BY STEVE GRANT
Body cameras and dashcams for gamekeepers. Have things descended to this?
As reported last week, BASC revealed the results of a new survey which showed almost two-thirds – 64 per cent – of gamekeepers across the UK have received abuse and threats purely because of their occupation. Among the 1,000 responses to the survey are shocking reports of gamekeepers receiving death threats and threats of arson and criminal damage. Almost inevitably, abuse via social media channels is a rising issue for gamekeepers, with 56 per cent of respondents recording an increase in the number of incidents over the last 12 months compared to previous years.
Here’s some of the reaction to the survey that you may have missed:
Richard Bailey, gamekeeper and Peak District Moorland Group co-ordinator, said:
“Having been involved with wildlife management and gamekeeping for 30 years I have witnessed an increase in targeted abuse towards my sector from those who are predominantly anti-shooting. When challenged and the error of their ways are explained, some are understandable, but for many fuelled by an unattractive social media presence, it escalates. We have been subject to social media stalking and online attacks, and even verbal and physical abuse. The targeted abuse impacts not just the individual but also their family and community that they live in. It has become common practice for land managers to utilise not only vehicle dashcams but also personal body cameras, so that interactions can be recorded for analysis if needed at a later date.”
Let that sink in.
Gamekeepers – not police officers or security personnel – gamekeepers are having to wear personal security devices while carrying out their daily tasks in order to help defend themselves from physical and/or verbal attack.
Helen Benson, chief executive of the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust, a charity set up to help the welfare of gamekeepers and their dependents, agreed incidents were on the rise. She said:
“Living in fear of attack and abuse is an issue that we see on a regular occurrence. An isolated living and working environment present a number of challenges for gamekeepers, this level of abuse and threatening behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.”
What is worse is that the BASC survey followed less than three months after research commissioned by the Scottish Government – led by Scotland’s Rural College and the respected James Hutton Institute – which showed as many as 64 per cent of Scottish gamekeepers had experienced threatening behaviour and abuse from members of the public at least once a year.
There has been no reaction from the Scottish Government, despite a direct appeal to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by Mike Holliday, chairman of BASC Scotland’s gamekeeping and wildlife management working group and a gamekeeper at the Glenn Ample estate in Perthshire. Indeed, as we have reported, not a single SNP, Labour or Green MSP signed a motion condemning the abuse. The Scottish Greens even appear to have ramped up their histrionic attacks on shooting.
But what of other known opponents?
Almost unbelievably, convicted animal rights activist Luke Steele, who is current campaigning for a ban on grouse shooting, tweeted in response:
“Whether you are for or against grouse shooting, being abusive or threatening towards others is simply not acceptable. It poisons debate, drive division and, beyond all else, is not decent or necessary. It must stop.”
You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe him.
One of the biggest protagonists is the Raptor Persecution UK blog written by Dr Ruth Tingay, a co-founder of Wild Justice, which Mark Avery described recently as ‘three mates… just larking about’, which no doubt will go down like a lead balloon in rural areas.
Tingay censors all dissent on her site yet never abusive comments from her supporters (neither does Dr Avery). Let’s say calling gamekeepers and shooters ‘the tweed disease’ is one of the mildest insults and leave it at that. However, the spite and bile is evident across the site.
So what was Tingay’s answer to this sorry tale? A sarky blog entitled With straight faces, gamekeepers complain about abuse. Her first line was:
“Is this the most ridiculous shooting-industry propaganda narrative ever?”
Not a shred of sympathy for the terror and mental strain gamekeepers and their families are being put under. No, instead Tingay opined:
“How this is being done with straight faces I just don’t know.”
Naturally, she decided the survey was not rigorous ‘in any sense’, going on to boast that she had dishonestly taken part in it herself. What a jolly wheeze eh? Treating a serious subject with such frivolity. I bet she had a good laugh to herself when she filled in the comments section:
“I like killing animals.”
Her supporters managed not to get abusive but couldn’t resist a dig. R Stuart Craig commented:
“Awe Diddums are the big gamekeepers scared???”
A well-known hunt saboteur who likes to call himself the ‘Accidental Activist’ said:
“Out of all the Gamekeepers I’ve met I’ve yet to find one that seemed to be a reasonable rounded human being. Each and every one has been some kind of sociopath. You’ll forgive me if I don’t feel terribly sorry for them.”
A George M added:
“I find it difficult to believe that many people with risk abusing any armed man especially those who have a reputation for being aggressive at the best of times.”
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the term ‘hate crime’ can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviours where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. A hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property. As West Midlands Police has now appointed its first football hate crime officer, isn’t it time the terms covered those abused solely for their profession?
As PC Stuart Ward says:
“It’s unacceptable. If you’re walking down the street and you’re abused, it’s an offence. If it happens online, it’s still an offence.”
Thanks to The Countryman’s Weekly for their kind permission to republish this shocking account.