Two days ago, Chris Packham sent a video message to Marks & Spencer about their decision to sell red grouse in their stores this year. If you missed it, here it is again:
Some from within the grouse-shooting community have responded, and they are rattled. Seriously rattled. We’ve read hundreds of messages on social media, almost entirely full of vile, vitriolic, personal abuse, aimed directly at Chris as well as at fellow campaigner Mark Avery.
Today, BASC has issued a public statement about the video – see here. We’ve reproduced it here in case it ‘disappears’:
BASC backs M&S to beat the bullies
BASC is urging Marks & Spencer not to buckle to celebrity bullying after Chris Packham launched a social media campaign calling on the retailer to stop selling red grouse in its stores.
Packham, a regular presenter for the BBC, has appeared in a YouTube video ahead of the retailer’s AGM this week in which he labels shot grouse as ‘toxic’ and urges viewers to lobby the retailer to abandon the sale of grouse. Packham is promoting the video on his official Twitter account.
M&S has previously said they would continue to stock grouse providing it could be sourced ‘to the highest standards of game and moorland management’.
BASC believes the retailer’s stance is consistent with the association’s own aim of promoting ethical shooting on grouse moors effectively managed for conservation and long-term sustainability.
Duncan Thomas, BASC’s northern director, said: “For Packham to condemn grouse as ‘toxic’ can only be either naïve on his part or deliberately inflammatory. Grouse, when properly prepared for the table, is a healthy, tasty and popular game meat. That’s the reason reputable retailers like M&S put it on their shelves.
“There is always an onslaught from antis in the run up to the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, so we should expect nothing less from the likes of Packham. He abuses his position as a presenter with the BBC to promote an ill-informed, anti-shooting agenda and to support failing petitions.”
BASC chairman Peter Glenser said: “We applaud M&S for standing strong against this cynical, celebrity bullying. Grouse is an ethical food source. As a major presence on the high-street, I’m sure M&S will continue to prefer substance over propaganda.
“Contrary to the claims of the antis, grouse shooting has been proven to have an economic value of around £100 million per year and supports the equivalent of more than 2,500 full-time jobs. And grouse moors support a vast range of wildlife, not just grouse. This is absolutely down to the efforts of gamekeepers and farmers.”
BASC has published an interactive infographic on the benefits of grouse shooting, which shows that up to five times more threatened wading birds are supported on land managed for grouse shooting and 75 per cent of the world’s ecologically sensitive heather moorland is found in the UK because of grouse moor management.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it, that they decide to label Chris as a ‘celebrity bully’ just for asking legitimate, reasonable questions of Marks & Spencer, but say nothing when ‘celeb’ Ian Botham spews unsubstantiated abuse at the RSPB? And isn’t this the same industry that petitioned for the BBC to sack Chris for speaking out about wildlife crime (a move that spectacularly backfired when a counter-petition reached over 80,000 signatures in support of him – see here) – what was that if it wasn’t bullying?
And how, exactly, can politely asking legitimate, reasonable questions of Marks & Spencer’s ethics, be construed as bullying? M&S, quite rightly, takes great pride in its ethics, claiming to have a strong policy on food sourcing, including a ‘named farmer’ scheme and a farm assurance scheme ‘which guarantees high quality food production’ (see here) and high specifications for animal welfare (see here). So when they suddenly become all coy about the details of their supposed ‘industry-leading Code of Practice for game meat’ (here), and refuse to name the estate from which they’re sourcing their grouse, naturally questions are going to be asked. Especially when M&S infers (here) that this ‘industry-leading Code of Practice’ is supported by the RSPB, when actually, it isn’t at all – the RSPB hasn’t even seen it (see here)!
Shot red grouse, sourced from most driven grouse moors, are generally unhealthy, unnatural, and unsustainable (see here). They may contain:
- Excessive amounts of toxic poisonous lead (over 100 times the lead levels that would be legal for other meat – see here)
- Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Flubendazole (see here)
- Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Levamisole hydrochloride (also used in chemotherapy treatment for humans with colon cancer – see here)
- Unknown quantities of the pesticide Permethrin (used topically to treat scabies and pubic lice; probably not that great to ingest – see here)
- They may also be infected with the disease Cryptosporidiosis (see here).
Now, if M&S can demonstrate that their red grouse have been sourced from a sustainably-managed grouse moor, whose gamekeepers aren’t involved in illegal wildlife persecution or indeed in excessive levels of ‘legal’ persecution, and that they subject their grouse to rigorous testing for the all above chemicals and poisons, then no worries, we’d have no complaints. But so far, M&S has refused to answer any specific questions and won’t even name the source estate. What are they hiding?
And why is the grouse-shooting industry pointing its guns at Chris? Why shoot the messenger? Surely, if they believe that red grouse is healthy, natural and sustainable, they’d be encouraging M&S to be open and transparent about (a) the origin of their grouse and (b) the tests & checks they’ve undertaken to ensure the grouse meet M&S’s usual high standards?
Are they so rattled because they know they can’t provide answers to these questions? Probably, and also because they know that Chris is held in high-regard by the general public as a man of principle, integrity and decency, and so people are more likely to pay attention to his views than those of abusive, foul-mouthed social media trolls.
If you share Chris Packham’s views, and appreciate his willingness to stand up and speak out against the raptor killers, and object to his vilification by the grouse-shooting industry, please sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE. That’s the e-petition that BASC’s Duncan Thomas describes as “failing”. Hmm, 55,000+ signatures so far and rising all the time.
UPDATE 14 July 2016: Grouse-shooting industry further enraged by Chris Packham video here