Petition envy

We were amused to listen to Liam Stokes (Countryside Alliance) trying to tell the Parliamentary Petitions Committee (whose job it is, to er, assess petitions) that there is a need to be “very careful” when judging public perception on the basis of a petition (see oral evidence session here).

He, and others from the grouse-shooting industry, have gone to great lengths to try and discredit the successful petition to ban driven grouse shooting, signed by 123, 076 members of the public. For example, Mr Stokes said in a Countryside Alliance press statement issued at the end of last week’s evidence session:

“The manufactured support that led to the petition to ban driven grouse shooting being signed by 100,000 people is not reflective of the true priorities of the British public. It was achieved through the support of animal rights organisations and with the help of Mark Avery’s friend Chris Packham, who used the platform provided to him by the BBC to actively promote the petition.”

His boss, Tim Bonner, said in another Countryside Alliance press statement:

How many of the signatories know what a grouse is has not been revealed, but as the rule stands 100,000 electronic clicks trigger such a process even if, as in this case, it has taken three years and three petitions to reach that figure“.

Funny, Mr Bonner didn’t question how many of the 5, 015 signatories on the grouse shooting industry’s counter petition (to protect grouse shooting) knew that stone curlews don’t live on grouse moors! (The wording of this petition was subsequently revised to remove the false information – oh to have friends in Westminster who can facilitate such amendments to an already up-and-running petition, eh?).


Tim (Kim) Baynes of the Scottish Moorland Group said in his written evidence:

The previous petitions by Mark Avery to ban driven grouse shooting attracted many less signatures and this one has only exceeded 100,000 because of aggressive marketing to the public in the last two months, for instance distribution of leaflets to households in Edinburgh and to festival goers in the street. This shows that it is the support of the wider animal right [sic] movement rather than people with experience of moorland management which has generated the necessary number of signatures for a debate, and the Petition needs to be seen in that light. This needs to be closely questioned“.

Crikey! Festival-goers asked to sign a petition? The shame of it. Everybody knows that attending a festival precludes your right to an opinion on anything. And as for that aggressive pushing of leaflets through letterboxes, it just shouldn’t be allowed. Come on, MPs, you need to “closely question” this behaviour.

How these people can possibly know what motivated every one of those 123,076 signatories is beyond us. Yes, of course some will have been motivated by concerns over animal rights, just as others will have been motivated by concerns over illegal raptor persecution, the burning of moorlands, the exacerbation of downstream flooding, the use of tax-payers’ money to support a rich man’s hobby etc etc. The reason the petition was so successful was precisely because of the wide variety of concerns arising from driven grouse shooting! We’re all perfectly entitled to our individual views because we live in a democracy where people are allowed to voice their opinion. Trying to paint a picture that we’re all ‘extremists’ is just another PR ploy to discredit a successful campaign. And it’s kind of ironic that we’re labelled extremists when Mr Stokes served as Secretary of the Traditional Britain Group – a right-wing outfit with homophobic, racist views that, when told that Doreen Lawrence (mother of murdered Stephen) was to receive a peerage, called for her to return to her ‘natural homeland’. Hmm, not extremist at all.

It seems though that all this whining about petitions being ‘unrepresentative’ of public opinion is simply a case of petition envy. The grouse-shooting industry knows all too well the impact of over 100,000 people signing a public petition to ban driven grouse shooting, when their own counter petition to protect grouse shooting has reached a mere 23,000. Indeed, this very point was raised by the Petitions Committee Chair at the beginning of Mr Stokes’s oral evidence. Mr Stokes tried (failed) to justify the difference in numbers by claiming the counter petition had been started by a gamekeeping student “with no support”. A bit like Mark Avery’s petition then, also started by an individual ‘with no support’ (from the mainstream environmental organisations).

Mr Stokes also suggested the numbers were still low on the counter petition because it hadn’t been running for as long (just two months), and compared it with Mark’s first petition that had reached a similar number of signatures over a period of one year. What he didn’t say was that this counter petition has received much more publicity than Mark’s first petition because the issue of driven grouse shooting is far more prominent now than it was when Mark first started his campaign two years ago.

He also forgot to mention the widespread support of the game-shooting industry that has been vigorously promoting this counter petition for at least a month. Here are some examples:

The Countryside Alliance on twitter:


An e-newsletter from Guns on Pegs (a company selling shooting days):


An e-newsletter from William Powell (a shooting company owned by Mark Osborne):


And this little gem from the Fieldsports magazine e-newsletter:


You’ll notice in this Fieldsports ‘Call to arms’ that they are pleading with pheasant shooters, partridge shooters, deer stalkers and anglers to sign this petition. Hmm, do you think that’s what Mr Stokes meant when he mentioned “manufactured support”?

And yet, even with all this industry promotion, the counter petition still stands at a pathetic 23, 445. Not exactly an indication of widespread public support, eh?

19 Responses to “Petition envy”

  1. 1 Les Wallace
    October 24, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks RPUK, yet another brilliant, insightful, witty (razor sharp) riposte to the usual serving of vomit from the dregs of humanity that support driven grouse shooting. Liam Stokes turned my stomach at first sight – well my stomach is an excellent judge of character you’ve just let me know why it didn’t like him. There are some very, very creepy people on the other side as well as bog standard thick, selfish, greedy and arrogant ones. I’m going to copy this post and pass it on – sure you’ll have no objections. God knows what all this is doing to your blood pressure, but you and Mark and Chris and many others have got them on the run and hopefully very soon they’ll be on the ropes. Can’t come quick enough, what an utter waste of space they are – shower of liars.

