MST Founder João Pedro Stedile Confronts Landlords in Brazil’s Congress

MST Founder João Pedro Stedile Faces Off against Right Wing in Congress

Posted by Internationalist 360° on August 17, 2023

João Pedro Stedile of the National Board of the MST testifies in the CPI on the MST

The leader was summoned by right-wing deputies to testify before the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry that is “investigating” the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement

After seven hours of questioning before the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) “investigating” the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), João Pedro Stedile exited the Chamber of Deputies and was embraced by dozens of representatives of people’s movements, religious leaders, and parliamentarians who sang “This struggle is ours, this struggle is of the people. And only in struggle, will we create a new Brazil.”

Stedile was summoned to testify to the CPI by the right-wing deputies Ricardo Salles, the minister of the environment under Jair Bolsonaro, and Zucco, a member of the Brazilian military. The establishment of the CPI was approved on April 26 by the Chamber of Deputies of the National Congress, dominated by the right, in order to “investigate” “the activities,” “the real purpose,” and “the means of funding” of the MST.

The CPI had its first session on May 23 and since then they have received testimonies from diverse “witnesses” and experts who are questioned by the deputies in the commission. The information collected throughout these months is then drafted into a report which is presented to different entities of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of power with conclusions and recommendations.

However, analysts have pointed out that the “investigative” commission has largely focused on bringing former or disgruntled members of the two million person movement to testify about grievances they have with local leadership, alleged irregularities or even alleged crimes which they participated in or witnessed, and other isolated incidents. Right-wing deputies which until recently composed the majority of the commission, have also used the space to launch baseless sweeping accusations at the movement and criticize its struggle not only for popular agrarian reform but for social change, against racism, and for a sovereign Brazil where all can live with dignity.

Many have also pointed out that it is no coincidence that this CPI is occurring alongside moments of great political difficulty for the country’s right-wing including an ongoing CPI investigating the coup actions committed on January 8 in Brasilia by thousands of Bolsonaro supporters with links to government officials and businessmen, as well as the investigation of several members of the Bolsonaro government as well as some of his close allies over corruption.

So, what has come to be known popularly as the “CPI Circus against the MST” had one of its last major days of work on August 15 with the testimony from João Pedro Stedile, one of the founding members of the MST and a member of the national board. Despite their efforts to catch the leader off guard and tire him out through hours of questioning and accusations, the testimony of Stedile ranged from explanations of Marxism, a defense of the organizational structure and vision of the MST, and a deep criticism not only of capitalism and agribusiness, but also of how the deputies carried out the work of the commission.

Methodological errors

The deputies running the CPI have employed a common tactic used by the right, which is to use testimonies of specific individuals who have been sought out and previously identified as against the MST, to support their claims about the movement. This move was sharply criticized by João Pedro in his testimony.

He said that in order for the CPI to have results found more faithful to reality, it should have taken a random sample of people that live on MST settlements and encampments, and not pick certain groups in advance.

“I want to make a statistical observation. We have 500,000 settled families and 60,000 encamped families, according to INCRA [National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform]. If you take a random sample of 1%, that would be 5,000 families you would have to listen to, although the most serious evidence is of even higher percentages.”

After Deputy Salles, asked his opinion about cases where people allegedly try to personally benefit from the MST’s projects on settlements and encampments, the landless leader responded by referencing the German sociologist Karl Marx: “In a capitalist society, all classes, whether the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, the working class, the peasantry, the workers in general, have a lumpen fraction. What is a lumpen? It’s that opportunist who wants to live off the work of others, who wants to exploit the work of others. So these lumpens exist throughout society. You’ll find them among the bourgeoisie – drug traffickers, for example, are billionaires and are lumpens – in the middle class, among liberal professionals, among lawyers, journalists, MPs, among workers and among peasants.”

Can the right understand movement organizing?

Another major line of questioning lodged at the landless leader was regarding the work that often takes place in the collective areas of the MST. The right-wing deputies, seemingly unable to understand why people would willingly organize collectively and distribute work to advance the common good, attempted to accuse MST leaders of authoritarianism and imposing forced labor on members.

In response, Stedile highlighted the characteristics that mark the movement’s form of organization, citing aspects such as the collective awareness, the use of a decision-making process that is always collective rather than individual, the division of tasks, discipline, and the educational and intellectual training of the militants that join the movement on their own volition.

When he mentioned the organization’s characteristics, the economist sent a message to Kim Kataguiri from the União Party and one of the founders of the Free Brazil Movement (MBL) who is part of the CPI. The organization has produced different conservative and extremist youth leaders since its creation nine years ago.

“Among the organizational principles, everything has to be collective. Everything has to be in the form of a committee because it is the collective that protects [us] from the opportunism of false leaders. Don’t adopt this terminology of ‘president’, ‘treasurer’, ‘secretary’. The organizing principles are universal. They apply to the workers’ movement and they apply to Kim’s movement. I hope he’s taking notes. Any popular social movement has to adopt these principles,” Stedile explained in what many have deemed a master class on popular organization, provoking laughter from the audience.








Education for all: another conquest of the MST

While explaining the actual work and functioning of the MST, João Pedro also emphasized the centrality of study and education in the MST. Whether its carrying out literacy campaigns with adults and young people for people in MST and in communities they work with, developing popular pedagogy for the childcare and primary schools organized within the MST settlements and encampments, or fighting for policies that facilitate access to higher education for the landless, education for all is more than a slogan.

During the CPI, João Pedro highlighted that, as a result of this historic effort, around 250 landless workers have already studied law in the university. He also highlighted the importance of the National Program for Education in Agrarian Reform (PRONERA) created in 1998 during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government (1994-1994), as a result of pressure from union and social struggles. Stedile described PRONERA as a “fantastic achievement” for the movement.

