More vegetables please and less Beefy

A_selection_of_vegetables,_including_aubergine,_onion,_carrot,_and_potato_-_Album_Vilmorin_(1850),_plate_6_-_BLI’m vegetarian four days a week and so I get a bit annoyed if I have beefy rammed down my throat all the time.

It’s a bit unclear what the beef is that Ian Botham has with the RSPB except for the fact that they exist. He thinks they should tell the world that they shoot the occasional fox and deer (and they always have done that – shot them and told the world) but he really wants them to shoot even more, I think.  So he wants to persuade RSPB members that they have been misled because the RSPB shoots a few foxes (which they haven’t been – misled!) and to persuade the RSPB to shoot more of them (foxes!) because that’s what he approves of. It’s all a bit peculiar, really.

He has got a bit of a point on one thing – probably by accident!

But before we get to that, I suspect that quite a few RSPB staff are feeling a bit nervous about all this confused public attacking of the organisation.  For one thing, no one is perfect. Imagine that someone started having a go at you in public, would you feel completely happy about it even if their motives were base and their arguments chronically weak? I suspect you’d start feeling guilty almost despite yourself. Do you ever get that feeling when an HMRC envelope comes through the door, ‘I hope I haven’t done anything wrong’? I do, and I like paying taxes because I am left-wing!

And there might be that thing you did ages ago that you aren’t completely proud of – we all have them (or is it only me?) – and you hope that they don’t find out about that.

And then there is the fear that people will think ‘no smoke without fire’ and the fear that ‘mud sticks’.

I do remember feeling some of those fears for the RSPB several times when I worked there and someone had a go at us. That is why people do it – to see how much they can frighten you as an individual or you as an organisation. It’s what the Shooting Times and the rest of the shooting press have been doing for years and you’ll notice that it hasn’t had any impact on the RSPB’s reputation (or membership).  It’s what the climate change deniers have been doing for years too – and that hasn’t had any impact either.  In my recollection, the thing that had the biggest impact on the RSPB’s reputation over the years was the stance it took, and I agreed with it, on the control of Ruddy Duck.

By supporting a cull of the introduced Ruddy Duck (because of its threat to the threatened White-headed Duck) the RSPB angered some of its members and many animal rights supporters.  It was taking an unpopular but principled stand that cost the RSPB some support at that time but it was a principled stand (whether you agreed with it or not).  Funnily enough, I don’t remember Ian Botham praising the RSPB to the hilt at that time. The fact is, that if you do anything or say anything, you are likely to upset somebody, somewhere. The RSPB does a lot and used to say rather more than it does now, so it is unsurprising that it upsets people now and again.  It must be so galling to Beefy and others that the RSPB membership is at an all time high.

The test of the RSPB is whether it is at all cowed by this ranting in the wings. To be honest, it is difficult not to be just a little bit. When there is a small whirlwind, of unpredictable nature, swirling around your feet then it takes quite a lot of guts not to watch your step for a while.  Many would think, ‘The last thing I need is to start another storm, even a small one, running’. But that is what your critics want, so you do have to consider whether to give it to them.

I think the RSPB position on grouse shooting, which is probably what this is all about, is OK, but actually a bit weak and a bit inadequate and a bit feeble. I guess I should be trying to recruit David Gower, or Denis Lillee or Jonathan Agnew to my side of the argument. But I don’t think I’ll bother with that.

avatar2The thing that Beefy may have a point on is that the RSPB isn’t talking nearly enough about its conservation work – what it does and what it believes in.  If you keep talking about hedgehog homes and fluffy squirrels (I like fluffy squirrels and feel they should have our support) and less and less about your international work, the real work that you do on nature reserves, the fact that this government is rubbish for wildlife, the success of your own Hope Farm project, the failure of the farming community as a whole to do a good job for our money and how grouse shooting is so bad that it ought just to stop, then you can be accused of putting too much emphasis on recruiting new members and general fluffy PR. The greatest defence against the opposition spin is to suss out the bowling and then whip a few loose balls to the boundary – now Beefy could tell the RSPB that. You need a good eye, a solid technique and a brave heart to do it. But batting every ball carefully back to the bowler won’t win you any match.


