3rd Dec - Pat Thompson, RSPB Senior Uplands Policy Officer
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
For today's Activist Advent Calendar we have the RSPB’s Senior Uplands Officer, Pat Thompson, or rather Patrick Nethersole-Thompson to give him his full name, is someone who really should know better given his pedigree and childhood holidays.
His father, Desmond Nethersole-Thompson, was one of the leading ornithologists of his generation who was awarded the Neill Prize by the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his tireless fieldwork carried out for well over 50 years.
Together with his wife, Maime, Desmond Nethersole-Thompson authored ten books on birds in the UK, which still today are regarded by many as the leading authorities on the subject of ornithology. Of all Desmond Nethersole-Thompson’s books, it is perhaps ‘Waders, their breeding, haunts and watchers’ which commands the greatest respect.
In it he recounts stories of month-long camping trips in Scotland he would take his family on to monitor different wader species in their breeding haunts. It is a beautiful book, made even more so by the original drawings that accompany it. Unsurprisingly, given Desmond was not only a leading expert in the field but also honest and pragmatic, he rightly praises managed moorlands across the UK and the hard work that goes into protecting waders on them. Perhaps Desmond’s greatest attribute was not allowing his politics to get mixed up with moorland conservation, as a result of which, according to his obituary, he ‘maintained an enormous gathering of friends from all aspects of life’. Which is why the constant criticism towards managed moorlands by Pat Thompson and his colleagues at the RSPB is so hard to understand. Here we have a situation where the son of one of the countries’ greatest ever ornithologists is campaigning for something that goes directly against the evidence his celebrated father showed him daily as a child and wrote in black and white. Why would this be? Some suggest it is because Pat was never able to step out of his older brother’s shadow. Desmond Junior, (known as Bruin), is himself a distinguished ornithologist cut from his father’s cloth. It has been said that Bruin has tried to drill sense into Pat on a number of occasions knowing that his campaigning against moorland management with the RSPB will destroy the waders they as children with their father spent so long studying and celebrating. In 2017 Pat Thompson caused a fury after being caught on camera making scandalous accusations against the GWCT, accusing the esteemed conservation charity of being guilty of ‘insidious distortion of science’ and ‘taking credit for blanket bog restoration’. If anyone is guilty of an ‘insidious distortion of science’ it is Thompson himself who as recently as October this year went on Channel 4 and claimed controlled burning of vegetation during the burning season is the 'equivalent of burning rainforests' and that it 'dries out the peat.'
In the same segment of video, a gamekeeper is shown squeezing water out of peat having just had the top vegetation cool burnt off. It is once again either embarrassing ignorance of the part of Thompson or, more likely, yet another attempt to deliberately misrepresent the facts of moorland management in order to fulfil a personal vendetta.
Not only has Pat Thompson failed to show anywhere near the grace or expertise of his father, or indeed his older brother, but he has also failed to heed his key lesson of leaving one’s personal politics to one side and focusing efforts only on what is best for protecting birds and the environment.
It makes you wonder why the media, or indeed the RSPB themselves, would listen to someone with a degree in biology from Liverpool Polytechnic in the 1980’s over the numerous highly qualified scientists who specialise in terrestrial carbon sequestration.
Under Pat’s watch, the RSPB’s uplands policy has been as deceitful as it is dangerous.