Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
One of the many contradictory activities of the animal rights movement is its readiness to abuse people whist claiming to campaign for the welfare of animals. This is not merely a marginal behaviour, but is practised by organisations and ‘celebrity’ patrons, as well as ordinary supporters. In fact it often seems that such behaviour is actively encouraged throughout the animal rights movement.
The growth of social media has created more opportunities to deliver threats and abuse which have not been missed by those who oppose hunting, shooting, farming and many other rural activities.
Everyone has disagreements, we are all for robust debate and freedom of speech, but the line is being crossed too many times in relation to people in the countryside. Nobody should be subject to online intimidation, which is why we are calling on social media platforms to take these threats seriously and take action by standing up to those who incite hatred and violence.
We want social media platforms to consider the rights of all communities and individuals who face online abuse, including the rural community. Unfortunately there are many pages on social media sites dedicated to promoting hatred against those who engage in legal activities in the countryside. I am not going to repeat the worst of the offences here but the online response to accidents, injury and even death of people involved in hunting and other rural activities is as disgusting as it is predictable.
As a community we are bad at raising these issues, bad at complaining and bad at responding in a co-ordinated way. We tend to turn the other cheek and get on with our lives. Increasingly, however, it is clear that the abuse and threats some of us face is planned and co-ordinated. Ignoring it will not mean it goes away and the time has come to stand together to root out this sort of behaviour once and for all.
There are a range of actions the Alliance will be taking in Westminster and with social media companies to tackle this issue, but we need you to help us put it on the agenda.
We are asking you to sign up to a ‘Thunderclap’ which will deliver a message from all of us at one moment to maximise its impact. That message is to ‘take a stand against online abuse and bullying of people in the countryside. #reportonlineabuse and will link to our advice on what to do if you are being abused online.
So please use your Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts to ensure our message is spread far and wide over social media.