THE UK’s leading countryside organisations have joined in condemnation of Chris Packham’s latest attack on grouse moors by demanding the BBC withdraws support for the anti-shooting campaigner.

The broadcaster, who regularly presents nature and conservation programmes for the BBC, this week launched a personal social media campaign demanding that Marks And Spencer stops selling red grouse.

Packham released a non-BBC video on his YouTube channel in which he branded shot grouse as ‘toxic’ and urged viewers to lobby the high-street retailer via Twitter. He later used his personal Twitter account to publicise the video.

With the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ start of the grouse season just a month away, shooting, countryside and gamekeeping groups have united in response to Packham’s latest outburst.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Countryside Alliance, the Moorland Association and the National Gamekeepers Organisation have all questioned Packham’s freedom to continue his extremist anti-shooting propaganda while still being regularly employed by the BBC.

BASC chairman Peter Glenser said: “Chris Packham abuses the exposure afforded him as a BBC personality to continually espouse an ill-informed, anti-shooting agenda. This must be stopped by the BBC if they want licence fee payers to have faith in their editorial independence.

“For Packham to condemn shot grouse as ‘toxic’ is blatant misrepresentation. BASC proudly supports an ethical, sustainable grouse shooting industry which boosts the economy, keeps people in jobs and produces healthy, tasty and safe food for the table.”

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “As we have said consistently, Chris Packham has a right to his opinions, but the BBC’s editorial guidelines are very clear that its presenters must not engage in controversial campaigns.

“Mr Packham has already been warned by the BBC about his use of social media, and is currently under investigation by the BBC Trust for further breaches of the guidelines on campaigning. He cannot continue to trade on his profile as a BBC presenter to pedal mistruths and propaganda.”

Charles Nodder, political advisor for The National Gamekeepers Organisation, said: “Chris Packham’s video demonstrates perfectly the ugly side of social media, which seeks to manipulate public opinion and whip up the mob by employing deliberate tactics of half-truth and innuendo.

“The idea that grouse is a toxic, throwaway commodity would be laughable if it were not for Mr Packham’s influential role as a TV celebrity and high-profile employee of the BBC. There is no doubt his public comments carry the authority of, and are indivisible from, the BBC. If not, why else would he be chosen to front the anti-grouse shooting campaign?”

Amanda Anderson, Moorland Association director, said: “Whichever way he cuts it, Chris Packham is known as a ‘face’ of the BBC and, therefore, he has an obligation to behave in a manner befitting that organisation even when not directly employed by them. To that end, their editorial guidelines demand balance.

“If he won’t give it, we will. One study* has shown that when grouse shooting and associated management stops, nationally important bird populations hit rock bottom. He also neglects to mention that on top of these benefits to ecology, grouse shooting provides huge economic gains. In England alone, it is worth £67.7 million a year to the economy and provides 1,500 much-needed jobs.”

*http://www.moorlandassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Berwyn-Report.pdf