ to educate their members to implement clear science-led policies and more sustainable long term farming strategies. And outside of this it is down to all of us to support the UK farming fraternity. Our hunger for the cheapest food means that someone is paying the real cost... our farmers. Many struggle to realise a profit on their produce, thus becoming dependent on our tax hand-outs, because we rush to supermarkets to spend on cheaper food from overseas. We must start putting our pounds into UK farmers’ pockets even if it costs us a little more. How can we summon the temerity to ask them to do this, that or the other for conservation if we turn our backs on their beleaguered economy in the aisles of Tesco, Sainsburys or Waitrose? They are the only people out there on that 70% of our landscape used for farming who can actively make the difference. So please support ethical, wildlife-friendly farmers, and help them to lead the way to a new
farming future:
a future where wildlife thrives.

1. Hallmann, C.A., Sorg, M., Jongejans, E., Siepel, H., Hofland, N., Schwan, H., et al. (2017) More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12 (10): e0185809
2. Bretagnolle, V., Berthet, E., Gross, N., Gauffre, B., Plumejeaud, C., Houte, S., Badenhausser, I., ...Gaba S. (2018). Science of the Total Environment, 627: 822-834
3. Brodier, S., Augiron, S., Cornulier, T., Bretagnolle, V. (2013). Local improvement of skylark and corn bunting population trends on intensive arable landscape: a case study of the conservation tool Natura 2000.Animal Conservation, 17(3): 204–216 4. State of nature report (2016). Available at :
5. Barkham, P. (2018). Europe faces 'biodiversity oblivion' after collapse in French birds, experts warn The Guardian, 21 March [Online].Available at: 10/09/2018)
6. Greshko, M. (2018) Around the World, Farmland Birds Are in Steep Decline. National Geographic, 1 June [Online]. Available at: 10/09/2018) 
7. Ramírez, I. (2017) The Vanishing: Europe’s farmland birds.BirdLife International Europe and Central Asia, 12 February [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 10/09/2018)
8. Ethical Consumer Research Association (2016) Understanding the NFU - an English Agribusiness Lobby-group.
9. Watson, G. (2014). Guy’s newsletter: an unholy alliance. The Riverford Blog, 7 November [Online]. Available at: 10/09/2018)
10. National Farmers Union (2015). Badger cull is a key part of tackling bovine TB. [Website]. Available at: 10/09/2018)
11. National Farmers Union (2015). NFU calls for urgent action on neonicotinoid ban. [Website]. Available at: 10/09/2018)
12. National Farmers Union. Glyphosate is Vital. [Online] Available at: 10/09/2018)