The following article was published in The Times last Saturday.
It sits behind a paywall so I’ve reproduced it below:
The BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham has described how his stepdaughter faced a torrent of online abuse after a game-shooting organisation drew attention to her social media account and the fact they are related.
Megan McCubbin, 25, faced weeks of “vile and hateful” messages after the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC), pointed out her connection to Packham, 60.
Packham, who has frequently taken aim at the game-bird industry, alleges that the BASC tacitly extended an invitation to online trolls: “Here’s a young woman, a friend of Chris’s who has started working with him why don’t you have a go?”
A long-running campaign of death threats against the naturalist escalated sharply late last Friday when two men set a car on fire outside his home in the New Forest.
CCTV footage shows one man pulling on a balaclava before stepping out of a Land Rover. He sets light to what appears to be a fuse; moments later the car explodes.
“These people knew exactly what they were doing,” Packham said. “I would suggest that they had prior experience in blowing cars up.”
He added: “I think maybe because I was bullied at school, I don’t have a fear of physical violence. But if they do it to me and they get away with it, they’ll do it to other environmental campaigners. What’s next will it be an exploding car outside Greta [Thunberg’s] house?”
A spokesman for the BASC said that it did not condone online abuse. It had the right to point out to its members that McCubbin was a youth ambassador for the League Against Cruel Sports, which campaigns against shooting, he said.
“McCubbin is using the celebrity status provided by the BBC [where she is a co-presenter of Springwatch] to promote an anti-shooting agenda; we’re allowed to be critical of that,” he added. “Packham plays a very astute game. He is very good at causing the sort of publicity that attacks shooting.”
Packham has received death threats for years. In 2019, after he campaigned to end the indiscriminate shooting of jays, wood pigeons and other birds that many in the countryside consider wrongly, he says to be vermin, two dead crows were strung up outside his home.
On another occasion, an anonymous letter suggested that a traffic accident could be arranged to kill him. Fox and badger carcasses have been dumped on his drive.
Packham said it was possible that the arson attack, which is being investigated by police, was carried out by local vandals or internet trolls. However, he thinks that it was committed too efficiently for that. “I think this is probably fox-hunting related,” he said.
He has been calling for members of the National Trust to vote for a ban on trail hunting, where hounds follow a scent rather than a fox, on its land.
He suspects that the attack may have been timed to coincide with the verdict in the case of a leading huntsman who was prosecuted for allegedly providing advice on how to hunt foxes illegally, behind a smokescreen of trail hunting.
“Fox hunting was always going to come to an end,” Packham said. “But the nails are being driven in faster than they’d anticipated.” A backlash was inevitable, he added.
Speaking to The Times at the Natural History Museum in London this week, where he was presenting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, he was critical of how the online abuse he received had been policed. “It’s a little unfair that when black footballers receive unwanted and appalling hate crime the issue can be dealt with,” he said in a video he posted on Twitter.
“And that’s great, of course, and I would support that fully. But I am surprised that when environmentalists like myself receive similarly hateful torrents of relentless abuse nothing can be done about it.”
The arson attack on his home was part of a broader pattern, he said. “We’re living, post-pandemic, in a very angry time. A time of polarisation and division, the likes of which I’ve not seen before.”
In the past Packham has accused gamekeepers of “genocidal” practices and said that fox-hunting has a “psychopathic element”. He said that he preferred the word “extermination” to extinction” when discussing largescale biodiversity loss.
He once got into trouble for arguing that the giant panda was not worth the time, trouble and expense of saving from extinction, adding that he would happily eat the last one.
“I do weaponise vernacular to some extent,” he said. “I think that language is important, and it’s a very, very powerful tool. It has the power to incite and inflame people. No doubt about that but in a competitive world, we’ve got to get our stories out there.”
BASC has responded to this article by stating:
“It’s ludicrous to suggest that BASC would encourage online abuse, whether that’s Chris Packham, his step daughter or anyone else for that matter“.
The BASC website article referred to by Chris in The Times was published last year and can be read here. In my view it’s targeted and abusive and celebrates how Megan’s “woke guff was admirably tackled in the comments thread by those who understand there is a far more positive side to grouse shooting“.
You can make up your own mind whether or not you think it’s ‘ludicrous’ to suggest that BASC staff have published online abuse about named individuals and incited others to join in.