Paper Monitor: Sheer mauling

tiger in forest

The hatchet job is alive and well.

Writing in the Times, Sathnam Sanghera meets Damian Aspinall - "entrepreneur, playboy and conservationist" and doesn't hold back.

The interview is pegged to the conservationist's new Scottish wildcat sanctuary, which Sanghera describes as "truly pioneering". But that's where the praise dries up.

Aspinall is "what you might get if you bred a tiger with Billy Nighy".

The article starts with the fact he won't talk about his private life - he's had relationships with Elle Macpherson, Naomi Campbell and Donna Air.

But Sanghera has no shortage of material.

There's the eccentric soundbites. Animals are "superior to people" and "generally very good judges of character - they sometimes take an exception to somebody, and sometimes you look back and think they were probably right about that". It's an interesting comment - five of his father's zoo keepers died, Sanghera writes, dealing with animals roaming around the family's 700-acre estate.

The major journalistic device is incongruous juxtaposition - Aspinall the noble savage against Aspinall the upper class David Brent.

He talks about how crossing the species divide is the best thing about being alive. Sanghera demurs and the piece continues: "'You are born with it or not,' Aspinall says, adjusting his designer spectacles." Meow!

Or why he doesn't like pets: "'I'm not really a domestic animal person. I would rather go and play with a wild rhino.' He sips the cappuccino brought in for him by his PA." Double meow!

Then there's the hoary old cliche of the happy African peasant. "They live out in the wilderness. In their village. They go out and they collect yams for their food and they hunt - why does that make them poorer than you?"

Throw in his family's relationship with Lord Lucan, his father's "penchant for Nazi eugenics", and an unfortunate gorilla analogy and it's not looking good for Aspinall.

Such is the mauling that by the end one almost feels sorry for the man with a £45m fortune.

Put those claws away, Sathnam.

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