A veterinary nurse in her early twenties (Sarah) has spoken out against the year-long harassment and abuse she has received from an anti-hunting group. Sarah shared her experience with the Alliance after being made aware of their “Online abuse must stop NOW” Thunderclap campaign.
In January last year, Sarah attended a local hunt meet with her partner who is a member of the hunt in question. The hunt that Sarah attended engaged in legal hunting (fully within the confines of the 2004 Hunting Act). She was photographed at the meet and the photo was subsequently posted on an anti-hunting Facebook page. As well as attracting vile, abusive, and threatening comments, one individual associated with the anti-hunting group discovered personal details about Sarah (her name, profession and place of work). The individual in question proceeded to contact the veterinary practice where Sarah worked, via Twitter, resulting in a significant amount of disruption to the Veterinary Practice.
Sarah made contact with her local police force, which took the matter seriously and issued a PIN (Police Information Notice/Early Harassment Notice), lasting for a year. Following the incident Sarah moved to a new veterinary practice.
Yet earlier this year, following the expiry of the PIN, Sarah again attended a hunt meet with her partner. She was caught on camera at the hunt and the video of her was posted on the same anti-hunting Facebook page as last year. The video remains on the page and has been viewed by over four thousand people and shared over fifty times. The post makes reference to the fact that Sarah is a veterinary nurse. Many of the comments on the post request that Sarah be named and that the details of her place of work be established and the practice contacted to continue the harassment of her. Sarah strongly suspects that the individual who was behind the harassment last time, is the person behind it this time.
Commenting upon the posting of the video, Sarah said:
“I would really like to highlight how distressing it is to be specifically targeted as an individual, but also the impact that this kind of abuse and harassment could have on my place of work and career as a whole. As well as the stress and upset it has caused to myself and my partner.
“Several comments on the post ask for my name and details of where I work- I have no idea whether these details have been passed on to any individuals. It is very unsettling to think that those abusing me could turn up to my place of work or try to contact me.”
Following the posting of the video Sarah again contacted her local police force. After the action that the police took last year she was hopeful that they would be able to help. Sarah was asked to put together a statement and to attend her local police station. However, when she arrived she was informed that she had made a “wasted journey”. This was because the post was on a Facebook group (as opposed to a specific individual’s page), they could do nothing to help her. They said it would be impossible to take any action because it would be impossible to identify the individual who had targeted her. She now feels that she has nowhere else to go.
“I obviously find it very concerning that information can be posted about individuals behind the façade of a ‘group’ which subsequently means that no action can be taken.”
Commenting upon the case, a Spokesman for the Alliance, Tom Hunt said:
“It’s unacceptable that Sarah has been harassed for more than a year simply for attending a hunt meet, an entirely lawful activity.
“Understandably she is very anxious about the possibility of her private details, relating to her employment and identity being posted on the same anti-hunting page that was behind last year’s harassment campaign against her. It’s astonishing that anyone could believe that bullying and harassing someone is acceptable.
“The position the police have adopted in relation to the latest incident raises worrying questions about the ability of unsavoury bullies to hide behind the anonymity of a Facebook group to abuse and harass individuals. It seems highly likely that the person who was behind the harassment last time, and subsequently sanctioned, is behind it this time, and it’s deeply concerning that there appears to be a loop hole, in the law, which allows them to continue to harass and bully with impunity.
“The Alliance will be advising Sarah from a legal perspective over the coming weeks regarding her options.”