I would recommend to RSPB Council and RSPB staff the words of Winston Churchill that appear on p237 of Fighting for Birds – and if you haven’t got a copy then I really do have a beef with you.


Also, I hadn’t heard of David Rose, who appears to be Ian Botham’s scribe for the Mail on Sunday although I noticed he has the same name as someone I do know so I thought I would check him out. David Rose (@DRoseMoS) is the Deputy News Editor of the Mail on Sunday.  He is not a person unfamiliar with sticks and stones being directed at him either – see here, here, here.


48 Replies to “More vegetables please and less Beefy”

  1. One thing you soon learn in life is that not everyone agrees with yourself. But what the comments may do for you is to listen and learn and see if you can take any thing from them.

  2. Whilst I agree with what you say overall, I don’t think it is true that climate change deniers have had no impact. On the contrary they have achieved significant influence with both the general public and those with their hands on the levers of power. Fling enough mud and some of it definitely will stick somewhere. All the more reason for the RSPB to respond robustly and clearly to the childish campaign that Beefy and his chums are running.

    1. Jonathan – yes they have. I don’t see them having had any impact on the RSPB (was what I meant).

    1. An interesting question. As a former professional sportsman, Botham will be well accustomed to people with the athletic ability of a rice pudding holding forth on his batting technique, bowling accuracy, tactical nous and so on. Equally, as a professional sportsman he will have learned to ignore ill-informed criticism and to take what advice he needs from those qualified to give it and, having received that advice, use his own professional judgement about how (or whether) to apply it. By the same token, Botham is entirely at liberty to pontificate about conservation but should not expect that his views will be taken seriously. Unfortunately, as a society, we have a regrettable tendency to be over-awed by the famous and place far too much credence in the utterances of pop-stars, sportsmen and women, super-models and the like, whatever the subject. Actually knowing something about a subject, sadly, is not seen as being so important.

    2. They tried to get Vivienne Westwood but she was fully committed to advising the Green Party on climate and energy policy

  3. The general gist of your post is spot on Mark and it is the implied position that is important to recognise. It is not just Beefy in this case because everytime the subject of illegal raptor persecution is mentioned online at the moment, the same mantra is chanted – the RSPB kills predators too. However, there is one very simple response to this – gamekeepers regularly kill corvids, foxes, mustelids as part of background noise to their other management activities. Seen for what it is, this is merely the ‘look over there’ style of politics employed by the UK and USA at the moment and it helps to deflect attention by drawing in someone else and not actually answering any questions.

    The adopted position gets even more interesting when it is worded carefully and given you mention ruddy ducks in your blog, I recall a certain county recorder telling people face-to-face that ‘British ruddy ducks do not fly to Spain’. This statement is completely true of course but it is what was not explained that makes this important – that the ruddy ducks are all ultimately of British origin even if the ones that reached Spain were bred in France or the Netherlands. Therefore, it is not difficult to construct an argument that ends up with your opponents answering the questions you should be answering and this is exactly what Botham has done. If someone were to sit him down and ask prying questions a la Jeremy Paxman (I doubt he would agree to the conditions), I am sure the result would be disasterous but it is far easier to make a point as an unchallenged statement.

  4. I suspect that things won’t improve until the Test Match Special team begin correctly identifying the “seagulls” pottering about near the boundary or flying serenely over the cricket ground. Other broadcasters and species of bird are available.

  5. Hello Mark,
    The Winston Churchill quote you referred to is spot on. As for Beefy, I don’t think he is taken very seriously on most subjects nowadays even in cricketing circles ( especially in Oz). He is regarded generally as a uninformed ranter. That’s not to say that his argument should no be robustly challenged by the RSPB, etc. Celebrity culture, knocking the establishment ( the RSPB are the conservation establishment) and simplistic “sound bite” solutions is what grabs headlines at the moment. Just look at UKIP – worrying isn’t it.

