By Andrew Gilruth, GWCT Director of Communications
There has been a good deal of fuss caused by the unpleasant comments about farmers, landowners and people who shoot and fish made by the regular BBC presenter Chris Packham. Last night he posted an online message that was so wildly wrong even Donald Trump would blush.
What did he say?
To drum up support for an e-petition he stated that lapwing are shot. They are not.
What is going on?
Last September Packham started an e-petition on the government website to secure a moratorium on the shooting of wader birds. The GWCT pointed out that some of the language and figures he used were misleading and why we feel that a national moratorium is the wrong approach. Defra subsequently gave a written response along similar lines here.
These government e-petitions only stay open for six months. After the first three months this one has clocked up about 20% of the signatures required to be considered for a debate in parliament. Whilst urging people to support this petition, BBC presenter Chris Packham has made his most outrageous claim: lapwing are shot. They are not.
The tweet (below) was ‘retweeted’ over 250 times, and no doubt some believed this false information and signed the petition. At time of writing, nearly 24 hours later, Chris Packham has yet to delete the tweet or delete the incorrect statement from another website he is using to promote the petition.
GWCT lapwing conservation
If you are more interested in recovering the lapwing population than just banning things, do get behind GWCT projects such as this lowland work to recover lapwing numbers along the Hampshire Avon. In other studies, the GWCT has demonstrated how lapwing thrive on driven grouse moors and they remain one of the few places where the birds continue to thrive. Perhaps of more importance, we have estimated that, should gamekeepers stop predator control on driven grouse moors, lapwing would decline by 81% over 10 years.
Everyone knows that the BBC is supposed to be impartial and most still assume it is. However, a BBC-commissioned report in 2014 recognised that it is seen by many as institutionally biased against the countryside. Last year our Chairman, Ian Coghill, observed that we might expect this “from an organisation so long divorced from country life that it thinks The Archers is real, probably because it’s made in Birmingham, which from a London perspective is practically a village.”
Most of the land surface of Great Britain is owned, managed and farmed by people who have no problem with traditional country sports, and an extraordinarily high percentage actually engaging in them. We might assume that, when a regular presenter on countryside and wildlife issues makes such inaccurate remarks, the BBC would at least ask him to show restraint. But don’t hold your breath.
It took the BBC a full 12 months to address the GWCT complaint about impartiality. We thanked the BBC Trust for making it clear where it and the BBC stands. In the words of Ian Coghill, “It turns out to be where we always thought but until now were never really able to confirm: as far away from the real countryside as they can get.”
Should you like to raise your concerns to the BBC you can do so here.
If you really want to help lapwing...