Farming Today on RSPB and game shooting

Martin Harper was interviewed on Farming Today this morning. Martin did well but it was one of those unsatisfactory interviews where Anna Hill simply got lots of things wrong – listen here from about 9 minutes into the programme through until the end.

In the introduction (which Martin won’t have heard until today) Hill says ‘The RSPB currently campaigns against shooting wild birds including driven grouse shooting’ – no it doesn’t. If the BBC made such an error in its political news coverage then it would be pilloried but because the BBC, even on its flagship farming programme, knows little and cares little about wildlife and its conservation it often gets these things wrong. My impression is much more often when Anna Hill is the presenter than at other times but I may be wrong.

She went on to say that the RSPB had held back from criticising organised shooting of reared gamebirds (no it hasn’t) because of its Royal Charter (no, that has nothing to do with it). Not a very impressive introduction to the piece.

The RSPB is off the pace on the number of gamebirds released each year though, they keep saying, as Martin did here, ‘up to 50 million gamebirds a year’ whereas the latest (industry) figures are 47m Pheasants and 10m Red-legged Partridges.

Anna Hill later assumed that the RSPB was going to campaign against gamebird shooting in the future – where did that come from? Martin hadn’t said that in this interview (not in what was broadcast and not, I’d be pretty certain, in any unbroadcast comments either).

But quoting the Countryside Alliance’s rudeness at the RSPB was a mistake as Martin made a lot of good points clearly, politely and firmly in response.

I thought it was interesting that Martin made no attempt to play down the importance of the review and stressed again that the membership would be involved. We all look forward to hearing how that will come about.

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5 Replies to “Farming Today on RSPB and game shooting”

  1. Yep, I heard it too and thought it a thoroughly dreadful piece of journalism. Martin defended himself well against poor interviewing, tbu the bitsa dded as intro and after by the programme will surely have him cringing into complaint mode.

  2. A fairly commonplace example of interviewer and interviewee talking at cross-purposes.

    If often happens in both broadcast and print media where people approach subjects from different perspectives and/ or with different emphases.

    As a result, muddle ensues.

    Well done to Martin H for accepting the poisoned chalice. He always gets wheeled out for potentially tricky interviews.

    But where were the chief executive and chairman? Will they ever step up to the plate?

    I wouldn’t be too harsh on presenter Anna Hill. The fact that she had some erroneous preconceptions is partly because the RSPB seems to operate in a kind of blur.

    It wobbles around from issue to issue and is seldom clear or forthright in its positions and policies.

    It is already on the defensive with its proposed review.

    There is a risk that the process will backfire - revealing its own bureaucratic lethargies, its lack of focus, its inconsistencies and perhaps worse.

    If it just concentrated on protecting birds, it might become a more effective organisation.

  3. I am afraid today that we must expect nothing else but a very poor standard from the BBC that goes from interviewing to programmes themselves. Compared to say 15/20 years ago it is very much a case of “How are the Mighty Fallen”.
    The trouble is with poor quality interviewing it takes a lot of effort by the interviewee to bring the subject back on factually correct matters and thence to make your points decisively .
    I thought Martin coped with the BBC’s mediocrity very well indeed.

  4. There are 100,000 farmers and 60 odd million of the rest of us. And how many people are up at 6, and if they are what channel are they listening to as they drive to work ? Not farming today, I bet.

    Having what is probably the unusual experience for readers of this blog of being on the wrong side of an environmental debate, my view is that things arte unravelling at an astonishing rate for shooting: the antagonistic, mindless attitude of the noisy end of shooting, sweeping its own middle ground out of the way in the process, is escalating and escalating the whole issue. What started as an issue over driven grouse and Hen Harriers is rapidly growing into a questioning of shooting as a whole - with more and more people better informed, and not generally in a way favourable to shooting. I have to admit I would never have dreamt that the biomass of released gamebirds is twice our native fauna's, and that is despite dealing with on the ground problems around super-intensive pheasant shooting. Nor had I really got my head round the possibility that far from foxes and crows being a problem to shooting, this vast excess of prey and carrion produced by releases may actually be a cause of problems to many native bird species.

    And, just to reinforce the point, as an ex RSPB Council member, what RSPB is doing does not break the charter: you will not find any record of Martin or any other senior RSPB officer commenting on the ethics of shooting. They have addressed the issues as they are entitled to do under the charter: solely as a wild bird conservation issue.

  5. James is right – it is a muddle of contented lethargy, insular thinking, and appalling management, and I’m afraid it’s not just the RSPB, I’ve learnt a lot over the past 6 years, with our dealings with NE, Defra, Wildlife Trust, and the idiotic Forestry Commission, and others which we have financially underwritten none of whom has given me any indication that any of them know what they are doing.
    Packham waved a copy of the State of UKs Nature Report on Autumnwatch; he would be better off waving a report of the State of the UK Conservational Charities, because if anything is in a mess, depressingly they are.
    The interview was middle-of-the road type, the one question that had any importance, “why the RSPB hadn’t done anything about it before”, Harper evaded answering.
    Until these charities become self-financing entities this farce will continue, I think those that continually add to their coffers deserve answers, but more importantly the wildlife of the British Isles deserves a better deal.


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