Sir Ian Botham was outraged at BBC presenters for pushing an “anti-shooting agenda” in an interview about his pledge of game birds to combat food poverty
Cricket legend, philanthropist and countryman Sir Ian Botham has come under fire after pledging to donate 10,000 game birds from his shooting estates to those in need.
Pheasants, partridges and a £40,000 donation
The pheasants and partridges will be sent to the Country Food Trust between October and February, along with a £40,000 donation to turn the meat into casseroles and curries.
Charities include Veterans Aid and Salvation Army
The Trust will then distribute the meals through charities including Veterans Aid and the Salvation Army. The hope is that 500,000 free meals can be provided each year.
Sir Ian, who expected hostility to the charitable scheme from those opposed to fieldsports, told The Sunday Times: “I fail to understand how there is an argument against it. If everybody out there was a vegetarian or a vegan, well fine, but they are not. So smell the coffee, try it. We are offering something that has had a wild life, a good life.”
As per his expectations, and despite good intentions, Sir Ian says that he was subsequently ambushed during an interview with Rachel Burden and Nicky Campbell after being invited on to BBC Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show to discuss the charity initiative.
Sir Ian vows never to speak to BBC again
During the interview, ostensibly about the scheme, Sir Ian faced questions on unrelated topics such as the connection between grouse shooting and hen harrier declines and the caged shooting of lions and elephants. He has complained to the BBC and has vowed never to speak to the broadcaster again unless “something significant” comes of it. He also faced online abuse following the interview.
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“BBC 5 Live asked me to go on to talk about a charity that is trying to do some good. I agreed in good faith, thinking everyone would want to support our efforts to help people in need,” Sir Ian told The Times. “It is now clear to me that the BBC’s approach was part of an anti-shooting agenda and there was never any intention of talking about creative ways to fight poverty.”
The Countryside Alliance (CA) has thrown its support behind Sir Ian. Its chief executive Tim Bonner said that this is just another example of how the BBC is “singularly failing its rural audience”. CA head of shooting Liam Stokes said that the interview betrayed an anti-shooting agenda at the BBC pushed by Springwatch host Chris Packham.
BBC should stop hiding from its rural problem
“The time has come for the BBC to stop running and hiding from its rural problem. Its commercial arm tries to cash in with Countryfile Live while the BBC provides a dreadful service to the actual countryside. The CA has been consistently told that Chris Packham isn’t a BBC presenter and his agenda is not the BBC’s, yet we heard that precise agenda being put to Sir Ian on a flagship current affairs programme,” said Mr Stokes.
“It is time for the BBC to finally take a stand for the rural community and tell Chris Packham that he can either lead protest marches against legal game shooting or he can present BBC wildlife programmes. For the sake of the BBC’s credibility he can’t do both.”