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Chris Packham wastes yet more taxpayers' money on pointless challenges against DEFRA

Earlier this week Chris Packham – yes he of both Wild Justice and BBC fame – tweeted a picture of a letter he had ‘just posted’ to DEFRA. That’s nothing that unusual; the BBC presenter often tweets the government department.

Earlier in the week, for example, he tweeted about the alpaca named Geronimo, stating that DEFRA had “overseen the UK’s greatest animal welfare PR disaster in living memory”.

The letter he posted to DEFRA wasn’t about Geronimo or bTB, though. It was about “the amount of influence that certain external lobbying bodies … have within Defra… how much time these external bodies have in communication with Defra staff… and what form that communication takes.”

The “certain external lobbying bodies” he mentions (stating his request was “not limited to” these bodies) are the NFU, BASC, the GWCT, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust.

[Possibly a self-portrait?]

Essentially, Packham wants to know how much time and influence these bodies have on DEFRA, an agency which he describes as being “by definition… accountable to UK tax payers… and not just those with vested interests”.

That’s all very well, and we are sure there will be some interesting findings from his proposed FOI – findings which Chris would never dream of twisting to suit his own ‘vested interests’, naturally.

Coincidentally, we recently carried out another Freedom of Information request, to Natural England. The question we posed was:

‘Given your limited annual budget made up of taxpayers money please can you provide a breakdown of how much money and time you have had to spend dealing with legal challenges and other requests made from Wild Justice, the activist campaign group made up of Ruth Tingay, Mark Avery and Chris Packham?’

As Chris points out, this is all funded out of the tax-payer’s pocket. (Oh, and his BBC salary is too!).

Here are the answers we received, which do not include staff time (if it did, that figure could be quadrupled):

All of the above costs – costs to the tax-payer, in case that needs mentioning again – have been accrued entirely because of Packham, Avery and Tingay's campaigns which they claim are carried out in the name of "standing up for wildlife". But what good does that really do? And how much of their own funders money have they wasted in the process?

Just this week we have seen the aforementioned Geronimo (which was not part of a Wild Justice campaign, we hasten to add) dragged away surrounded by shouting protestors, flashing cameras and people who were complete strangers to him.

Many people blamed DEFRA for the way in which his final moments were managed; but in reality this was the result of the media circus created by the live webcam streams, the ‘human shield’ and both threats and abuse from campaigners, online and in person.

Wild Justice is another example of this media frenzy. Earlier this year, Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance wrote that: "Wild Justice has achieved almost nothing of substance in the two years of its existence other than to waste significant amounts of government resources -- and that of organisations forced to intervene on its pointless actions -- whilst happily spending the money it has crowdfunded from gullible supporters." Not just government resources and crowdfunded money; but taxpayers' money too, Chris.

Almost £70,000 of it, and counting. Let's hope he includes that information when he gets the answers back from his FOI request.

For now though we will be monitoring closely the wastage of taxpayers money that Packham is responsible for, both historically and in the future.


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