“I brought here the proof of the ‘crime’ – that’s how you use [the word], right? Ney [Strozake], the comrades who are here, are all lawyers who are children of [land reform] beneficiaries. Can you believe that? If it hadn’t been for PRONERA, they’d be [working the land] or they’d have become lumpens,” Stedile joked, pointing to the group of MST lawyers accompanying him at the session. The mention was also made in front of a silent plenary and a visibly embarrassed Ricardo Salles: Ney Strozake, one of the MST’s legal advisors, is also the lawyer of the former Environment Minister in some cases.


During the hours-long testimony, the economist heavily criticized the more conservative agribusiness. At one point during his answers to the CPI deputies, the leader pointed out that this segment of the rural sector is currently experiencing divisions in response to the PT administration. Part of the sector is active in the Lula government, as is the case of the Minister of Agriculture, cattle rancher Carlos Fávaro, who is a senator-elect for Mato Grosso and is currently on leave from his mandate.

“Agribusiness is divided. The half that has any sense supported Lula. The other half is Aprosoja [Brazilian Association of Soybean Producers, one of the sector’s political arms], which only thinks about making money. Part of agribusiness is already aware of the limits and is already migrating to another form of agriculture, what is now known as ‘regenerative practices’, to replace pesticides with agroecological pesticides. Part of agribusiness is still going to heaven,” Stedile joked. “But the dumb agribusiness, which only thinks about easy profits, has its days numbered,” he added.

Occupation vs. invasion

The key political disputes between the Bolsonaristas and MST supporters were present throughout the landless leader’s CPI testimony. At one point during the hearing, deputy Rodolfo Nogueira from Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party, questioned Stedile about whether the leader “believes he has a license of impunity” for allegedly “inciting crimes” in the country. “I have never incited any crime,” replied the economist, to which he was interrupted by the deputy, who said that “land invasion is a crime.”

Stedile took the opportunity to highlight the difference between “occupation” and “invasion”, the latter being an expression often used in public debate by more conservative politicians to create confusion on the subject. “Land invasion is a crime, like the farmers in Mato Grosso do Sul invading indigenous land. What the MST is doing is occupying land as a way of putting pressure so that the Constitution is implemented. Invasion of land or any public property is when someone does it for their own benefit, and then it is characterized as squatting and is criminalized by the Penal Code,” said Stedile.

The MST leader continued his reasoning by highlighting the legal aspects surrounding the issue: “What our movement is doing, recognized by jurisprudence, is not an invasion. It is occupation, and occupation here is not squatting, so much so that, to your despair, of the many occupations that have taken place over the last 40 years throughout Brazil, no one has been arrested or convicted.” “If you want to end the occupations, expropriate large unproductive properties, because then there’s land for everyone,” he added.

In another moment, the deputies asked about Stedile’s participation in the entourage that accompanied President Lula to China in April this year. Deputy Salles asked him if there was “any movement in China analogous to the MST in Brazil”. “No, because in 1949 they carried out land reform. [For] those of you who want to defeat the MST so badly, the formula is simple: carry out agrarian reform and the next day the MST will disappear,” he said.


Half an hour before the start of the hearing, João Pedro Stedile’s arrival at the Chamber drew the attention of everyone nearby. The landless leader was welcomed by dozens of people who had gathered there to show solidarity. Federal deputies, religious leaders, trade unionists, and members of different popular movements crowded around and chanted slogans and songs about agrarian reform as a way of embracing Stedile with words of support. From there, he made his way to the room, accompanied by a procession. “We are here in the name of the model of society that we seek to give our support to those who help organize the people in Brazil,” said Pastor Luís Sabanay.

“What drives me to be here is that I want the land for those who plant on it. I want nature alive because we don’t eat dead nature. And what moves me to be here is that, as well as not letting go of anyone’s hand, is that it is [important] to be together at a time like this. It is to say that the MST moves us because it teaches us what my religion already brings in its daily life, which is [the idea that] we need nature because without it there is no orixá,” said Makota Celinha, general coordinator of the National Center for Afro-Brazilian Africanity and Resistance (Cenarab), who received a public greeting from Stedile at the start of the session.

Members of parliament who are not part of the CPI also joined the procession to embrace Stedile and wish him strength. “The MST is a movement that we all cherish, which fights for the democratization of the land, demonstrates to the Brazilian people that it is necessary to fight the ultra-right, defend democracy, and share wealth. It’s a movement that lives in our hearts, that’s why I came here, on his behalf, to congratulate the entire MST,” said Congressman Rogério Correia of the Workers’ Party (PT).

Politicians from other levels of government also attended the event with the same objective. This was the case of Pernambuco state deputy Rosa Amorim of the PT, who is the daughter of founders of the MST in several states and grew up on an agrarian reform settlement. “We have an elected agrarian reform caucus in several states of the country and, at this very important moment, which is also a battle in the institutional realm, we have to be here to show our solidarity. Today we are going to send a message to Brazil about what the MST does and produces,” she said.

One sighting that attracted the spotlight was that of the governor of Ceará, Elmano de Freitas of the PT. Having come to Brasilia to fulfill agendas in some ministries, he went to the Chamber of Deputies to greet Stedile at the CPI and stayed for a couple of minutes. Speaking to Brasil de Fato, Elmano highlighted the movement’s work in the countryside of Ceará.

“In Ceará, we are closely acquainted with the landless movement, which has built an agro-industry in the milk production chain in the Quixeramobim region, which has developed agro-industries in the area of [production with] goats and sheep, in the area of honey, generating opportunities for thousands of families who used to live in extreme poverty and today live with dignity, have children going to college, going to school full time. Therefore, the landless in Ceará, as it is throughout the country, represent an organization of the most humble people to be able to live with dignity,” said the governor.

Various parliamentarians from the progressive camp wore MST hats during the CPI meeting as a way of paying tribute to Stedile and the organization. “I wear it with great pride and as a way of recognizing the struggle for agrarian reform in Brazil,” said Fernanda Melchionna, deputy from the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). Congressman Nilto Tatto of PT also joined the group. “Wearing the MST hat at the CPI that wants to criminalize the movement is an act of resistance, solidarity and gratitude for everything the organization has done for the Brazilian people,” he said.

