This just came my way tonight, Mark Avery (blogger, journalist, feather-licker, badger-hugger) turned up with an attack on one of the oldest and most respected professions in the UK last October. Gamekeeping. Avery is someone who gets fans and gets fat under a banner of ‘Standing Up For Nature’. On his blog he has asked his minions to suggest a collective noun for a gathering of gamekeepers. He, himself, opens the batting with suggestions such as ‘a slaughter of gamekeepers’ and ‘a denial of gamekeepers’ amongst more puerile offerings. His supporters, as expected, have waded in with other suggestions. All equally insulting and childish. Yet such is the rift between those who believe that protecting birds can be done without controlling predators and those who believe that homo sapiens has an inherited right to intervene in that protection.
A recent post on Facebook (Avery himself is a serial social media guerrilla) pointed out that the Yorkshire Game Fair attracted some 200,000 visitors last weekend while a similar ‘birding’ fair (allegedly attended by that other twitching gnome, Bill Oddie) attracted just 5000. Now before I go on I should point out that as a hunter, journalist, photographer and author I write constantly about the protection of songbirds and other vulnerable wild species. Yes, I ‘game keep’ for landowners and farmers but I mostly ‘songbird keep’. I remove predatory species such as magpies, crows, rats, grey squirrels and make my own mark (excuse the pun) on bird numbers quietly and efficiently. I’m a fairly mild man (most true wildlife lovers are) but my blood does start to boil when I read the rants of largely urban, privileged attention seekers like Avery, Oddie, Packham and May. Gamekeeping is a worthy career and profession. The health of wildlife in this country has suffered far more from now (thankfully) abandoned agricultural practises and the well-meaning but irrational land and predator management of wildlife charities. Avery and his cronies would have the public believe that anyone with an association with gamekeeping is a serial killer. They walk the fields during daylight hours slaughtering buzzards and hen harriers then spend all night killing badgers and foxes. Nothing could be further from the truth. But then, how would Avery, Oddie et al know? All they do is wander around sanitised, protected RSPB sites with a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope and wonder why they can’t see any wading birds? The chicks having been slaughtered on their nests by stoats, foxes and corvids.
Look … I’m not going to rant on. I’m just going to ask my friends to join in the fun. Lets suggest a list of collective nouns for ‘birders’ or ‘bunny-huggers’? Can I start first?
An ‘impotence’ of bunny-huggers.
An ‘ignorant bliss’ of twitchers.
A ‘hush’ of reserve rangers.
A ‘mis-representation’ of charity media officers.
I’m sure you get my drift.
Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, May 2015