16th Dec - Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations, RSPB
For an organisation as rich as the RSPB, with over £221 million in reserves, you would have thought they could probably afford to send Mark Thomas, their Head of Investigations on some radio presentation training.
In his last interview with BBC Radio 4 in October, around the time of the RSPB’s AGM, the man was shrieking down the microphone so angrily any validity he might have had to the points he was raising were lost.
His credibility became laughable further with his description of gamekeepers as “groups of armed criminal gangs roaming across great swaths of our uplands”.
When 99.999999999% of the UK’s population think of ‘armed criminal gangs’ it is certainly not the hardworking gamekeepers, carrying out hugely important environmental and community work that springs to mind.
This yet again shows the levels of defamation that people like Thomas are happy to continue to throw at our moorland communities, seemingly to justify their own organisations' existence.
Thomas’ interview style seems to have been learnt from the Sidney Lumet school of radio presentation in his 1976 film, Network.
But Thomas' actions are no laughing matter. For it gets worse, much worse. Thomas recently launched a legacy fundraising campaign for the RSPB encouraging little old ladies to leave money in their wills – sensitively launched in the height of the corona pandemic second wave when deaths had reach nearly 600 a day. Never mind the fact that the RSPB also have an annual turnover in the region of £150 million already.
In the video Thomas claims that people – we can likely assume which people he is referring to – are using plastic decoys of peregrines in order to shoot them before requesting more money being granted in people’s wills.
Around 21 seconds into the video, where Thomas says ‘peregrines are pulled in by the decoys to be shot’, the sound of a shot being fired is played and video footage shows a peregrine falling from the sky, to give the impression it has just been shot.
Only, that’s not what’s happened. Rather than a shot peregrine falling from the sky – as the video suggests – what has actually been shown is a superb piece of film footage showing a peregrine going into a stoop, where it can reach speeds of over 220mph. Funny how you never see the bird hit the ground.
It’s yet again an outrageously deceitful attempt from the RSPB to present a case of a raptor being shot in order to swindle people into handing over money from their wills.
But it gets worse still, in the same Mark Thomas fundraising video it claims that 72% of tagged hen harriers were either confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed. What it then doesn’t tell you is that the average success rate of raptors from egg to adult was on average 25%. Therefore a survival rate of 28% of these tagged hen harriers is in fact above the average! But I guess providing the truth doesn’t generate the legacy money the RSPB want people to provide.
And this gets to the crux of the issue – the RSPB no longer seems to be a charity focused on the protection of birds, but instead a giant fundraising operation with 'fatcat executive salaries' and a multi-millionaire chairman.
‘Raptor persecution’ has become a fundraising brand to them, which they wheel out over and over again, distorting truths to serve only their own ambitions.
People like Thomas seem to have no concerns over the impact these distortions of truth threaten to have on local moorland communities and the wildlife that thrive on them. The video of the stooping peregrine highlights just that.
Thomas is also someone who seems to have no concerns expressing his political views online, despite working for a charity which, according to the laws of the Charity Commission, have explicitly banned charities from engaging in party politics.
Given the RSPB management have made it their mission to befriend Carrie Symonds, it would seem strange that their Head of Investigations is so publically deriding of her fiancé, the PM, recently retweeting Caroline Lucas.
With this sort of leadership in place at the RSPB it is little wonder wildlife has plummeted so appallingly under the RSPB’s management, at places like Lake Vyrnwy.
Anyone considering leaving a ‘legacy donation’ to the RSPB should be given all the facts first.