MST evaluates CPI

Ayala Ferreira, one of the leaders of the MST’s Human Rights Sector, said following the hearing that Stedile had demonstrated his superiority in terms of political capacity and knowledge of the subject.

“Our evaluation is that he gave a lesson, which we already imagined would happen. He didn’t come here to convince the agro-military, Bolsonaro sectors of the importance of agrarian reform and the relevance of the MST in this agenda. He came to talk to Brazilian society, to all the people who followed [the testimony] online, on the pages that published [the testimony], to see everything we’ve been saying: that the MST is going to celebrate 40 years of history and struggle for the democratization of the land, highlighting the need for agrarian reform,” said Ayala.

In a public statement sent to the press shortly after the committee’s session, the national leadership of the MST expressed a positive assessment of João Pedro Stedile’s participation in the committee, but also criticized the CPI’s handling of the work. “This CPI has been running for three months, under the command of Bolsonaro parliamentarians, in an attempt to criminalize the MST and prevent the resumption of the National Agrarian Reform Policy, as well as trying to wear down the federal government. However, the baseness and lack of legitimacy and seriousness of the Bolsonaro deputies is leading it to be closed earlier than expected by these parliamentarians themselves,” the text says.

With reports from Brasil de Fato.

Buenos Aires authorities face questions after MST campaigning journalist dies at hands of police

Photojournalist and social justice activist Facundo Molares has been officially pronounced dead after being detained during a demonstration against the Argentine primaries last Sunday.

The Buenos Aires City Police Force and City Hall officials were under pressure on Friday after the death of a demonstrator at a protest.

Facundo Molares, an Argentine identified as a former FARC guerrilla fighter, died after taking part in a demonstration with activists from the Rebelión Popular group near the Obelisk in central Buenos Aires.

Human rights groups said Morales was a victim of “police repression.” He reportedly lost consciousness while being pinned to the floor by City police officers.

“Activist, photographer and reporter Facundo Molares died as a result of the actions of the Buenos Aires City Police at a demonstration by the Obelisk,” the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) said in a post on social media.

Human rights organisation Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo “repudiated the brutal doings of the City of Buenos Aires Police that led to the death of Facundo Molares.”

Molares was a former FARC guerrirlla fighter who had been arrested in Santa Cruz, Bolivia during the country’s election in 2019, which ended in the exile of former president Evo Morales.

His death was confirmed by the Buenos Aires City Hall in a press release, though they did not name the victim.

“Attempts to resuscitate him lasted over half an hour, until he was declared dead. The cause of death is related to a cardiac arrest due to risk factors,” the report stated.

Buenos Aires City mayor and presidential hopeful for the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, said he was sorry for his death in a press release. However, he also fully backed the actions of the police officers.

Soon after his death, television channels broadcast a video recorded at the time of Molares’ arrest. Images showed the man immobilised on the floor, with his hands on his back, by three police officers.

“He’s turning purple, let him breathe,” a woman can be heard saying in the video. “He’s dying,” she shouts, imploring people to call an ambulance.

According to demonstrators, police officers sought to delay his resuscitation.

“We were in front of the Obelisk at the square having a peaceful chat, a meeting about Sunday, about the voting (…) We were about to leave,” Delia Delgado, a demonstrator who attended the rally, told AFP.

That was when “the police approached covertly” and started detaining people, she claimed.

“That’s when the chaos started. We realised afterwards that some comrades were missing. They arrested five. Molares was being held by six officers in a circle, on his back, holding him with a knee on the back of his head. He was already dead, he was on the floor for 40 minutes,” she said.

Demonstrators stayed by the Obelisk and put together a large banner which read: “Facundo was murdered by the State.”

Campaign closing rallies were cancelled amid the commotion about the death of an 11-year-old girl on Wednesday near her school in Lanús.

A personal project to save the world? Nothing beats land: Bill Gates is America’s biggest farmer

A personal project to save the world? Nothing beats land: Bill Gates is now Americas biggest farmer

By Harry de Quetteville and Olivia Rutgard April 8, 2021

He is famous for his sensible office garb and digitally-amassed fortune, rather than rugged overalls and a weathered hand on the plough. But the pioneer spirit, it turns out, burns bright in Bill Gates.

Late in life, the sultan of software, emperor of intangibles, has discovered what the British aristocracy have known for a thousand years: nothing beats land.

There is a certain irony, of course, about Gates, 65, becoming the USA’s biggest private owner of farmland, which American publication the Land Report recently declared him to be. Here is the epitome of elite coastal America, born in liberal Seattle on the Pacific, educated (until he dropped out) at Harvard, investing financially and emotionally in the rural fly-over states between, swapping ones and zeros for soil and sod.

Ready to swap books for gum boots? Bill Gates has become the largest squire in the US.Credit:

His taste for the tilth knows few rivals, now that he has put together a reported portfolio of prime farmland amounting to 269,000 acres (108,860 hectares) 6000 more than the farmland held by the Queen in the Crown Estate.

There are romantically named holdings on the West coast, close to Gates home country up in Washington state, places like the Horse Heaven Hills, where the prized soil can change hands for $US15,000 ($19,700) an acre and even the local town is called Richland. But most of his new acquired land is elsewhere, spread across 19 states, with the biggest lots in places the tech titan, worth more than $US120 billion, is perhaps less familiar with Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona.

They are the fruit of a financial strategy going back a quarter of a century to the day, in 1994, when Gates decided to diversify his fortune, then concentrated in a 45 per cent stake in the company with which his name is synonymous: Microsoft. The man he brought in to run his investments was a bond manager called Michael Larson. And it has been under Larsons leadership, via a business called Cascade Investment, that Gates has gone from coastal techie to landed gentry.

