RSPB speaks out for Chris Packham (ICYMI)

m8ALFD4rG4jR50EoMj_a--6ZDFGIz0oYz3X9zg3FAJoIn case you missed it, do read this very sensible response from RSPB Chief Exec Mike Clarke, to calls from the Countryside Alliance for Chris Packham to be sacked from the BBC.

Despite Chris’s thoughtful and fairly mild criticism of the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Hawk and Owl Trust and National Trust (yep – pretty much the set!) in his column in BBC Wildlife magazine, and repeated to some extent in interviews with the Guardian, the RSPB is big enough to recognise that Chris’s aims and the RSPB’s aims (and the Wildlife Trust’s aims – not completely sure about NT or H&OT) are very similar.  Not exactly the same, but pretty similar. The disagreement, such as it is, is over the means of achieving those aims. So it’s a disagreement among friends.

By no stretch of anyone’s imagination could the Countryside Alliance and the RSPB and Chris Packham be seen to have identical aims.  And it is to Chris’s credit that he is seen to be so powerful (#2 on the BBC Wildlife Power List indeed) that the Countryside Alliance are trying to cause him pain and trouble. It’s a sign of success. Just as it is a sign of success that the RSPB has been attacked by the Botham-fronted You Forgot the Birds group which is funded by the British grouse industry – I’d guess their members are also likely to be members of the Countryside Alliance wouldn’t you?

I don’t agree with Chris Packham about everything, and I don’t agree with the RSPB about everything, nor do I agree with the Wildlife Trusts about everything. But I know that they are generally aiming in the same direction as I am. The RSPB and Wildlife Trusts could fire their guns a bit louder and more frequently to my mind, but they are powerful allies for nature.

I don’t disagree with the Countryside Alliance on everything – just an awful lot of things and an awful lot of things that matter a lot to me. And they can say what they like, as in this case when they do say anything they tend to generate a massive amount of opposition from normal people. Their nastiness is likely to misfire as nastiness almost always does.

But you can have a say in whether the BBC sacks Chris Packham or not:

This e-petition calls on the BBC to sack him – and has been signed by over 2,000 people.

This e-petition calls on the BBC to keep him – and has been signed by over 35,000 people

(The Wisdom of Crowds).


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48 Replies to “RSPB speaks out for Chris Packham (ICYMI)”

  1. I like Chris Packham and admire him for what he does. I do not want him to be sacked. However he was wrong and made a mistake in criticising conservation charities in his article in the BBC Wildlife Magazine. I think it is disgraceful for him to come out and criticise them so strongly and unfairly. It serves no purpose other than to present a divided and fractured movement, when we should all be standing firm together against these issues. He should have kept his feelings to himself as writing what he did will achieve nothing productive and just make things worse. He is also wrong. The Wildlife Trusts did all denounce the badger cull extension, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts have supported hen harrier day. He made a big mistake and sadly my opinion of him has been lowered as a result. He is focusing his anger on the wrong people, focusing on the conservation charities is just wrong.

    I personally do not think his criticism was mild or very thoughtful, it came across as a rash and misguided rant. The wider undertone point to this article is that conservation NGO's are not radical enough, this is a valid point and one which we should discuss. However the way he phrased his arguments and presented them was unfair and unbalanced and wrong. You also have to think about the wider impact of your words, particularly if you are someone who is as famous as Chris is. What if people read his article and are to agree and take the impression that conservation charities do not do enough? This would be damaging to them and to the whole movement. As I state above, one of the most important things is to remain strong together, to present a united front to the public. To publicly pick open a division, as Chris has done, does nobody any favours.

    1. Sorry Simon, I have to disagree. The charities have sat on the fence for too long. It is about time they really stood up against the problems of the shooting industry, CA etc. Otherwise, we'll be in the same place as we are now in another ten years, and another ten years, and another ten years.

      Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting the same result.

      We must change, we must go on the offensive and stop this politically correct hand-wringing 'lets all be friends' nonsense.

      1. Sorry just to add - I don't believe he's opening a division or being particularly unfair on the charities. He's still a VP of the RSPB, and when I saw him talk earlier this year, at an RSPB event, he was very supportive of them and encourage people to join. He doesn't agree with everything they say, but they are moving in the same direction.

