Three’s Company

There was something wholly predictable about the launch of Wild Justice. According to one of its joint founders, BBC TV presenter Chris Packham, the central aim of the new body is to “stand up for wildlife using the justice system”. In a stirring speech at the February launch, Packham promised that anyone breaking the law could expect to find Wild Justice “coming to get them”. And Packham, although he did not say so in so many words, did little to disguise the fact that he regards game shooters especially as among the criminals he is coming to get; however, the launch of Wild Justice rather than something else for the shooting community to worry about, could turn out to be rather good news for hunting, shooting and fishing and here’s why.

Wild Justice has been founded by Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay. All three are known for outspoken campaigning against shooting, although only Packham has what might be called a public profile. And all three share in common a reputation for being, well, let’s say, opinionated. Although ostensibly united by their common antipathy to fieldsports and forming a happy little family of mutually supportive tweeters along the way, one suspects that required to work collaboratively under the auspices of a company structure, not for profit or otherwise, may prove very challenging – and especially for Packham, who has admitted he finds other people a strain. And then there’s the money. The Wild Justice page on Chris Packham’s website boasts that it will shortly announce legal campaigns against local authorities and statutory bodies who are, in their view, not enforcing wildlife law. Presumably they will be able to count on pro bono support from those in the legal profession who share their beliefs, but that will only take them so far. Fundraising not only consumes a lot of time, but often brings with it an understandable proprietorial interest from those doing the giving. And these givers are often determined to have their say, as the League Against Cruel Sports, permanently under siege from a motley bunch of vegans, tree huggers, anti-capitalists and cat lovers, can testify. Even supposing that none of this causes a problem, the question is just how will they get the sort of funding which their ambitious manifesto demands? Unlike the Netherlands based Wildlife Justice organisation (there does not appear to be any official connection between the two) which is funded in part by the Dutch version of the postcode lottery, Wild Justice will have to pass the hat around and as Packham himself knows from previous efforts, that’s easier said than done. Currently the group have appealed for £36,000 to start a legal fight against the general licence and to be fair to them they are close to getting it, but this, mind, is their first campaign and comes on the back of the publicity generated by the launch of the organisation. Once the hullaballoo dies down the money will become harder to find.

There is a role for Wild Justice, because all around the country cash strapped local authorities and other bodies charged with a legal duty protect the countryside and the wildlife that lives in it and are not doing so. Someone needs to hold them to account. The problem is that the three people who have taken it upon themselves to do so, are single issue fanatics each blessed with an abundant ego and obsessed with shooting. Chuck into the pot questionable people skills and it becomes a matter of if rather than when the bust-up happens. Shooting sports must remain vigilant, but where this particular opponent is concerned they are safe for a little while yet: safe that is if there is any justice.

Pic: Wild Justice