He may not have started wearing red trousers; nor is his hallway draped in wet Labradors (though he does profess love for his dogs, Oreo and Nilla). But the cold hard facts speak for themselves: in the first two decades of Larsons stewardship, Gates acquired more than 100,000 acres of land across America.

That may have been eye-popping enough. But the last few years have made the pace of those purchases seem positively pedestrian, with Gates splurging on a series of deals that have more than doubled his holdings and propelled him ever faster up the charts of landowners. Finally, this year, according to calculations by the experts at Land Report, he was the biggest squire in the US.

It was 2017 when the purchasing really picked up. Cascade splashed more than half a billion dollars on more than 100,000 acres across nine states. The following year, a further $US171 million went on buying 14,500 acres in those idyllic Horse Heaven Hills, for a total of around $US690 million in just a few months.

That sum may only represent about half a per cent of Gatess wealth. And 269,000 acres may only represent about a quarter of a per cent of US farmland. But it is still a staggering space to have bought in so short a time. Which begs the question: what does he want with it all?

What does he want with all that land?

The obvious answer is money. Larson, after all, was brought in to invest the Gates fortune and grow it, just as surely as a farmer is brought in to grow crops. Land, particularly rich arable land, is in ever growing demand as the globes population rises. As the old saying goes, They arent making any more of it. The value of UK farmland has historically increased at 6 per cent per annum, according to Savills. But after the turn of the millennium it more than trebled in value.

So when Gates was asked a fortnight ago, in one of his periodic Ask Me Anything sessions on the online forum Reddit Hey Bill! Why are you buying so much farmland? his answer seemed refreshingly straightforward. My investment group chose to do this, he noted. It is not connected to climate.

All cleared up then. Farmer Bill couldn’t care less about hoe and plough, it was all just a smart financial play.

Except, in the very next breath, Gates contradicted himself, and suggested that yes, his purchases actually were very much to do with the environmental concerns that he makes plain in his latest book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

The agriculture sector is important, he wrote. With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face.

Later on in the discussion he added: We have lots of water. The problem is that it is expensive to desalinate it and move it to where it is needed. The cost is prohibitive for agricultural use of water. New seeds can reduce water use but some areas wont be able to farm as much.

All of which seems to hint at lines of research that a benevolent billionaire might want to acquire farmland to pursue. In fact, Gates’ interest in productive and sustainable ways of feeding the planet does not stop with arable.

He has long had a curiosity in producers of synthetic meat such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, in order to replace the carbon intensive business of rearing animals for slaughter. Such companies aim to replicate the taste and structure of meat either by replacing the protein cells of a steak, say, with plant cells, or by growing protein cells in a lab, not on a cow. From this perspective, the Gates Estate makes sense both as investment and personal project to save the world.

He is not, after all, the first billionaire to embark on rural empire building for purposes which cynics might write off as vanity eco-burnishing or fantasy kingdom building.

Ted Turner, the American media mogul who founded CNN, has acquired 2 million acres of land (not just farmland) on which roam one of Americas last herd of buffalo. All very noble, though critics cant help pointing out his private ranch was once promised to Native Americans.

If Gates’ motives are to make money and progress, though, who can fault him? He certainly doesn’t have a problem giving it away. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last year set up its own agricultural innovation project, Gates Ag One, driving innovation to help smallholder farmers in developing countries, many of whom are women… sustainably improve crop productivity and adapt to the effects of climate change.

It is one part of an effort that has driven Gates up the charts in another field of endeavour: philanthropy. There too, having given away $US35 billion and counting, he is very much number one.

How much land does he own?

In total, Mr Gates and his wife Melinda own 269,000 acres of land across 19 states, including 69,071 acres in Louisiana and 47,927 acres in Arkansas.

The land holdings are worth more than $US690 million ($906 million), a fraction of his estimated $US128.1 billion net worth.

Its equivalent to more than 1000 square kilometres. The US’s agricultural land covers 896 million acres in total.

The land is owned through a private investment company, Cascade Investment, which also owns shares in artificial meat company Beyond Meat and tractor company John Deere.

Wider trend

Mr Gates is not alone in buying up large amounts of agricultural land. Investment from wealthy private individuals and funds surged after the financial crisis, driven by the belief that land is going to be a lucrative asset class.

He is part of a wider trend towards investment in farmland by owners attracted by growing demand and productivity gains because of new technology.

Experts say the potential financial benefits of restoring degraded land and encouraging biodiversity are tempting investors, as governments consider carbon taxes and financial rewards for boosting nature and tackling climate change.

Some investment funds also have to meet targets around carbon neutrality and other climate goals, and are buying land in an attempt to achieve this.

Mr Gates has a particular interest in agriculture and food, having been outspoken about the need to invest in technology to overcome food shortages and tackle climate change, and has argued that high-income countries should switch entirely to synthetic beef.

His charitable foundation, which is not linked to the investment fund, has also funded research into technology designed to improve farming productivity.

Why is it controversial?

Critics of Mr Gates argue that he holds too much power over food and agriculture, and is interested in enriching himself rather than helping the planet.

There are concerns that the purchase of land by corporations and billionaires accelerate the industrialisation of agriculture, depriving smallholders and family farmers of the chance to make a living from land that they may have longstanding connections to.

In a piece for the Guardian, academic and indigenous American Nick Estes, of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, argued that it is monopolistic and deprives ordinary people of access to land.

The land we all live on should not be the sole property of a few. The extensive tax avoidance by these titans of industry will always far exceed their supposed charitable donations to the public.

The billionaire knows best mentality detracts from the deep-seated realities of colonialism and white supremacy, and it ignores those who actually know best how to use and live with the land, he wrote.

Court of Appeal gives green light for wild camping to resume on Dartmoor

31Jul23 – Court of Appeal gives green light for wild camping on Dartmoor

The Court of Appeal ruling comes after a High Court ruled that legislation did not allow people to wild camp on Dartmoor Commons earlier this year

Members of the public have the right to wild camp in Dartmoor National Park, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

In January, a High Court judge ruled a nearly 40-year-old piece of legislation did not give people the right to pitch tents overnight on Dartmoor Commons without landowners permission.

