A thorny issue for Patagonia

Choiunard: Might be surprised at the company his company is keeping.

Beth Thoren is Patagonia’s Environmental Action Initiatives Director. At this early stage we should point out that by Patagonia we do not mean the arid southern region of Argentina, but rather the American outdoor clothing brand. Readers unfamiliar with the company will learn that it has a long track record of promoting and championing environmental issues in line with the guiding principles of its founder Yvon Chouinard. To this end the company both here and overseas is often an enthusiastic supporter of conservation initiatives, something that falls very much within Ms. Thoren’s purview and as a result we must presume that she was entirely ignorant of the fact that one of the bodies she chose to support, a group calling themselves Moorland Monitors, rather than spending its time monitoring moorland with the aim of promoting and protecting this rare environment, is comprised of a small collection of anti-fieldsports agitators whose contribution to the broad issues of environmental well-being is to provide a home to vitriolic attacks on shooting in general and grouse shooters in particular, via social media and its website.

The assumption that Ms. Thoren was unaware that Moorland Monitors’ approach to ‘environmental action initiatives’ is to spend its waking hours posting pictures of dead animals and birds and captioning them with unproven accusations as to who the perpetrators might be, becomes somewhat harder to sustain when one considers her response once the matter was brought to her attention by the Countryside Alliance. In a letter responding to the Alliance, she said: “…they ( Moorland Monitors) were funded for a specific plan to engage specialists to survey territories of badgers and mountain hares, plus monitoring and public awareness raising. This is aligned with our company objective to protect wild places”.

Well, that sounds okay, doesn’t it? Almost scientific. Taken at face value one could expect at some point that Beth and Patagonia will receive a report, packed with data and analysis. The kind of balanced summary you get when you engage specialists, even if we are not actually told what it is they specialise in. We shall see in due course, but any claims Moorland Monitors may make toward taking a scientific rather than emotional approach to the question of moorland and moorland management does not appear substantiated by its website. What is evident – and presumably Ms. Thoren must have taken a look at the site before handing over the cash – is that it is put together by very hostile and very angry people as evidenced by article after article citing cases of possibly illegal trapping of animals and birds, along with very one-sided explorations of the business of game farming and much else in a similar vein. Anyone visiting the website will leave with the firm impression that Moorland Monitors is viscerally opposed to game farming and in being so lacks any objectivity about the subject of shooting. That’s absolutely fine, but if you had money to spend on compiling a scientific survey of animal territories and similar why would you entrust those funds to a body so clearly lacking the scientific objectivity that this might demand?

Patagonia has a well-earned reputation for working to support conservation efforts worldwide. It puts its money where its mouth is and has been very successful in encouraging others to do the same. Its founder, Yvon Chouinard, talks passionately about the need to seek to cooperation rather confrontation and has gone on record in underlining the importance of using science to spread the conservation message. We can see nothing scientific whatsoever about Moorland Monitors’ approach to moorland management, just bile, angry denunciation and as Yvon Choiunard would be interested to learn, confrontation.

Time to think again, Ms.Thoren?

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