A Cryptic Message from my Cousin Part 3

My cousin has been at it again. Once more he has secreted some sort of theme in his project newsletter. I worry for him, he needs to get out more. If you’ve got any idea what he’s on about, let me know. Having eaten the packet of peanuts I was offering for a prize last time round, I’ve got nothing to tempt you in to solving this puzzle for me beyond the glamour and self-satisfaction of cracking a code. So have a go, see what you think, but I think it’s probably high time I sat my cousin down and had a gentle word with him about perhaps getting a hobby.

Is David Attenborough Harming Conservation?

I stumbled across an article recently quoting the hirsute James May-a-like one from Springwatch contending that wildlife TV programmes are doing more harm than good (although of course he didn’t really say that at all). There’s some marvellous work in this piece by the journalist, stitching together different parts of what Hughes-Games says to form completely new and and interesting sentences. But that’s by the by*. I’m not here to comment on the Daily Mail’s editing process and journalistic standards, we could be here all day.

Hughes-Games does appear to rather stick the boot in to good old Attenborough:


Attenborough vs Hughes-Games: If it comes to fisticuffs, my money is still on Big Dave

What we have done is like a drug – it’s like cocaine. People love these wonderful, utopian, escapist programmes where you can just disappear into a world untouched by humanity, ignoring the reality.

There may be some merit to that, but it’s interesting (though not really surprising) that he goes out of his way to excuse fluffy-Blue-Peter-magazine Springwatch and point the finger at Attenborough epics. He might not have said quite what he is purported to have said but there’s definitely a point, although actually I think it is the one counter to that Hughes-Games is (possibly) trying to make. It isn’t the big, epic, utopian programmes like Attenborough’s that are presenting a sanitised version of the natural world, it’s the smaller ones, closer to home.

I would be absolutely amazed if anyone watching Life on Earth is not acutely aware of the fragility of what they are watching. It’s hard-wired into the show and I don’t think they shirk it. It’s more a question of distance than anything – there’s not a huge amount the casual viewer can do about many of these issues thousands of miles away if we’re honest. But Springwatch and the like deal with issues right on our doorstep and if anyone can be accused of ignoring the reality when they could really make a difference, it’s them and their ilk.

Springwatch people can do things and that is part of its appeal. You can do something and see the results of what you do.’

Hmm, not so sure about that Martin. As a BBC flagship program their are certain issues we in the sector know that you can’t really touch with a bargepole.

Take Countryfile. Countryfile…oh countryfile. Never before have I known a program split everyone so directly down the middle and yet still manage to hold both sets of viewers. It’s been dubbed ‘Towniefile’ by some of the more social-media active farmers, whereas there’s a whole other section who see it as ‘Adam and his right-wing, Tory farming chums.’

Last night (16 August) they visited the CLA Game Fair and gave a rather positive spin on huntin’ and shootin’. There was quite a show of the positive social, economic and conservation benefits it brings (and yes, there are positives. Quite a few. Despite some ravings to the contrary, the shooting community are not out to destroy all our native fauna while simultaneously reinstalling a medieval feudal system). There was no mention of raptor persecution or the loss of habitat and species that managing for game can cause. And that’s just small beer, in the scheme of things – there’s little talk of CAP or Cross-compliance (beyond what it means for Adam’s rare breeds), planning pressures and the weakness of protected area designations, marine conservation areas, eutrophication, pesticides, etc etc in these programs. But then that wouldn’t be particularly engaging for the layman, I suppose.

It isn’t that they don’t attempt to broach these subjects with unbiased equanimity. They just don’t broach them. They steer well clear for fear of upsetting a section of viewers, or being accused of verging into lobbying territory. You can see why. From one rather gentle question about the possibly contrary nature of ‘shooting’ and ‘conservation’ lobbed harmlessly for the spokesperson from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to bat out of the park, you would have thought from the reaction on twitter that the lovely Anita Raini had impugned the very integrity of a whole swathe of the countryside. Of course, the counter reaction was that she dodged asking the big questions because of a vast BBC conspiracy by the rural elite. I suppose they can’t win.

But then this is the BBC. These things are not (and, in truth, can not be) done. Maybe Hughes-Games should follow his automotively fixated Clarkson lackey doppleganger to commercial broadcasting where he might be given a greater degree of latitude.

*incidentally, does anyone know where ‘by the by’ comes from?

Poor Cecil

Hunt (v – used with object). 1. to chase or search for (game or other wild animals) for the purpose of catching or killing.


Cecil ruminates on the fragility of man and beast and awaits his impending doom stoically

Poor Cecil the Lion. You’d never heard of him until a month ago, had you? His fame has flourished since his stock has been in the ground. I wonder if he knew it would be like this? Probably not, he was a lion, after all. Anthropomorphising again. Sorry. I blame the Lion King.

To be brung low by an American dentist is, I’m sure, not what Cecil would have imagined for himself, if he ever dared to dream of his future. Which he almost certainly didn’t. Oh the indignity. Every time I have seen Walter Palmer mentioned in the news regarding Poor Cecil,the word ‘hunter’ or ‘hunting’ is usually somewhere in close pursuit. Think ‘hunting’ in Africa and you might be forgiven for conjuring up something almost romantic, but it’s a misappropriation of the word and the sentiment. This is a much updated ruin from a much outdated style of archaic light gun and slaughter-based entertainment. I’m not sure if he sees himself as Quartermain or worse, Hemingway, but if we are to term what the likes of Palmer do


Hemingway: Pompous Ass?

as hunting, then we may have to expand the definition of hunting to include all kinds of other activities. Butcher might be a better description for what is involved here, but that rather maligns butchers, without whom my life would be distressingly bacon-less. These ‘hunters’ provide nothing but an object for scorn and disdain.

There is something so very unsound about it. These people neither chase or search for their quarry. Like pheasant hunting, I fail to see what the challenge is if your quarry is either produced in such vast, dopey numbers that you can’t miss or is herded directly in to your gunsight without having to undergo the unnecessary discomfort of doing any of the actual ‘hunting’ yourself. If you’re not hunting for subsistence, then surely that’s what it’s all about? I have no great problem with hunting, I think it may well be an innate part of our make-up that we can’t easily shift, but what in gods name is the challenge in shooting a giraffe? So Walter Palmer and Cecil the Lion are inextricably linked now, remembered for a while at least. But don’t let it be said that Cecil was ‘hunted’. He was killed to order. Maybe assassinated is a better word, one more fitting for a King of the Jungle*.

*No, I never understood this one either.