The justice league?

Caroline Roddis marvels at the superhuman efforts being made by Chris Packham and the rest of the ‘Wild Justice’ organisation.

‘Wild Justice’ have established themselves in order to fight legal cases on behalf of nature

What with all this Brexit malarkey, scanning the news has never been more painful. I realise that by the time you read this you’ll all be foraging from rubbish bins and telling stories how it was once easy to pop across the Channel, but at the moment the news is swamped with endless articles about people for whom successfully organising a p***-up in a brewery is but a distant aspiration.

After all this time I’m far past the point of stress and now firmly into the rocky and inhospitable territory of infuriated boredom. It seems like Groundhog Day (the film, not the weather forecasting day which, incidentally, is marked in Germany by sunbathing badgers): the same votes, the same amendments, the same speeches, the same desperate cap-in-hand forays to the continent.

What’s most distressing is that I might have made these same jokes at any point during the past two years and I don’t remember, because we’re trapped in the resin of Brexit and time has lost all meaning.

It’s not like we haven’t tried to make Brexit about us either, which as we all know is the only way to make anything interesting. “Tories must protect the British shoot from Brexit, warns Countryside Alliance,” shouts a Telegraph article from April last year.

Clearly the Tories haven’t protected anyone from anything, unless you’re a multi-millionaire with a sudden interest in offshore accounts, but I hope the CA at least feel vindicated by a recent Reuters article in which the suppliers of pheasant chicks helpfully point out how very difficult Brexit is going to make liberating our customary supplies of oiseaux from France. (#Chixit).

Vindication might not go very far when we’re all using pheasant pens to stockpile camembert and ready-to-bake baguettes, but still.

 

The bane of the industry

Anyway, with all this nonsense going on it’s a bit hard to get other news on to the front page. Even Donald Trump is having to go crazier than normal just to get attention. And speaking of crazy, Chris Packham has been up to his customary hysterics to bag a little media attention.

Not only has he had a pop at the ponies in the New Forest, who have clearly gone around stamping their hooves on protected species when no one else was looking, but he’s also launched a brand new organisation that looks and smells a bit like a charity but is instead a ‘not for profit company’ – which won’t be subject to quite the same regulation.

This latest charity-cum-company – let’s call it a chumpany – was set up by a group of people who make Del Boy and Rodney in Batman and Robin costumes look like the Justice League. Not only do you have Packham (aka Tw*tman), but also Mark Avery (aka the Incredibly Sweaty Hulk) and Dr Ruth Tingay (aka Blunder Woman). What could possibly go wrong?

These fine figures set up the chumpany, called ‘Wild Justice’, to ‘stand up for wildlife using the legal system’. As their website helpfully points out, wildlife are generally incapable of bringing their own cases to court. Who knew? Although… medieval courts in Europe did have an odd habit of putting animals on trial – presumably because they wanted to eat them – so let’s not examine that too closely.

The wonderful thing about the name Wild Justice, apart from the fact that it sounds like a country and western song, is that when you Google it you discover that it’s a popular book title. Not only have well-known authors like Wilbur Smith used it, but also a slew of less recognised – and usually for good reason – scribblers who’ve penned everything from lurid thrillers about the mafia to medieval murder mysteries.

It got me thinking: given that Packham’s Wild Justice already gets quite lost in the Google search results, with a little bit of cash and some SEO magic we could probably drown out the chumpany completely. Better yet, if anyone has a little time on their hands, why not pen your own work of comic fiction entitled ‘Wild Justice’ and get us all to buy it, propelling it into the bestseller charts and media?

Perhaps the plot could feature a deluded, misguided figure who somehow finds fame despite his glaring inadequacies? Character names are obviously difficult to come up with for works of literary genius such as these, but something like, I don’t know, Kris Krackham might have a ring to it… Wild Justice the company launched in mid- February to a slew of publicity, all of which essentially repeated the statement the team had put out to the media.

In what I admit was a clever move, Packham’s quote within their press statement contained the lines: “If you are breaking the law, if the law is weak, if the law is flawed – we are coming for you. Peacefully, democratically and legally.”

Inevitably, every headline then led with the just phrase ‘we’re coming for you’ – and as it was covered by most major newspapers, that’s quite a lot of headlines.

Chris Packham has targeted shooters, rather than working with conservationists to tackle wildlife crime

Not only does the ‘we’re coming for you’ line make Wild Justice seem like a bunch of dynamic warriors on a crusade for righteousness, but it’s pretty eye-catching too – especially to the kind of rabid, wide-eyed supporter who they’re relying on to fling cash at their new enterprise.

What’s particularly frustrating is that there’s a distinct lack of questioning from the print and digital journalists, either on what exactly the company’s plans are – more than just the nebulous threat of lawsuits – or on how they justify accepting donations to their cause without having yet specified what the money will be used for. It’s the same old recycle-the- press-release approach that’s a scourge of modern-day journalism.

Not everyone was to blame The BBC’s Farming Today programme did manage to interview Packham and get a few more details. Amazing, that. It’s almost like he has links with the BBC… What the interview demonstrated, quite quickly, was that in this case the general lack of questioning was not a bad thing for us, as Packham promptly used the airtime to liken the act of someone slashing a Constable painting in a gallery to a gamekeeper shooting an eagle on a grouse moor.

The way he said it made it clear that this was a very deliberate image that he’d been working on for some time – a way of portraying shooting as the bad guys without incurring repercussions for doing so.

 

Two-faced responses

In response to this interview, Fieldsports Channel had a good go at pulling his comments apart, while also making the entirely valid point that rather than work with shooting organisations to tackle wildlife crime Packham had instead sought to paint our entire industry as wildlife criminals.

While I don’t agree with their statement that Packham explicitly says this in the interview, I am entirely convinced that it was his intention to imply it – a lisping leopard never changes its spots. Of course, Twitter was soon full of antis bashing the Fieldsports Channel piece, and calling on Wild Justice to use their donations to sue them for libel.

And this is where the media should sit up and take note, though of course they never will: these comments demonstrate that supporters don’t merely see Wild Justice as a dry legal organisation slowly plodding through court cases, they see it as a weapon to fight every perceived injustice, no matter how unwarranted or petty.

And of course, they’ll want Wild Justice to comes for us in every possible way. Packham and the other jokers might be happy taking the cash for now, but how long will it be before – much as with our Brexit negotiations – the divisions start to become damaging to everyone?

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