        We need people like Chris to hold the charities to redress the balance. To bring those on one of the spectrum and the other end together, towards a common goal. His criticisms are useful.

        1. Ben - I am criticising Chris for his lack of balance in his writing, and I feel you have gone down that same route too. You can still be radical and have balance.

          You say the charities have sat on the fence for too long. They haven't! Take the badger cull for example, they opposed this right from the start, years ago. The RSPB have been trying to solve the hen harrier issue for decades.

          It is very easy for people who do not work for conservation charities to say that they should do more and be stronger and more aggresive. I wonder how many people that make these claims work for (or have worked for) a conservation charity and understand the constraints (mainly relating to time and finances) they are under. Many are already overstretched as it is and doing so much good work.

          If Chris and others want the charities to work with them and to support their personal initiatives, then surely it would be better to be more constructive and not resort to a public forum to hold them to account? Why not approach them in private and discuss changes in the way they approach these issues. A rant in a magazine is not the way to do it or to build partnerships.

          I know Chris supports the conservation charities, I am not saying he doesn't. The RSPB statement in response is spot on. However I just think that Chris needed to add a bit more balance and fairness to his article, just to make sure it was not taken the wrong way by members of the public.

          It all comes down to methods I guess, I personally feel that the way he went about this in that article was the wrong way to do it. If I was in his position I would have done something different.

          I'm also not sure we need people like Chris to 'hold charities to account' (whatever that even means). Charities do good work and work tremendously hard to protect our species, create more nature reserves and educate people. Why do we need celebrities to judge them in public?

          1. Hi Simon,

            Good response 🙂

            I think the charities do do great work, and I understand that they are under various constraints. However, a more 'fierce' statement every now and then would be nice.

            I understand that the charities, such as the RSPB have been working to solve these issues for decades, but often through fairly PC 'lets sit down and work together' ways. I don't blame them for trying to do that. I think, in the first instance, that was the right approach...but we have reached a point where we've asked nicely for a very long time. A new, tougher, strong-worded approach is required. I think Chris is basically asking them to do that.

            I'm sure Chris has any private conversations with leaders in the RSPB and other charities, given his role and prominence. I don't blame him for voicing this stance, which someone had to voice.

            I understand that some people would have taken a different approach, but I'm glad Chris took the one he did / does...I feel it helps to hold everyone to account.

            For example, I don't agree with everything the Green Party says, but I'm glad they voice somewhat radical views as it drags everyone back to the middle...hope that analogy made sense!

            Anyway, what matters is we are all heading in the same direction I hope! 🙂

          2. 'Why do we need celebrities to judge them in public?'

            Sorry Simon, but with reference to Chris Packham that's a bit of a cheap shot. We are talking about someone who is incredibly well respected in his field and speaks from a position of considerable authority. If not Chris Packham then whom?

            ALL organisations whether public, private or third sector need to be held to account - it's called democracy. The notion that any criticisms and concerns he may have should only have been vented privately behind closed doors is quite frankly, absurd.

            And it's not as though CP is a lone dissenting voice as other conservation luminaries such as Peter Marren and the late Derek Moore have aired similar concerns in recent years, as has George Monbiot and indeed our esteemed host.

            Personally I agree with much of what CP had to say. Imho, many are just too passive these days and perhaps too focused on funding being the all-singing, all-dancing panacea for far to many of our conservation dilemma's. Sadly it isn't, it's not that simple.

            PS - I speak as someone who worked and volunteered for a conservation charity for a number of years so yes I do understand the constraints that they operate under. It's a hard business to be in.

    2. 55-74 female Hen Harriers are being killed every year as shown in this paper in Journal of Applied Ecology.
      That is just breeding females. It is not rash to assume that the number is at least triple that when males and juveniles are included and over the whole year.
      This has to stop and the RSPB needs to do more. Yes there are some fantastic press statements and blogs from Martin Harper but they are not really getting through to all the RSPB members. At the very least there needs to be a concerted campaign to galvanize the one million plus members. My opinion is that they don't want to disturb the more conservative members. They are doing an awful lot but not enough.
      Not to criticise because they are working towards the same aim is ridiculous. We need to sharpen our weapons with constructive criticism not dull them with false praise.

