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Botham takes aim at ‘eco-woke campaigners’ in column

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by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Ian Botham has taken aim at who he describes as “eco-woke campaigners” in a column for the Telegraph.

Botham, who was elevated to the House of Lords earlier this year, used his column to lay out his mission as a life peer stating that he strives to “stand up for ordinary rural folk like me.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) came under fire from Botham and not for the first time. Back in 2015, the former England cricketer threatened to sue the organisation for libel. Today, Botham accused the organisation of campaigning against the people “who do the real work of managing nature and looking after the well-being of many endangered birds.”

“The RSPB seems to hate these folk,” wrote Botham. “These are the men and women who rise before dawn and spend most of their working hours outside in woods and fields and moors trying to improve the countryside habitat. Want to talk about biodiversity? No end of studies have shown that their labours improve woodland, increase the number of bird and animal species and add to plant growth.

“Ranged against these country folk are a handful of grim eco-warriors led by the RSPB and the likes of the BBC’s Chris Packham. Packham was “delighted” when he managed to get farmers banned from shooting crows and wood pigeons during last year’s breeding season. Crows love nothing better than to peck out the eyes of newborn lambs. Did you know that? I’ve seen it. Pigeons love to eat the seeds of the new crop. Farmers had to stand by helplessly as their sheep were attacked and the crops plundered. The corvids also like nothing better than to attack and kill the songbirds which normal RSPB members – like the rest of us – love to see outside the kitchen door on the bird table.

“Packham and the RSPB seem to be determined to stop pheasant shooting, so they use the urban courts to tie the farmers and gamekeepers in red tape. How’s it going for the birds and other wildlife? Not well, I’m afraid. For years the RSPB has been attacking the ancient practice of burning heather during damp winters. Britain’s gamekeepers use such controlled activity to reduce the risk of summer wildfires – just like indigenous people in Australia and North America.

“The scarring of Saddleworth Moor was a warning of what happens when vegetation grows too tall. It didn’t get much coverage on the BBC, but let me assure you it was heartbreaking. Just like the images you see in California or New South Wales but right on our backdoor with hundreds of birds and four-legged creatures burned alive.

“Yet despite knowing what wildfires do to wildlife the RSPB demands a ban on managed burns. Why? Could it be because they are used by the gamekeepers it detests? As a result the rules have become tighter and fewer winter burns are taking place. When the inevitable wildfires happen next summer whom will you blame? So eco-woke campaigners are a nightmare for nature.”

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