I was very glad to see that my friend, and co-founder of Wild Justice, Ruth Tingay, got the Daily Mail to change their words and apologise for describing her as an anti-hunt extremist. I’ve known Ruth for years, and have spent what sometimes seem like years in a car with her, and I don’t recall us ever talking about fox hunting. We may have done, but not much and nothing interesting, so she has certainly hidden her alleged extremism from me very well.
But this sort of thing happens all the time. Back in 2016 the BBC described me as an ‘animal rights activist’ and I complained and the journalist concerned apologised and they changed the words online – but not before they had been used many times in many places (see here and here).
Now I quite like being called an activist because sometimes I feel a bit slow, so it’s nice to be given a dynamic title, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t regard myself as an animal rights activist. I think I know some animal rights activists (and let’s be clear, I know some people who blast birds out of the air for fun too) and I don’t think they would be very impressed by my own animal rights activism credentials. My campaigning is driven by a lifetime of being a nature conservationist, a scientist and an environmentalist so I really don’t think I qualify as an animal rights activist. Read my books (buy them first, please!), or the millions of words in this blog, and you will find scant evidence for my animal rights motivation. Sorry!
I find it is only people who don’t like my views on banning driven grouse shooting on environmental and conservation grounds who describe me as an animal rights activist. I feel misrepresented by this label just as I would feel misrepresented if the Daily Telegraph said that I was thin, short, a lawyer, BAME or female. There is, clearly, nothing wrong with being any (or all) of those things but they aren’t what I am.
We’ve gone through this before though, last year the Daily Telegraph published part of a submitted letter from myself and Chris Packham (you can see what they published and what we sent them – click here) where we stated that ‘Wild Justice is not an animal rights campaigning group’ which was jolly nice of them. And let us just note, in passing, that no Panorama programme on grouse shooting has emerged and we did get the somewhat confused Charlie Jacoby to quiz us at the Bird Fair since he hadn’t been allowed to do it at the Game Fair.
But the Daily Telegraph is very forgetful it seems, as it published this headline the weekend before last;
That referred to Wild Justice’s continuing but escalating legal challenge over general licences. You know, that same Wild Justice that said, says and had a letter saying so in the Daily Telegraph, that it is not an animal rights campaigning organisation. Forgetful Daily Telegraph – maybe its editor is a Welsh shooter (in-joke).
I haven’t complained to the Daily Telegraph because I’m not sure it will do any good, I’ve been too busy and in any case I have another plan. This is my plan, not an agreed Wild Justice plan – this is all mine.
The next time that Helena Horton emails me or phones asking for a quote I will say to her that she must write out 20 times in an email ‘Mark Avery is not an animal rights activist’ or else she and her newspaper can go whistle for any help. I appreciate that it will be some sub-editor who writes the headline, not the journalist writing the story, but the sub-editor never phones me up so Helena will have to write 20 lines as a penance as my price for giving up my time, no doubt to be misrepresented somehow by the Daily Telegraph again.
Journalists are used to dealing with people and organisations who are gagging to be in their paper, and so they act as though they are doing you a favour. They aren’t, particularly if the coverage is unfavourable. I’ve worked with journalists over decades and the standards have plummetted. And the alternative ways of getting out your message have increased hugely. So, that’s what I’m going to do.