Bambi has been shot, apparently. ‘Horrifically’, by all accounts. By blood-thirsty, evil sickos. And not just any old blood-thirsty, evil sickos, but foreign ones. And for just seventy quid.
That’s if you believe the front page of yesterday’s Daily Star newspaper.
The sensationalist rhetoric then bled into a full-page article inside and an outrageous comment column which tossed around delightful tabloid phrases like ‘slaughter menu’, ‘heartless cretins with a gun’ and ‘blasted to death’.
This story was actually a twisted analysis of tourists travelling to Scotland to lawfully manage roe deer. It would hardly have warranted a mention any other day, except the Star had cheerfully snatched the opportunity to hang it on the media storm that followed Ollie Williams quitting the reality TV show ‘Love Island’.
While it’s the job of BASC’s media team to fight for balanced coverage, there has to be a bit of a reality check to what we can achieve when the more excitable members of the tabloid media have the scent of blood in their nostrils.
BASC was quoted in the Star, although you had to search hard to find it. We gave them four paragraphs of quotes, but they inevitably used just one sentence. Incidentally, it was their third approach for comment in a week but the first time they used anything we sent; fact and science rarely satisfy their lust for sensationalism.
On this occasion, we were asked by their journalist for a quick response to a line of questioning around animal rights groups calling for the shooting of deer in the UK to be banned outright; we knew they would link it to Love Island.
For the record, we gave the Star the following response:
“These extremists are naive to the reality of successfully managing the British countryside. They have jumped on a bandwagon without giving serious thought to what would happen if deer were not effectively managed.
“Deer management provides around 2,500 jobs a year because a system has to be in place to deal with their impact. For example, deer can do a massive amount of damage to plants and vegetation and are involved in tens of thousands of collisions on our roads. The sale of venison is also worth around £170 million per year to the UK economy.
“So, the effective management of deer puts food on plates, protects safety and keeps people in jobs. Whether people are coming in from abroad or not to take part in that management, it doesn’t matter as long as it is done ethically, lawfully and sustainably – which it is in the UK.
“BASC supports the sustainable harvest of wildlife in the UK and overseas and the import and export of trophies arising from such harvesting where they are clearly proven to be from a sustainable source; noting that well-regulated trophy hunting programmes play an important role in delivering benefits for both nature and people.”
For BASC’s communications team, the Star’s vitriolic attack on shooting topped a week which started with a Twitter spat with TV presenter Ben Fogle. He had also waded into the Love Island debate, although stepped back when we dug up photographs of him posing with dead animals, the very thing he was criticising.
More significant for the long-term future of legitimate, sustainable deer management, it was also the week in which environmental and conservation organisations actually called for more deer stalking opportunities in Scotland.
Shooters and those with a legitimate stake in the success of Britain’s fragile rural communities know that’s the story that really needs to be told.
It’s one that’s never likely to cut through the celeb-led gibberish to make it to the front page of newspapers like the Daily Star.
But with just over a week to go until the end of the public consultation on the import and export of hunting trophies in the UK, there is still time to press the case with the government. To respond to the Defra consultation, click here.
We need you to respond individually to the consultation and share your experience. Here are the two things you can do: