Packham 'plays victim' as true victims suffer in silence as a result of his actions
It is that time of year again when Chris Packham takes to our TV screens on the BBC’s Winterwatch.
In a week where controversy over the BBC's perceived impartiality has led to the Culture Secretary announcing the license fee is to be scrapped, there are few better examples of what some of the public feel is wrong about the organisation than having Packham 'educating' us on his views on the UK’s wildlife and how to manage it.
For anyone who wants to see an honest account of the UK countryside, we suggest watching Clarkson's Farm instead.
It will not surprise our readers that we do not generally hold the views expressed by Chris Packham in the highest regard. We are unimpressed by his celebrity, by his position within the BBC, his Vice-Presidency of the RSPB or his huge wealth. But in truth none of this matters.
What does matter is what he says and does: that is why we often find him so disagreeable.
Just after Christmas, Packham made a short video about the online criticism he receives from many quarters. As any gamekeeper or farmer will tell you, they would be the first to want an end to abuse, both online and in person. They have, after all, been the recipients of masses of this stuff including covert filming, phone tapping, physical confrontation and criminal damage. Anything that can reduce the viciousness of the animal rights fanatics would be welcome.
The debates and discussions around how our landscape is managed and what we need to do to maintain and enhance our precious wildlife are important, and should be conducted in a civil and honest manner. We would be utterly amazed if you could find a single moorland keeper or moor owner who did not agree with Chris on wanting to see an end to this abuse.
Chris has enormous influence. Feeling the way he says he does, he should obviously use his influence to improve the profoundly damaging level of anger and invective wrecking what should be a serious debate.
How could he do this? Here are a few suggestions.
He could consider his own language, which can often be threatening, offensive and lead to significant personal consequences.
Many of those interested in his views will remember him calling British farmers who believe that culling badgers is a regrettably necessary part of TB control 'Thugs and liars'.
Few who worked for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), will have forgotten his claim that the hard-working officers who had been involved in the raven licencing process had 'blood on their hands'. The officers like Mike Cantlay certainly won't, because of the death threats he and his family received as a consequence of Packham’s words.
Surprisingly, even since he made his appeal for everyone to behave in a non-threatening way, Packham posted the following extraordinary message:
“Well, well, xxxx 'with a little help from my friends' I've found you. I know where you grew up, where you went to university, which government body you worked with and which company you work for as a shooting consultant. How does that feel?”
We can't be sure what Chris means by threatening language, but it would be difficult to find a definition of the term that would exclude, “'with a little help from my friends', I've found you. I know where...”.
We might ask what sort of people he is calling friends, and what they did to get the information he wanted. We might ask: if that post was not meant as a threat, what was it supposed to be?
It also raises the obvious question of what other regular BBC presenter could make a public statement of that nature – at least capable of being seen as menacing – and still carry on as though nothing had happened.
This followed Packham's retweet of the Wiltshire Hunt Sabs' attempts to victimise a serving female police officer for trying to break up a disturbance.
Further, the RSPB has chosen to have him as their high-profile Vice-President. Do they have the same friends? Do they provide RSPB with 'a little bit of help', whatever that might mean? Can this huge, rich and powerful charity really think that it is appropriate for their Vice-President to tell anyone, “I've found you. I know where you grew up..” in such an apparently menacing way? Is that really the way they wish to be seen conducting their business?
Of course Chris has been provoked; we are sure he believes he has reasonable grounds for being upset. But so have many people who do not react to even higher levels of abuse and threat. If they can do it so can he. So, let us see Chris take the easiest step of all and determine not to use intemperate language or make statements that seem menacing. That at least should be immediately deliverable.
2. He could, and should, curb the language his followers use by simply correcting them whenever they use language that is offensive.
Interestingly the friends who follow Chris, and are therefore most likely to be influenced by him, are often given to dishing out abuse which would be utterly unacceptable in any civilised conversation.
The first reaction to his “I know where you grew up...” statement, said, “unfortunately bottom feeders can't feel”. But “bottom feeders” is as of nothing compared to the regular rants about scum, scum bags, criminal scum, sickos, morons, and, one of Chris's personal favourites, psychopaths. There are many more, and many worse, but you get the point.
If Chris has finally seen the light, and we sincerely hope he has, the best place to start is to tell his disciples that they should stop their abuse and return to rational debate.
3. Try to be honest and stop propagandising events as opportunities to attack rural communities
Packham is the master of 'dog whistle tactics' which he uses against rural communities time and time again. Behind closed doors, those who have spoken to him in private say that many conservation conundrums, such as the need for predator control if you are to protect endangered species, are well known and understood by him, though he remains unwilling to be honest to the public about this.
But this selective choosing of words is not just limited to conservation issues. Last year when a criminal set a stolen car on fire close to Packham’s drive, he wasted no time pointing the finger at the fields sport community as those responsible. The outlandish claim was made by his Wild Justice group: “the Countryside Alliance should call off their thugs.”
Let us be clear about the facts. On the night in question a Land Rover Discovery was stolen by criminals and taken joy riding. The criminals then abandoned the car and, judging by the imagery from Mr Packham’s cameras, sought to destroy the evidence by setting the stolen car on fire.
Mr Packham lives on a remote road track, close to where the car was stolen, which was likely considered a convenient location to abandon the vehicle. There seems limited evidence to suggest that this was a targeted attack on Mr Packham by a member of the field sports community. Indeed, what sort of field sports enthusiast would choose to blow up a perfectly good working Land Rover?
Furthermore, what Mr Packham would have known – but chose to omit from his Twitter monologue on the incident – was that on the very same night, just up the road from his house on open heathland, another vehicle had been stolen and that too was set alight after having run over and killed a calf.
Police considered the two incidents to be linked. Yet despite knowing this Packham and his friends at Wild Justice chose to slander the field sports community yet again by suggesting it was a targeted deliberate attack when, as far as is publicly known, no such evidence exists.
Since the incident Hampshire Police have released this image of one of the suspects thought to have set light to the stolen car. We wish them and Chris the best in identifying him; not just so he receives the appropriate punishment but also to prove that he is not, as was suggested, 'a Countryside Alliance thug'.