In the end, the BBC declined to broadcast the last episode of Sir David Attenborough’s Wild Isles tale of ecological disaster and breakdown, tucking it away under an ‘extras’ slot on the iPlayer streaming service. Possibly the broadcaster shied away from the numerous unsourced, dubious claims, along with the promotion of organic farming practices that would quickly lead to shortages of food, followed by widespread economic and societal dislocation and ultimately death. Or it may have stepped back from promoting a bird-watching group, Flock Together, that determines membership based on skin colour and plays into the increasingly popular ‘the countryside is racist’ woke trope.
At the BBC, Attenborough is allowed to present unsourced claims as gospel truth, seemingly without the requirement placed on regular BBC environment journalists to temper claims using words like ‘could’, and phrases such as ‘scientists say’. But an increasingly long history of far-fetched claims means that anything Attenborough says these days needs detailed sourcing and treating with a great deal of care.
Of course, there are laudable environmental issues raised by this series, which was co-produced by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) in collaboration with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Sea-dredging for shell fish, unsustainable fishing, unnecessary use of pesticides and soil conservation are all significant ecological concerns. But Attenborough and his campaigning colleagues are aiming much higher. Tight restrictions on food production and rewilding on a global scale, along with the promotion of the collectivist Net Zero political agenda, no less. However, some ecological concerns are more equal than others. Few worries are raised by green political activists about the millions of bats and birds killed every year by wind turbines. Nobody is talking about the alarming recent increase in beached whales off the U.S. North Atlantic coast, at a time when widespread offshore wind farm sonar surveying is taking place.
Within two minutes of the start of the last Wild Isles episode, Attenborough stated that, “one quarter of all our species of mammals are at risk of extinction”. The extinction claim appears to come from work produced in 2020 by a group of British conservationists led by the Mammal Society for Natural England. Attenborough’s claim more or less repeats the heading on the press release. The actual extinction figure refers to 11 of 47 mammals native to Britain. But, elsewhere, the Mammal Society note that there are around 90 species of mammals living in Great Britain. The extinction claim highlighted on the BBCprogramme seems to refer only to animals classified as ‘native’, or “our” as Attenborough puts it. If one takes in the late arrivals, a distinction that seems somewhat disingenuous anyway, the percentage figure drops by over a half.
How reliable is the claim that even 11 species are facing extinction? Few details about methodology in the original survey seem to be available. A link to a PDF of the original paper produces type too small to read. In the press release, there is a note of “population estimates” and “quantitative analysis” undertaken by computer models.
Read More: Did the BBC Refuse to Air Attenborough’s Final Wild Isles Episode Because of These Wild Claims?