An opposing petition on the environmental activist network 38 Degrees, asking the BBC not to sack Packham, and started three years ago, is slightly ahead on numbers. It claimed to achieved its 100,000 a few minutes ahead of the first petition. The petition asking the BBC not to sack Chris Packham set up in the aftermath of the Change.org petition struggled to top 3,000 signatures in the same time.
Started by a shooter called Andrew Hayes after Packham forced English Nature to revoke the general licences, the legal fudge that allows the pest control of birds, the ‘sack Packham’ petition says:
‘As an employee of the BBC, Chris Packham should remain impartial and keep his views and beliefs to himself however, he is the face of many anti hunting campaigns and uses his celeb status as a platform to push his anti hunting agenda, he has made his goal to ban all kinds of hunting, and country sports and pursuits and I feel he is no longer fit to work for the BBC.’
Packham campaigning against grouse-shooting
Neither 38 Degrees nor Change.org have legal clout. A petition that achieves 100,000 signatures on the Government’s petition website Petition.gov.uk has to be debated at Westminster. Other recent petitions on Change.org to pass 100,000 signatures include one trying to prevent the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and another, a promotion by clothing company The North Face, to make ‘Earth Day’ on 22 April an officially recognised holiday.
The Countryside Alliance has been asking the BBC to sack Packham since 2015. CA chief executive Tim Bonner writes: ‘The campaigning of Chris Packham has long been a thorn in the side of BBC impartiality, as was acknowledged in the 2016 BBC Trust report. That report affirmed that Mr Packham must cease his campaigning two weeks before the commencement of any of the BBC Watches, and must then “desist from any public comment on potentially controversial subjects” until one week after the programmes are over.’
Tim Bonner: Packham is a ‘thorn in the side of BBC impartiality’
Shooter and farmer outrage at Packham’s actions and DEFRA secretary Michael Gove’s response is unprecedented in recent years. The shock ban on pest control comes at the worst time of year for farmers, with crops trying to grow and being devastated by birds, and crows pecking out the eyes of lambs.
A closed group on Facebook discussing a pro-countryside and shooting rally in London hit 25,000 members in 48 hours.
Disappointingly for country people, a poll on the Farmer’s Weekly website shows 70% calling for Packham to keep his job versus 30% for him to be sacked.