Chris Packham, the BBC presenter and naturalist, seems to consider himself well-informed on countryside matters. So much so that he has now instructed supermarkets not to sell grouse this summer, claiming that the lead shot used makes the birds unfit for human consumption.

Chris Packham’s anti-grouse statement could be considered ill-timed, coming as it does in the very week that the Government has stated there there will be no ban on lead ammunition.

The presenter said: “Marks and Spencer and Iceland, should you choose to sell grouse this year, I won’t be eating any of that toxic produce, and I won’t be shopping at your stores. I’ve signed a petition to ban driven grouse shooting.”

The supermarket’s response

Iceland stocked grouse last year but this year says it has “no plans to stock grouse”.

In contrast Marks & Spencer replied: “All M&S game products, and this would include Red Grouse if we took the decision to stock it, are hand inspected to minimise risk of excessive shot …. We’re currently working with our supplier to monitor numbers for this season and will only stock grouse if the numbers are strong enough.”

Peter Glenser, chairman of BASC, applauded Marks & Spencer’s stance for “standing strong against this cynical, celebrity bullying”.

He continued: “As a major presence on the high street, I’m sure M&S will continue to prefer substance over propaganda.”

Country sports organisations ask the BBC to control Packham

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance spoke out: “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. He cannot continue to trade on his profile as a BBC presenter to pedal mistruths and propaganda.”

Charles Nodder, political adviser for the National Gamekeepers Organisation, said: “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.”

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, 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.”

A BBC spokesperson said

“Chris Packham is a naturalist in his own right and is not solely employed by the BBC. If Chris Packham wishes to express his personal views outside of his employment on BBC natural history programmes, he is entitled to do so.”

Popular game meat

Duncan Thomas, BASC’s northern director spoke out about the popularity of grouse on the menu:

“For Packham to condemn grouse as ‘toxic’ can only be either naive on his part or deliberately inflammatory. Grouse, when properly prepared for the table, is a healthy, tasty and popular game meat.”