      1. As I said in a previous post a good while back I actually met a couple of RSPB members who were into shooting too. Predictably (and infuriatingly) they referred to the RSPB as the RSPR - Royal Society for Protection of Raptors - because they happened to think the countryside should be used for driven pheasant shooting. They also criticised the East coast sea eagle reintroduction as something that was causing all sorts of problems, without specifying what they were exactly except that a young sea eagle fell out of a tree and gave 'their' man who looked after the shoot a 'jolly bad fright'. If the RSPB is trying to keep people like that on their side it has already failed. It's compromising its message, reducing its effectiveness in conservation terms and the lack of passion I believe is depriving it of a lot of new members who would be utterly disgusted at what's being done to our wildlife and the land in the name of field sports. The utter tripe being thrown continually at the RSPB on shooting forums and the fb pages of many huntin, fishin, shootin types is extraordinary. It needs to stand up for itself, nature and members far more than it is.

  2. The shooting industry are turning this into an argument that would be better off in the playground, tit for tat. Let's see what they drag up next. They are trying every trick in the book to discredit people who care about wildlife. They don't like the way this battle is going and it is a battle, they don't like the media attention us carers of the countryside are getting and like the bully's that they are used to getting their own way, they are grasping at anything that they can. I have said this before, I don't have a problem with responsible shooters, there are those that abide by the rules and only kill for food and wouldn't dream of killing illegally. These shooters understand how nature works and that all species are needed to keep a healthy balance. If you are one of these shooters, stand with us because it is now a them and us and fight for what you believe in. This fight is about preserving what Mother Nature furnished the earth with not jumped up twats with more money than sense whose greed is going to decimate this planet until there is nothing left.

  3. Interesting that there are no calls for high profile pro-shooting presenters - like Jonny what's his name from Exmoor - to be silenced too (not that they should be) .

    The pro grouse shooting lobby seems to have a big problem with democracy itself. With free speech. No surprise there, of course. Since they have no regard for rule of law either.

  4. Hurrah for Chris Packham! He is no x-factor type environmental celebrity, he is the real deal. His broadside at the NGOs was on the nail. Only romantics or the ill-informed would disagree and the "rejection" of his comments by the NGOs smacked of a lack of conviction which really says it all.

    Why does anybody listen to the Countryside Alliance? My experience of them is that you would have to look pretty hard to find a more unpleasant bunch.

    1. I presume you are calling me a 'romantic' and 'ill-informed'? I'll address the ill-informed first. I have volunteered and worked for a large range of conservation charities, such as Wildlife Trusts, Buglife, Froglife and Butterfly Conservation. I therefore think I have enough experience to make reasonably well informed judgements as to how they conduct themselves and how they operate. I am also a member of many of them and a avid follower of all that they do. I am not ill-informed.

      Am I a romantic? Perhaps. But do I see this as a negative? No. I am a romantic in the sense that I love our natural heritage and wildlife and believe very strongly in the conservation movement that we have in this country. I have seen the amazing work that conservationists do, worked with amazing people and believe in the ethos that drives our charities to do good and want to change the world.

      1. One one hand you could say your efforts are commendable and you should be rightly indignant at such a slur! On the other, the biodiversity of the UK is in unprecedented free-fall and whatever you and all the organisations think you have been doing, it is demonstrably not enough. I am up for a bit of romance and I have worked for both NGOs and the Statutories and anyone who thinks the current "more of the same approach" will work is ill-informed. This does not mean they are not committed or sincere but this alone will not turn things around.

  5. The BBC has to remain unbiased but it does not seem to understand that when one side presents facts and the other biased opinions there can be no 'balance'. We have the same issue with climate change deniers being given equal time and weight to those giving us the science.
    If the BBC can find someone equally as credible as Chris Packham to propose an alternative view then let them go ahead but don't sack or even 'gag' him just because the opposition cannot express a credible argument.
    I'm a member of the organisations criticised by Chris and heavily involved in one of them, his article came as a shock but we are strong enough to consider his criticisms and to make changes if required. It's a sign of a healthy organisation that can listen and consider criticism, it's the job of all of us involved to constantly question what we do. So far from criticising him as Simon thinks I believe it is important that we hear these opinions, it's good that they come from friends.

    1. To be fair to the BBC, calls for Chris Packham to be sacked are not coming from it and, as I understand it, the only comment the corporation has made has been in support of Chris.

