How Irish cattle farmers preserve a strange, ancient landscape

I have always loved the films made by The Perennial Plate. From eating invasive species to chowing down on roadkill, they’ve always been willing to dig into topics not normally covered by your average food show.

Unusually, for an age of ideologies, they also don’t tend to offer absolutes. Instead, they observe stories about how humans and nature interact in our quest to feed ourselves, and they present what they see and let us make up our own minds.

Their latest film is no exception. Exploring The Burren—an alien-looking limestone landscape on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, which has been used for cattle farmers as winter grazing land (winter grazing is unheard of in much of the rest of Europe) for more than 6,000 years.

As one farmer notes, the result depends on the eye of the beholder. On the one hand, you could argue it’s an environmental catastrophe—denuded of trees and shrubs that would otherwise turn into woodland. On the other, it’s a unique ecosystem of rare and unusual plants, many of which were carried to The Burren as seeds in the last ice age. And some of which are not found anywhere else. It’s also, apparently, a significant source of carbon sequestration.

Take a look. And remember, wherever we are and whatever we do, we are all a part of nature. Might be time we started acting like it.

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The Burren from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.