“My book of the year [2021] is a self-published book by an author of whom most of you will never have heard… It’s brilliant, and deserves to be read widely even though it does not have a large publishing empire behind it… We meet people with very different views and so are taken into the subject in a very direct way. I can’t think of a similar book.” Dr Mark Avery, nature writer and campaigner. [List of 50 books reviewed this year]

“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…” Mark Avery’s Review.

In The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees, Steve Cracknell follows shepherds on their annual transhumance and visits them in their summer pastures.

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The shepherds tell him about the effects of rewilding on their daily lives. With the arrival of bears and wolves, their routine has changed. They now need to spend the summer with the sheep, living in rudimentary accommodation, isolated. They have been obliged to revert to ancient husbandry practices. Guard dogs are used to protect the animals. All this attention has improved the general health of the flocks. All well and good. But, despite the presence of these bodyguards, hundreds of sheep are killed by bears each year.

On his travels, the author sees the mountains afresh. Vultures have returned to the skies. Bears, wolves and reintroduced ibex enliven the slopes.

But rewilding is not just about animals. Not even largely about animals. The backstory in the Pyrenees is written in folk tales and bear festivals, and seen through cultural prejudices for and against the ‘wild’.

As for the contemporary story, one version pits those with dirt under their fingernails against those who see the mountains through mirrored sunglasses. Another version is less conflictual.

The future remains to be written.

Published 18 October 2021. For more information, follow the author on Twitter or Facebook.

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