Now sightseers tread the concrete slabs of Trafalgar Square, where once, can you believe, it was the heavy hippo. Feral, by George Monbiot, challenges our assumptions and preconceptions; more so, it challenges our imagination. Monbiot’s central theme, ‘rewilding’, is the regeneration of our ‘natural’ landscapes; it seeks the return of our dynamic ecosystems. Modern life, says Monbiot, boxes us in, puts our ‘roaring blood into quieter channels’; we put safety before experience. Let us kick off our ecological shackles.

Human interference has depleted our landscapes; and, perversely, we now cherish those barren heather-dominated vistas of our shores. Monbiot takes issue with conservation policies, saying they preserve the sterile and eaten-away, fearful of a richer future.

Monbiot’s main gripe with conservationism is that it seeks ecological stasis, while nature, contrarily, seeks to thrust forward with gusto. Let us re-establish, he proclaims, our old fauna and flora. Perhaps wolf or lynx?

His chief woolly villain, at least for these shores, is sheep and their rapacious overuse, which damages our countryside. They are, he says, a ‘luxuriance’ and ‘infestation’. They have reduced our archetypal identities, shorn our landscapes of a vivid pride.

While sympathetic to sheep farmers, Monbiot decries the ruinous effects of the industry, such as toxic residues of sheep dip.

Fishing is as bad: in the UK, says Monbiot, we protect only 0.01 per cent of our territorial waters from greed and commerce, lagging behind our European neighbours. But he sees signs for optimism, despite political and cultural barriers. Rewilding is not a separatist idea, dividing us from nature, but aims to reunite us with both nature and our own fundamental, ‘ancient impulses’. Children, above all, have become estranged from our natural kingdoms.

Feral is an enterprising and poetic treatise. Its ambitions are wildly imagined yet grounded in common sense. Who knows, we may again wander among moose, wolf, wild boar and Dalmatian pelican.

Review by Stefan Edwards