    1. “I don’t think he is taken very seriously on most subjects nowadays even in cricketing circles”

      I think there is some truth in that. It’s well known that his Sky commentary is governed primarily by the state of spread-betting positions!

  6. Botham’s approach to the whole YFTBs debacle is more than a little cowardly, almost trollish. I would have more respect for him if he were prepared to air and debate his views in person, rather than hiding behind a website that offers no right of reply. It’s really poor stuff.

    I can only conclude that this was something he really didn’t think through, and he’s proved in the past that he’s liable to be quite easily led, which is surprising given the strength of character he consistently displayed on the cricket pitch and also in his outstanding fund raising work for leukaemia. After all it was ‘Lord’ Tim Hudson that pursuaded him to fly over to California during the peak of his career in order to tout his wares as a Hollywood sex symbol.

    He’s a likeable chap Tim Hudson, but he’s most definitely off his chump and nobody with a sound frame of mind would take career advice from him, not least a world class sportsman. So I wonder which nutter Botham has been swayed by this time?

    ….anyone heard from Trimbush lately?

    1. Bully beef’s outburst is quite possibly a good recruitment tool for the RSPB.

      Imagine yftb team vs RSPB team on the cricket pitch?

      Churchill quote – spot on!

  7. It is arguable (I’m not sure I would argue it but it is arguable) that the RSPB’s current campaign actually toughens its stance. Historically, the RSPB’s marketing has focussed on success stories, avocets, great reserves, red kites etc. Well, you would woudn’t you; “everything is terrible and getting worse” is not a great sell. But Bob, fluffy as he is, does carry that rather darker message in his heart. And it is brave of the RSPB to take that big leap into “its up to all of us” territory. It’s also high risk, and probably expensive too, which might mean that some other messages have lost out.

    Leaving aside shooting, ignorance, misrepresentation and all that, Botham and his mates possibly really believe, and may represent a wider point of view, that the RSPB really ought to be about reserves, and that the landscape really can be divided into towns, farms, shooting estates and nature reserves and all will be well and everyone happy.

    Against which view…well, Bob’s against that view and as you’ve said is the only show of a certain sort in town. So I hope he fights back…and that he (or some of his friends) also toughen up the message, based on the underlying analysis.

  8. My only beef with the (otherwise excellent) RSPB apart from its final salary pension scheme (which seems a bit archaic these days) is that it has an alleged combined salary of approximately £840,000 for its directors & highest earners I hear. Up from approximately £665,000 in 2013.

    That said, the RSPB is hardly alone in this exorbitant pay scales for its highest earners nor is it the worst offender even just in the charitable sector.

    I do think the charitable sector as a whole should probably start to realise the membership fee-donating public are a little brassed off with hearing about those types of salaries or indeed final salary pension schemes.

    But like I say this is not in any way limited to the RSPB and is just a singular (well… double I guess) personal bugbear of mine.

    Other than that I think the RSPB do a fine job.

    1. Apologies. Should have pointed out that this alleged combined annual salary is for the RSPB’s top 10 earners. As it was in 2013.

      1. I wonder how that compares with the top 10 earners in other NGOs and more importantly those organisations that represent the shooting fraternity. RSPB is never to be confused with a plc although I think beefy is somewhat confused on this point. Show me any plc the size of RSPB and see what their top 10 earn!

        1. Rob I think its just above average for most charities but nowhere near as ‘bad’ as some NGOs.
          The grauniad? published a pretty comprehensive list a while back I think.
          And yes… as for PLCs… it doesn’t even compare. Not in the same league.

          I guess it’s a bugbear of mine as in a very simple, rose – tinted way, I expected directors of charities to be a bit more well…. ‘charitable’?

          It’s probably completely unrealistic of me. I know.

    2. Im fine with big pay for the people at the top, being in charge of an organization as big as the RSPB requires skills, and people with skills cost lots of money. leadership is everything in an organization, having worked at many company with rubbish leaders it has a huge effect on all the other work.
      i am happy if my entire membership donation only pays for half an hours time of a good leader. a lot can be achieved in a half an hour by the right people and not very much for people without a clue.

