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“There are no simple answers to complex questions. Having people more research-literate is really important at a time when there’s not so much misinformation and disinformation, but twisted information around.”
“There are a lot less journalists around now and they produce 10 times more content than their counterparts 10 or 15 years ago,” he says. “You’re producing it for Twitter, doing Facebook and blog posts as well [so less time for] fact checking and editing and those sorts of areas that made British journalism great.”
Once hailed as the best news source on the planet, today BBC staff routinely distort foreign and domestic coverage to suit their agendas, including trying to turn non-controversial subjects into disputes worth reporting.
Wildlife celebrity Chris Packham is waging a war on the shooting community and using his high-profile position at the BBC to spread his message. The media and his small band of supporters lap up his accusations.
On 7 December, Packham came out to complain about his critics, which include us, The Daily Mail and the Country Squire website.
We had pointed out how he’d claimed a portion of money earned from Christmas cards he’s selling will go to charity, then said it would actually go to his anti-fieldsports lobby group Wild Justice.
In a video on Twitter, he insists he changed it immediately. It was about two days before he fixed the mistake.
“Chris Packham… he’ll do something like say he’s donating to charity which is actually going to Wild Justice and he’ll just say it was a mistake,” says Taylor. “Maybe it was a mistake but it seems to me he’s a pretty intelligent guy. He’s almost 60. He’s not some naïve kid. He’s been a director of several companies. He’s set up a successful production company. When you do that, you need to know about corporate law and what you can and cannot say.
“Equally, I think he knows that the BBC, even with their new tougher guidelines, which are effectively a toothless tiger, will say ‘Oh it was just a mistake’. Maybe it’s just part of modern life and our cult of celebrity. If you do it too often, people will ask why you behave like that and whether you’re pushing the boundaries of a system that’s not very effective.”
Country Squire meanwhile, made several complaints about Packham, including using his celebrity status to earn money for his girlfriend Charlotte Corney’s zoo on the Isle of Wight.
In the video, Packham says Corney gets nothing from the Wildheart Trust, the charity running the zoo. “There’s [an] insidious rumour that my partner Charlotte Corney is the beneficiary of funds,” he says. However, the charity’s annual records show that Corney gets £68,000 a year in rent – more than 10% of the charity’s expenses in 2018. That figure is going to be reviewed next year. The lease is 99 years.
Packham’s video statement also includes his stance on circuses: “The [UK’s] decision to ban the use of wild animals in circuses from January 2020 reflects the movement away from keeping animals for the fundamental purpose of entertaining humans.”
Again, Wildheart Trust’s report for 2018-2019 says that lions from a circus in Spain that were donated to the zoo are “an additional draw to visitors”.
There are other anomalies in the trust’s reports, including this odd line: “During this period, the Zoo benefitted from 4,945 hours of voluntary help, which is of significant value to the Trust with every £1 being invested amounting to £15.75 worth of volunteer contributions.”
Fieldsports News wrote to the zoo asking it to explain what it means. We also asked whether it had a contingency plan, such as an armed ranger on site, in case any of the dangerous cats escape, bearing in mind Packham was quick to criticise the shooting of a lynx that escaped Borth zoo in Wales. We have not had a response.
Packham’s Twitter statement was an attempt at damage control. However, he has given more ammunition to his critics by getting his facts wrong.
We’re not the only ones picking apart his credibility. Ex-cricketer and countryside campaigner Lord Botham asked in 2016: “Why is it OK for a BBC countryside presenter like Chris to be such an extremist, while keeping his prominent role in the BBC and using it as a vehicle?”
Last month, Botham argued in a newspaper opinion piece that Packham has “eco-Tourettes” and is the “rallying point for a small group of angry bird activists”. He followed that up on the radio saying: “It’s only people like Chris that want to sabotage nature,”
“When Ian Botham came out and said some fairly critical things and many of them I agree with, Chris Packham said well we really need to sit down and talk,” says Taylor. “I think that’s a really good idea but not by sitting down talking about things in some sort of ‘woke’ framework where we can only talk about certain things in certain ways.”
Writing in Fieldsports Magazine in summer 2020, Packham called for a ‘truce’ with shooters, only to draw criticism from shooting organisations for his refusal to accept science showing grousemoors are vital to conservation. They argue Packham only wrote the article so he can say shooters don’t listen to him.