Guest post from the Forest of Dean sheep Commoners Association, in response to their council’s plan to ban sheep from the village of Bream:
The impact of a PSPO in the village of Bream will be to bring to an end hundreds of years of commoners’ rights to graze their sheep in the ‘hundred of St Briavels’.
The legislation will place any commoner at risk of a penalty; it has the potential to impact on all sheep and all shepherds.
Prosecution will hit commoners struggling to make their shepherding economically viable, with many still struggling to establish flocks a decade after foot-and-mouth disease.
We are concerned that local councillors have solicited complaints without testing the acceptability of grazing sheep to the vast majority of the local population.
The problems in Bream have been caused by one individual, not in the commoners association, and the Council and Forestry Commission have other means to remove the grazier from the common without using this scattergun approach.
We are concerned that other villages, rather than resolve problems through negotiation, will look to use this indiscriminate legislation and prohibit sheep.
The ecology of the Forest will be irreparably damaged by the loss of sheep; areas will become overgrown and plant and animal species that exist in a longstanding symbiotic relationship will be badly affected. For instance, the Horseshoe Bat has one of the biggest UK colonies in the Forest. This is because of the many caves and the preponderance of dung beetles, one of their main foods. The incidence of dung beetles is a product of sheep droppings….
There has been no general support for commoners or commoning from local statutory authorities, only restrictive legislation.
Quote from Mick Holder, Secretary of the Commoners Association:
PSPOs are a disaster for our sheep and shepherds, they challenge ancient rights and could effectively bring to an end generations of sheep commoning in the Forest of Dean. Sheep ‘badgers’, the name given to sheep commoners, are generally responsible people who work with local people to solve issues or problems with sheep grazing. This measure is indiscriminate and inappropriate when there are other means to solve problems. We hope the council will see sense and find other ways to address any problems.