When I became the Editor of Country Squire Magazine in November 2016, I sat down with my colleague – hunt-savvy Jamie Foster – and created an About Us section for the magazine website. We were keen to have the magazine become a platform for the whole countryside. The words we chose were the following:
“We at Country Squire Magazine hope to reflect the vision, the dreams and the narrative of those who have already chosen green fields over high rises, narrow lanes over the fast lane. This is Your new platform which we hope will inform, inspire and entertain You for years to come. Country Squire Magazine has a simple mission statement: to be an online publication which provides a platform for voices from the overlooked Great British Countryside. We hope to live up to that mission.”
Two and a half years on, we’re booming, perhaps because we have embraced Brexit (there are simply not sufficient articles to be written about hedge laying and Morris dancing) and because we tell it how it is.
Yes, we have a stag as our logo. Yes, we have hunting friends – some of them regularly contribute articles about the countryside. Yes, most of our writers live in the countryside and some of the pubs we frequent have stuffed deer heads on the walls. We confess we all love a good steak.
Let me get to the point….
I fly-fish. I have never been hunting in my life, save one shoot when I was a boy and a sanglier chase up a hill near Toulouse with a girlfriend’s Dad, which proved to be in vain. Over the last two years I have tried my very best to learn about the hunting community, about those who oppose hunting, and I’ve at all times looked to make this magazine a neutral platform for the countryside. I do see how important hunting is to so many across rural Britain. I also see how passionate people can be about our countryside.
When Country Squire covered managing predators and prey for example, we published an excellent piece by Peter Glenser from BASC. We then gave a right to reply to Dr Steve Carver of the Wildland Research Institute so he could explain his position which countered Peter’s – Steve wrote an excellent retort and we were very grateful for his efforts. A robust discussion followed on social media. Then more brilliant articles followed, particularly from David Eyles.
It is in this vein that I have tried to edit the magazine. We’re a platform for the whole countryside. For both sides of the argument. We want to hear from you all. Recently countryside pieces have been all pro-hunt and that’s not what this magazine was created for.
Yes, we get complaints from the hunting community. One gentleman central to the hunting community complained just last week that “Country Squire COULD do so much good fighting for justice and progress in country sports and county life. It is therefore a pity that the recent editorial ‘gatekeeping’ policy seems determined to turn it into a Speccy 2. If I want acerbic politics, I can read Guido Fawkes. I expect more from Country Squire.”
To which we replied “Thanks for your message. There’s little market for what you suggest. With 1.4M users and growing – having started from scratch in Nov 2016 – we’re absolutely flying. We do occasionally publish country sports articles – usually on a Saturday and the audience is relatively small. County life is of little to no interest to most of our readers. With the Brexit situation, it was a question of momentum and influence or staying tiny. We chose the former.”
Meanwhile what I have learned about the anti-hunt community is that – at its extremes – it’s vicious and tends to obfuscate and lie. My belief is that anyone who values animals more than most humans will happily bend truths for mere humans – these extremists are so full of hate I expect nothing more from sabs and others who are willing to terrorise and comport themselves illegally in the name of their absolutist beliefs. Not all anti-hunt people are extremists, and some are capable of writing engaging and credible articles – so where are you, people?
All I get is abuse from those who oppose hunting!
I’ve been called inhuman, worthless, debased, vile, scum and much worse by antis. Just for publishing hunters’ articles and comments. Such abuse makes me wonder where the line could ever be drawn in these antis’ heads – what distinction exists for them between the abuse of human beings and what they perceive as abuse of animals?
Labour Party activists have got in on the act – the whole Labour-anti hunting-LACS relationship I have found stinks to high heaven, and the RSPCA is certainly not the organisation I had been duped into thinking it was before discovering its underhandedness and bias. Labour MPs are all too happy to write off CSM as the “hunting brigade”.
So, antis, where are your articles? Where are your rights to reply? Where are your arguments to win over people like me who are, in effect, fence-sitters when it comes to hunting as we know very little about it? Or are you so content in your echo chambers that you can’t break away from The Canary and Howl?
I look forward to hearing your arguments rather than receiving your weedy threats and abuse. Don’t be afraid – let’s be hearing from you. We all lose when bullying and personal attacks become the substitute for genuine discourse and principled disagreement.
Thank you for reading.