  6. I totally support what Chris Packham said,although I am also a member of both RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts. We are all trying to influence things,Chris just being in a better position.He perhaps could have stressed he still supports RSPB and Wildlife Trusts but perhaps everyone should know this anyway.

    I think all the publicity helps us and the antics of the opposition are actually opening the eyes of the world.We should thank them as they are doing half of the work for us!

    1. I'm not sure you can ever take for granted that those reading your articles know things. The tone of the piece comes across as being 'against' the conservation charities, therefore Chris needed to add that caveat to say that he does support their broader work and knows they do good. Conservation charities need as much help as they can get, particularly the Wildlife Trusts. We need to help make them stronger and I think criticising them openly in public is not the way to do it.

      1. Anyone who's listened to Packham will know full-well that he's supportive of - though not infatuated with - the various conservation charities mentioned in his pieces. We is a past president of the Hawk and Owl Trust, for example. The RSPB has a position on an issue - hen harrier persecution - with a very high profile, and many of its supporters consider the RSPBs position to be wrong. We're all entitled to say that in public. If the RSPB has a well considered position, as it does regarding hen harriers, they will defend it. Personally I think the RSPB position, to see driven grouse shooting to continue under licence, is wrong. Charities will bolster their own position is they perform well under scrutiny. At an England level, The Wildlife Trusts have remained pretty silent on the issue of hen harrier brood removal in England. I think that's extremely poor and, as a member of five county trusts, I have no worries about saying so in public.

      2. Have you actually read the article Simon or simply reports of it?
        Quote: "Let me be clear: I keenly support these bodies and their brilliant staff and volunteers, without whom we'd be lost."
        I could quote much of the rest of the article too.
        If this is such an unjustified and appalling criticism why are the Countryside Alliance complaining? Except for sheer bullying opportunism?

    1. Yes and since Mark posted this (when pro-Packham was x17)
      sack Chris Packham have gained 369 signatures
      and the don't sack have gained 7,400 signatures.
      That is a x20 increase. So Packham support is also growing proportionately and hopefully will continue.

        1. & now 54,471, with Andy Richardson / CA a mere 2,451! 22:1 ish (at the moment).

          Methinks the gentleman & the organisation have shot their proverbials?

          Perhaps author could contact all signatories and ask them to consider signing Ban driven grouse shooting? Imagine if the Packham support rallied to send the government epetition a message?

          & what fun would have been had if 'keep Packham' had been on government website & reached 100k ....

    2. Indeed so Richard. Chris is reflecting what many loyal members of RSPB and many other NGOs are saying and feeling - they expect much more when it comes to standing up against the establishment and tradition of law breaking against nature and our environment. The day's of being respectful of those who wish to perpetrate such harm has to come to an end. Chris gets my vote every time and sorry, the campaign lead at the CA's name is not worthy. Saying this is not in-balance, it's pure and simply standing up for what is good and decent - end of.

  7. The conservation movement generally needs more Chris Packhams. His campaigning has been sufficiently effective to draw fire from the Countryside Alliance so he must be on the right track. The legitimate conservation bodies invariably prefer to "play nice" while the pseudo conservation bodies don't see the need to, so Chris has simply got one of the latter to display to a wide audience its sour nature.

    Neither the RSPB or the Wildlife Trusts will be damaged by Chris's criticisms and thoughtful measured responses from them will simply consolidate their positions as the voices of cool headed reason in the conservation debate. Compare them with the gibberings of YFTB.

    I do sometimes worry, though, about the mindset of the RSPB's membership. Let's be unkind and assume that 90% of it is solely concerned about its garden robins, and only 10% are switched-on to wider conservation issues. Where the bloody hell were the 10% when Mark's first grouse shooting petition was doing the rounds? A hundred thousand signatures should have been a walk in the park on a sunny springtime day.

    Please excuse my intemperate words. The plight of Hen Harriers gets me that way.....

  8. It just shows when you have to resort to ridiculous things like getting Chris Packham sacked from BBC how desperate the Countryside alliance are,they are obviously worried by him and he has shown great courage how he talked at Hen Harrier day and by his efforts in Malta.
    The strange thing is but I would not criticise him for it but think probably lots of us hoped he would say more against the shooting of Hen Harriers on the program but respected the fact he has to be careful to try and avoid controversy.

