Fears National Trust publication of hunt details could lead to online trolling

first_imgHuntsmen and saboteurs face each other during a meet in Wiltshire Lee Moon, spokesman for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said: “We will monitor the National Trust website. If they are trail hunting then there’s no issue. We believe, however, that they are illegally hunting and killing foxes on National Trust land.”A trust spokesman said they were simply making public details of the licence which includes a broad location and the planned dates. Specific information, such as start and finishing points which may often include hotels and pubs, are not included, he added. The row over the National Trust’s decision to publish details of hunts intensified yesterday amid fears that countryside businesses could become the target of animal rights activists.The move to post details of meet locations and times on trust property has raised the prospect that pubs, hotels, veterinary clinics and even farriers that trade with hunts could become victims of online “trolling”, where activists use the internet to try to destroy a company’s reputation.Online platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and customer ratings websites have been used by animal rights campaigners to denounce companies connected to hunts.The trust’s website will now be monitored by hunt saboteur groups so they can attend legal trail hunting, where hounds and huntsmen chase a scent, in the hope of spotting them illegally killing a fox. Huntsmen and saboteurs face each other during a meet in WiltshireCredit:Matt Cardy/Getty Images They also will be better able to see what local businesses offer support to the hunts, raising the prospect that militant activists could target them.Nigel Smith, landlord of the Fleece Inn on trust land in Bretforton near Evesham, said he was targeted online after his 15th Century pub hosted a hunt breakfast.“I believe in upholding the traditions of the countryside,” he said. “But, about three years ago I had a breakfast for the North Cotswold Hunt and had people trolling me online.“While I support the trust being honest and open about the trail hunts, I think they should make clear that these hunts are legal and not fox hunts. People need to be fully informed. I would now think twice about holding another hunt breakfast after people online said they would not come to the pub. I’m not saying I won’t do it again. But, I have to consider it carefully.”Reverend John Bundock was targeted on Facebook after he was filmed by hunt saboteurs blessing the hounds at a hunt that went through the trust’s Slindon Estate in West Sussex.“I wasn’t aware that they were filming or that footage had been posted on the internet,” said the retired Anglican priest, who does not hunt but accepted a request to attend a meet because it was a legal trail hunt.“I know there are people who do participate in anti-hunt activities and they can get out of control and there is ill feeling and potential violence.“I’m not quite sure why the National Trust wants to publicise these details. It seems a bit unnecessary.” In recent years, there have been hoax bomb threats at a Blackburn hotel that hosted a hunt ball, bad reviews and ratings for pubs used by hunts, and even online calls to boycott veterinary clinics that have treated injured hounds.Polly Portwin, head of hunting at the Countryside Alliance, said: “It is of huge concern that not only the tenants of the land may be impacted by the publication of meets, but also rural businesses too, particularly those which hunt supporters may frequent.”Pubs and other venues that support legal trail-hunting activities have previously experienced harassment both at their establishments and online by anti-hunting extremists.”Fake and abusive online reviews regularly have a negative impact on these businesses, despite the fact they are only supporting a legal activity.”Lou Berry, of This is Hunting UK, said some activists try to “ruin” businesses connected to legal trail hunting with online slurs.“Over the last six months we have worked with about 40 business that have become innocent victims of a vitriolic campaign of hate because they have connections to legal trail hunts.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img

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