As the Hunting Act passes its 15th anniversary, H&H investigates how hunts are using social media to promote the role they play in the countryside and rural communities, alongside celebrating their hounds, horses and way of life
Hunting is not only surviving, but thriving 15 years after the ban — as packs ensure they are as relevant as ever in today’s society.
The Hunting Act came into force in February 2005. In 2020, hundreds of hunts continue to operate within the law, with thousands of people supporting them.
And packs are taking action to spread positive messages by being more active on social media, to promote their community activities and help educate those who may not understand hunting.
“We are encouraging hunts and the hunting fraternity to embrace social media and promote the many aspects of hunting life,” Countryside Alliance head of hunting Polly Portwin told H&H.
“There are large numbers of the digital generation who want to share their hunting experiences online. Social media platforms offer the perfect opportunity to do this while also providing an educational aspect for those who could be mistaken for otherwise thinking that hunting is just about people galloping about the countryside on horses.
“Anybody with a social media account can play their part in the positive promotion of hunting by following hunt accounts and engaging with posts where appropriate.”
The Hunting Office emailed all registered hunts asking them each to appoint a social media representative, to ensure a positive message is spread.
“This initiative is about positive social media,” the office said. “Posts should focus on the role all hunts play in the countryside and rural communities, as well celebrate the hounds, horses and way of life we cherish.”
Jo Wall, the South Shropshire’s social media administrator, is active on Facebook and Instagram, sharing information to those who are “on the fence” about hunting.
“What I feel very strongly we should be, and are, doing is putting out positive stuff — if we don’t, all these people will see is negativity about hunting,” she told H&H.
“It’s not people’s fault if they haven’t got experience of hunting, but we need to show them what it’s all about.”
Jo says she enjoys the work, and has had a great deal of positive feedback, as well as the occasional negative comment. She said she hopes the next step will be more people sharing hunts’ positive posts, so more neutral observers can be educated.
“It’s about hearts and minds,” she said. “We’re normalising what we do, getting out of our huddles. Demonstrating that it’s ‘normal’ people who go hunting, not this antis’ image of people who are all fantastically wealthy. That’s the kind of thing we need to get the average member of the public to realise.”
On the hunt’s Facebook page on the anniversary of the ban, Jo wrote: “The countryside community remains resolute; not one hunt has closed because of the Hunting Act, and we are determined that this will remain the case. We will continue to provide employment for thousands of people, from hunt staff, to farriers, tack shops, saddlers, agricultural merchants and many more. We will continue to provide services to farmers, including collecting dead stock, fencing and gate repairs. We will continue to organise social events that knit our community together, and to raise money for charities that are close to our hearts. We will continue to resist the tide of false information and lies disseminated by our opponents.”
Countryside Alliance CEO Tim Bonner added: “The intention of the Hunting Act was to frustrate rural communities yet today, hundreds of registered hunts continue to operate across the UK and enjoy support from a wide range of people. Registered hunts continue to work within the law and within their communities, contributing to charities and local action projects including conservation and litter-picking.
“There were never any valid arguments for banning hunting and the Hunting Act is almost unique in that it brings no benefits. Not to the countryside, not to rural communities, not to wildlife and not even to those who spent so long promoting it.”
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