The arson attack at the home of Chris Packham overnight Thursday 8th / Friday 9th October was truly shocking, although perhaps not surprising and our thoughts are with him and his family at this extremely difficult time.
Chris has been under a sustained personal attack for many years be it via social media trolling or by being targeted by people leaving dead birds and animals hanging on the gates of his home. It is very easy to see Chris as the target of these attacks, which is undoubtedly true; however he is not the only victim. Chris’s partner and step-daughter are also victims and knowing that must be a heavy burden for Chris to bear. There are endless calls for Chris to stand strong and I have no doubt that he will; however this is a family standing strong, a family that will not be cowed by the bullies who wish to force them to abandon all that they believe in. When discussing why conservationists or environmentalists do what we do, I always respond by saying ‘this is who we are, not what we do’. What Chris does to protect the natural environment reflects upon who he is; it is part of his DNA and that cannot be changed, nor should it.
It is far too early to point towards a particular group of suspects, let alone the individuals involved. There is a long and varied line to work though ranging from individuals who are furious at the changes to the previously illegal General Licences, pro shooting lobbyists, pro hunting lobbyists, pro heather burning groups, climate emergency sceptics and a host of others or they could just be cult followers of the Patron Saint of Killing Stuff. Whilst the vehicle that was used by the arsonists was clearly a write-off there may be clues left for the Police to pursue during their investigation; hopefully to a successful conclusion.
This was an extreme warning. There has been a pattern of increased intensity targeting Chris and his family; in all probability by a large number of individuals each emboldened by a previous incident. However; this latest event is a very dangerous escalation and unless it is stopped immediately the situation is likely to deteriorate further. Experience in similar cases shows just what a small step it takes to move from violence against property to violence against people.
Disagreeing with Chris’s views and campaigns is fine; after all calm well-argued discussions to resolve disagreements to find a better way forward is a foundation stone on which a working democracy is built. It has been well documented that there are many organisations, with tens of thousands of supporters, which have opposing views to those held by Chris however, it is now time for those organisations to stand firm, denounce what has happened, and support the rule of law. They need to publicly condemn this latest case and the persistent trolling and they need to do it immediately. They also need to publicly encourage their membership to contact the Police if they have any information which may help them detect this outrageous crime. Failure to do so could be construed by those responsible as tacit approval for this wholly unacceptable criminal behaviour.
11 October 2021