  9. I support the aims of Chris Packham though I recognise his forthright approach can make him abrasive in the TV living room of a viewer but his vision is clear and the care of our countryside natural world is paramount!
    When we plan for humans we thoughtlessly can do untold damage as instances by the DDT crisis after the war- the effects of environmental damage left havoc for generations though the intent had been honourable . We need Chris Packham to speak clearly even when he treads on corns!

  10. Chris Packham, the BBC Nature equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson... outspoken and very often bigoted. Certainly not balanced or impartial in the great "hunting is good vs. hunting is evil" debate and therefore can't offer Aunty Beeb the impartiality its charter insists on.

    1. No, No, No! BBC 'impartiality' surely a) refers to opinion not fact and b) opinions must be balanced over its whole output. This does not mean every individual comment must be impartial.

    2. Persecution of hen harriers is a criminal act. There is nothing in the BBC Charter that requires it to be neutral in its coverage of crime. Indeed the BBC's editorial guidelines (section 4) explicitly state that 'due impartiality' "...does not require absolute neutrality on every issue".

      I would also question your description of CP as a bigot. He holds strong views, certainly, but there is no evidence he holds those views irrespective of reason - quite the contrary.

  11. I contacted the NT (we are very long-standing members) about their non-support for the uncontroversial 'Thunderclap' and received this reply.

    "Whilst we (NT) did not sign up to the Thunderclap, we of course condemn persecution of birds of prey, and where hen harriers attempt to nest on our land we, along with the RSPB and our tenants do our best to protect them from disturbance. We did attend the Hen Harrier Day this year, as last year, and as last year offered our land for this event.

    We also offered the following statement of support to the organisers of Hen Harrier Day: “The National Trust supports Hen Harrier Day in its aim to draw attention to and condemn illegal persecution of birds of prey and particularly in this case hen harriers. The Trust has always held this position and we have reaffirmed this publicly and clearly in our High Peak Moors Vision. We were very excited last year when hen harriers bred on our land in the Peak District for the first time since 2006. Whilst there was no nest this year we are cautiously optimistic for their future on our land not least because of the great partnership of people and organisations that have come together to seek to enable regular breeding of this special bird on Trust land in the Peak District”.

    In addition, we put out communications regarding Hen Harrier Day to our members and followers via the NT Peak District Twitter and Facebook accounts. Our Peak District NT logo appeared as a supporter of HH Day on Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC), who are organising it, website:

    I hope my email reassures you that the National Trust is committed to protecting Hen Harriers and their habitats. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch regarding the protection of hen harriers. It’s fantastic to hear from our supporters, as it helps us to understand how we’re doing and where we might improve in the future."

    I just think it's odd that they treated it as a local Peak District issue and not the national one that it is. The 4+ million members are probably mostly unaware of the issues and IMHO the Trust could do a lot more to educate people on this matter.
    One point though, that I didn't realise until recently, is that the Trust "inherited" a lot of shooting tenancies on their land and until those tenancies expire they are bound by the terms of the original agreements. I think several expired in the Peak in the last couple of years so hopefully, going forward, there may be a chance to improve things.
    But as members of any organisation we should feel able to criticise as well as praise. I don't always agree with Chris Packham but I feel as he does on this and thank him for voicing the opinions that he has. I don't think it's divisive. Better to speak out than to mutter behind our hands and do nothing. How else can we change things?

    1. NorthernDiver - thank you for contacting the NT on this matter. It would be good if more people did - and I have to admit that I haven't except through this blog (which the NT certainly reads).

      As I understand it, and I might be wrong, the NT renewed their shooting tenancies in parts of the Peak District fairly recently and therefore missed the opportunity for many years to make particularly radical changes.

      You are right, in my opinion, that the NT should treat this as a national issue rather than a Peak District one. NT land holdings in the uplands of Britain extend well beyond the Peak District. Also, the NT benefit from many visitors, myself included amongst them, to lowland sites such as Wicken Fen where Hen Harriers form winter roosts.

      The NT should be doing more, and it must have noticed that we have noticed that it isn't.

  12. I am Danish and pay a high price to watch the programs of the UK over here. Chris Packham is one of the outstanding nature personalities in my opinion - and with this 'new' issue, I can only support and trust him....especially when reading about his opposits 😉 Go on BBC, stand up for a brilliant guy, which is long and far between!!!

