Biting the hand that feeds you

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I see that the RSPB is in the news again for all the wrong reasons – a twitter comment of course.  I understand that it has taken around £78m of funding from the government since 2018, with grants currently running at around £15m a year for conservation work.  Nothing wrong with that.

But to then take to social media and call the same government “liars”, as it did last week, might be thought of as a brave move, particularly as it invites the Charity Commission to investigate party political activism in what is supposed to be a politically-neutral charity.

More likely that these represent two distinct parts of the organisation; the one focused on practical wildlife conservation, and the other on being agin the Conservative government rather than merely being opposed to some of their policies.  Maybe this is a tricky distinction for activists to get right, but it does look a bit like biting the hand that feeds you.  Conversely, from the government’s perspective it might look – and not for the first time – like feeding the mouth that bites you.

I read that the message in question came from an enthused youth who'd been left with the Twitter key for the Summer rather than from normal 'management'.  No excuse; as I’m sure RSPB now realises.

Those in the charity involved in practical conservation also have dilemmas, and they are not alone.  Sometimes this can involve value judgements between species.  I'm told that in 2021, the charity found itself describing how to coat an electric fence with honey to give badgers a shock and keep them out of bird reserves.  This act of the imagination was probably an offence under the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act, and the honey strategy was quickly dropped.  This rather bizarre example illustrates the risks of getting things out of proportion, as do rogue tweets.  Not as egregiously wrong, however, as the use of helicopter gunships in Africa to shoot poachers, which I was once told by insiders was the preferred deterrent strategy of an international NGO back 'in the day'.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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