TV NATURALIST Chris Packham will not be hosting a New Forest dog festival this weekend amid safety fears sparked by a campaign of intimation against him.
Mr Packham has agreed with the organisers of Dogstival at Pylewell Park, near Lymington, not to attend the event on 18th-19th May because they are worried about protests against his campaign to tighten up the laws on shooting birds.
As reported in the A&T, the 58-year-old Springwatch presenter, who lives near Marchwood, has been subjected to death threats and recently had a pair of bird corpses tied to his front gate.
Police are investigating the incidents, and Dogstival itself has come under fire for its association with Mr Packham, with reported threats of protests at the event.
Announcing Mr Packham’s withdrawal, Dogstival co-founder Richard Nowell, from Lymington, said: “Over the last three weeks, we have continued to receive a large number of messages that have caused strong concerns that our event was going to be used as a platform to target Mr Packham.
“As responsible event organisers we have to put the public’s interest first and that is to deliver a day out that is fun, friendly and safe for all members of the family.
“While we are disappointed to no longer be working with our host and recognise that people have purchased tickets in the hope of meeting him may be disappointed. But, we have to consider the public’s safety and enjoyment across the weekend, so this is the right decision.”
Mr Nowell added: “We also have to respect our venue, Pylewell Park, who are rightly concerned about their reputation as an events venue, who have businesses and people living within the estate grounds.”
Dogstival is organised by Mr Nowell and his wife Domine, who are the team behind the Lymington Seafood Festival.
In a statement, Dogstival said the “family-friendly” event was being targeted over “issues that are unrelated to or concerning” its activities.
The threats were made to Mr Packham after a court challenge by Wild Justice, a legal group he co-founded. It led to an almost overnight policy change by Natural England to tighten up shooting licences for “pest” birds, such as pigeons.
The anger among land managers and farmers prompted the House of Commons’ environment, food and rural affairs committee to schedule a hearing on 21st May to look into how the policy switch happened.
It led to some people having to apply for emergency licences to continue shooting birds, such as crows which can target other wildlife and farm animals.
Committee chair Neil Parish MP said: “It is clear from the subsequent backlash that many members of the farming community are deeply concerned by the move and worried about the impact it may have on their livelihoods.
“We feel it is our committee’s duty to question why such a step was taken and whether there are any alternative methods available.
“We invited the ministers and Natural England to give us a much clearer picture of how they reached this decision and how they plan to move forward given the fallout that has followed their announcement.”
Defra also announced environment secretary Michael Gove had decided to take over ultimate decision-making powers for general licences, recognising the “scale of interest and concern” over the situation. A call for evidence ends today (Monday).
A spokesperson said: “In particular we want to gain a clear understanding of the implications for the protection of wild birds, and the impacts on crops, livestock, wildlife, disease, human health and safety and wider nature conservation efforts.”
Dogstival includes displays, shows, a bespoke dog-behavioural stage, flyball and agility have-a-go activities, plus a vintage fun fair, artisan food, expert talks, kids interactive zones and even its own beach.
To find out more go to www.dogstival.co.uk.