Alexander and Diana Darwall brought a successful legal challenge against the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), claiming some campers cause problems to livestock and the environment.

Earlier this month, the DNPA asked appeal judges to overturn Sir Julian Flauxs decision, arguing he had the wrong interpretation of a 1985 law over rights of access to Dartmoor Commons.

In a ruling on Monday, Sir Geoffrey Vos, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Newey granted the appeal, finding that the law confers on members of the public the right to rest or sleep on the Dartmoor Commons, whether by day or night and whether in a tent or otherwise as long as byelaws are followed.

Sir Julian had previously found that the meaning of the legislation was clear and unambiguous in that it conferred a right to roam which did not include a right to wild camp without permission.

His judgment was labelled a huge step backwards by campaigners who claimed there was a long-established precedent of wild camping in the national park in Devon.

Dartmoor National Park, designated in 1951, covers a 368-square mile area that features commons areas of unenclosed privately owned moorland where locals can put livestock.

The DNPA previously said backpack campers can access nearly 52,000 acres of common land across the national park and can stay overnight under a new permissive system as long as they follow a code of conduct.

Dartmoor wild camping to resume after appeal win

The hearing, which took place two weeks ago included some bizarre exchanges between the lawyers and judges.

Timothy Morshead KC acting for the Darwalls, had argued that sleep cannot be considered to be “recreation” as you are not conscious.

But Sir Geoffrey Vos, one of the judges presiding said there was no difference between a walker or painter who rested on the ground after their activity and fell asleep and a walker that came into the park and erected a tent.

Morshead said that the Darwalls took objection to the erection of tent ‘structures’.

The judges proceeded to ask him where the line should be drawn on erecting structures – would inflatable goalposts from Argos for children to play football be allowed, they asked?

Tim Straker KC acting for the Park and OSS said the practice of wild camping does not involve significant structures like camper vans “which on Dartmoor are directed to designated or registered sites”.

The victory was met with delight by environmental charities and campaigners on Monday after the verdict broke.

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, said it was a huge win for “re-establishing our connection with nature and the land we call home”.

Guy Shrubsole, co-founder of campaign group Right to Roam, said this was not the end of the fight for land rights.

He called for a new Right to Roam Act for England so that wild camping can be extended beyond Dartmoor.

Note: this thinly veiled pantheist ‘rewilding’ report with Green MP Caroline Lucas and group faces painted with eyes in triangles. Part of the XR related anti-Russia ‘Zero Carbon’ Green extremist faction appear to have powerful enough connections to swing this High Court decision

Dartmoor wild camping ban lifted as campaigners win court battle against wealthy landowners

Campaigners have won an appeal for the right to camp on Dartmoor National Park in Devon in the latest twist in an ongoing row between nature enthusiasts and a wealthy couple who own part of the land.

The bitter dispute began when Alexander and Diana Darwall argued that some wild campers on their land caused problems to livestock and the environment and sought a court declaration that members of the public could only pitch tents there overnight with their consent.

Mr and Mrs Darwall won their High Court challenge against the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) in January, banning people from pitching up on their estate without consent sparking one of the largest-ever protests over public access to Englands countryside.

Ruling in favour of the couple in January, Justice Sir Julian Flaux decided that a 1985 law, which regulates access to moorland, did not provide a right to wild camp.

But the park authority urged appeal judges to overturn his decision, arguing he had the wrong interpretation of the nearly 40-year-old legislation.

In a ruling on Monday, Sir Geoffrey Vos, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Newey granted the appeal, finding that the law confers on members of the public the right to rest or sleep on the Dartmoor Commons, whether by day or night and whether in a tent or otherwise as long as bylaws are followed.

The critical question in the case was whether the court deemed wild camping to count as open-air recreation, and whether it should therefore be permitted on the Commons, said Sir Geoffrey.

He said: The fact that a tent is closed rather than open cannot convert the wild camping from being an open-air recreation into not being one. In my judgment, that walker is still resting by sleeping and undertaking an essential part of the recreation.

Lord Justice Underhill, who agreed with Sir Geoffrey, added: Many people take pleasure in the experience of sleeping in a tent in open country, typically, though not invariably, as part of a wider experience of walking across country, and perhaps engaging in other open-air recreations such as birdwatching, during the day.

It is a perfectly natural use of language to describe that as a recreation, and also as occurring in the open air notwithstanding that while the camper is actually in the tent the outside air will be to some extent excluded.

Welcoming the verdict, park authoritys chair Pamela Woods, said: We are delighted with the Court of Appeals conclusions in this landmark case.

We firmly believed the legislation which formed the focus of this case the Dartmoor Commons Act allowed for backpack camping on certain areas of common land as a form of open-air recreation without the need to get landowners permission first.

Mr and Mrs Darwall keep cattle on Stall Moor, which forms part of their more than 3,450-acre estate in the southern part of Dartmoor, purchased in 2013.

Their initial victory at the High Court in January saw thousands of demonstrators take part in a protest organised by the group Right to Roam, with walkers carrying handpainted signs reading please sir, I want some Moor and the peasants are revolting through Cornwood village and past the Stall Moor.

Sir Julian had previously found at the High Court that the meaning of the 1985 legislation was clear and unambiguous in that it conferred a right to roam which did not include a right to wild camp without permission.

His now-overturned judgment was labelled a huge step backward by campaigners, who said there was a long-established precedent of wild camping in Dartmoor, which was designated a national park in 1951.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, which intervened in the case, said in a statement: This is an excellent outcome, we are relieved that the judges ruled unanimously and conclusively that open-air recreation includes backpack camping on the commons.

She added: Following this judgment, Dartmoor remains one of only a handful of places in England where there is a right to backpack camping without the landowners permission.