  13. I haven't read the 'offending?' article but it does sound as though Chris has been expressing some deep felt frustrations about our conservation charities. I think, overall, this is probably a good thing, we need robust debate about where our priorities are in wildlife conservation and the best ways of achieving them. For too long there has been an unwritten rule that we mustn't criticise conservation agencies, but to be healthy, effective organisations they need to be accountable for both their actions and inactions as the case may be. I notice that Mr Merricks is now classing all who disagree with him over hen harrier policy as Eco-warriors and I presume that's not meant to be complimentary!

  14. This isn't about Chris and his opinions - it is about freedom of speech - and the increasing attacks on the BBC to try and censor out anything critical of an establishment view. Would the CA be trying this were their voice to be as loud and popular as Chris' ?

    Of course not - and it is vital as a society we vigorously oppose attempts to silence valid opinion, whichever side we are on

    1. It's also very opportunistic, would there be such a fuss if the BBC charter were not up for renewal by a Conservative government in the near future?

  15. I've worked for, or been a trustee of, some of the organisations CP was criticising for more than 20 years in all, and I have no problem with what he said. Actually on a personal level I would (mostly) agree with him, though I understand why Cons orgs are sometimes more cautious and polite than I would like.

    The one place I would disagree with him is about whether fox hunting has anything to do with nature conservation either way. It doesn't, it's an animal welfare issue that has no impact on fox numbers. That doesn't mean it isn't a legitimate issue for people with an interest in animal welfare, just that it's not one for Conservation organisations. He disagrees. That's OK.

    I see people like Chris as having two vital roles where Cons Orgs are concerned;
    * to challenge us and hold us to account - a critical friend
    * to act as a potent counterweight to the people and interests trying to push us the other way - ie against the people who seem to have carried the day in HOT. I suspect that what happened in HOT may be one of the reasons why CP decided to speak out now.

    At the worst he's given RSPB etc a chance to explain their position, to look reasonable, and to quietly re-evaluate their policy and be sure it's still the right position for them. No harm in that, in fact it's a great service. No-one is going to leave RSPB or the WTs because of what Chris said.

    I've happily signed the pro Chris petition.

    1. JBC,
      i tend to agree with you that it is not really the job of the RSPB to speak out against Fox hunting but not for your reasons.
      To me your logic is flawed or rather it leads to worrying conclusions.
      If Fox hunting is allowed because Fox numbers aren't effected then what is to stop the culling of Buzzards etc. Only the law and that is why the hunting lobby are up in arms (pun appeared) and want permission to kill or remove Buzzards.
      The whole issue brings up the question why do we give special protection to raptors. I can see the logic of the hunting lobby (and by inference the logic of JBC). To them there is no difference between killing a grouse and killing a Buzzard or Hen Harrier. I am sure gamekeepers who kill birds of prey just can't understand what all the fuss is about.
      So why are we giving special protection to raptors. Is it because they were persecuted to low numbers in the past and therefore needed special protection to recover. If that is the sole reason then the hunting lobby are correct in their logic in now wanting permission to kill recovered species.
      Or is it because we need to give greater protection to longer lived species higher up the food chain. I am not sure this has ever been explained.
      I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. A vegetarian (failed vegan) who doesn't see much difference between killing a Hen Harrier or a Red Grouse. Most people, including i am sure many hunters, have a conditioning results in a sliding scale for what is acceptable. Most people are horrified at the shooting of everything that flies in the Mediterranean but most of this is due to our conditioning about what is game and what isn't. Pure conservationists might argue that they object because it affects the population but from reading comments on internet newspapers it doesn't appear that the public see it so coldly. Most people are horrified at the slaughter of birds we love. Yes, that terrible word love.
      Chris is obviously a wildlife lover as well as a scientist. One doesn't necessarily detract from the other.
      This is argument is very similar to the whole Whale hunting issue in Japan, Greenland, Iceland and Faroes. Emotional response can't be removed from both these issues. We are humans not robots.

      1. I was rushing and late for work, so need to add that obviously it isn't longevity which makes raptors special. Gull are long lived and NE didn't object to culling even Red Listed species when a grouse moor was affected.
        And again Chris Packham was outspoken on that front.

  16. Signed. Thank you so much for publicising this Mark. I was amazed and horrified to read the article on page 3 of The Times on Monday which was so full of rubbish.

