Countryside Alliance’s Head of Hunting Polly Portwin writes:

Modern day journalistic methods have changed considerably and lately this may appear to have been to hunting’s detriment but we mustn’t think the world is against our lawful activity – in reality it’s just being manipulated this way in order to generate revenue for the media.

Have you ever wondered why emails from publications or groups you subscribe to, or your social media news feeds are full of stories about fox hunting? Or perhaps you’ve thought how fortunate it was that the supermarket where you have a loyalty card sends you money-off vouchers for items that you buy regularly.

None of this happens by coincidence. It’s a cliché to say that Big Brother is watching us, but in a nutshell that is what’s happening. Spending and lifestyle patterns are tracked through what is browsed online and by the articles that are read in order for individuals to be marketed directly. If you’ve recently searched the internet for a particular item but haven’t got around to buying it, you can be almost certain that item will at some point be put in front of your eyes via your news feed or advertisements down the side of pages you browse on the internet in order to jog your memory about finalising the purchase. That’s how marketing now works.

In a similar way, anybody that shows an interest in fox hunting – be it watching a video on social media, or clicking on a news story via a link on an online publication – becomes part of the audience that gets sent similar articles in the future.

For that reason, those who are receiving such information could be forgiven for thinking that there are multiple allegations about illegal fox hunting happening every week. This is a complete misconception – such incidents are in fact rare. Put into context, there are a handful of allegations of foxes being killed illegally, although there have been over 10,000 days hunting with hounds so far this season. This does not justify the claims of the animal rights lobby that say hunts are continuously hunting illegally.

Ever since the election results came through last year, hunting – most specifically fox hunting – has been touted as one of the main issues that influenced the election results.

Our polling ahead of the 2017 election disproves this theory and we know that votes are not won or lost on the matter of a pastime of a minority, however they are more influenced by matters such as Brexit, the NHS or education. Despite this, using hunting as a scapegoat has meant a meteoric rise in the number of features and news articles written about hunting and Labour have seized on this, using it as the perfect stick to beat the Tories with.

So why does fox hunting – rather than any other forms of hunting with hounds – seem to be in the headlines or filling our social media news feeds?

Online news reports – and journalists’ credibility – are often rated by the number of people that click onto their articles. Sensationalist and emotive stories will always rate higher than bland non-events, and the hope for any journalist is for their piece to “go viral”.

Fox hunting always has been, and always will be, an emotive subject. The media tends to ignore the fact that packs of hounds are trail-hunting – or using other exemptions in compliance with the Hunting Act 2004 – and are not going out traditional fox hunting, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story? For now, anything containing the word fox hunting is the ultimate “click-bait”.

With the go-to place for journalists to find instant information being Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, it’s easy to find some fiction written by an animal rights group that mentions fox hunting. Within moments, an article can be produced with direct quotes taken from social media, quite often published with allegations made and very little effort made to give the accused a right to reply.

Does that mean that illegal fox hunting is on the rise? 

The simple answer is “no”. This impression is simply down to modern day methods of communication through the media. The hunting world has become used to this happening and the task of the hunting fraternity is to reassure the wider world that hunts are continuing to take part in a lawful activity while faced with endless allegations that may make the headlines but never get as far as the police station, yet alone a court of law.