Categories Shooting Fieldsports, Intimidation and Petitions 7th January 2017Author The Yorkshire Gent Although The Yorkshire Gent is primarily a lifestyle site, we felt that the issue of intimidation by some who oppose fieldsports needed covering. Intimidation can take many forms, from groups of saboteurs in balaclavas following hunts around to nasty messages on social media directed at people who engage in everything from fishing to game shooting. Police can now make this a thing of the past as powers to order removal of face coverings eased #animalrights https://t.co/4PYbM9rCGV pic.twitter.com/7OqjKxK59d — Tim Bonner (@CA_TimB) December 7, 2016 Two people who know all about this are Rachael Carrie and Mark Horsfall. Mark has recently setup an online petition called ‘Make it illegal to harass those engaged in legal fieldsports‘ to help stop abuse from antis. We caught up with Rachel and Mark to find out more about their experiences, what advice they’d give to others in a similar situation and also, to get a bit more information about the drivers behind Mark’s petition. Rachel Carrie receives a lot of abuse for her love of fieldsports. Can you give some examples of the type of abuse you have received online? Mark: I was one time told to turn the gun on myself and shoot myself in the face when talking about shooting foxes. You seem to find it the same people doing the abusing as they obviously have nothing better to do. Rachel: I’ve had a lot of death threats and I’ve had quite a few extreme threats of violence including ones which involved really quite graphic sexual references, however the worst type of abuse for me and the one I really hit back on was the abuse aimed at my then 10 year old son. My son is as keen to be in the field as I am and he really enjoys his days out shooting with me. He got his first gun at the age of 9 and we only let him carry it for the first few months, and demonstrate everything we had taught him about safety. He then moved onto clay shooting and eventually we decided he was ready to shoot his first live quarry. I shared my peg with him on a small park day where I felt the pheasants would be suitable and within his range. It was one of the proudest moments of my life when he moved his barrels from the steady cock bird I’d selected for him to shoot over to a higher hen bird and brought it down with his little .410, we were both elated. Shortly after, he was blooded and I took a photograph of him clutching his first pheasant donning a big grin. It was such an important moment – he regularly goes out ratting on our land with the terriers at home so he had seen animals despatched by the dogs but this was the first time he’d taken live quarry himself. I wanted him to understand and respect the whole process, he helped cook the pheasant for tea and later, as we all do with most things nowadays, I shared the photographs of this special memory on my Facebook page. Unfortunately, the anti trolls took to their keyboards and set about making their vile abusive remarks on the photo (examples below). I think this just about sums up the mentality of an anti, they think it’s acceptable to online abuse and bully a ten year old child because instead of being sat on his game console at home he’s outside learning where food comes from. Ironically they say we’re the phychos? Is all the abuse you receive online or have you ever experienced it in the field? Mark: Whilst having never being subjected to abuse on a face to face level, I’ve had plenty online. Rachel: I have quite a big presence online, I have always used my social media profile to positively promote and defend field sports and hunting. By doing this I’ve encouraged a lot of people, particularly women to get out into the field. I’m a public figure in the UK shooting and hunting industry and in order to continue my role, my profile has to be public and my online presence is important to me and the industry as a whole. The down side to this is that I’m also more susceptible to online abuse from anti’s. I’ve only experienced anti’s in person twice, once on the grouse moor during a small walked-up day where a bus load of masked crusaders (as they thought they were) turned up hurling abuse about how we were shooting “reared” birds in clothes worth thousands (I still chuckle to myself about that one to this day). A lot of abuse from anti’s seems to be more centred around a class war than any genuine concern for the welfare of animals, however I have to admit at the time it was really quite frightening being charged at by masked yobs. The second occasion was aired on television when I came head to head with animal rights activist and celebrity PETA model Jodie Marsh. While she was mean about me in the beginning calling me a murderer and vile, we spent a week together where we chatted. I explained and we researched all about different types of hunting and I actually changed her mind by the end. I always say the same where anti’s are concerned, if they’re willing to listen to the facts and hold a civilised discussion where both views can be heard rather than simply hurling abuse, I am more than happy to chat with them. I noticed after the programme a lot more people taking that approach and I found myself chatting to anti-hunters more than hunters in the months after which I’m quite proud of being involved in, it’s something which actually advocates anti bullying as there is so much of that these days due to the anonymity afforded by the internet. As Rachel mentions above, she recently made a documentary about hunting with TV celebrity Jodie Marsh. Jodie is a vegetarian and before the making of ‘Jodie Marsh Goes Hunting’, was very anti-hunting. Rachel did a fantastic job of explaining to Jodie what hunting was all about and in the end, she understood why Rachel does what she does. The video below is a follow-up to the show which is well worth a watch. UPDATE: The full episode is now available to purchase and watch through YouTube – https://youtu.be/NbWLxNEz5PQ How would you recommend people deal with any abuse they receive? Mark: Report it. If the abuse is face to face, video the confrontation. We live in a world where this is able to be done very easily and you’ve a record of everything that was said and done. Call the police, don’t be afraid to call 999 if you feel that the situation could go beyond verbal abuse. Online abuse also needs reporting, screen shot all messages, noting date and time when sent and also who sent them. What I will say is always try to ignore the abuse, most of the time the abuser is just wanting a reaction so they can be the victim. Rachel: I get asked this question a lot by fellow hunters – my tops tips: – Don’t fuel the fire, make