We should like to see that right extended and we shall campaign with other organisations to achieve this.

Monkton Wyld community, new trustees at another UK countryside charity attempt ‘hostile takeover’

Support group ‘Friends of Monkton Wyld’ was set up at the end of July


Whilst all charities must change with new blood, in a failed economy one of the last ways to make money seems to be to find new and more imaginative ways to get hold of land, buildings and other assets that aren’t yours.

Trust is the word. If you can get yourself appointed s part of a voting majority on the board of a UK charity you can leverage the trust to your will. In time and in theory, you can alter the deed, commandeer trust assets and even, with luck, cash them in.

This isn’t how trusts are supposed to operate but the UK charity commission is so risk-averse, underfunded and unprincipled that when dubious activities, akin to theft, take place, they tend to insist on looking the other way.

Leveraged buyout: The Countryside Restoration Trust

In 2019 recent appointee David Mills, husband of actress Dame Judy Dench, became active on the board of renowned Cambridgeshire author and broadcaster Robin Page’s Countryside Restoration Trust charity. Over decades Robin had been donated and bequeathed over 2,000 acres, tens of millions of pounds worth of farmland and buildings.

This new board faction turned on Robin in 2021 and voted him off the charity he’d founded, [see full details below] leaving him not just heartbroken, but quite rightly feeling robbed of the substantial fruits of his life’s conservation work.  To rub salt in the wounds the new clique changed the charity’s name to the Countryside Regeneration Trust, bringing in more commercially-minded new managers for the farms entrusted to them.

A wonderful old man who should have been enjoying his retirement was turned into a nervous wreck, seeing enemies everywhere, not knowing who he could trust. He thought the people who’d turned on him to take over his thousands of acres of farms, were his friends.

In fact, Robin told me late in 2022, they had indeed pretended to be friends and supporters, while secretly establishing a majority on the board to vote him out. Everything Robin ploughed into his trust was usurped, he said, by the sort of business managers he’d set it up to oppose. Robin died in the spring of 2023.

Hostile takeover: Monkton Wyld Court

The latest of these attempts to usurp the founders of a successful charity, incubating arts, the very best of tradition, social justice and not buying in to the ‘Net Zero’ dogma, is at the editorial HQ of The Land Magazine at Monkton Wyld, near Lyme Regis in Dorset. Here, bullied editors Gill Barron and one of The Land Is Ours founders Simon Fairlie are now facing eviction.

There is a decidedly neo-con political twist to the new trustees’ gang.  One of the faction trying to take over has links to Price Waterhouse Coopers, and, as a team, they stand to acquire a property worth millions to manage this purpose-built Victorian rural school the way they please.

Please consider subscribing to The Land and/or joining the Friends of Monkton Wyld campaign, to help restore this community to its pre-2023 values and to terminate any hint of hijacking the magazine’s HQ along with Gill and Simon’s retirement.


Monkton Wyld: Timeline of Treachery – or – How Four New Trustees Destroyed our Community:

27 March 2023 A volunteer who we shall call “SW” applies to the Monkton Wyld Community for permanent residency after a six month trial period in the maintenance/ handyman role. To be accepted as a full member, an applicant has to win full consensus agreement of the whole community (otherwise pre-existing discord can be cemented into the community). Several people feel unsure of his suitability (because of a quick temper, and a tendency to be pushy) so his trial period is extended for another three months.

28 March The community receives an email from the trustees saying only that “issues have been raised and must be investigated by the trustees”. A long email correspondence follows over the next ten days in which the trustees drip feed us information: that the matter involves “contracts and behaviour” (29 March); that it is a workplace complaint (5 April); that the complaints are of bullying and harassment against Simon and Gill (12 April). Eventually, after pretending otherwise for two weeks, SW acknowledges what many suspect, that he is the source of the complaints.

12 April Kelly Marsden launches an investigation into these complaints without revealing to us what they consist of despite repeated requests from us to see them. Marsden claims that they are “whistleblowing complaints” (even though grievances over matters such as bullying are not normally regarded as whistleblowing) and we therefore have no right to see what we are charged with. Gill and I can therefore cannot respond to any of the evidence.

14 April Gill and I ask another member of the community to ask SW to inform us through a third party what his complaints are, as indeed he should have done under our normal community procedures and the terms of his volunteer contract. SW refuses and when Gill and I bump into him and ask him directly, the conversation rapidly becomes heated. We accuse him of disregarding the terms of his agreement, and he claims we are “Lord and Lady of the Manor”.

16 April As a result of this altercation, SW enters another complaint against Gill and me, claiming that he fears for his safety (he is in his forties, Gill and I are in our seventies). We receive an emailed warning from the trustees that if we ask him again we will be “asked to leave”.

20 April Kelly Marsden sends us an email accusing Gill and I of “blackmail” and stating, without citing a shred of evidence, “you both seem to have developed considerable influence over the community whereby others are brought around to agreeing with what you want through pressure and intimidation”.

26 April The trustees finally allow us to see a copy of SW’s letter of complaint. In the same email they send Kelly Marsden’s completed report, which entirely endorses SW’s complaints; and a summons to attend a disciplinary hearing on 2 May. The report provides no concrete evidence in support of SW’s allegations. The charge of bullying  relies substantially on the events of 14 April, which occurred after SW submitted his letter of complaint; and also on the fact that Gill and I objected to the kangaroo court procedure, which we have every right to do. She also repeats the charges that our “overbearing influence” serves to “maintain control over community decision-making” without citing a single community decision that could be said to have been forced through in this manner; or mentioning the fact that Gill never attends meetings. The evidence also relies on non-specific, undocumented allegations from four witnesses (out of a total of eleven). Since we do not know who these witnesses are, or what they said, we have no way of challenging their evidence, nor of assessing whether their evidence has been, twisted, cherry-picked or influenced by leading questions. None of this anonymous evidence would stand up in a court of law.

