Metropolitans declare war on our precious lark
Chris Packham should be sacked by the BBC for promoting his damaging and ignorant agenda
Classic FM listeners regularly vote for Vaughan Williams’s masterpiece The Lark Ascending as their favourite piece of music. It touches us more than any other composition, perhaps because it mimics nature so closely, and the liquid exuberance of the lark’s singing, as he hovers above his nest, is for many of us the iconic sound of an English spring.
Perhaps that is why so many people – particularly rural people, as the songbird in question is no metropolitan – are so bloody livid right now, because the lark, already increasingly rare, has edged one step closer to extinction this week.
Why? Because a highly paid BBC presenter has used the power he has been given by our state broadcaster, paid for by millions of licence fee payers, to bully the government agency responsible for saying which birds can be controlled (and which also seemingly has the power to
change the law without recourse to Parliament).
Natural England has bowed to a legal challenge from environmentalists led by Chris Packham, who call themselves Wild Justice – surely an oxymoron if ever there was one. Which means that, in the very week that farmers – those of us who genuinely care about protecting birds like the lark – are setting Larsen traps to control their number one enemy, the carrion crow, they have been told that doing so is no longer legal. Just as the lark population is at its most vulnerable, it has been declared open season on it for every crow and magpie in the country.
Vaughan Williams’s composition is based on George Meredith’s poem of the same name and Meredith could have been writing about the ubiquitous Packham when he wrote: Unthinking save that he may give His voice the outlet, there to live Renew’d in endless notes of glee, So thirsty of his voice is he
He just can’t resist it, can he? Many will feel that Chris Packham has gone too far this time. Following on from his disgraceful accusation, levelled against the shooting fraternity in 2017, that the decline in the lapwing population was due to shooting (for which he later apologised), he has now caused untold damage to our songbird population by his cleverclogs court case, which focuses on a technicality in the way licences are issued and will not, in any case, lead to a permanent ban.
Previously, the Government issued a list of birds it was permissible to kill under general licence if they were causing damage. Under the old laws, farmers did not have to ask permission to kill the animals or record their deaths or the reason for shooting them. Now, Natural England has withdrawn all general licences while they “work at pace to put in place over the next few weeks alternative measures to allow lawful control of these bird species to continue where necessary”.
The decision could not do more to illustrate the baleful influence of the EU in our legal framework. The whole system of licensing is based in continental Roman law, which is antithetical to the presumption in English law that you can do something until it is specifically banned. We really are in Alice Through the Looking Glass territory.
There is a petition for the BBC to sack Chris Packham. If he survives this time, then stand by for a revolt as country folk refuse to pay their licence fees. This will be the final straw for many who were already feeling alienated by the illiberal media’s broadcasting of the Rousseauist agenda of Packham and his ilk, which is based on dogma rather than science.
Let us hope that all those songbird nests plundered by corvids this spring are not sacrificed in vain. It may be that this extraordinary decision has a beneficial effect by revealing the full insanity of Packham’s agenda, and the pendulum now starts to swing the other way – although much will depend on the attitude of the BBC. Early indications are that they will stand by their man – the reporting of an incident in which an irate rustic hung a couple of dead crows on the fence of Packham’s Hampshire estate seems like an attempt to distract attention from the lunacy of the ban.
We need an honest debate: one that focuses on empirical evidence, not emotion, in which we are allowed to hear the voices of those who care about the countryside because they care for the countryside 24/7. It is simply wrong to say that a lassez-faire attitude to our wildlife will provide a balance in nature – there are too many cats, grey squirrels and other predators let loose by man. The crow, which is omnivorous and can survive on carrion, is out of control, its numbers boosted by the food provided by road kill and rubbish tips.
There are very few apex predators left in the British countryside. Man needs to perform that role. It is time that the BBC got itself a new wildlife presenter and allowed a different message on conservation, before it is too late for the lark.