The TV presenter has become the focal point of a dispute between conservationists and farmers since he campaigned successfully for a ban on the shooting on 16 species
‘To a surprising extent, to know the crow is to know ourselves,” says John Marzluff in the preface to In the Company of Crows and Ravens. After all, “crows and people share similar traits and social strategies”. Corvidae have captured human imaginations since the paleolithic period, when they were depicted in cave paintings. They are the doomed messenger in the story of Noah’s ark; the vain cheese-squanderers in the fable of Aesop; and the dark redeemer in Ted Hughes’s Crow, “Flying the black flag of himself”.
Recently, though, crows have been cast in a new role: as feral death squadrons, terrorising rural Britain like a Hitchcockian nightmare come to life. “The savage cruelty of a law that lets crows torture and kill lambs,” screamed one headline last month, accompanied by gruesome pictures of livestock maimed and blinded by carrion crows and ravens. “These birds are hungry predators,” said one farmer. “We find sheep half-blinded all the time.”