Richard Gurney: Where is the balance? *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The media frenzy with Brexit has done little to solve anything surrounding it.

But what it has done once again is identify people on both sides who are incapable of a “clean fight” when debating the subject, and incapable of working in the best interest of the country and its citizens. It has highlighted what some of us in the hunting world have known for a long time: there are certain topics of debate that are not and never have been carried out in a reasoned or evidence-driven way.

Being a master of foxhounds, there is one area in which I find myself sympathising with MPs from all sides, and that is the online bullying and targeting they experience. When one removes one’s self from the relative safety of Westminster, or in my case the hunting bubble, we encounter two different attitudes from those we meet. There are those who say, “Stop talking about it and just get on with it,” and there is another, more sinister, group who relentlessly attack our way of lives and who hold a self-righteous belief that they are correct in everything they think.

Alarmingly, the latter group seem to be on the increase online within our usually tolerant society. Because someone says something online, it does not make it true, but done in a clever way the maximum damage can be achieved, and who cares what the truth is. What has happened to us?

Only when you have been on the receiving end can you fully understand the damage it can do to you, your family and friends. Something must be done to allow us all to stand up for what we believe in without fear of an online targeted campaign against us, or the argument being won by those who simply shout loudest.

I have grown up believing that we live in a democracy in which free speech is a given for all those who have something to say. Sadly, in recent times it seems to me that the more extreme your views, the more airtime you receive.

The online abuse must stop

Much as I don’t agree with most of what Chris Packham says, the BBC could address the imbalance he creates by employing his opposite number to counter his points of view. It is right he is able to share his metropolitan views of the countryside and our wildlife, but where is the balance? It is not about silencing Mr Packham, it is about having a fair and equal debate on subjects that are close to people’s hearts.

That is why our community feels so unrepresented on so many issues.

The recent online poll asking the BBC to sack Mr Packham missed an opportunity. Perhaps they should have asked the BBC to employ someone who can debate an alternative view in an informed way that would deliver balance, and give equal airtime to both. That would be a good start.

I would ask Mr Packham to join me in putting a stop to the online abuse of people who hold passionate views either way, and start a new way of debating countryside issues and include country sports on a forum where people can put their points across without fear of being targeted or attacked online. Safe, regulated and independently monitored online forums are surely the future in a country that is split on so many important issues.

Ref Horse & Hound; 9 May 2019

Hunter Horses for Sale