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In February, AAF applied for a pitch at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury show and were accepted. The show is due to take place on 18th and 19th August 2021.

After we were accepted, we bought a gazebo, bought stock and started making arrangements. As it is a family-friendly show, we decided to aim our outreach at children and make it about foxes, rather than hunting. We bought masks for children to colour in, and we bought crayons. We had some life-size cardboard cut outs of foxes made. We also professionally designed “Learning Boards” for children. We spent a lot of our precious donations on equipment for the stall.

We planned to keep the hunting information very low-key.

Last weekend, a post appeared on Countryside Capers – a pro-hunting Facebook page.

It asked why an anti-hunting group was being allowed a stall at an Agricultural Show.

 

 

Pro hunters then commented, issuing threats of violence towards AAF. AAF did not respond to the post. Despite these unpleasant threats, AAF still planned to attend, believing that their consistent non-violent, intelligent, factual approach would in some way protect them from harm.

The result was this. The organisers of the show cancelled AAF. AAF – always peaceful, always professional. The organisers said that the issue was “political” – 

 

The other side – the hunts – are still centre stage in the show, parading hounds and horses in the ring on both days

What do we do about it?

We need to complain to the organisers of the Gilingham and Shaftesbury Show. We need to send email complaints by the dozen. We have done nothing wrong. We have not issued threats of violence.  Additionally, they are showing preference to hunts, discredited nationally by the leaked webinars, banned from large areas of the UK and – worst of all – supporting animal cruelty.

Here is a template letter.

There are two email addresses. Please address your complaints to both.

james@gillinghamandshaftesburyshow.co.uk
bonnie@gillinghamandshaftesburyshow.co.uk

I understand that you have cancelled Action Against Foxhunting’s booking for the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show in August. This is because of an online post about their presence that appeared on a pro-hunting Facebook page. This post attracted threats of violence towards AAF – an entirely peaceful and professional group. AAF did not respond to the post. 

However, instead of cancelling the presence of those who threatened the violence, you cancelled the victims. 

Additionally, you also called it a “political” issue. If AAF represent one side of the debate, then the hunt represents the other. By cancelling AAF and not the hunt, you are showing unfair political bias.

You should also consider the issue of the “Leaked Webinar” in which the hunts admitted that “trail hunting” is a smokescreen for fox hunting. The webinar was run by the Hunting Office (their own governing body) and attended by over 100 Hunt Masters. In it, they admitted that they were deliberately deceiving the police by laying fake trails. A high-ranking Hunting Office official is being prosecuted for his involvement in the webinar. Many public bodies (including the National Trust and the Forestry Commission) have banned the hunt from their land because of the webinar. The very hunt that is displaying at the show has been in court many times.

You are happy to welcome a group which operates under the guidance of a governing body who have been caught openly discussing how to break the law, yet have barred a group which operates in a non-confrontational way and within the law at all times. This is not right at all.

Please explain your decision, ban the hunt and issue an apology to Action Against Foxhunting. 

This is the email sent to AAF from the show.

Note how the write fails to apologise; note how the writer implies that AAF are the guilty party, with the use of the phrase “we will not tolerate”. Discrimination against us for our beliefs? We think so.

   I am writing to you today to inform you that we have no option but to cancel your position at the 2021 Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show.

   We are aware of post online about your attendance which is beginning to cause issues in the Office and will likely escalate at the Show. While we appreciate                 you booked into an Agricultural Show so are fully aware of the views on this political topic we are a family event and will not tolerate circumstances which risk the safety of those at the Show. We must do what is right for attendees and traders and being aware of this situation over 3 weeks prior to the Show means we will do the correct thing which is cancel your booking with us.

   We fully appreciate that this not the outcome you would be hoping for but hope you appreciate the position we as the organisers are in.

The show has put out this message to defend its actions. Here is our response:

 

 

 

In the first place the show would not enter into any discussion with AAF. They did not ring; they did not apologise. They simply sent an email using terms like ‘will not tolerate’, ‘refuse to allow’ – it read like a letter terminating an employee for gross misconduct. If they had treated AAF with respect, then the outcome for them may well have been different.  

Having been silenced and treated rudely, AAF were left with no option but to make this public. It is unfair to call complaints sent to an organisation by people who are unhappy about their conduct “harassment”. People have every right  to email an organisation if they are unhappy with their actions. The number of emails represent how deeply unhappy many people are about the way the organisers have behaved.  

The organisers stifled any comment on Social Media. Any comments on the Facebook page were removed in seconds; reviews were shut down; people following them on twitter were blocked immediately. A thread debating this issue on a local facebook group was removed and the poster blocked

They state in this post that ‘the decision does not in any way represent the show management team ‘taking sides’ or actively encouraging any illegal activities or animal cruelty of which no stands or attractions within the show do.’ – this is clearly untrue. The hunt is displaying in the ring on both days. The show, as usual,  is providing a propaganda platform for a hunt. This is not a drag hunt – it is a fox hunt. We all know that hunts use trail hunting as a ‘smokescreen’ (their own words) to cover up their illegal hunting – this was made clear in the leaked webinars from the Hunting Office. Have the show organisers forgotten that?

The reason why AAF’s application was accepted in the first place is a mystery. There is no doubt that both our presence AND the hunts’ would have puzzled visitors. Was it because the show wanted to imply that the hunts at this show were genuinely trail hunting? Would our presence legitimise these particular hunts? Or (and I think this is more likely) was the application process rushed, and in fact, we slipped in because of the organisers lack of attention to detail? All of our earlier emails to them asking key questions went unanswered. 

They also state that they have previously allowed organisations similar to AAF. We note that they have not been specific.  We know that no other anti-foxhunting organisation has ever been “welcomed” in the past. 

Sadly the show organisers simply bowed to the intimidation and are by default supporting the aggressors. The threats of violence came from hunt supporters and  have been taken seriously. If this debacle shows nothing else, it confirms that hunt support IS VIOLENT TOWARDS ANYONE WHO OPPOSES THEM. It also shows that hunts use intimidation to silence opposition. Unlike the show‘s organisers, AAF were not intimidated by any of the aggressive comments. We knew we were putting ourselves at risk, but  we were still planning on attending the show. AAF does not not give in to bullies.  Any “escalation” of violence would not have come from us.