image: screenshot of Shepherd Net, European Shepherds Network. http://www.shepherdnet.eu
During my time with Inland, Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro told me about the ESN: the European Shepherd’s Network, of which Inland is a vital part of its development and is its organizational team. It’s a coalition of 151 civil society organizations, promoting mobile pastoralism, and ‘the types of animal rearing which the members … not only provide healthy nutrition for people but are also beneficial to the environment.”European Shepherds Network (ESN) brings together extensive livestock farmers and shepherd organizations in Europe that share common goals such as supporting pastoralism and building a cohesive social movement.’ (from the website http://shepherdnet.eu/)
It is part of a scheme to have the expertise of the shepherd recognised, and his image of being ‘a village idiot’ disrupted by repositioning his/her expertise in various public forums. As many policies regarding herding, cheese making and transhumance are made by theoretical practitioners in Brussels, it is essential that those who are practicing on the ground be informants and with a broader concerned community. As more rules and regulations are suffocating pastoralists, Europe risks the loss of a entire profession which safeguards precious knowledge of living in balance with the environment.
photo: Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro explains the Shepherd’s Assembly at dOcumenta 13, during Inland’s New Curriculum program opening.
One of the most inspiring of many public interventions to make pastoral knowledge and issues visible, happened in 2012, and coordinated by Stephane and Fernando. Members of the ESN, and 12 European shepherds and herders held a public meeting in the Ständehaus as part of the dOCUMENTA (13) conference program in Kassel, Germany (photo above). As artistic practitioners, Stephane and Fernando have opened the future of pastoralism to artistic thinkers. Artistic thinkers are able to analyze and communicate from both the emotional, intellectual and cultural perspectives on urgent matters of society. Spreading like wildfire in as many ways as possible, these interdisciplinary initiatives and interventions are vital for creating public awareness and involvement. Problems and other pathways become tangible, personal and engaging, and voices left out brought in.