      1. “People with skills cost a lot of money”.

        That’s the bankers (or square mile) defence I think.

        It’s also the oft-reached for private sector CEO defence these days when asked why they now command (or in fact demand) hundreds of times their average employee’s salary as opposed to a few dozen times their average employee’s salary a few decades ago.

        Admittedly we’re not at that discrepancy level yet in the charitable sector… but I hope we don’t even begin to approach it.

    3. Doug, the final salary scheme ended for new entrants in 2007 and those that remain in it are under new terms so it isn’t as archaic as bullshit Botham or the grubby rags that publish his trolling would have you believe. You could drive a coach and horses through some of the factually incorrect crap he is coming out with. I think he needs to be held account to these inaccuracies.

  9. Hi Mark!

    From the David Rose that you do know, I thought I would say sharing the same name with the person you mentioned makes it a precarious business trying to write articles on climate change under the same name!

  10. Just an off-original-topic response to Doug re salaries. Rather more galling to me is the poverty wages that too many of the rest of the front line RSPB staff earn. Check out the salaries and job descriptions in one of the countryside or environment jobs websites and ask if you could live on that income at the stage of your life when you had the requisite experience.

    I suggest that if a reasonable person wanted to take a pop at RSPB that would be more fertile grounds for complaint than accusing them of not spending all their money on nature reserves

    But we digress…

  11. Botham has clearly lost a good deal of credibility with this ill judged move. The RSPB certainly seem to be rising to the call however which ends up retaining me as a member, and others perhaps. Far from losing members, taking a firmer stand and being more outspoken is what many of us want from a conservation organisation otherwise we’d put our membership in more worthwhile places.

    Certainly it needs to tell more of the conservation stories and more of it’s international work. I also appreciated the stand on ruddy ducks while watching white headed ducks in Spain recently.

    On the question of salaries – yes it would concern me, having managed a small charitable organisation I cannot see a justification for paying fat cat salaries of five or eight times what I earned because I cannot feel that the responsibility and work load can be that much greater!

    1. The problem is Mike that a contributor on the Autumnwatch Facebook page made exactly the same points that Botham made and ended outraging a few RSPB members over the predator control point. It is fantastic that we have places like Mark’s blog to refute these idiotic statements but it worries me what happens when they are not being monitored by someone who could refute the claims or at least, answer the point. I tried my best to put together an answer but I have no idea if I made a difference and this is the reason someone like Botham has to be answered publicly even if most of us know that he is only using his celeb status to influence people. What happens as a result is that everyone else involved in shooting activities starts chanting the same mantra but it does not matter if Botham happens to make an inaccurate point within what he says because he is mere cannon fodder to hide behind.

  12. A wise man once wrote: “over the years I became more and more convinced that the RSPB needed to do a bit more predator control, but not nearly as much as some of our external critics would have us do.”

    IMO the problem lies not particularly with the RSPB but with the RSPBs attitude to its supporters and the wider hijack of animal welfare and conservation by the animal rights groups spouting an absolutist message with populist appeal. a great many of RSPBs supporters would be surprised and upset to learn, from their suburban middle class sofas, that the RSPB does play an active part in predator control.

    Whilst the RSPB have never denied it, they have avoided openly discussing this “distasteful” aspect of their work with their supporters for fear of rocking the boat, at the same time they have been quick to castigate others doing much the same thing, and very slow to support projects like GWCTs conservation headlands, many felt this was for fear of accepting partridge shooting as offering net benefit conflicting with their long standing core message (we would even be going back to WAGBI days here) which is very much anti ‘sport’ shooting while ignoring the conservation efforts shooting interests make (which I think you are often guilty of doing Mark)

    Truth is of course , both parties share many common interests and a shared outcome, just often disagreeing on the best method of cat skinning.

    1. Kie – how wise that man was!

      Rural myth – the RSPB is mostly urban supporters – not remotely true.

      Rural myth – the RSPB avoid discussing predator control. plenty of places where they have done this but they are never enough for the likes of Beefy who wants to talk of almost nothing else it seems (and Robin Page, and the Shooting times and others).

