'A Disgrace to A Farmer': Conservation and Agriculture on a Nature Reserve in Islay, Scotland

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"This article is an investigation into contestations about the landscape of Loch Gruinart, a nature reserve managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) on the Scottish island of Islay. Farmers argued that the low-lying areas of the reserve should have been farmed more intensively to support higher numbers of geese, which farmers disliked because they caused damage to their own grass crops. Instead, the RSPB managed the land to support wetland species through less intensive agricultural practices and by flooding fields. The article takes a symbolic approach that focuses on the ambiguity of Loch Gruinart as both a farm and nature reserve. It is argued that this enables the reserve to be used as a metaphor of relations between conservation and farming. The article demonstrates how farmers used the reserve both to situate themselves and to claim that the reserve was not a real farm. In response, RSPB staff argued for the logic of their management and advocated education and community involvement as a means to help farmers understand their aims. Such controversies, it is argued, are a consequence of conservationists’ attempts to bring non-humans into the political arena and can thus be seen as essential to the integration of conservation into Islay rather than inimical to it."
anthropology, agriculture, protected areas, birds