BY NIGEL BEAN & PAUL READ
After five years of trying to smear hunt folk with false allegations of illegal hunting up in Scotland using highly edited videos, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) appear to have finally thrown in the towel. If you want to read an account of what happened from a newspaper that threw its weight behind the League’s tawdry campaign then you can read it here. Alternatively, please read on…
The year was 2015. Anti-hunting charities believed Labour would win the General Election. The RSPCA skewed their own internal review to attack hunting in preparation for a Labour victory. Instead humble pie was served to the antis by David Cameron and the Conservatives. So LACS set their sights on Scotland after a landslide victory there by the SNP over a collapsing Labour Party. An Ex- Scottish gamekeeper commented on their support base from a rural perspective:
“A lot of these ‘politicians’ see this as a job, like a baker or a joiner, so when the SNP were obviously on the rise a lot of what were really Labour supporters joined the SNP and got in. Of course they brought their inner city and anti-rich politics with them. SNP were once a rural party but that has changed”
That is how SNP got to use Labour’s animal rights mantra. Like rats deserting a sinking ship LACS scurried with their cash and activists to SNP townies in Scotland. LACS’ highly edited videos and fake news ‘killing purely for sport’ accusations were welcomed by the SNP only because their propaganda helped malign the very people they now chose to deride – their original support base in the countryside. Anti-hunting appealed to their new voter base and progressives’ tendency to pursue the cynical ploy of tugging heart strings.
Soon the SNP realised they needed something a bit more scientific than mere propaganda to convince the public that their actions were not just based on prejudice and spite, so they came to rely on LACS who funded a report from their stalwart supporter, Professor Stephen Harris, called ‘The utility of killing foxes in Scotland’. Oddly enough it found in their favour.
Off the back of this report a review was announced by Roseanne Cunningham, the Scottish environment minister. These reviews are exercises in public perception, it’s a way of conning the public into believing parties with a vested interest have an opportunity to provide information. However, in this sham process no notice is paid to conflicting evidence supplied by professionals or experts – Socialists are mainly ideology-driven and they can never be wrong.
With the dodgy science and the review to bluff the public in their pockets, the SNP were well set. Then LACS spun out of control and the SNP realised they were playing with fire.
Professor Harris, who wrote that report which the Scottish Government based their policies on, angered Professor Ted Friend in late 2016 over a report written for the Welsh Government into the use of Wild animals in circuses. Friend wrote a public letter to the Welsh Government, Bristol University and a letter to the Italian Senate accusing Harris of ‘spinning data 180 degrees’. Harris was then kicked out of Bristol University under highly controversial circumstances. He claimed he retired but to this day has failed to explain why Bristol students held a petition for him to be reinstated.
Further embarrassment for the SNP followed:
The circus review Professor Harris had written for the Welsh Assembly was known as the Harris Review, but it had been publicly debunked under that name by Professor Friend. So overnight the animal rights groups altered the name of the report to the Dorning Review – named after recently graduated researcher, the clean skinned Jo Dorning. The Dorning Review was hawked to the Scottish Government who fell hook line and sinker – mentioning the Dorning Review several times in the Scottish Parliament during discussions on their circus bill. That was of course until it became public knowledge that Harris was behind the report all along.
Roseanna Cunningham had already relied on discredited Harris’ findings in the Scottish Parliament. Her comments are there on record for all to see:
“Two years after that came the Dorning report, which is the Welsh report that members mentioned. It provided more up-to-date evidence on welfare concerns…”
“By 2016, the academic Dorning and her colleagues considered that, nearly 10 years on, there was sufficient new evidence on welfare to support a ban”
Then the SNP found itself with even more egg on its face thanks to its buddying up to LACS:
At a huge cost in wages, car hire and temporary accommodation – taken from charitable donations – LACS had supplied a hunts monitor to help and advise politicians and the police. They went out of their way to capture footage of illegal hunting and give weight to their arguments, parroted by the SNP, that hunts were operating illegally in Scotland. The monitor was none other than the crook, Terry Hill. Under the bogus name of ‘Spike Stocker’ Hill had staged videos and smeared circuses in previous years. Hill was then caught on camera trying to stage another video by claiming no guns were present to shoot a fox. All this information including signed witness statements which were passed to the Prosecution Services in Scotland (COPFS) – a raft of illegal hunting charges were dropped through time lapse clauses to save everyone face.
Hill and Harris had managed to make the LACS brand toxic in SNP circles. Making any brand toxic with the opportunist SNP is hard enough – they were a veritable PR disaster and suddenly the anti hunt movement in Scotland became defensive:
Robbie Marsland in The Herald –
“Hunts often come up with a way of protecting themselves and for the police to say they don’t think it’s possible for a prosecution.”
The investigations that the SNP and LACS hoped would be hurting the hunting community in Scotland have now turned in on the “investigators” themselves:
A report has been logged with Police Scotland to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the gamekeeper Alan Wilson and those animals he was convicted of killing. It was Terry Hill who found the dead animals in 2016 and at that time the police considered him a reliable source – even accompanying him on many of his sorties into the Scottish countryside.
Now other cases are coming to light. No wonder the SNP has suddenly gone so quiet and put off any decisions on hunting. The Scottish Police – realising they have been hoodwinked – are furious. Just what LACS employee, the former Chief Inspector and Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Martin Sims, thinks of all this is anyone’s guess.
Hard working country folk in Scotland certainly merit some peace.