At the annual gathering of the ornithological clan, the Bird Fair, held two weeks ago, shooting journalist Charlie Jacoby, bearded the lion or in this case the lions in their own den, by inviting Wild Justice’s three musketeers, Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, to take part in a debate about their thinking and approach to the vexed subject of driven grouse shooting. The debate, which took place in front of packed crowd of birdlovers, can be seen by visiting Fieldsport Channels’ YouTube channel, https://youtu.be/qd5mC73gQNU
Jacoby is an affable chap, but his light-hearted quips often made in response to some of the more po-faced not to say inaccurate assertions of those with whom he was sharing the stage, were met with stony silence by an audience which leached hostility in his direction. The debate was intriguing, not so much for highlighting the chasm that separates those who shoot birds from those who prefer to watch them, but because of the opportunity it provided to study in close-up the three leading lights of Wild Justice.
Firstly, there was Mark Avery. The debate was taking place in scorching heat under canvas, resulting in Avery being at his most unappealing. Dressed in a sweat soaked T shirt, red faced and clearly in need of a shower, what comes across most about this Falstaffian figure, is the struggle he has in concealing his rage behind a thin veneer of good humour. This was especially evident when, jabbing his finger at Jacoby, he reminded him that it was he that is the scientist and not his erstwhile interrogator, a point that met with approval from an audience, many of whom clearly fight a similar struggle with anger to that of Avery. Sitting between him and Chris Packham was Ruth Tingay. She barely participated in the debate, either refusing or unable to engage in eye contact with Jacoby. She embodied the view clearly shared by her audience, that there are no arguments in favour of grouse shooting, and that in appearing at all on the platform she was simply humouring her colleagues. Packham for his part seemed at times conciliatory, until of course one examined his words, in particular his statement that he does not oppose shooting per se. It is clear that the bird world’s pin up boy, is becoming extremely media savvy, shaping his statements and if required flatly contradicting himself, according to which audience he is addressing.
It is doubtful whether we learned anything we didn’t know from this debate, except perhaps that Jacoby might have a future career on Questiontime and that whilst Packham and his two lieutenants may be hostile to shooting they are as nothing compared to the rank and file of the bird watching community.