Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Taking the lid off a can of worms

18 July, 2013 - 13:17 -- John Burton

I had the temerity to write on twitter the other day that I “saw the RSPB's TV advert for first time. Didn't like it one bit. Almost seemed to be forgetting the B in their name”.

Personally speaking, I feel that the advert dumbs down the RSPB, as well suggesting that they can help hedgehog populations. There is also very little about birds in the advert.

This unleashed a stream of comments which has surprised me. Among other things, I was accused of sour grapes (although sour grapes is one of the most commonly misused idiomatic metaphors).

I was a member of the RSPB for donkey’s years – and I recall going to meetings when they were still based in London, in Ecclestone Square, back in the late 1950s. Because I believe it’s important to confront things you don’t believe in, I resigned my membership last year when they tied up with Tesco*. 

It seems that the RSPB is going in a different direction to the Society that I joined many years ago. This is a decision their Trustees are perfectly entitled to make. But there are County Wildlife Trusts, Hedgehog Preservation Society, Bat Conservation Trust etc, etc, etc, and while the RSPB has (as all conservationists know) always done a lot for other wildlife, I still think it is important that its primary focus is on birds. Only a personal opinion, but is it shared by others?

The RSPB has also tweaked/redesigned their logo, which is another of my personal bugbears. Logos, if they are any good, are generally best left alone. However, it is in the interests of design consultants and marketing companies to convince you otherwise – that’s how they make their money. But there is very little empirical evidence to demonstrate the truth in their assertions, because logo redesign is usually part of much larger changes (in this case a massive and expensive advertising campaign).

I started my life in natural history as an avid birdwatcher, but have gone on to broaden my interests, and now belong to a wide range of wildlife organisations. But, if RSPB is going to take on the full gambit of wildlife, is the idea that we just belong to them?

The really positive thing about all of this is that it is making people think.

I am certainly not claiming to be right, and these views are simply my own. I hasten to point out that this is certainly not a view of World Land Trust, and that  two of our Council Members are Board members of the RSPB. But I do think it is important for conservation bodies to have a clearly define niche in the environmental charity ecosystem.

One very common question is: “Are there too many charities?” My answer is that there is always a good case for wildlife charities existing - provided they are not duplicating effort. I sincerely hope that RSPB won’t become the Tesco of the conservation world.

You can follow this debate on twitter, or add your views here.

* If you want to know why I objected to this alliance, type the following into an internet search engine: tesco selling butchering live turtles china. Also note that Tesco are criticised of selling foie-gras, in Hungary (production is banned in Britain)

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