  2. 2 Roberta Mouse
    October 24, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Just like the silly comments post the Hunting Act being passed….except they forgot to include ‘class envy’ as being another justification for people’s distaste of this business. ! James Gray accused me of this (in his lecture about the benefits of Hunting) when I wrote to him as a constituent asking for the HA not to be repealed. Astounding arrogance.

  3. 4 steve
    October 24, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    I love this stuff! Compared to the drivel that Bonner the pre- loved car dealer and his rent boy mate shovel out, all of this is worthy of framing.How much longer do we have to tolerate this animal abusing self interest group I wonder. Incidentally, Apart from the hedgehog can you think of one wild animal or predatory bird that is not relentlessly persecuted in the UK? Sobering.

    • 5 JohnM
      October 24, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      I don’t think they’ve turned their guns and ire on any of the three, mainland Shrew species, or the Field Dormouse, yet. But just now they’ve got their backs to the wall, so these are probably safe for the time being. :-)

    • October 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      You think hedgehogs are safe? they eat eggs you know.

    • 7 Flash
      October 24, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      Gamekeepers kill every hedgehog they can find! They reckon that the few pheasant or partridge eggs they might eat justifies their death.

    • 8 George M
      October 25, 2016 at 9:59 am

      It’s common up in this part of the land for gamekeepers to go out of their way to kill hedgehogs too steve .. and many cats also come to their end via a gamekeeper.

  4. 9 Tom Willis
    October 24, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for highlighting Mr Stokes’ earlier career choices. Very interesting.

  5. 10 Marco McGinty
    October 24, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Yes, another excellent piece, RPS, highlighting the absurd double standards of the shooting industry.

    Bonner and Baynes, well, they’re just a pair of Timbeciles, and as for the Stokes person, Doris was a more believable character.

  6. 11 BarbaraMc
    October 24, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    They have brought this about themselves with their intractable and perverse attitudes. Clearly, the man (or woman) in the street is not entitled to ANY opinion, let alone to disagree with or criticize the hoi poloi.

    We have waited years for them to reconsider the issues, and come good on the promises, so they must be very thick to believe we can’t see through all the lies and obfuscation after so long.

    Beefy Botham has gone way down in my opinion, no comparison with the lovely Chris Packham and Mark Avery. Bring it on !!

  7. 12 keen birder
    October 24, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    This is the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.

  8. October 24, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Its the evidence that is important isn’t it. They are missing the point with the “need to be careful about this petition”. there is going to be a debate and we all must do what we can to ensure that all our MP’s have the truth of the reality of DGS!

  9. 14 Alan Cranston
    October 24, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Gosh, I think it could have been me. In Edinburgh that is. I distributed about 500 leaflets there, I’m sure it led to zillions of extra signatures. But not I expect from one address in the New Town where, having pushed a leaflet through the door, I noticed a Countryside Alliance sticker on the windscreen of the gas-guzzling monster on the driveway.

    For the record, I am not an animal rights activist. But I am extremist enough believe in the rule of law – and that a tiny minority (rich or poor) should not be allowed to destroy our uplands for fun.

    I enjoyed distributing the leaflets. Edinburgh, cradle of the Enlightenment,still has an intelligent and informed population. I could have been detained for hours chatting to people who knew the issues or wanted to know more. Would that it had been the same when I distributed my remaining leaflets in London. And of course I chose Festival shows where the audience might be sympathetic – and they were! Mr Stokes shows arrogant error by suggesting that these people signed the petition because wicked old me made them do so.

    Indeed that arrogance will be their downfall. Contempt for the public, contempt for the law. What Mr Stokes needs to get his head around is that when people get to know about the ‘sport’ of grouse shooting and the issues it raises, he is on a loser. He can try to muddy the waters as much as he likes – I assume that is what he is paid to do – but he will lose in the end, because we still live in a world – just – where the merchandising of doubt always fails in the end.

  10. 15 Jack Snipe
    October 25, 2016 at 3:08 am

    What a pity it would be insensitive and cruel to poke fun at the “gamekeeping student” who organised the counter petition. I notice everyone except me is politely avoiding reference to his appalling command of English grammar. It seems none of his Eton-educated masters bothered to proof read it. Apart from the stone curlew gaffe (yes, from one of those “real” countryside experts), we also have “other native wildlife such and lapwing”, the “countryside alienate website” (that bloody spellchecker again!), and three sentences rolled into one without any conjunctions or punctuation. Not to mention a title which seems to refer to certain North African Muslims of the Middle Ages. Was it written by a stoned gamekeeper perhaps?

  11. 18 Dylanben
    October 25, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Perhaps an opportune time for another look at this from a couple of years back: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/28/britain-plutocrats-landed-gentry-shotgun-owners

  12. 19 Tracy Chapman
    October 25, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    Please send reports and pics of illegal hedgehog killing to SSPCA or RSPB or RPUK .

    Also any NON target animal or bird caught in a spring trap or snare.

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