LAWRENCE ALDERSON  CBE MA(Cantab) CBiol FRBI FRAgS MSB

I can be contacted at ecnewal@gmail.com or on 07802396818 

Lawrence Alderson

I have been involved with conservation issues affecting rural affairs for more than 40 years. The central core of my consultancy is the conservation of rural heritage and its component parts. The countryside must be protected from current threats of indiscriminate development and political apathy in order to maintain it as an integral part of British life. It is a dynamic complex structure of varied and, in some places, still unspoilt landscape, encompassing human resources, native breeds of animals and traditional values.            

Policies for rural development have failed to establish sensible and sustainable structures. They have swung from one extreme to another. The ruthless commercialism of many intensive systems, the imposition of theoretical biodiversity measures on agricultural production systems, and disproportionate measures to control problems, all compromise the ability to maintain balanced rural systems. As a result the societal value of smaller production units are being marginalised towards extinction by the concept of economy of scale, and over-zealous and counter-productive 'biodiversity' programmes allow moorland and heath to revert to worthless scrub by demanding the removal of livestock from their traditional grazing areas. Many people understand factors such as the significance of finite resources in crop production, the value of native/local adaptation of livestock, and the productivity of small-holdings, but nevertheless too often we see 'glamorous' issues such a genetic modification imposed on the farming industry before their long-term effects are understood.

I was a founder of both RBST in UK and Rare Breeds International as the global co-ordinating body for the conservation of animal genetic resources (AnGR) with native adaptation. Native breeds of farm livestock were seriously threatened by the 'maximum production' philosophy which impelled British agriculture through the second half of the twentieth century, and the extinction of some breeds (e.g. Lincolnshire Curly Coated pigs, Sheeted Somerset cattle, Goonhilly ponies and Rhiw sheep) during the last century represented an irreplaceable loss and cumulative erosion of our genetic resources. Now there is increasing awareness of the value of native breeds with local adaptation. 

Following publication of a report from the 'Breeds at Risk' seminar in London (see 'London Seminar February 2010' page) the standardisation of criteria and thresholds for the recognition and prioritisation of endangered breeds has been formalised by FAO. Agreed breed defintions also are important, especially where incentives are offered for native breeds. See 'Animal Breeding & Genetics' page for categorisation of severly endangered breeds at risk, such as Vaynol or Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle, or extinct breeds, such as Oxford Sandy & Black pigs or Blue Albion cattle. This website describes some breeds in greater detail. White Park cattle are the most ancient breed in the British Isles and demonstrate both the vulnerability of a 'breed at risk' and the value of a native breed in its natural habitat (go to 'White Park' pages). British Milksheep (Alderbred) are an example of the value of native genetic resources in the development of new and exciting breeds within the British livestock industry (go to 'British Milksheep' page). 

Literary and photographic records are not an adequate substitute for the original article but, as breeds disappear and the rural landscape is invaded and eroded, these records are a permanent reminder of lost treasures and a warning to conserve our remaining assets more assiduously. Libraries contain a wealth of information in books and journals on the lifestyle of previous rural generations, on the breeds of yesteryear and on the changing landscape. Photographic libraries provide a similar reference source. I have contributed many books and papers on these topics (go to 'Books' and 'Papers and Articles' pages) and have a collection of images of breeds.