Andrew Sallis: The curse of social media *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Last weekend I mowed our lawns for what I hope will be the last time in 2018. I resisted the temptation to announce this unseasonal effort on social media, along with my son’s maths test result and a picture of what the terrier had for dinner, primarily because I can’t imagine why anyone would be vaguely interested.

In recent years, hunting has been consumed by social media. Of course, we all want to use it to our advantage. Public hunt events are boosted by clever advertising, and cyberspace is full of photos of hounds from all corners of the earth.

Our opponents are cybermasters. Through “smoke and shadows”, distorted facts and blatant fiction are posted as irrefutable truths. Once posted, these mistruths gain instant credence by mere virtue of being there, and it takes a colossal effort to prove otherwise, which isn’t half as newsworthy as the defamation.

Anti-hunting keyboard warriors can be brave, too, posting vile, threatening abuse from behind their screens.

The Malicious Communications Act 1988 — which “deals with the sending to another of any article that is indecent or grossly offensive, conveys a threat, or is false, provided there is an intent to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient” — should be of great use in stopping this loathsome behaviour.

For generations, hunting folk have tolerated abuse from people whose language turns blue when they see a pack of hounds, whether they be a passer-by or hardened saboteur. Prosecutors should now take note of the silent victims online. The families of those who lose their life out hunting are particularly vulnerable to attack. Their abusers should not be able to hide and must be held to account.

No deal

Now the Quorn and Cottesmore have gone for “no deal” to conclude (at least for the time being) amalgamation negotiations and gossip more complex than Brexit, I hope they will make their individual appointments in peace and enjoy good retirement seasons for their present incumbents, Messrs Osborne and Collins.

Other amalgamations will happen for May 2019. These do not reflect a decline in our sport but necessary evolution, which is nothing new. Hunts have been marrying, divorcing, cohabiting, starting afresh and dying since Xenophon hunted hounds in ancient Greece. And it will be ever thus.

Panto season

It’s nearly panto season at the Kimblewick. This annual exposure of hunt talent offers ample opportunity for keen thespians to explore their cross-dressing fantasies in public. Prominent hunt characters are ripe for ribbing and the whole evening is carried out in the worst possible taste with buckets of laughter.

For a decade in Sussex, my sole extracurricular Yuletide duty was playing the organ at the carol service. Now I must tread the boards, although I did think my death as the Sheriff of Nottingham in last year’s production was rather realistic, in a Blackadder sort of way.

“He was a bad man,” the Merry Men growled over my body. “Oh no he wasn’t,” piped up my four-year-old son in the front row. Once again, I’ll dread the photos on social media, but then I never did look that good in tights and make up.

Ref Horse & Hound; 13 December 2018

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