BY NIGEL BEAN & PAUL READ
You could be forgiven for assuming the comment below was submitted as part of the evidence to the recent Government inquiry into fake news:
‘There are, on the other hand, some organisations which have been formed solely for the purpose of securing the prohibition of a particular sport or all field sports. In the main such organisations seek to convert public opinion to their point of view by pamphlet, advertisements and press propaganda, and by Parliamentary action instigated by pressure on Members of Parliament which is both direct and indirect, through letters which constituents are invited to send to their representatives. Such organisations do not as a rule themselves investigate the facts of the practices to which they object, and the evidence they placed before us was for the most part based on reports appearing in the Press or other publications.’
You would be wrong.
In fact it was written into the first ever Government inquiry over 67 years ago in 1951. This is an early example of activists attempting to bypass the democratic, evidence-based process by using fake news and advertisements. Unfortunately for the activists, Parliament responded by requesting an evidence-based inquiry and once they reported back, all sides of the political spectrum saw right through the tiny minority ploy of using fake news to influence legislation.
Clearly then something needed to change. Free thinking politicians were never going to support an irrelevant cause promoted on blatant propaganda, so anti hunt planners found ways to suppress the free thinking of parliamentarians and replace this with confirmation bias. A whole industry has been created to accommodate this marketing ploy with the specific intention of inflating totally irrelevant causes into the public domain and generating a passion amongst the public that is inversely proportional to its significance.
How does it work?
Fake news stories are posited in the public domain surrounding an invented concern designed specifically to play on the public’s emotions and so inflate the concern. Enter the hero of the hour, the Member of Parliament, they champion the concern as the public have written to them expressing outrage at the inaction over the travesty unfolding. The politician announces in the press they will act upon this new-found public worry, another story for the press. A few weeks later, and with the fake news still fresh in the mind of the public, a follow-up opinion poll is conducted, worked out with a paying customer to achieve a desired result. The MP announces the skewed findings of the poll, and hooray, 74% of the public want them to act upon the concern, usually with a ban.
So fake news provides yet more news to build on an inflated concern. The press is happy, the pollsters are not complaining either and for that matter neither will the politicians who convince themselves they are acting in the public interest. The originators of the fake news, who usually have a campaign going with a collecting tin and mass letter writing campaigns, are ecstatic. After all, they’re earning money for very little effort.
The problem with this approach is that it brings with it bitterness and resentment as people affected see right through the fake news. Meanwhile, those responsible for the fake news think it just normal behaviour. Take the example of Antony Barnett, the award winning C4 Dispatches investigator, who thought nothing of generating a fake news story to mask the inadequacies of scientific data used to promote the hunting ban, detailed below:
Fake news article– The article was used to overshadow the announcement of the failure of animal rights groups to supply evidence to the Burns inquiry (2000) concerning the claimed cruelties of hunting. What they did supply was seriously challenged by the very academic responsible for the original research. The twisted data was entered into a report called ‘How will a ban affect the fox population’ (Baker, Harris 1997)
History of the fake news article – Professor Stephen Harris & Baker wrote a report ‘How will a ban affect the fox population’ in 1997, when Labour came to office, which claimed to have scientific evidence proving hunting crueller than any other methods of fox control. Naturally it was this scientific evidence that was used as a primary motive to ban hunting for two years up to the Burns inquiry in 1999 -2000.
This ‘new scientific evidence’ was then reported in the Times as the first ever real evidence of the cruelty of fox hunting in 1999 but a retraction was soon made by the paper because the original author of the research wrote to them and the Burns inquiry starting it was his research and it had been deliberately to twisted to fit agendas. Terry Kreeger wrote:
“This has been a continuing problem with misinterpretation of my data that apparently began with an anti-hunting group in the U.S. That group’s web page attributed changes recorded in trapped foxes to changes in foxes chased by dogs. This is blatantly incorrect and, I suspect, wilfully done.’
‘I personally have no stake in this issue in the U.K. other that trying to ensure that the objective truth is disseminated. If you have any questions or require additional information, please feel free to contact me.’ – Terry Kreeger
The all-important scientific information, the driver and motivator for a ban, had been manipulated in the words of the original author but because of the reporting restrictions agreed by the stakeholders taking part in the Burns inquiry 2000, the pro hunt camp, in particular the newly formed Countryside Alliance, could not capitalise by propagating the simple truth in the press. They had to wait until Jack Straw announced his findings in Parliament in June 2000, as agreed, some 5 months later. However as Jack straw was about to announce there was a lack of scientific evidence proving hunting’s cruelty, this article in The Observer/Guardian appeared the weekend beforehand knocking the wind out of his announcement.
- A well-planned piece of fake news designed to overshadow Jack Straw’s announcement suggesting the scientific evidence claimed by animal rights activists to show the cruelties of hunting is in fact groundless. The article deliberately side stepped the press reporting restrictions put in place by Lord Burns by asking someone outside of the restriction (David Morton) to comment.
- The headline ‘Vets say hunted foxes die in agony’, and yet not one vet actually claims that, it’s the author Antony Barnett that claims hares, not foxes, die agonising deaths.
- In recent correspondence (July 2018) with David Morton, he claimed he never ‘examined the post mortems carried out by vets at Bristol or Cambridge Universities’ He did view the X-rays of the foxes and hares but that is not examining the post mortems.
- Bristol and Cambridge university vets do not comment in the article – they can’t – they were under press reporting restrictions; the author is trying to infer they are, by introducing text from the Post Mortem reports.
- Antony Barnett knew about the press reporting restrictions as he reported on hare coursing in March 2000 but failed to notify David Morton when asking him for a comment.
- The Countryside Alliance did not say all foxes caught above ground are killed by a ‘quick nip to the back of the neck’ they stated in their submission that was available online to Antony Barnett at the time:
“13.22 In a vast majority of cases the killing technique of foxhounds is to grab the fox by the neck or across the shoulders and, either through a bite or severe shake, quickly kill the fox by disruption of the central nervous system. It is almost always certain and quick because the hound not only has powerful jaws but also a significant weight advantage (see below). On the few occasions where a fox is not killed virtually instantaneously, death will follow within a matter of seconds.”
Jack Straw’s announcement in parliament (below) showed there was little difference in the two statements.
6.49 The evidence which we have seen suggests that, in the case of the killing of a fox by hounds above ground, death is not always affected by a single bite to the neck or shoulders by the leading hound resulting in the dislocation of the cervical vertebrae. In a proportion of cases it results from massive injuries to the chest and vital organs, although insensibility and death will normally follow within a matter of seconds once the fox is caught.
The fake news article is still view-able online breeding further bitterness, because the whole article surrounds the activists’ argument foxes are not killed by neck dislocation and yet now, they have seemingly given up on their original argument of lawlessness by hunts – they now show pictures of foxes being caught and killed by neck dislocation.
So I (Nigel) wanted to see if the truth will ever win against fakery and contacted The Guardian with all this information and asked them to remove their article – they refused. No wonder, they are using it to breed discontent and resentment amongst the extremists and they in turn will give them further news stories in the future.
We can only conclude that this attrition by dissemination of falsified information presented as fact is a serious threat, not only in this area. A perfect vehicle for activists who, additionally, earn a living from duping the gullible while perverting the course of political debate. Shame on them. Let the truth shine forth and let hunters be. Hunting pre-dates their rotten progressive movement by many centuries and in the last few centuries reached a far higher level of civilisation than they ever will.