It was bound to happen – the internet trolls are claiming that the recent rush of signatures for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting has been fraudulent in some way. Ho, ho ho!
There certainly has been a rush of signatures, and the speed of growth of the e-petition has taken me by surprise too, but knowing what I do, and that is probably more than anyone else, about what has happened in the last few days, then it’s not such a great surprise.
I’m not going to give away all our actions, but since some of our supporters might be interested in how we got so far so fast with their help and support, I’ll give you some headline information.
We have always known that the Red Grouse, the Hen Harrier and the whole sorry business of driven grouse shooting are not much known to the average person in the average street – but that if we could put the facts about grouse shooting in front of more people then we always thought that more and more of them would flock to our cause to ban driven grouse shooting. And so our devilishly cunning strategy for getting lots of people to sign our e-petition was to tell lots of people what goes on. How devious was that?!
So how did we get that recent surge in signatures?:
- actually, we’ve been on a roll for quite some time. Things have certainly picked up but, as I have said many times here, we have momentum. And that’s what we aimed to have running up to…
- …Hen Harrier Day last weekend (see here and here). It’s clearly not a fluke that Hen Harrier Day is just before the Inglorious 12th and therefore will create publicity for the cause, and this year’s larger number of larger rallies spread the word very well ahead of…
- …the Inglorious 12th which was bound to be an important date for our e-petition (and was a crucial date in my decision, back in January, of when I would start this third e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting).
- we also produced our own material such as a variety of videos involving the wonderful Chris Packham (eg this one and this one) and another with the wonderful Bill Oddie in order to warm up more and more people to the message.
- there was a media storm around the Inglorious 12th including Farming Today, the Today programme, three pieces in the Daily Mirror, a great Guardian article, STV (I think – I know I recorded a piece for them), BBC Radio Cumbria, BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC 3 Counties, BBC Radio Northampton and probably many more that I don’t know about. Terry Pickford was interviewed in the Lancashire Telegraph who also printed the link to the e-petition. These all sent people away with more information and knowing that they could do something with their feelings by signing the e-petition.
- then there is the paperback edition of Inglorious which has been selling well since it came out in late July (again, the publication date was not just a happy coincidence with the Inglorious 12th) which has the url to the current e-petition on p11 – so that will generate signatures from readers right up until 20 September – although rather small beer in the big scheme of things, I’ll admit.
- there have been articles appearing in various newsletters and websites to coincide with the Inglorious 12th – here’s an example which will also have helped to boost the Scottish Raptor Study Group petition on regulation of gamebird shooting too.
- and M&S quietly announced that they were not going to sell grouse meat again this year – that was a story too.
- But then there are welcome but unplanned and unexpected burst of publicity too – the Scottish-based OneKind emailed their supporters ahead of the Inglorious 12th promoting the e-petition and it looks like that was very helpful. Although the Chief Exec of OneKind used to work with me at the RSPB I had no idea that was happening until I received the email myself.
- another example of unplanned but very welcome publicity was from Highland Titles who have featured our cause before – I believe that generated lots of support too. Many thanks to them!
- but we have to thank our friends in the grouse shooting ‘industry’ too – they have given us every support they could. For example, those missing Golden Eagles on grouse moors was a perfect story for the start of the grouse shooting season and we couldn’t have done it without those years of help that you gave us. ‘Scotland’s national bird keeps being poisoned and many young birds ‘disappear” is bound to attract publicity – and it did.
- and all the attacks on Chris Packham, some on myself , and others, and just general nastiness from shooters in the public eye on social media certainly set the tone of the debate and must have turned many people away from thinking that grouse shooting was harmless to wondering quite what sort of people support this hobby of killing birds for fun.
- then we must thank scores of pro-shooting social media accounts for promoting the recordings of Farming Today and the Today programme so widely. Trumpetting your view that Gilruth or Botham had won the argument was perfect for our cause – it drove more and more people to realise there was an argument to be seen, and all who agreed with us had somewhere to go with their newly found abhorrence of driven grouse shooting – our e-petition.
- and let me just mention leaflets. It’s no secret that we have been producing leaflets promoting our e-petition (see here and here) and that tens of thousands of them have been handed to friends and relatives, work colleagues and pushed through letter boxes. May I give a big ‘Thank you!’ to those who have done this and also to those who will pick up more leaflets at the Bird Fair next Friday-Sunday (more on this tomorrow on this blog). I know a bit, from knowing where the leaflets have gone, about how well this is going. There will be many who glanced at a leaflet some time last week and then heard or read something about the Inglorious 12th at the end of the week and thought to themselves ‘I had a leaflet about that. I meant to sign that e-petition – I’ll do it now’. It’s old-fashioned but effective. And thank you to those who helped fund those leaflets too.
- and talking of money, we also, and this was no secret either, raised funds here and so did LACS, to promote the e-petition through social media. This has been hugely effective. We have had time to test various approaches and designs and then to use the best of them. When would you have invested your money in advertising? On 2 August or the Inglorious 12 August? Doesn’t take much working out does it? How fiendishly devious was that?!
And so our devilishly cunning strategy was to tell the truth, tell it as widely as possible and make the most of the period around the Inglorious 12th. Simples (as they say – I believe)! Simple in theory but many thanks to all those who helped to bring it off in practice.
We reached 100,000 signatures much quicker than I expected – indeed, it is only very recently that I have dared to think we would get to 100,000 signatures. We would like many more signatures please right up until the close of our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting on 20 September.
But my focus has already shifted towards working with others to come up with the devilishly cunning plan to influence MPs in a debate over the future of driven grouse shooting. I suspect that our strategy will be rather similar, it’s the way we do things: tell the truth, tell it clearly, tell it often.