Bird Fair interview with Chris Packham by Charlie Jacoby from Fieldsports Channel, brings forward revelations that Chris “has never been anti shooting”. What can we make of this?
Charlie Jacoby, the beloved presenter of Fieldsports Channel, (which is watched by literally thousands of shooters, hunters, target shooters, Dog trainers, conservationists and all out outdoors and field-sports people from all over the world every week on Youtube), entered the hornets nest at last weeks Bird Fair and did not just show face but went head to head with, who some people regard as, the enemy of the shooting world “Wild Justice” and remarkably came out not just unscathed but may have found a common ground and earned their respect.
An act that has had some social media members say that “Charlie has done more for shooting sports than any of our organisations have”, I have to say we at Fieldsports Scotland have to agree.
2019 has been a mixed year for the shooting world, the start of the pest control season saw an attack from the anti shooting community by the organisation Wild Justice, lead by BBC presenter Chris Packham and activist Mark Avery. Their attack this time was on the General License system managed by Natural England highlighting that the system was flawed and much of the practices that the license over-looked was illegal.
This sparked a chain of events and the shooting fraternity reacted in disbelief and anger as it came at a time of the year where pest control is at its upmost importance.
Since the immediate ban and review of licensing Keepers, Farmers, Estate managers, shoot managers etc. etc. have been on the back foot trying to keep things afloat without being allowed to get on with their jobs and having to go through red tape to get back on track.
From the start Charlie and Fieldsports Channel have been at the forefront of reporting what is going on in regards to the GL fiasco, even before the main shooting organisations got their act together and responded, so it is no surprise that some fans of the channel believe that they are better represented by Charlie and his crew than the organisations that represent our community.
Over the course of the summer tensions severely rose between members of the shooting community and Wild Justice and it culminated in the Game Fair actually Banning Packham and Avery from speaking at the show, an act that angered some members of the community.
I totally believe the Game Fair organisers (The National Game Fair Ltd.) made a very poor decision on not having the Wild Justice members there to answer questions from the shooting community, I presume they thought tensions were just too high to risk it but they truly missed a chance to balance the argument.
Looking at the interview I was not surprised at Chris Packhams response to Charlies questions, as I have believed for a long time that some of what Chris has said made total sense and that passions within our community were just too high to listen. Do not get me wrong I am in no way supportive of Chris’ campaign but I do understand where he is coming from.
Anyways enough of my thoughts let us try analyse the interviews that Charlie had with Mark Avery and Chris Packham after the debate.
Charlie Jacoby: “Is there any area at the end of this that you felt, ok here’s something maybe we can start talking to the shooting industry about?”
Mark Avery reply : “Hope it is clear enough that the three of us (Wild Justice) have no problem with walked-up Grouse shooting, and every-time I talk to you (Fieldsports Channel, Charlie) and some people like you I have to say I am not against all forms of shooting and not against all forms of Grouse shooting I am against driven grouse shooting”
He then goes on to say that he understands that walked up shooting does not make the same amount of money but comes “with less risks”and that he “dislikes the more intensive bigger bag days from driven grouse days”, but, he is happy with “the odd walked up grouse shooter” but admits he does not know where the boundary lies on the two types of grouse shooting.
Charlie asks : “Are you happy with people shooting pigeons and other pests for fun”
Mark Avery replied : “not really” and although admitting he was not a lawyer he also adds that “legally you can’t shoot pigeons for fun” under the general license agreement.
When Charlie rephrased the question with “If someone was legally shooting pigeons for fun would he be happy with that?” Mark Avery replied with “yes”.
Lets stop for a second and take stock, Mark Avery publicly announces within this interview after the debate that he is not against all Grouse shooting but only driven grouse shooting and the pigeon shooting for fun is OK as long as it is done in the course of pest control? That is contrary to the belief given in much of the media propaganda that has lead to the support that Wild Justice have received from the anti hunting community.
Over the last few years Mark has been very active in the persecution of shooting sports, giving us in the community the impression that there is no “common ground” when it comes to shooting, this misconception has been the main reason for the backlash against Mark from the shooting community.
So what has Chris Packham got to say for himself?
Firstly during the video interview after the debate Chris announced directly to Charlie that he was “absolutely over the moon” that Charlie and Fieldsports Channel attended the Bird Fair and that he “was as disappointed as you (Charlie) were that we were not allowed to attend the Game Fair”. probably a response that would shock a number of members from our community, but, as said before this was a sentiment that seems to have been echoed by both sides of the debate and I hope this is something that The Game Fair can learn from in planning future events.
Charlie asks “in terms to move the argument do you think we have moved on in any way?”
Chris Packham replies “Yes!” and goes on to say that instead of “polarised views” on the issue that there should be some common ground but also agrees there will be “Things that we won’t agree about” then reveals the revelation that “I have never been anti shooting” and that he was “slightly miffed” that he was “branded with that from the shooting community” and that was something that was “mischievously invented”.
WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! just WAIT! a cotton picking minute, what did I just hear? are you telling me? NO i could not have just heard that! Chris Packham the Skeletor to the shooting community, the Lex Luther , super villain to the shooting world has just announced “I have never been anti shooting”. STOP the presses of every anti shooting activist, the poster boy for all that is conservation has announced he is not an “anti”. This statement must have truly shocked shooters and antis alike, this will be very hard to believe within both communities as we all know Chris has been very vocal and used his media privileges and his notoriety to express this on many occasions. For him to announce this on record is a big win for Charlie, well-done that man.
