I was out with our foxing expert, Dean Harrison, the other evening, getting a few photos and sitting up for a fox he knew was in the area (more on that next month). Driving across the shoot, we saw a large flock of lapwings and golden plover. And what a beautiful sight it was, as they took off, their pale underbellies glinting and twinkling in the late afternoon sun. It really was a joy to behold, although not uncommon, as most of you reading this will know. You can imagine of course, that we were unable to let the moment pass without mentioning the man whose name has become something of a swear word in shooting circles: Chris Packham. For at the time, he had just tweeted his outrageous comment about lapwing being shot and their numbers being in decline.
Aside from the obvious factual inaccuracy, the worrying thing about the whole Chris Packham debacle is that people – normal, intelligent people – believe what he says. As a figurehead of the BBC’s much-loved nature programmes, they trust him. And that’s what our much-maligned community is up against. That said, it does feel as though more and more people are starting to see the side of Chris Packham we shooters can’t stand. The more he makes statements suggesting we should ‘stop spending money chasing cures for cancer’, ‘stop having so many children’, or ‘learn to live with ticks’, the more people are waking up to his warped views of the world. Apart from the BBC of course, which seems resolutely committed to the presenter.
So what should or could we being doing about it? Well, the work of the shooting organisations to defend and promote our sport is ongoing, so we should get behind their campaigns and lend weight where we can. Individually, I think we mustn’t be afraid to stand up for what we do and what we believe in. A recent conversation with a fellow shooter got me thinking about this. It can be too easy to take the ‘safe’ route when speaking to non-shooters; to be vague when asked ‘what is it that you do?’ for fear of creating offence or awkwardness should you unwittingly be speaking to an ‘anti’. In fact, the opposite is true. We should speak with pride about our sport, industry and the jobs we hold within it. And if our words are met with criticism or judgement, we have all the tools at our disposal to help correct misunderstandings or myths. Whether it’s a fact or figure, personal account or just pure passion, we all have it in us to put the right messages out there.