I’ve written several times that rewilding isn’t all about letting wolves and bears loose in the countryside, it’s about habitat restoration and letting nature take its course rather more. But this book is about the impacts of top predators on the pastoral communities in the Pyrenees (mainly) to which they have returned on foot or have been given assisted passage.
It’s a very good book indeed. The author has spoken to a great number of people on both sides of the debate and what they say is worth thinking about. These are not theoretical discussions, they are interviews with angry farmers with tales of their sheep being attacked, killed, and eaten, or injured and part-eaten. Large carnivores eat a wide range of prey from nuts and berries through deer to, yes, sheep. Not many people worry about the nuts and berries, or the deer, but the sheep have owners and those owners are trying to make a living in what they consider to be a traditional manner. They consider themselves to be guardians of the places where they live and the Brown Bears or Grey Wolves are intruders – unwanted intruders, either foisted on them by uncaring people who care more for wildlife than the people who must cope with it, or simply through the return of carnivores that have been largely absent for upwards of a century.
It seems that this is simply an economic conflict, and probably not a massive one, as Brown Bears and Grey Wolves don’t attack people and certainly don’t kill them in this part of the world. Maybe they will some day, it’ll probably happen eventually, but we’d be better off, at a very facile level of argument, getting rid of dogs, cattle and cars if we want to be safe. Living with large carnivores requires some adjustments but some communities don’t want to adjust. There are some landowners who swear by the effectiveness of having guard dogs with the sheep flocks as a sure-fire way of seeing off any bear and wolf attacks, and other farmers who won’t consider even trying such measures. Who has your sympathy? And verified losses to large carnivores are compensated by the authorities. How much is a highly subsidised sheep industry worth anyway?
There is discussion about Lynx and many other species in these pages, it’s wide-ranging but not rambling, though there are many walks in the hills and mountains.
I was rivetted by this book as the author has done what appears to be a great job talking to a very wide range of people with very different views. Their voices speak from these pages and the author’s own opinions are quite well kept under wraps.
I’d recommend this book very highly as interesting in its own right about a case study of rewilding just down the continent from us. But it is also a case study in conflict and I see similarities with other conflicts. Those on different sides aren’t starting with the same values and so they don’t have the same objectives, and there is not much room for compromise, particularly where those wanting wildlife to keep away have guns, land ownership and the remoteness of the locality on their side. I’d wager that the well meaning and academically inclined wander into this area and opine that this could all be sorted out if only people would sit around the table. Good luck with that!
A very good book, well-written, well-produced and well-illustrated. I’m very glad that it came my way. I’m really not sure that the title works that well but everything between the covers of this book is well worth exploring.
The cover? Very striking but quite off-putting? I’ll give it 5/10.