Oh what a tangled web is weaved - Patagonia, Moorland Monitors and the RSPB
[Duke of Sussex wearing Patagonia down jacket]
The Moorland Monitors released an extraordinary statement last month attempting to distance themselves from renowned criminal and animal rights activist, Luke Steele, after their funding from Patagonia was threatened.
At the time many queried why a leading international outdoor clothing brand, popular amongst rural workers up and down the country, would end up associated with a group of animal rights activists, whose favoured tactic seems to be to waste huge amounts of precious emergency services’ time by repeatedly calling out fire engines during controlled burning and reporting entirely legal traps to the police.
Patagonia’s decision to fund this animal rights group led to an e-lobby being launched by the Countryside Alliance for the company to cut all ties with the group, which gained over 2,500 signatures in the first 24hrs. Why would this popular US brand risk alienating great swathes of its customer from rural communities?
Perhaps the answer to that question lies with Patagonia’s appointment last November of Beth Thoren as Environmental Action & Initiatives Director for the EMEA region.
Now very few people will have heard of Ms Thoren previously however they will not be surprised to learn that – according to her LinkedIn profile – she also works for the RSPB as their Director of Fundraising & Communications. This is a position she has held since Nov 2012.
Indeed, she is publicly described as an ‘activist’ by Patagonia’s CEO Ryan Gellert when her appointment was announced.
We’re sure Patagonia would have been somewhat unimpressed to have found out they are funding a group intent on sowing division by spreading lies about moorland management – lies which have directly led to the high levels of personal abuse and assaults that are experienced by gamekeepers across the uplands.
Across the uplands, few people are doing more to tackle the impact of climate change and to protect our planet’s biodiversity than gamekeepers. You only need to look at some of the peat restoration and biodiversity protection projects going on across privately owned upland estates to see that.
At Abbeystead in Lancashire for example surveys had shown that 39 hectares of the estate were bare peat. Thanks to the work of the estate, more than 78% of these areas have now been restored. This work will directly help the battle against climate change by improving carbon storage, water quality, flood attenuation and biodiversity.
At the Bolton Estate in Wensleydale, there is one of the most extensive projects in Europe to protect waders and ground nesting birds. Additionally, the use of manmade ponds attracts wildlife in abundance, including golden plover, curlew, lapwing and grouse.
Wouldn’t it have been positive for everyone – not least the fight against climate change – if Beth Thoren had used her new influence at Patagonia to applaud the work being carried out by upland estates rather than seek to cause further division and polarisation of attitudes.