A life-long birder, Charlie Moores co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and is a former trustee of League Against Cruel Sports. He writes and makes podcasts about wildlife and the environment. Twitter: @charliemoores
So I’m in the kitchen at home, mid-2015. Thinking about things. I’d like to say about Hen Harrier Day or bettering my efforts to help tackle wildlife crime, but I’m in my fifties and given a rather precarious situation rent-wise, I’m actually wondering what on earth I’m going to do for the next decade. My partner, Jo, is in the next room with the dogs. Probably wondering what I’m going to be doing for the next decade too. The phone rings. I’m expecting it to be Paul Morton, who called me ten minutes earlier from somewhere in Poole Harbour and said he’d call back when he had a better signal. I pick it up and a voice says, ‘Hello, it’s Mark, and I’ve been listening to your podcasts and I’d like you to come and work for me.‘.
All Jo hears is me saying, Really Mark, Yes Mark, That sounds interesting Mark. I put the phone down. You’ll never believe…I start. What are you getting up to now, she says. No, no, that wasn’t Mark Avery, I say, that wasn’t about wearing Hen Harrier suits, that was Mark Constantine and he wants me to come and work at Lush…
Now I’d been after Mark for an interview about The Sound Approach for a while but I don’t really know much about Lush at this point. I know they’re based in Poole and that their shops have a distinctive scent that leaves a trail down the high street that’s almost visible. And I have the feeling that most of the staff are younger than my own daughter. But I do know that what Mark sketched out over the phone sounds right up my street. While I have reservations I head down to meet him the following week with a bag full of ideas.
Mark is disarmingly informal. I know I’m being sounded out, but we talk about birds and the countryside and what’s happening in the Med to Blackcaps. Then he says he’s listened to a podcast I’d recorded about neonicotinoid insecticides with Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex. He’s listened to others too (a surprisingly large number of them as it turns out) but that, to coin a phrase, was the interview that got me the interview. And Mark wants more of the same. Lush is setting up a new media project and he wants me to make the podcasts.
Of course I say yes. Within a few weeks I’ll have learnt that it’s using as little packaging as possible that means perfumes are free to rise above the Big Macs and the coffee grounds, and that someone is after Mark for something all of the time. I’ll have found out about Charity Pot (a re-distribution scheme where customers give to the Hunt Sabs and a thousand other grassroots organisations in exchange for skin cream), and the conservation projects that I thought I knew all about without having any idea how often Mark seemed to be involved in them. How ethics permeates the company like an essential oil. I was hooked. I still am.
So, jump forward a few years. It’s mid-2019. I’ve made well over a hundred podcasts now, on everything from coal mining to roadside verges and ocean plastics. I’ve chaired debates, interviewed the founders live on stage, met mixing wizards and learned what oud is. My media colleagues have written a website full of articles. We’ve held the Lush Summit in London, a sensory-overloading three day multi-colour gathering of campaigners and activists from around the world. And throughout the company we’ve recycled and regenerated and come close to zero waste
In the meantime there’s also been Chris Packham and ‘A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife’. Extinction Rebellion and Wild Justice. Revive and Our House Is On Fire. There’s just been Carsington Water and too few swallows in southern England. And there’s the Birds of Poole Harbour with its office down on the quay and its Osprey reintroduction and boat trips.
Paul, Mark, and I are in that office talking about things. Given the rather precarious situation environment-wise we’re thinking about what comes next. We’ve done a lot but we’re not quite reaching the audience we’d hoped to. There’s a feeling something’s missing. A focus perhaps. Mark is saying that there are too few swallows in southern England this year because there are too many pesticides and too few insects. I’m wondering why I don’t follow-up more on the projects Lush supports. How about that manifesto, I say. What have the ministers been doing since it came out? Paul is present but he’s really out across the harbour with the chicks and the volunteers. And worrying about what happens to Ospreys on migration. What happens to all birds on migration.
Then Mark says, what if we set up a new project called ‘War on Wildlife’? Because that’s what’s happening. A war on Hen Harriers, and bees, and migrant birds. Foxes and Orang-utans. Forests and fish. That’s what’s happening.
And I’m thinking, I’m not 100% sure about that title, but then again it’s the hashtag used to promote the Manifesto and it would make the perfect container for what we do already. If you might not come to Lush to learn about the Badger cull or the Hunting Act or shifting baselines, maybe you might come to something called War on Wildlife instead?
Or, perhaps, something called ‘The War On Wildlife Project’ instead.
We could gather up everything we care so much about and put it all in one place. Open it up to everyone who thinks the way we do. It could become a shared hub for the charities and the organisations that get Charity Pot grants. A no-strings-attached forum to explain what they do to shared audiences. To invite those audiences to get involved too. I’m running way ahead now (I never knowingly under-think anything), but it could be like an online Summit. And it could be somewhere for the hundreds and hundreds of people who love wildlife and who work in the stores or come into the stores or hold events inside the stores to talk about the war on wildlife and what we’re doing to help tackle it. All of us. Build it and – ah, you know how the phrase goes as well as I do.
We could do so much. The hardest part, of course, will be letting everyone know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Finding the right tone too. But I’m only half way through that decade still. There’s time to get this right.
So, now it’s the end of 2019. There’s something of a hiatus as Christmas is digested (unless you’re Chris Packham and can’t sit still for more than a minute without having another good idea of course), but in a sort of tying of the knot, I’m thinking about the next decade again and this time Mark Avery is involved. Not with the Project itself (though he’s one of the few people who has never said no to an interview request and I’m grateful as heck for that), but he’s given me the opportunity to tell his audience about The War on Wildlife Project. I’m grateful for that too.
I’m also over-caffeinated, my bloodstream is thickened with mince pies and booja-booja truffles, but right now I’m bursting to get 2020 underway. And you may not believe it, but I’ve tried to keep this blog down to a manageable size. I want to tell things properly though, and this keeps turning into a short story. And I’m also aware of something of a bath-bomb-sized elephant in the room. Lush never advertises, but I’ve mentioned the ‘L’ word seven times in 1300 words.
My deus ex machina, Jo, is sitting in the next room again, with one less dog than before. I ask her how I get around that particular problem. You know, she says, it’s all about context and explanation. They’ll get that. And you can’t please everyone anyway.
You definitely can’t please everyone. We’ve certainly learned that in the last decade. And of course we’ve learned a lot more too. That intensive grouse shooting is underpinned by wildlife crime. That fox hunts break the law. That you can’t keep shooting Turtle Doves. That not everyone loves Hen Harriers like we do.
But none of us are here to please everyone, anyway. We’re here to do what we can to help protect wildlife. Together. Which seems like a pretty good way to spend the 2020s…
The War On Wildlife Project is online at waronwildlife.co.uk and on Twitter at @waronwildlife