Chris Packham blasts cider maker after thousands of apple trees cut down

TV presenter Chris Packham has vowed to not drink alcohol from a major brewery after it cut down thousands of apple trees in a huge orchard. The 62-year-old naturalist hit out at Heineken following the destruction of Penrhos Orchard, on the Offa's Dyke path in Monmouthshire, Wales.

According to the BBC, Heineken - which owns Bulmers - uprooted thousands of trees planted in 1997 as it wanted to sell the land as it had a surplus of apples due to the falling demand for cider. Packham said the destruction of the 300-acre orchard - which was the size of 140 football pitches - was a 'tragic waste of a fabulous resource'.

Environmentalists have shown concerns about the impact this felling will have on migratory bird populations - particularly wintering thrush species such as fieldfare and redwing, who eat autumn berries then move on to apple crops and have been seen in significant numbers amongst the area. Heineke insisted it acted in accordance with the Wildlife Act.

"In a biodiversity crisis, I would say it's bordering on unethical and certainly immoral because resources like that ought to be passed on to people who can use them to enrich wildlife and human life," the Springwatch presenter said.

Mr Packham is currently teetotal and has been drinking one of Heineken's alcohol-free products. But he said he will be abstaining from that from now on.

"I'm not drinking any more of it, because I just think we want companies in our lives that are looking after our planet and our future and our children's future," he said. "They had an opportunity to do that and they've just squandered it, I just think it's really short-sighted."

People have taken to social media to show their 'disgust' over the environmental destruction - which some have described as an act of 'violence' and 'vandalism'. Others have called action to boycott Heineken products: "Let's hope there's a boycott of Heineken products and that this does turn out to be in breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. If the law doesn't protect against this, perhaps it needs revisiting."

Ecologist Chris Formaggia said: "At this time now all the trees would be in their full blossom. It would be a really impressive area so the changes are absolutely total, really."

Fellow broadcaster Iolo Williams is calling for a boycott of the company after the "disgraceful" felling. "I think that with these big companies, the only way (we can make our voice heard) is to boycott them, hit them in the pocket," he told Sky News.

"Because I do think, I genuinely think, it's tragic what they've done when we could have helped to tackle the biodiversity crisis, the climate emergency, physical and mental health issues.

"All of these could have been helped just by them saying 'Listen, we're not going to use it again, why don't we give it over to the local community?"

A Heineken UK spokesperson said: "In November 2023, Heineken made clear its intention to sell Penrhos Farm in Wales, one of two apple farms which the company owns. Over a number of years, the cider market has slowed and the yield of apples per acre has increased leading to a huge surplus of apples.

"The bittersweet apples grown at the commercially farmed bush orchards at Penrhos have no other use than creating cider. In order to make best use of the land to grow other crops, the bush orchards had to be removed. All the wood is shredded for biomass and the bushes were removed in line with The Wildlife Act.

"We firmly remain a cider, beer and pub company. The cider market has declined over the last few years, but we are absolutely committed to investing in the cider category and returning it to growth.

"As the leading cider maker in the UK, over the last couple of years, we have invested millions of pounds into our cider brands, supported British agriculture and showcased the cider category. We continue to source all our apples from around 6,000 acres of orchards in and around Herefordshire and will continue to do so."