28 April Gill and I make a formal complaint against SW: that he failed to follow the complaints procedure laid down in his contract; and that he had applied for permanent membership of the community on false pretences, since he concealed from the community the fact that he had a week earlier submitted to the trustees a raft of complaints against community members, one of the trustees and the community as a whole. Our complaint is summarily dismissed by the trustees.

2 May Gill and I face a disciplinary committee. I provide a 12 page rebuttal of SW’s complaints and Kelly Marsden’s report, along with a comprehensive rebuttal of her report by community member Jared Hills. I also provided testimonies from all eight of the people who have assisted me on the farm over the last eight years. These are the people whom I have spent most time working with, yet none of them were invited to give evidence by Kelly Marsden, who has never visited Monkton nor met with any of the people concerned face-to-face.

3 May XXX XXX  MBE, who has been a trustee for 15 years is subjected to a grilling on Zoom by all the other trustees, five out of six of whom have been trustees for only 4 months. In her words she is “coerced into resigning”.

8 May Jasmine Hills, a community member who runs the garden  makes a formal complaint, first to the community and then to the trustees  against SW’s aggressive behaviour towards her. The complaint is ignored by the trustees.

9 May Gill and I are informed of the outcome of the disciplinary inquiry: we are told we have to leave Monkton Wyld Court as soon as possible, and in any case within six months. No mention is made of the evidence I and Gill submitted, nor of the substantial testimony that we submitted in our favour from other people we have worked and lived with here.

10 May Asked in person why the trustees are pursuing this approach, one of the new trustees states “it is time for a change”.

11 May Student cinematographers, currently filming at Monkton Wyld as part of its educational remit, are forbidden by the trustees to film on site and ordered to destroy all footage. The trustees also phone the student’s college saying that they will call the police if filming continues. The college tells the students not to film. Oh dear, what sort of advice is that for budding investigative journalists?

16 May Jasmine Hills makes a further complaint against SW’s aggressive behaviour towards her. This is again ignored by the trustees.

18 May We are informed that two members of the Board of Trustees have resigned, leaving only four out of the original seven.

20 May Jasmine Hills is informed that she has to leave Monkton Wyld Court “with immediate effect”. This is because she “instigated” a meeting to review SW’s position in the community. The meeting (which has not been held yet) has to happen in June anyway , and most members of the community wish to bring it forward since there is no conceivable prospect of SW will be accepted into the community.

21 May Simon is told by the trustees that he is barred from his kitchen, dining room, toilets, bathroom and all other shared areas of the community household. He is also banned from attending community meetings. “Formal action will be taken” if he does not abide by these restrictions.

23 May Five community members and three long-term volunteers (eight out of eleven people altogether) sign a motion of no-confidence in the trustees.

30 May Simon and Gill are “invited”  to an appeal on 5 July. Even though it involves eviction from our home of 13 years,  it is just 45 minutes long, and on Zoom (which neither of us do). We have no right to bring a lawyer, call witnesses, or question those who have given evidence against us. The adjudicating panel consists of an HR expert and LG, the trustee who has been spearheading the campaign against us,  in other words the prosecutor is judge and jury. Simon and Gill refuse to attend on the grounds that it is a stitch-up

5 June The “Appeal Outcome” is delivered. Gill and Simon are given notice  “that you are no longer a community member of Monkton Wyld Court with immediate effect. This means that you are asked not to . . .(among other things)  participate in any community activity, including attending meetings and work activities . . . communicate verbally or in writing with community members, visitors, service users, service providers, students, clients or associates on any matter connected with Monkton Wyld Court. . . etc”

11 June  Fantastic response from members of the public at this years Scythe Fair in Somerset. 284 people signed our petition, with 41 pages of comments from just a few hours in the afternoon. Thank you to everyone who signed for your support – it means a great deal.

14 June The trustees order Jasmine to stop working in the garden, saying that there should be a “lapse” in activity there until further notice.

15 June Our solicitor, who has 26 years experience in employment law drafts a letter on behalf of Simon to the trustees informing them that “All legal cases involving PIDA and the government and ACAS guidance on PIDA are clear that internal complaints of the nature raised by SW, are not ‘disclosures’ and should be dealt with using internal grievance procedures.. The non-justified use of PIDA has been relied upon by the Trustees as an excuse to override and ignore the clear process that is set out in the Community Staff Handbook for dealing with internal grievances and conflict resolution and disciplinary matters.” There has so far been no response to this letter from the trustees.

19-23 June  Since the main housekeeper is on strike, and both office workers are threatening resignation, the trustees bring in a certain fellow to work in the house and the office   This person has worked here before, but was found to be a heavy drinker and liar  who was witnessed stealing from our pub, and who made unwanted advances to women. The community is unanimous in not wanting him back, and three people informed the trustees of this fact. The trustees ignored these pleas, and drafted him in as blackleg labour. When the community presented documentary evidence of his unreliability, the trustees responded:  “We have concluded that there is no substance to your claims. You are not in full possession of the facts.” The trustees have never even met the fellow, while we all lived with him for several months.

21 June  SW embarks on a programme of trying to harass the members and residents of the community. He confiscates the communal car key, turns off the water in the garden, and brings in a lawnmower to replace the scythes which we have used for over 12 years to mow the lawns. Our groundsman hides the lawnmower, and the SW calls the police to report that it is stolen.

27 June As SW has completed his extended probationary period of 3 months, full members of the Community  review his performance. They decide that he is not a suitable person to be living here and give him four weeks notice to leave. Five members wish him to leave, and one abstains. Three other long term volunteers support this decision. SW is informed by letter.

28 June   The trustees demand £25,900 in outstanding rent from Simon, even though the value of the milk, cheese and yoghurt he has supplied’ plus improvements to the infrastructure well exceeds the value of the rent. They threaten court action if it is not paid immediately. Simon responds “sue and be damned”.