    1. stella - thank you. You should consider reading a better newspaper! You may also have seen a letter from the H&OT Chair, Philip Merricks, in yesterday's Times.

  17. If you turn over the page from Chris Packham's now famous column you'll find the following comment “… hunting requires no field skills, no wildlife knowledge and no hunting ability. All that's needed is a large disposable income …..” which is a pretty accurate description of driven grouse shooting. The article even goes on the complain about the failure of conservation groups to condemn what's going on. The writer is another sometime employee of the BBC and is clearly another politically biased pinko/leftie. Hence there's an equally good case that the fellow concerned should be sacked for breaking the BBC's rules. So why haven't the CA complained? Perhaps it's because Mark Carwardine was writing about the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe ….

  18. Ben – I agree with you that conservation charities do need to be stronger in their responses to things. I have this before in public and do not deny it. I believe that a lot of their members would support this. However it is not necessarily fair to claim that they do not already do enough in opposing things, I think they do. Yes they could do more, but they do a great job already too.

    Ernest – I did not intend that as a cheap shot and I was never intending to dismiss Chris Packham. My point was more along the lines of, why should the role of holding charities account fall to a famous naturalist? Instead of assuming it is right for them to hold a charity to account questioned it, I question their right to hold that power. I admire Chris Packham, I said that at the very start of this. I think what he did in Malta was amazing and his outspoken stance on the badger cull and hen harriers is something I applaud. However, this does not mean he the right person to hold a charity to account. I would also seek to question what that phrase even means. Can you define it for me? It is something that seems easy to say but to understand what you are doing requires a lot more experience and balance, something which I feel Chris Packham and others might be lacking.

    You cite George Monbiot as being another dissenting voice. I am glad you brought him up as this leads me neatly onto a wider point that I have been thinking about for a while now. Some time ago Monbiot published an article in the Guardian claiming that conservation charities had a lack of ambition. This article angered and offended me on a personal level. I will explain why, and in doing I feel explain why these public figures need to be a lot more careful in the way they write and the way they voice their criticism.

    I would like to offer the invitation to Monbiot, and Packham for that matter, to come and meet the people that they call un-ambitious and shameful. Come and meet the reserves officers working their bodies to the limit to ensure some of our most special places for wildlife are in a good condition. Come and meet the reserves managers juggling a large portfolio of reserves with a small budget. Come and meet the education officers, working crazy hours without breaks to ensure that our children get to have contact with the natural world. Come and meet the community officers running amazing projects in hard to reach areas, bringing nature to urban people. None of these people suffer from a lack of ambition, none of these people are to be branded as shameful. These are the staff that make up our conservation charities and they work damn hard for them. It is very easy, sitting there writing an article, not having worked for a charity, not having met all of these people, to say that they should do more, that they do not do enough. That is why it comes across as so offensive to those, like me, who work in the sector, as we know that we are already working at full capacity, trying our hardest. All I would ask is that people like Packham and Monbiot think a bit more on the true impact of what they write, and add in some balance.

    Oh Bertie – The decline of our wildlife is not because of a lack of action from conservation charities. It is due to a range of factors but the main ones hold true: habitat loss, agricultural intensification, development, intensification of the urban environment. Conservation charities are doing a tremendous job in trying to slow the flow of biodiversity loss, but to be quite frank, they are under-funded and will never have the resources or support needed to stop it. Yet even in the face of such unrelenting adversity they have had success; Otter, Bittern, Great Fen project, I could go on. It is not enough, and we acknowledge this, and we always will continue fighting. Perhaps you could help us? There is plenty to do.

    Roger Pannell – I have to confess that I have not read the original article as I did not the magazine. I read the Guardian report which quoted Packham. I am pleased to see the quotes you have put in there from him, as it does readdress the balance and makes me happy to see him saying that. My main points still stand though I feel, that he needed to be careful in how he wrote what he did, and I am not sure the conservation charities deserve to be the focus of such articles. We are not the bad guys, we are doing good.

    I guess what I am saying is this; I am not wanting to stifle free speech, far from it. I want people to be allowed to criticise conservation charities, but I want them to be well informed before they do it. I want them to have understood the ways they work, the people that work there, the pressures they are under and the good they do. I want them to have carefully considered their ‘rant’ before publishing it, to have thought about the implications of it and thought about the complexities of the point that they are making. Things are rarely as simple as you think they are.


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