      Rural myth – RSPB slow to support conservation headlands – it was the GCT’s own members who have been very slow to support them. they hardly exist despite the RSPB playing a large part in getting them into agri-environment schemes.

      Rural myth – that shooting and nature conservation are natural bedfellows. If only that were true. People like me don’t really care that much about people doing a bit of shooting but we care passionately about the huge amount of illegal activity built into the system.

      1. Rural myth – the RSPB is mostly urban supporters – not remotely true.

        The uk population is about 87% urban

        Have you managed to pull off a demographic miracle?

        What you may have meant to say was that the RSPB membership is not disproportionately urban, in which case you might be right, but to claim it’s not mostly urban is clearly a pair of Anglo Saxon spherical objects.

        1. kie – so your point is that everyone is urban so you don’t have a point at all? I see.

          The RSPB membership is, in fact, disproportionately rural.

  13. Every day and in every way the shooting lobby undermines its own credibility just a little more.

    It’s almost comical……

  14. John, It is almost comical but with 1.5 million readers of the MoS there will be many who believe it. I am glad that the RSPB has now contacted their email members with a link to the rebuttal statement.

    1. and here lies the greatest travesty with so much of rubbish that the media deliberately spouts to further their political motives where readers will believe what they read. Isn’t that why the sports fraternity have wheeled out Mr Botham, simply because they want someone who is seen as a known and charitable “celeb” who can convince people of his argument? Why wouldn’t RSPB take legal action where it is shown that misinformation and lies has been propogated? I feel sure that if the boot were on the other foot then this would be the case.

      Predator control to assist with biodiversity and ecosystem recovery as last resort is very different to predator control and removal to serve sport, blood-lust, profit and any other feeble excuses meted out. The fact that organisations will even try and use this as an attack on RSPB says everything about their weak position. Do they not know when to stop digging the hole they’re in?

  15. I think the RPSB needs to be much tougher against cruel sports, but it always seems to be held back by the Royals it has links to and others who support and take part in killing for “sport”. I have always found it very disconcerting that an organisation supposedly for the protection of birds has as its patron someone who cheerfully wrings their necks and would (and has on many occasions) blasted them from the sky for fun. The same goes for BTO which has the Duke as patron. All this means those of us who are both committed to conservation and compassion in a tricky spot. Do we join RSPB etc and try to change them or are they too hand in glove with the establishment and will never give up the fence sitting?? Many conservationists seem to see our fellow living creatures as just resources or statistics. This leads to people who claim to care about nature seeking to justify cruelty for “sport” and other killing of animals. It is time for conservation to embrace compassion and let’s have “compassionate conservation”. More compassion and decency. Our fellow animals are not statistics “invaders” or resources to be shot, snared or poisoned.

    1. conservation needs to be removed away from compassion, they are to different things. controlling grey squirrels to stop them spreading into red squirrel areas, controlling of mink to allow water voles to recover, culling of goats on the Galapagos, removing rats from british islands.
      these are all brilliant conservation projects that require the killing of animals, already to many of these projects are stopped due to compassion problems..

      1. Well that is a way to alienate huge numbers of people and a admission that to some people animals are simply statistics. And how appallingly arrogant and sad to call for the killing of other creatures simply because they don’t fit your model of so called “native” and how arrogant to claim that mankind has some god given mandate to exterminate wildlife in a selective way, that is simply speciesism! I am going to buy extra food for the wonderful grey squirrels in my garden this week! Thankfully growing numbers of people are calling for compassionate conservation, seeing through the nonsense of people who want to want to wage war on sentient creatures! I also note that many of the wildlife killers in so called conservation are very selective about what they think needs to be killed or removed. An example is bloodsports enthusiast Prince Charles who constantly wages war on innocent grey squirrels (their only crime it seems is to have the nerve to exist!), yet will never call for end to the releasing of millions of pheasants! Oh and the grey squirrel is as native as you are so, so leave these wonderful creatures alone!

