Is the recent cull of some 300,000 cashmere goats ordered by the Chinese Government really the essential measure to prevent ecological disaster it is claimed to be?The official line is that over-grazing by herds belonging to intinerant tribesmen is reducing the once fertile lands surrounding Beijing to virtual desert and has already subjected the capital itself to a series of virulent sandstorms.Many experts within the European textile trade, with its apparently insatiable and still growing appetite for cashmere of all qualities, are taking a more cynical view. They believe this is an adroit piece of market manipulation designed to push potential customers in the direction of the much higher priced white cashmere that derives from other regions of China by creating an artificial shortage of the inferior qualities now in danger of flooding the market as tribesmen, eager to share in the profits of the European cashmere boom, increase their holdings.Nor are the experts convinced that simply moving the goats to pastures new in other parts of China is a truly practical proposition. They think the majority of the unwanted animals, rather than the half suggested by official announcements, will end up in the nation's cooking pots.The most cynical of all suggest a political as well as a commercial motive - that the recent enthusiasm for cashmere in the West has been putting too much financial power into the hands of herdsmen who belong to a different ethnic group from the majority of Chinese citizens and whose nomadic way of life immunises them from adopting the ideals of the commune and collective still dear to the hearts of the urban population.