When Charlie asked Chris about his feelings on “pest control for fun” Chris replied that he was against “Casual shooters” he also went on to put across that their motion towards Natural Englands General Licences were “NEVER EVER about restricting licenses where human health or economics were at risk” and when Charlie pressed him about crop protection over Rooks and Jackdaws Chris said that they would have to be looked at on a “case by case basis“
This part of the interview really was Chris highlighting and pretty much repeating what Mark Avery has said. What I did notice was that Chris’s face did tell a different story to what his mouth was talking. The question from Charlie about Rooks and Daws over field damage was almost dismissed by Chris which forced him to say it should be done on a case by case basis.
Charlie tried pressing Chris on the subject about Merlin’s Chris advised “I don’t think it was Wild Justice fault” then went on to blame the over reaction of Natural England. A point that seems to have been highlighted on occasion from both sides of the argument.
Much of what was said by Chris and Mark was a surprise, through-out the interview and debate with Charlie I was happy to see there were areas that reasonable shooters would agree with. Charlie and the Fieldsports Channel team have to be immensely proud of themselves, these interviews and the debate itself was clearly done in an environment that favoured the Wild Justice team but the guys from Fieldsports Channel were very professional and made us all proud, I spoke to Charlie about both the debate and the interviews and this is what he had to say .
” I felt scared and proud. I felt scared because Packham is a media operator with many seasons of telly behind him. I have to admit to pride, because I felt the Fieldsports Channel shareholders backing me on this one. What we call the Fieldsports Nation are feeling bereft because of shooting’s failure to make its case in the media. Maybe this time, we could make a dent in the received story that gamekeepers are monsters who spend their days strangling and poisoning wildlife. In the end, I didn’t manage to do that. But I think our TV version of the debate will change the story. No BBC researcher will be able to ignore it and, even though Packham ignored and denied them, we introduced new elements to the hen harrier story.”
Charlie and the team done what, I believe, they set out to do it is just a shame that it was not done sooner at the Game Fair and I still believe that this was a missed opportunity that was clearly rectified by the Bird Fair allowing Fieldsports Channel to attend and take part in this debate.
I have long said that the likes of Chris Packham and Mark Avery were never the enemy when it came to wildlife conservation and shooting sports, it is not surprising that there is common grounds between our two communities, but, I am afraid that there will be many shooters that claim “they do not trust” a word Packham says, but, I will maintain that the likes of Packham are a necessary evil that can keep our shooting sports on its toes, and I am afraid to say, something I said a few years ago, that it was the shooting communities stagnant complacency that got us and Natural England into trouble over the General Licenses. Complacency is a dangerous thing in our world and in many respects you have to agree with the statement that Chris made about our current licensing and laws are severely outdated.
Over the years I have often advocated that our shooting voice is never heard by the public, I am glad to see that Charlie and his team have given us a voice again and not hiding us in the shadows of the Lobbies of Westminster.
Our shooting organisations need to stand up and take stock. If it was not for Fieldsports Channel many of us would not know about BASC’ attempt at getting schools involved in Grouse days or what is happening within the licensing system and that in itself is a worry.
We are a heavily funded community but none of it really has gone into the education and advertising that our way of life is not an evil way of life.
Some have said that Charlie has done more for shooting sports, just by taking part in this debate, than any of our representative bodies, and this is clearly something I agree with. In the recent past I have often voiced at the complaint that on every High street, Shopping mall, Science and exhibition centre , Zoo’s, wildlife parks, schools and even supermarkets anti shooting and hunting organisations are spreading their message. Where are our representative bodies? Why is is BASC and SACS ( our two biggest organisations ) not pitched on the High streets and shopping centres spreading what good we do to our environment, I tell you why and it is clear as day, it is beneath them. These organisations feel they are best placed walking the halls of the “Old Boys Club” or at fancy dinners with the rich and famous some thing we all pay for.
In conclusion though, we have now heard from the lips of Mark and Chris themselves that they do not identify themselves as anti-shooters no matter what any of us believe.
I am going to mark this down as a huge win for Fieldsports as a whole but we all have to take a minute to be very proud of Charlie and his team. What they have achieved here is just fantastic and it gets people talking and that is what we need, too long have we hidden our way of life, too long has our community suffered, maybe just maybe it is now our turn to show the world that what we do, helps everyone and everything around us. Hunters first and foremost are conservationists in the end.
Charlie done an amazing thing, Chris Packham is a seasoned public speaker with thousands of hours of airtime and decades of media training and in the end is a massive entity in the conservation world. Charlie took the fight to the table and a negotiation, not a debate, pursued and there were wins and losses at both side, this is something that should have happened a long time ago. Every one of us need to take a leaf from Fieldsports Channels and Charlies book and stop looking at these people as the enemy and just try to find a more sustainable future for our sport.
I have long said we do not want to land up with a lottery tagging system caused by over hunting and needless wildlife persecution like what happened in the States, we need this, you need this and they need this for our country to remain one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and we can only do that if we work together.
I keep saying it ATTITUDES need to change.