        1. Sorry Chris. Although I share your opinion regarding wildlife abuse, we sure ain’t going to beat these people with subjective garbage like this. I’m sure “Professor Acorn” knows full well that “nativeness” refers to the species, not individuals, but then that would spoil his argument. Let’s stick to scientific fact, mate. The truth’s there for all to see. Let’s leave any twisting of it to the likes of Botham. 😉

          1. The only subjective garbage comes from people who single out a species on the basis of it not fitting their warped world world view of what is a so called “native”. If you want to kill wild animals because you believe garbage about red squirrels etc then don’t claim to value wildlife at the same time. Animals have intrinsic self worth, what a pity people like you and other so called conservationists think that greys and other creatures should be poisoned, their nests destroyed or beaten over the head. Disgusting!!

  16. I welcomed the YFTB website and all its contents. Firstly, it prompted me to donate some money to the RSPB’s Skydancer/ hen harrier appeal. Secondly, and as I have said elsewhere, the more publicity the pro-shooting lobby generates about itself, the worse they come across. They can’t develop an argument that has any credibility; not remotely. It’s a farce. Anyone that believes what they say will likely believe anything. But I wonder how many members of BASC, G(W)CT or others are now questioning whether their subscription is well spent. If I wanted an organisation to lobby on my behalf, I’d want them to do it with intelligence, clout and respect. Not what is being achieved here. All to the benefit in the longer term for nature conservation. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot…which is ironic.

  17. Just made a donation to those fighting for compassion and decency towards wildlife. A shame there are people on here who select their wildlife for protection based on their arrogant human centric view of the world!

  18. ‘But now there are certainly better and bigger things to worry about, things where we could make a massive difference if we weren’t occasionally distracted by a small band of lunatics who are insidiously bogged down and blinded by sentimental racism. Things where we can prevent rather than cure, create rather than destroy, things upon which our conservation cash would be more productively spent if only we could accept that perfect paradise is lost and that a new version of it is realistically all we can have. An environment where change is allowed and where difference from the ideal is exciting and new.’
    Chris Packham, writing about grey squirrels and conservation efforts

    1. Less of the assumptions please Chris! Where in my post does it say that I want to kill any wild animals? Unless I didn’t make myself clear, I’ll say it again. I’m totally opposed to wildlife abuse. This includes the killing of ANY species, without a bloody good reason! And, I agree completely that “animals have intrinsic self worth”. My post simply states that Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)-the clue’s in the name- are not a native UK species. They were introduced here in the 19th century. To claim otherwise is simply ridiculous. Let me make myself clear again: Grey Squirrels are here to stay, and (in my opinion) calls for a nationwide cull are also simply ridiculous, due to the cost, welfare concerns, and complete infeasibility of such a plan. There. Happy now?
      Furthermore, it’s just not true that introduced species are judged by conservationists (and, trust me, the term doesn’t include hobbyists like Charlie “Windsor”) on whether they’re “native” or not. It’s the impact, if any, on other species that’s the key factor. Species such as Little Owl are, in case you were unaware, “non-native”, but there appear to be no negative effects whatsoever. Obviously, a vacant “niche” existed, so no problemo.
      However, there are many cases across the globe, where the introduction of an “alien” species has proved an ecological disaster, particularly in island ecosystems, such as Hawaii or New Zealand.

      Are you seriously suggesting that conservationists should have just shrugged their shoulders and allowed species like Kakapos to become extinct, as a result of human stupidity? Do yourself a big favour, and do some reasearch, before having a pop at those who, ultimately want the same as you. The enemy are people like the CA and the grouse moor owners, not conservationists, who often have to make gut-wrenching decisions in order to protect our biodiversity.

      1. So what gives so called conservationists the right to kill animals to protect so called “biodiversity”??! This is simply human arrogance, to suggest that we have some right to dictate what lives and dies -and that some animals are more worthy than others- in order to fit what we want nature to look like at any given point.
        Nature shifts and changes, due to many reasons, as it has done since the first life emerged.
        The emotive anthropomorphism we see from the grey squirrel haters, and the other conservation killers is unhelpful, is designed only to manipulate to serve this warped “native” only agenda. Grey squirrels are as “native” as countless other species, including us! Leave them alone!

