Yesterday’s blog on the item on heather burning on Sunday’s Countryfile clearly chimed with a lot of people. It was read by over 5000 folk yesterday evening and attracted a lot of comments both here and on social media.
Controlled burning to stop wildfires has been likened to throwing away all your money to prevent theft, or knocking your house down so it doesn’t catch fire. I see that controlled burning is sometimes not quite as controlled as the name suggests – I hope these people are OK. Where were Countryfile filming by the way?
You can continue burning in upland areas of England for a few more days – until 15 April. Countryfile claimed that ‘Heather burning is strictly regulated: and is only permitted outside the breeding season for ground-nesting birds‘. Like most things in the uplands ‘strictly regulated’ is a wish rather than a description and what about those ground-nesting birds? According to the BTO, first clutches of Golden Plover can be laid in the UK as early as 3 April and we do know that nesting seasons are shifting earlier with climate change. It’s probably time to end the habitat-torching season rather earlier. Dartmoor NP recommend no burning after 31 March already because of this issue – but that is not ‘strict regulation’ it’s a plea not to set fire to the habitat whilst birds are nesting. Imagine a similar approach with hedge-cutting.
Can you imagine Springwatch or any other BBC programme getting away with even a mildly critical piece on heather burning without the moorland establishment ringing the BBC phones off their hooks? And yet this Countryfile item somehow slipped through the BBC’s superfine net of impartiality.
It feels as if the mesh of the net of impartiality is decidedly of a different spacing depending on whether it is a load of nonsense from the shooting establishment or some well researched science by their critics.
Does the BBC know what it is doing, or is it just running scared at a time of its charter renewal? It is time for the BBC to rediscover some journalistic standards on the environment, countryside and wildlife. What processes does Countryfile use to make sure they get their facts straight? Whatever they are, they failed in this piece (no-one’s perfect).
But the shooting community are gunning for free speech – come back at 08:45 for the latest example.
But while you are at it, please sign this e-petition to make decision-makers take the ecological damage from driven grouse shooting seriously.