As of February 2016, after 416 posts, and over six and a half years of blogging, I'm taking a break.
I've explained why here. There's plenty of past posts to read, though - hope you enjoy them !
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Chris Packham and two other newsworthy things


This week, instead of one big post, I was going to mention three things which I think are really important: the Chris Packham controversy, Paolo Viscardi's new job, and what I'll be doing at the Wigtown Book Festival at the end of the month.

If you're outside the UK you might not have heard of Chris Packham, but over here he is a very well known naturalist and broadcaster. He's best known for being one of the presenters on BBC Autumnwatch/Winterwatch/Springwatch, but before that he was a presenter on The Really Wild Show. The UK has lots of wildlife presenters, but he is one of the best known.

I first met him when I was nine, when he heard about me and came to film at my house, and I last met him in person when I was on Winterwatch. He is one of the people I thank at the start of my book, and he has been extremely kind and generous to me, as well as being an inspiration. He is not bland. He says what he believes. He sometimes puts himself in danger to protect wildlife. He is the kind of person I want to be when I grow up.

The Countryside Alliance don't like him.  They are an an organisation which sounds soft and fluffy, but it really exists to represent the interests of extremely rich landowners. It has a membership of 100,000 which is tiny compared to the RSPB (over a million) or the Wildlife Trusts (over 800,000). It is pro-fox hunting, where foxes are chased by rich men on horses, who then set dogs on the fox, killing it inhumanely.

They are in favour of the badger cull, which costs £7,000 per badger killed, many of whom inhumanely, and it doesn't even work. They are in favour of using lead shot (which poisons water supply) and in favour of driven grouse shoots (which affects hen harriers). If like watching wildlife, you're probably a member of the RSPB or a Wildlife Trust. If you're rich and enjoy killing wildlife then you're probably a member of the Countryside Alliance.

Another way to put it is that when you join the RSPB, you get a great magazine about wildlife sent four times a year. When you join the Countryside Alliance they give you free advice on what gun to buy to shoot wildlife. That's the difference.

Anyway, earlier this week the Countryside Alliance put out a rather bonkers statement in which they said Chris Packham should no longer be employed by the BBC because he was "biased". They called his views "bizarre" even though a majority of the public have opposed fox hunting over the last decade. What they really mean is "he says things that the rich landowners who pay us don't agree with".

I'm amazed that this was ever even a story.  Of course the people who kill wildlife for fun will disagree with people who think it is wrong to kill wildlife for fun. I would be more worried if they agreed with him.

Whatever they intended to do, it has backfired. A petition calling on the BBC to keep Chris as a presenter currently has 68,000 signatures. A survey on the Mirror website says that only 6% of readers thought he should be sacked. And there have been lots of supportive newspaper articles, such as this one by George Monbiot.

Even so, these attacks cannot be very nice for Chris. If you can show your support in any way for someone who has inspired a whole generation of naturalists, it would be really appreciated.

Paolo's new job

I know Paolo because he we both blog about bones, and he has an excellent blog called Zygoma in which he sets bone puzzles. For years he has been a curator at the Horniman Museum in London, and he showed me round the store there last summer, and I last met him when I was down at Radio Four a few months ago. He was also the scientific advisor on my book (that's him in the picture with my editor Jo).

Paolo's now going to be the curator at the brilliant Grant Museum in London, which is small but it has to be one of the best bone museums in the UK. I visited it two years ago, and the Grant Museum provided the "mystery bones" when I was on The One Show with Sir David Attenborough. I am really, really pleased for Paolo, he's got a brilliant job and he really deserves it.

The Wigtown Book Festival

I'm at the Wigtown Book Festival in Dumfries and Galloway (south-west Scotland) on Sunday September 27th, from 11am to 4pm. It's a drop-in event,  rather than a formal talk, and I'll be showing off some of my bones and I'll there be to chat and talk about bones and nature.  If you're around, do come in to meet me - I love meeting people who read my blog, and I'll have lots of time to sit and chat. It's also a brilliant book festival with lots of events on throughout the day for all ages.

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