Hard to Imagine the Brutality that took place in these Breathtaking Highlands of Scotland

Photo Credit: HighlandBlade

Part 3 of a 3 part series

The Clearances

By Stanley A. Fishman, Author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue: Traditional, Primal and Paleo

The Highland way of life and their healthy Scottish food culture were destroyed by industrial interests. While most of the Highland men were off fighting for the British Empire, the way of life they cherished was being destroyed.

Britain had a huge textile industry, and wool was in great demand. However, just about all the good grazing land in Britain was already being used. The wealthy and powerful decided that they could get more wool if the Highlands were used for large herds of sheep only. But the Highlands were already well populated with the Highlanders, who were almost all small farmers and herders, with diverse herds of cattle, native sheep, and goats, who already used the land.

This was not an obstacle for the large industrial wool industry, which developed a plan to drive the Highlanders off their land so it could be used for large herds of wool-bearing sheep.

Industrial Powers Usurp Property Rights

The land in the Highlands was owned by the clans, and each clan chief was supposed to administer it for the benefit of his clan. The industrialists used their money and power to change the ownership laws. The law was changed, to give ownership of all the clan lands in the Highlands to the clan chiefs, who were tempted with great wealth if they cleared their lands of people and replaced them with sheep. Greed usually won out.

This effective strategy also deprived the Highlanders of their leaders. The new landlords drove the Highlanders off their land, often paying for them to emigrate to the Americas, or Australia, or New Zealand, which many of them did. Those who refused to go were met with brutal farm raids, where the police would kill their herds, burn their crops, and actually set their homes on fire to force them to move. Sometimes, they were given so little time to pack their belongings and leave that they were burned alive in their homes.

Many died from exposure and starvation as they tried to make their way to a source of food and shelter. This evil and brutal assault on innocent farm families was known as “The Clearances.”

Nearly all the fighting men were off serving the same British government that was driving their families off their land, and those who were left had no clan organization to help them resist, since industry had corrupted most of the clan chiefs.

Traditional Scottish Food, the Strength of Warriors, Disappears

The traditional Highland diet was also destroyed, along with the herds and small farms that provided so much of the food, and people who were driven off the land could no longer hunt or fish on it. The displaced Highlanders began eating the same diet as other Scots and Europeans, since the food they needed was no longer available. Without their traditional Scottish food and way of life, the health of the former Highlanders became no better than that of other Europeans.

There were objections raised in Britain to the brutality of The Clearances, but nothing effective was done to stop them. The Clearances did stop, mainly because nearly all the Highlanders had been driven from the Highlands.

The Highland way of life, along with its healthy diet, had been destroyed. Large flocks of wool sheep, tended by a few Lowland shepherds, occupied the hills and valleys that used to be inhabited by a strong, healthy people, and their diverse herds.

Unfortunately, the use of the government to drive small farmers off their land for the benefit of industry was not limited to the Highlands.

History Repeats Itself in “Clearances” of U.S. Farmers

Similar events have happened in the United States of America, and are happening now. The Nixon administration told farmers to “get big or get out,” and instituted policies that forced many small farmers to leave their farms.

The current government, under the excuse of “food safety,” has slaughtered herds of healthy animals, confiscated farm equipment, destroyed valuable farm products, and threatened and terrified many farmers and their families. Small farmers are being driven out of business. This has been documented by the magnificent movie, Farmageddon, which everybody should see.

Small sustainable farmers, raising real food products such as raw milk and raw cheese, are the main target at the moment. But the regulatory agencies are perfectly capable of turning on any farmer, at any time, even if no one has been harmed in any way by the farm or its products.

The one agricultural group they treat with kid gloves is the large industrial agriculture industry, the huge factory farms, and the CAFOs.

The Highland diet was destroyed when the needed foods were no longer available. The real food diet that has benefited so many of us will also be destroyed if we can no longer get the necessary foods. We need to get protection for our small farmers. The use of government agencies to harass and destroy small sustainable farms must stop.

It is said that those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them. Let us do all we can to stop the U.S. version of “The Clearances,” before our small farmers are driven from their land.

Stanley Fishman is the author of Tender Grassfed Meat. His newest book is Tender Grassfed Barbecue: Traditional, Primal and Paleo He is a frequent guest blogger on See Stanley’s other “recipes” for good health on his Guest Blogger page.

This post is part of the Fight Back Friday blog carnival. Protect your food culture with the help of

See part one of this series, Scottish Highlanders Traditional Diet

See part two of this series, Well Fed Scottish Warriors Waged Fierce Battles