28 June The trustees charge Simon with £25,920 rent arrears (including statutory interest of 8 per cent) without bothering to ask to see his accounts, later still not having viewed his accounts – “.. if you do not make immediate payment of the arrears. Our next step will be to apply to the court and pursue the claim for rent arrears, which will inevitably incur additional costs for you..”. In fact Monkton Wyld Court owes Simon over £10,000 for improvements in the event that he leaves the premises, and there is abundant documented evidence to support this.

4 July With the resignation of two office workers, and the main housekeeper on strike, LG the London based trustee who is the architect of the coup comes down to help fill these roles for a few days. She also brings down her daughter as a “ volunteer” and immediately gives her the freedom to enter our office from which we ourselves are now barred. Entry to the office would never normally be granted to a volunteer who had only worked here one day. There would appear to be a conflict of interest here.

5 July An ad hoc group of community members, long term volunteers and three former trustees decide to call a public meeting. Its main purpose would be to form an association of “Friends of Monkton Wyld Court” whose objective would be to advise the trustees and help safeguard the welfare of the charity.

11 July On returning home from holiday, office worker JL is told by the trustees to leave the premises forthwith, and without pay. Meanwhile the office sits unstaffed.

Former BBC presenter Robin Page is sacked from the CRT charity he founded

09 June 2021 by Stephen Delahunty

The Countryside Restoration Trust said it had removed the One Man and His Dog star with immediate effect

A former BBC presenter has been sacked from the charity he founded after trustees accused him of failing to observe standards of governance and damaging the charitys reputation.

In March, a war of words broke out between Robin Page, founder of the Countryside Restoration Trust and a former presenter of the BBC sheepdog trials programme One Man and His Dog, and the charity’s trustees.

Page claimed he was being “bullied out” of the charity, which he started with one farm in 1993, by a group of greedy elderly men who wanted to take the charity away from its members.

The charity, which has since grown to manage 18 properties around the UK, denied this was the case.

It said Page’s role as executive chair was being concluded on legal advice, but he had been invited to continue as a trustee.

In a statement on its website yesterday, the charity said it had passed a resolution to remove Page as a company member with immediate effect.

This follows repeated public criticism of strategic decisions taken by the charity, including those he had supported as a trustee, and his failure to observe standards of governance required of a CRT trustee,” it said.

By doing so, he has damaged the charitys reputation and, despite extensive efforts to work constructively with Robin, the trustees have reluctantly concluded that the relationship has broken down irretrievably.

The charity said it was in the process of reforming its organisational structure to help manage growth under a strengthened senior management team, and thanked Page for his many years of dedication.

We are confident that the plans we have for its future growth will be in keeping with his vision to create a working countryside, where sensitive farming practices encourage and protect wildlife but also produce high-quality produce, the charity said.

Page did not respond to a request for comment, but appeared to acknowledge the news on social media.

In a tweet he said: The CRT website about me in my view lie, after lie after lie.

They are thick too they threw me out three weeks after I had left.

“About normal for that band of nodding donkeys.


CRT Trustee board’s Statement 8 June 2021 – a ‘hostile takeover’

The Trustees of the Countryside Restoration Trust have today passed a resolution to remove Robin Page as a company member with immediate effect. This follows repeated public criticism of strategic decisions taken by the charity, including those he had supported as a Trustee, and his failure to observe standards of governance required of a CRT Trustee. By doing so, he has damaged the charity’s reputation and, despite extensive efforts to work constructively with Robin, the Trustees have reluctantly concluded that the relationship has broken down irretrievably.

The Countryside Restoration Trust has grown significantly in recent years, with 18 farms now under management, and the charity’s finances are robust, allowing us to plan the next phase in its development. We are in the process of reforming the charity’s organisational structure to manage the charity’s growth under a strengthened senior management team. We have several exciting new projects under way, which will raise greater awareness of our work to conserve the natural world, and which are in the best traditions of the charity.

We would like to thank Robin for his many years of dedication to the Countryside Restoration Trust as its co-founder and driving force. We are confident that the plans we have for its future growth will be in keeping with his vision to create a working countryside, where sensitive farming practices encourage and protect wildlife but also produce high-quality produce.


Former BBC presenter claims ‘dreadful’ trustees are trying to sack him from charity he founded

18 March 2021 by Stephen Delahunty

The Countryside Restoration Trust rejects Robin Page’s claims and says he has been offered a new role

The founder of a countryside charity has claimed he is being ousted by a group of what he called dreadful trustees in a bitter dispute over the running of the charity.

Robin Page, founder of the Countryside Restoration Trust and a former presenter of BBC sheepdog trials programme One Man and His Dog, said on Twitter that he was being sacked from the charity he established in 1993 with one farm.

The charity, which has since grown to manage 18 properties around the UK, denied this was the case.

It said Page’s role as executive chair was being concluded on legal advice, but he had been invited to continue as a trustee.

Page claimed he was being “bullied out” of the charity by a group of greedy elderly men who wanted to take the charity away from its members.

He said: Can you believe it. After 27 years of giving most of my life to the Countryside Restoration Trust I am being sacked by the CRT in April a group of three or four dreadful trustees who have lost the plot and have let their expanded egos take over.

The charity rejected the claims.

Page said he had also removed the legacy in his will he was going to leave the charity.

He alleged his dismissal letter came from vice-chair of the CRT, Nicholas Watts.

But in a statement on the charitys website, Watts said: Id like to address the misunderstandings on social media about Robin Pages position at the charity.

Theres no question of him being sacked or there being a trustees takeover. His role as executive chair has been concluded, on legal advice, to comply with Charity Commission rules and best practice governance.

He not only remains a trustee but has been offered an exciting new role recognising his immense service to the charity and enabling him to continue building our membership networks and portfolio of 18 properties around the UK.

We hope that this clarifies matters and emphatically puts the record straight.

In a separate statement, the CRTs trustees said they planned to meet Page today to discuss his future role, which they hoped will be conciliatory and collaborative in context.

a landrights campaign for Britain

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