Packham Bashing: An Attack On Freedom Of Speech?

Chris Packham is an inspiration to many young naturalists, myself included. His unique, highly intellectual, presenting style setting him apart from many other TV personalities, and his dedication when it comes to promoting the causes in which he believes, wholly admirable. He is, arguably, the face of Springwatch – the show which first propelled me outwards, into the outdoors – and a font of knowledge when it comes to all things environmental.  Knowledge which he divulges to the masses, absent the often infuriating sugar coating of others. Highlighting the reality of nature: life, death, hardship and all. Yes, if you cannot tell already, I quite like Chris Packham.

In addition to his role as one of Britain’s foremost naturalists, Chris is also a fervent campaigner and an advocate for animal rights – unafraid to “upset” the establishment and address the woes of our embattled countryside. Another admirable trait, and one which has recently landed the presenter in hot water with certain rural factions, seemingly irked at his latest campaign to ban driven grouse shooting. Something made clear by the torrent of condemnation spewed forth by the Countryside Alliance and BASC in recent times. And, of course, the more serious (and in some cases, disgusting) comments of others who Chris has “upset” in his quest to protect wildlife.

The Countryside Alliance, in particular, have taken an especially large dislike to Mr Packham it would seem, spurred on by his latest series of informative videos highlighting, what he feels are the negative implications of DGS. One of which I have included below. Indeed, in a recent statement, Tim Bonner, CA Cheif Executive, claimed that “Chris Packham’s campaigning activity has become increasingly obsessive and extreme during the complaints process and is reaching something of a fever pitch“. With the alliance now looking to silence Packham through complaints to the BBC – who have, thankfully, stood by Chris – and a plea to the BBC Trust. Submitted under the pretence that through campaigning, Chris is utilising his position to promote personal views. Views which just so happen to go against every the Countryside Alliance, and others, believe in. Coincidence?

While I do not profess to agree with everything Chris says – though, I do agree with most of it – I have found the continued attacks on the presenter, nothing short of infuriating. The personal, highly malicious assaults, most of all. More so given the fact that neither Chris, nor his managerial team, have ever promoted such actions from their own supporters. The verbal diarrhoea of those engaging in such hateful speech testament to their own idiocy. Something which, for that matter, also applies to recent, quite frankly disgusting, attacks of those behind the Raptor Persecution Scotland blog (see here). I may have written before of my frustrations at those in the anti-shooting camp engaging in “counterproductive” slanging matches, but this takes the biscuit and has left me thoroughly appalled.

While abhorrent, such vacuous insults are, however, not the reason for this post. No, what really interests me is the aforementioned attempt to silence Packham by certain sporting bodies. The deluge of longwinded rants which, to me, reek of desperation and serve only to belittle any argument put forth in response to the growing tide of outrage associated with DGS. Outpourings that, in my opinion, are nothing more than an attack on freedom of speech.

Yes, Chris Packham is a TV presenter – a bloody good one – and, as such, possesses a sizeable audience ready to take note of his views. He is also a person, one who cares deeply about the natural world and one who, like any of us, is entitled to his own opinions. Opinions which he expresses in his own time, not on TV – have you ever seen Mark Avery’s petition mentioned on Springwatch? No, of course not, because as the BBC have stressed, Chris adheres to their rules while employed by them. And is free to campaign to his hearts content when not.

Attempting to silence the opposition, as opposed to accepting their views and dealing with them in a manner which befits another human being, is a prehistoric tactic. One that has no place in our society. A society centred on the fact that each man: big, small, famous or otherwise, should be entitled to their view. And, for that matter, be able to act upon those views as they see fit. Packham bashing has become a sport to some it seems, though one that will only serve to bolster the resolve of those campaigning alongside him. And to push many fence sitters, such as myself, further to the left.

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James Common
James is a nature writer, conservationist, blogger and birder; holding an MSc in Wildlife Management and working previously in the fields of ecology and practical conservation. He maintains a popular natural history blog at, writes regularly for Northumberland Wildlife Trust and, as its managing director, runs New Nature - the youth nature magazine.

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