        1. Chris, all conservation demands making value judgements to varying degrees. If nobody made these judgements, then there would be no reedbeds left for Marsh Harriers, Bitterns and Bearded Tits, as – with natural succession – reedbeds ultimately turn to woodland. The same goes for lowland heath. Leave it alone, and we’ll say goodbye to Dartford Warblers and a whole suite of dependent species.
          I see that you choose to ignore my example of Little Owl as an introduced species which no conservationist wishes to kill. How about Black Swan, Barnacle Goose, Mandarin, Golden Pheasant, to name but a few. So you see, “nativeness”, or the lack of it, has nothing to do with it. If, as you claim, conservationists are somehow obsessed with, solely, their origins then they would be calling for their eradication. REAL conservationists (this is a very important distinction) make descisions based on sound science, not on old wives tales, hearsay, or centuries old ignorance and prejudice (unlike those who simply masqerade as such, in order to further their own, narrow interests).
          Let’s look at some species which have certainly arrived in the UK after the land bridge flooded: Cetti’s Warbler, Little Egret and Collared Dove; all unheard of before the latter half of the last century. No-one regards these species as non-native because they colonised later than the events which you cite, as they made their way here under their own steam; a perfectly natural process, unlike those deliberately or accidentally introduced, by humans.
          We could, of course, take the view that our own species is just another part of nature; which is, undoubtedly, true. So, should we accept the anthropogenic near extinction as an English breeding species of Hen Harriers as a perfectly natural reason behind the shifts and changes in nature, to which you refer? We can even throw climate change into the ring as well!
          I believe that no true conservationist wishes to “play god”, and no one species has any more, or any less, right to exist than another. But, like it or not, somebody has to occasionally make these decisions, and live with the consequences (What about the Kakapo’s right to exist?) You and I are just lucky that we’re not in the chair! Although, I did once turn down a great opportunity of work at a certain island nature reserve, because I was expected to assist in rat control. It simply wasn’t for me. But I’m not naive enough to deny it’s neccessity at that particular site.
          Do you own a pet, Chris? If so, would you allow, say, your cat or dog to become infested with fleas, because fleas have just as much right to exist as as your pet, or you for that matter? Think carefully before answering, because, either way, you’d be making a value judgment! That’s not to say I’m making an analogy between Grey Squirrels and fleas, because I think Greys are wonderful, fascinating creatures, and it’s not their fault they’re here! Come to think of it, I think fleas are wonderful and fascinating too. And rats. 🙂

  19. ‘… the common perception still seems to be that everything living here when the land bridge to mainland Europe was inundated at the end of the last ice age is native, everything else non. Pity that, because it immediately makes forty eight percent of our terrestrial mammal fauna non-natives, and so presumably if the Grey squirrels have to go then so do all the rabbits, hares, four of our six deer species and so on. That’s going to be a bit expensive then, better put the helicopter gun-ships on standby, and of course it will leave us with a lot less mammals and completely balls up the commu-nities of other creatures which have adapted to live with these ‘incomers’ since they arrived. Mr Buzzard will miss those rabbits and I can’t see Mrs Public being too happy about the extermination of Fallow deer and all their little Bambis. But I’m being silly of course we make exceptions for nice animals, it’s only the hor-rible ones we want to ecologically cleanse.’ Chris Packham

    1. Chris you need to think this through. The true principled position would be exterminate all the non native species of plants, inverts and vertebrates here in this sceptred isle. Reintroduce all those natives exterminated by our ancestors. Then to do a proper job exterminate all those humans without some kind of Mesolithic gene marker that would indicate their ancestors came after the land bridge went. Alternatively to save all the blood on someone’s hands you could just sit back and wait for runaway climate change, the collapse of industrial civilisation and finally see that nature bats last.

      Seriously though our natural world is totally FUBAR, and in our vanity everyone has their own favourite nibble round the edges.

Comments are closed.