There has been an almost overwhelming interest and response to my last blog "Imposing a culture" and from the feedback, there are a couple of issues which I feel compelled to justify.
Firstly, the entire point of the blog, (one born from sheer frustration and vulnerability), the point was to illustrate compromise and respect to others who do not wish to have a culture imposed upon them yet who are bullied into compliance.
Several people have taken great exception to my choice of diet. What are they offended by? Do they think I would hide in the bushes and flick lumps of tofu at them? Did they assume that I would scream at them to give up eating meat? Make them wear pleather shoes? If this was their thoughts then they missed the point I was trying to make; I would not *force* my choice of diet on my own family or others, it is a personal choice.
Our family spent yesterday evening at Stirling market where we were selling some cattle. The mart is a fairly basic place, the sale was huge in respect of the amount of stock being sold. Some of the cattle would go for slaughter, some for breeding some for fattening up.
Our family saw the culmination of a year's work go in five minutes. Hours spent not only feeding and caring for our cattle through the winter months but the ploughing, sowing and harvesting of the hay, straw and grain which would sustain our herd.
The money raised will keep our farm and family going for a while (not a long while as our cattle were sold near the end of the sale and most buyers had long gone home). Our hard work did not realise a great price and we feel despondent today as a result. Our cowsheds are very quiet.
This is what we do. If the issue of vegan married to a beef producer causes no arguments in our own household then I fail to see what the problem is for those who found it offensive. People eat meat and our work is in response to that demand regardless of personal dietary choices.
This vegan would be willing to teach someone who was hungry or reliant on food banks, how to skin a rabbit, gut a fish, pluck a pheasant or cook a stew from inexpensive cuts of meat.
My husband is the farmer - a proper farmer to those who doubted his credentials. He is not a hobby farmer who farms subsidies or breeds overtly expensive types of cattle, he is a bog standard, grass-roots farmer, fourth generation tenant farmer, his family have farmed this land for 124 years. I am merely the farm hand/ orrawoman* although circumstances have forced me into taking responsibility for the entire farm eg when my husband suffered a heart attack, the cattle still needed fed that morning, the fields were half ploughed and the running of the farm continued despite the absence of the 'proper farmer'.
*An Orraperson can turn their hand to anything needing done on a farm. Tasks include operating machinery, animal husbandry, farm records, entertaining farm bairns, nurse, psychologist, cook, mender of broken things...you get the idea. It is easier to say 'tenant farmer's wife'.
To those who asked if we had even approached those who were imposing their culture upon us, I can state, yes, we tried. In fact, I am trying to think of who I have not appealed to but perhaps it is easier to list those who have responded and offered practical help.
Our M.P. has been very supportive and our communication is ongoing, fellow tenant farmers have been incredible and have offered us much more than mere solidarity. The land reform campaigners have been highly supportive in so far as they recognise injustice, oppression, feudal high handedness, rural vulnerability. They fight for us and use articulate, academic arguments, facts, figures and examples. Their energy is tireless and our gratitude and loyalty to them is unfailing.
We have received support from those who are concerned - more than concerned, worried sick- about our native wildlife; our birds, wild animals and environment. Many people recognise something insidious happening to the countryside and are prepared to try and change the existing situations suffered by ordinary people and the wildlife in the rural environment. They put hours of footwork and hard graft into their work only to see demoralising low punishments for those who are caught killing or injuring our wildlife.
I must ask if some of the landowners who are 'giving shooting tenants permission' are even aware of what is happening on the land they own? Many landowners are non residents of this country, many of them have no direct communication with the tenants on their land.
We are never invited to estate meetings where our lives are discussed, decisions made which affect our lives, we are excluded entirely and this is not part of a democratic society which we voted for.
Would these people be prepared to live in the sort of housing we are expected to live in? Would they be prepared to show the public actual receipts on all the 'investments costing millions' they claim to be throwing at tenant farms? Are they willing to announce the amounts of subsidies they receive from the public and true estate incomes from shoots?
Historically, we have observed a decline in standards in this area which correlates to the introduction of large estate 'managers' taking over the running of these estates. Large professional companies where once there was a factor or gamekeeper who would liaise with the laird/ tenant directly. Now, you have to try to communicate with the Chief Executor of such and such and these people can be very difficult to work with when you are a tenant. No rapport.
Personally, I have found a very high handed, aloof and snobbish type run these agencies. Personally, I have experienced a grey area when shooting tenancies/ tenant farming is involved, the line between what shooting rights are and the blurring of common sense, consideration for neighbours or downright patronising feudal actions. It is 2014 for Goodness sake!
The estates around here who do not employ these agencies appear to have a much better rapport with their tenants and estate workers. There are some decent lairds in this area who do hold the interest of their tenants close, they interact with them on a personal basis and therefore a mutual respect is realised. The tenants are not patronised but are listened to and these estates attempt to resolve issues within their means. Yes, it is old fashioned but it is the best we have to offer in 21st century Scotland and in these instances, the community help each other and help the lairds.
We are not inferiors to anyone.
In this day and age we are equals. We have rights, laws which everyone is supposed to adhere to and we are human beings, not human cash cows to be bled dry to enhance the life of some unseen person. The fact that we pay rent for a farm, farmhouse and land does not mean others have carte blanche to diminish our lives in any way. We want to welcome the public to our farm, share our environment and perhaps generate a little income from this yet the constrains are set against us therefore there is little to offer visitors to this area who do not shoot. The imposition of an alien culture prevents us from offering so much to so many.
More than any of the above, we want to feel safe and right now, we feel very vulnerable indeed.