Is this the most ridiculous shooting-industry propaganda narrative ever?
It’s got some stiff competition, to be fair. Over the years we’ve seen the industry endeavour to clean up its public-facing image, superficially at least, and make some pretty outlandish (and largely unsubstantiated) claims about how welcome raptors are on game shooting estates, but all to no avail as the illegal killing of birds of prey on, er, game shooting estates, has continued on and on and on.
In desperation, because they know they’re losing public support as these crimes are exposed time after time, the latest tactic appears to be to present gamekeepers as innocent victims of abuse, presumably in an attempt to elicit public sympathy and support. How this is being done with straight faces I just don’t know, given the deluge of obscene abuse many of us receive, on an almost daily basis, much of it orchestrated by gamekeepers and their supporters in the shooting industry.
But more of that in a bit. For now, let’s have a look at the level of abuse being claimed by gamekeepers.
This propaganda/victimhood campaign began late last year just before the Scottish Government published its response to the long-awaited Werritty Review. We saw BASC Scotland proclaim that ‘as many as 64% of Scottish gamekeepers experience threatening behaviour or abuse from members of the public at least once every year‘ although this claim was recently debunked after a forensic dissection of the report on which it was based uncovered some apparent misrepresentation of the results (see here).
That’s not to say that gamekeepers don’t experience any abuse at all – they do, for sure, just like most people do from time to time, no matter what their profession (as a quick look on social media will attest), but there are different scales of abuse, from mild ridicule to actual death threats, and the claims being made by the industry were not an accurate reflection of the report’s findings.
The Scottish campaign also included a public letter written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by Mike Holliday, a gamekeeper from Perthshire and a BASC Working Group member, who complained about the online abuse he and his colleagues had apparently suffered from ‘animal rights extremists’. I’ll be writing more about Mr Holliday and his own behaviour and that of some of his colleagues on social media in due course.
It seems that the game shooting industry was pleased with the victimhood approach because shortly after the Scottish campaign, a similar ‘survey’ was opened in England at the end of November 2020. The results of that ‘survey’ (and you’ll understand why I’m using inverted commas in a minute) have just been published and guess what? More headlines proclaiming an ‘alarming increase in abuse’.
You can download the report here:
This gamekeeper ‘survey’ is very interesting. First of all, look at the partner organisations involved – BASC, Countryside Alliance, Game Farmers Association and the National Gamekeepers Organisation. Nothing unusual there, you might think, until you look at the number of partners who were originally signed up to coordinate this ‘survey’ back in November – what happened to the GWCT and the CLA? Their names/logos do not appear on the final report.
The next interesting thing to notice about the report is the date it was compiled: 16th December 2020. Funny how it’s taken this long for the report to be published. Mind you, had it been published just before Christmas it would have had to compete with the grouse-shooting industry’s disgraceful ‘advent calendar of hate’ – a malicious campaign, which ran every day from 1st-24th December, hosted by a nasty little astroturf group with a growing reputation for vicious online abuse (here), this time targeting charity workers, trustees, authors, conservationists, scientists, raptor workers and politicians – indeed anyone who has spoken up against the toxic grouse shooting industry – and this spiteful, abusive campaign was being shared daily by gamekeeping groups across social media – yes, those very same gamekeeping groups who are now complaining about, er, abuse.
You couldn’t make this up.
Or could you?
The ‘survey’ itself was not what could be called rigorous, in any sense. If you read the report it was sent out to 2,372 BASC gamekeeper members and to an undisclosed number of others via the other partners’ websites. In fact, the ‘survey’ wasn’t restricted to gamekeepers at all – it was available online and accessible to anyone to fill in.
How do I know that? Because I filled it in, and I’m not a gamekeeper.
I made some pretty outlandish claims in the ‘survey’ as you can see from the screenshots below, and at no point was I asked to provide (a) evidence of identity, (b) evidence of occupation, (c) evidence of any abuse I claimed to have received as a result of me being a [fake] gamekeeper or (d) evidence of any of the crimes I claimed to have witnessed.
I filled in this ‘survey’ simply because I wanted to be able to demonstrate how unreliable its results would be. Now the ‘survey’ findings have been published, the game shooting industry is once again churning out the rhetoric without even the slightest acknowledgement of its lack of rigour or its hypocrisy.
For example, BASC’s Head of Game & Dogs Glynn Evans is quoted as saying: “The survey reinforces what we have been seeing and hearing in the last couple of years. Attacks on the gamekeeping profession are unwarranted and highly damaging. Gamekeepers, like other job sectors, should be free to undertake their profession without fear of attack or abuse.
Much of this aggressive behaviour on the ground is a product of targeted campaigns by those against shooting. While debate and a difference of opinion is welcome, shooting organisations are calling on those against shooting to consider the consequences of their publicity stunts and social media campaigns“.
Good grief, is he for real? Does his condemnation stretch to his colleagues who have published targeted and abusive commentary on a young woman just because she happens to be Chris Packham’s step daughter (see here)? And this was published on the BASC website!!
And does his condemnation stretch to his own organisation or his ‘partners’ at the Countryside Alliance and GWCT who have campaigned relentlessly for the BBC to sack Chris Packham? Why shouldn’t Chris be ‘free to undertake his profession without fear of attack or abuse‘?
Out of all of us, Chris has drawn the most abuse from the game-shooting community and the extent and content of it is horrendous. In the next blog on this subject I’ll be posting some examples and it doesn’t make for pleasant reading but it does put in to context this ridiculous idea that gamekeepers are innocent victims.
UPDATE 11th February 2021: Gamekeepers lead disgusting hate campaign against conservationists (1) (here)
UPDATE 19th February 2021: Gamekeepers lead disgusting hate campaign against conservationists (2) (here)
UPDATE 17th March 2021: BASC Director Duncan Thomas apologises for misogynistic abuse (here)