STICK­ING UP FOR CHRIS PACK­HAM

Bird Watching (UK) - - Location North Norfolk -

Colin Matthews is right to find Peter Clarke's let­ter in Farm­ers Weekly "to­tally out of or­der" (Let­ters, March 2017). Chris Pack­ham is rou­tinely at­tacked for speak­ing his mind, or be­ing ‘open and hon­est’, as Mr Clarke con­tra­dic­tively sug­gests he should be in his fi­nal para­graph. Pack­ham never speaks on be­half of the BBC re­gard­ing his per­sonal opin­ions, yet this is the stick that op­po­nents in­sist on beat­ing him with. Then there is Mr Clarke's as­ser­tion that one of the rea­sons for the Lap­wing's de­cline is “that their eggs and young are pre­dated by Badgers”. This is an ar­gu­ment of­ten posed by farm­ers who, for the most part, are no friend of the Badger. To lose en­tire herds to tu­ber­cu­lo­sis must be heart­break­ing. How­ever, while there is no doubt that Badgers do take Lap­wing eggs, the ef­fect is neg­li­gi­ble. The re­cent de­cline has in fact been linked to agri­cul­tural changes, es­pe­cially the move from spring to au­tumn sow­ing of ce­re­als, which has re­sulted in the crops be­ing too tall to suit breed­ing Lap­wings in spring. There has also been a re­duc­tion in mixed farm­ing and a loss of unim­proved damp grass­lands, both of which have re­duced the feed­ing ar­eas for chicks. Many of us have wit­nessed this with our own eyes. While I sym­pa­thise with farm­ers in that they are un­der ever-in­creas­ing pres­sure to pro­vide food for our ev­er­in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion, it does them no favours to ig­nore the de­cline of bio­di­ver­sity on mod­ern farm­land. The 2016 State of Na­ture Re­port, that brought to­gether data and ex­per­tise from more than 50 im­par­tial or­gan­i­sa­tions, con­cluded that one of the most im­por­tant fac­tors af­fect­ing the state of na­ture in the UK is agri­cul­ture. Sci­ence is fact. No smoke, no mir­rors, just hard ev­i­dence. The longer farm­ers con­tinue to turn a blind eye to im­par­tial sci­ence, while blam­ing scape­goats, the greater the dam­age will be. Some sci­en­tists be­lieve that the UK has only a cen­tury of har­vests left. The clock is al­ready tick­ing. For a sus­tain­able fu­ture, and for all our sakes, it is time for some trans­parency and for all par­ties con­cerned to start talk­ing to one an­other to reach a res­o­lu­tion to these press­ing is­sues. Ed Hutch­ings - Jour­nal­ist and Wildlife Tour Guide

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