How we are described

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.

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15 Replies to “How we are described”

  1. I worked for a company in the 90s targeted by animal rights activists - bomb threats, emails containing child porn, damage to cars. All because we were testing our anti-cancer drugs on animals, as required by law, before they could be tested in humans. No, Mark, you are not an animal rights activist, not even close.

    1. Lyn - yes but not all animal rights activists behave like that. But the term is used by the Telegraph, I guess, to conjure up those connotations.

      I don't think those connotations are fairly applied to me but I also dsimply feel that the term is inaccurate just as it would be if they said I was a thin woman (and there is nothing wrong with being a thin woman).

      The 'animal rights' tag is only, as far as I can recall, applied to me by those who oppose my conservtion views and the media outlets that support them.

  2. Only 20? Minimum we could get away with was a generous 100! The norm was 500 or 1000! I’d say something like Helenas’ misdemeanour would easily have elicited 500. Hand written - no cut and paste.

  3. Yes, would have to be hand-written in this age of c&p. Perhaps you could get a sample of her handwriting first, to make sure she does it herself!

    re. nothing wrong with being a lawyer. I suppose so, although not sure Shakespeare agreed. And he's a joke from Anthony Horozitz: What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?
    A good start.

    1. Why the hostility towards lawyers? As with any other category of people there may be good and bad but it is not very hard to come up with many examples of lawyers (not just Leigh Day!) acting to defend the weak against the strong, to overturn miscarriages of justice, to challenge over-reaching by governments (e.g. Boris Johnson's outrageous attempts to thwart the House of Commons in the last Parliament) and so on. Not every lawyer is a bully seeking to impose the ability of American corporations to do as they please on the rest of us. Equally, any one of us can potentially find ourselves in a situation where the professional assistance of a lawyer could be vital to us - whether it be the mundane (e.g. making sure a contract or a will is correctly drafted) or the more dramatic such as defending you against false allegations, libel or similar.

  4. Sounds familiar Mark. Having provided a few stories to Helena, she took umbrage when I pointed out that Pineapple mayweed is not an invasive species (despite what she had been told by someone at a foraging restaurant).

    She blocked me amid some accusations that I was picking on her.

    It's a pity because I think the number of environmental/nature stories the Borisgraph is covering has gone up thanks to her work. She just doesn't check her facts enough.

  5. Well, what do you expect, Miles ? We live in the post truth age where simple facts can't be allowed to get in the way of a good story. It really has come to something when someone claims you are picking on them for correcting a fact they have clearly got wrong. But I fear that is the fate us girly swots face under Boris.

    What is more sinister - and what Mark is saying is the thin end of the wedge - is the growing evidence of the establishment targetting people who disagree with them with malicious labels - as the recent revelation that a police force has included extinction rebellion as a terrorist organisation. Doubly worrying as there is increasing evidence that the organisation that is really out of control and a danger to UK citizens is the Home Office. Ironically, and of huge importance, Wild Justice is challenging this from within the system - after all, where do the establishment look to first to protect themselves if not the law ? And they have the advantage because they have the money - so its a massive shock to be challenged from inside by people who equally have the resources to fight them on a level playing field.

    1. Hi Rod - I think they are two sides of the same coin.

      When truth is no longer important to journalists, it becomes much easier for people/organisations to smear opponents as extremists.

      Helena does have form with Mark though - remember that hilarious story she wrote "revealing" that Mark knew Tony Juniper.

  6. I daresay that my outspoken views on driven grouse shooting would get me pigeonholed as an "Animal Rights Activist" just as much as my views on foxhunting would. I don't see it that way, however, as my admiration for hunt sabs disappears when they start rubbishing the RSPB for its fox control measures associated with curlew conservation. There's quite a gulf between conservationists and animal rights proponents evident on social media and, unfortunately, its hurting both the RSPB and the hunt sabs.

    1. Agreed. Though it's all too apparent that many have simply fallen for the lies issued by the tweed disease regarding the scale of predator control excercised by the RSPB. They'd have us believe that the society routinely kills Foxes on all of it's properties on a daily basis; which is, as we all know, far from the actual truth. Nevertheless, this propaganda has the desired effect of dividing public opinion, because the criminals are well aware that an educated population, in full possession of the facts, would swiftly bring an end to their depraved activities.

  7. The age of lies indeed. I notice that "V for Vendetta" was on the box again last night. The kind of society portrayed in the film isn't a million miles away from the reality that the British public have sleepwalked into. The similarity between the character of Lewis Prothero and Farage is uncanny, to say the least!

  8. When the Torygraph, BASC or that font of reason the Countryside Areliars refer to their opponents or those of a different world view Animal rights groups or AR extremists it is that mental image of black clad and masked folk breaking into science or medical research establishments, assaulting the unspeakable during fox hunts they are trying to conjure in their readership/supporters. That is why they do it to make folk much less sympathetic to the argument being portrayed be that opposition to DGS or other activities associated with raptor persecution, apparently illegal General Licences or the untold numbers of alien gamebirds released into the countryside per annum. It is all part of their defence to cast aspersions on those opposed to them.
    Whilst one should indeed must get that label corrected to conservationist, wildlife enthusiast or raptor enthusiast or environmentalist the damage may already be done in that instance. On the other hand being called an ARA whilst wrong should lead us to be internally smug because it means those using that label are losing the argument or in fear of doing so.

  9. A man goes to the local shop and is told ‘sorry we are out of toilet rolls sir’
    The man shrugs and says “Ok I will take a Daily Telegraph ”


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