Yesterday my mate Chris Packham was handing in a petition to Buckingham Palace asking the Royal Family to rewild their extensive land holdings as a tangible and visible token of their support for UK nature conservation. It’s the type of thing Chris does – he’s a campaigner, he’s an advocate and he puts himself about for a wide variety of causes that he supports. In my view, expressed to him, he tries to do too much, but he does things so well, and he finds it difficult to say no when someone asks for his help. No wonder he seems a bit run ragged at times – he needs to get more sleep.
On Thursday/Friday night Chris didn’t get as much sleep as he deserved because someone set fire to a car outside his house in the New Forest – he was woken by the petrol tank exploding after midnight.
Can you imagine that happening to you and your property – apparently because you campaign for a better future for wildlife? I visited Chris the week before last, we had a Wild Justice board meeting (slightly pretentious description of a chat between Chris, Ruth and me), and if the events of this week had happened last week I would have been able to see the flames from my bed. I drove through the security gates, that are now blackened and charred, after Chris had checked on the CCTV …
… that it was me pushing the buzzer at the gates.
This is scary stuff. It’s very much akin to the violent intimidation to which wildlife campaigners in southern Europe are subjected by hunters. Chris asks where it will end. I am concerned for the safety of my friend, and those around him, and those associated with him. The nastiness spreads very widely.
But as you can see and hear in the video above, Chris isn’t going to change. He isn’t going to step down, he will continue to step up.
And he was stepping up yesterday, as if nothing had happened. He was on the campaign trail again, as always, giving his time and profile freely to the causes he supports.
I hope the 100+ children whom Chris accompanied yesterday get to hear that Chris’s support for wildlife causes comes with a real cost to him – financial and emotional. This isn’t a game when cars are set alight outside your house. The man they saw smiling and chatting yesterday was the subject of a violent attack the day before.
I wonder where it will end. Chris is a leader, and he’s taking the flak for a lot of causes that the public supports. There is no-one quite like him out there. Cherish him, and please, show Chris whatever support you can.