sure anything you post is respectful and promotes a true hunters ethos of conservation, fair chase, animal welfare and respect. Gory photographs and egotistical remarks about killing only strengthens the anti’s argument of hunters being blood thirsty killers and personally I wouldn’t class anyone who would post such things as a true hunter. Respect for our quarry is paramount. – Don’t stoop to their level! Never resort to wasting your time entering into an abusive slanging match with an anti, be classy! Remember we are responsible gun owners and anything you say which could be construed as threatening in anyway could land you in hot water with your firearms officer meaning the anti-wins! – Delete and block! Take away a trolls favourite toy which is the ability to troll you. Simply hit the delete and block button, you can also quickly and easily delete their comments and keep your profile nice and positive. – Report them, either online or to the police. If you feel threatened then make sure you report it, there are laws surrounding threats of violence and the more reports made might make the anti’s think twice. Online bullying is a crime and while stricter laws are being developed it might push them along if more victims report incidents. – If anti’s turn up to your shoot call the police immediately, make your gun safe and secure them out of the way. Don’t listen to their abuse/slurs or try reasoning with them, simply ignore them and move off out of their way. Wait until the police arrive, try and record the event and take note of vehicle registrations. Should any illegal activity occur such as violence or vandalism it will help the police identify them. A new rule has recently been secured regarding the removal of face masks, police now have the power to make anti’s remove face coverings immediately making it harder for them to commit crimes. We asked Mark to tell us more about the petition he’s setup. What was the driver behind setting up the petition – was it a series of events or one event in particular? I came up with the idea for the petition after seeing a couple of photos on Twitter of those out enjoying a day’s shooting being accosted by people (I couldn’t tell you if they were male or female as they were wearing masks) who were right in their faces. There were also a couple of children present, the young girl looking very worried. I thought that this sort of thing should not be happening, thugs and bullies (that’s all they are) shouldn’t be allowed to do this sort of thing and get away with it. What sort of harassment do people encounter and is this focussed mainly around one particular type of activity (ie hunting) or all types of fieldsports? For a lot of years this sort of thuggery has been mainly associated with fox hunting. Hunt saboteurs, or sabs as they refer to themselves have intimidated, threatened, been abusive, and violent towards hunt staff, mounted followers, and those following on foot or in vehicles. I think this has worsened since the Hunting Act came into law though or it certainly seems that way. It’s not limited to just fox hunting though, increasingly we’re seeing the same sort of intimidation and abuse of those out shooting. Sabs have been known to stand in front of the guns who can do little else but stop shooting. On grouse moors sabs flushing the birds away from the guns seems to be a favourite ploy, again disrupting and walking in the line. Fishing is also being targeted by sabs, even though most anglers are unaware of this. The Hunt Saboteurs Association even have a page on their website detailing how to sab anglers. Why do you think your proposal would improve the current laws that are in place? Currently we have a couple of laws that somewhat deal with this – trespass, which is only a civil offence unless the person is asked to leave the property by the landowner, his agent, or someone acting on their behalf. If they refuse, the offence then becomes aggravated trespass, which is a criminal offence for which the trespasser can be arrested. We also have harassment laws although they don’t specifically deal with this sort of abuse. What we need are laws like the Hunter Harassment Laws that they have in the US. Those make it an offence to even scare game away from an area so that hunters are unable to legally hunt it. What would success look like for the petition? Success would be either the reinforcement of the existing laws to include sections that cover hunter harassment or a new hunter harassment law that makes all abuse, intimidation, threats, and violence a criminal offence. It would also be an offence to disrupt shoots and hunts by getting in the way of those legally hunting. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against free speech and people should be allowed to voice their opinions. I’ve no problem with someone saying to me they don’t like, or agree with what I do. I do have a problem with someone suggesting that I should kill myself for doing what I do. To view the petition, click here. Since we interviewed Mark, a government amendment has been passed in the House of Lords which makes it easier for police to request the removal of face masks which hunt and shoot saboteurs typically use to conceal their identities. Previously, police officers could order the removal of such face coverings, but required written authorisation of a senior officer. When this amendment comes into force, authorisation will be able to be given orally, massively speeding up the process. You can read more about it on the Countryside Alliance Website. Do petitions work? Most people will know about and have probably, at some point, signed an online petition. The UK government’s e-petition system was launched in 2012 and at the time of writing, 349 petitions have received a response from the government and 45 petitions have been debated in the House of Commons. A recent high profile petition relating to fieldsports, initiated by Dr Mark Avery, was to ban driven grouse shooting. The petition was debated in parliament with the outcome being the majority of MPs recognising the environmental and economical benefits that driven grouse shooting brings. If you haven’t watched the debate, please take some time to do so. You can also watch the evidence session in which Liam Stokes of The Countryside Alliance and Amanda Anderson of The Moorland Association both did a fantastic job of highlighting vital evidence for the benefits of driven grouse shooting. Evidence session Debate in parliament In this case, Dr Avery’s petition didn’t seem to have the impact he was looking for. What petitions do though is give people a voice and with many rural communities feeling overlooked, a voice is what’s needed.