Tel: +44 (0) 1350 724 228

You are here: Home | News

SACS statement on Islay hunting tourist ‘scandal’

SACS has previously warned about the risks posed by irresponsible use of social media, not just for UK firearms licensing – the Police ARE watching you – but also the ego-driven self-aggrandisement of the cult of the ‘hunting celebrity’, usually driven by a commercial and product placement agenda.

SACS statement on Islay hunting tourist ‘scandal’

As professional advocates, SACS is fully engaged with legislators and very much aware that the message we give to politicians about hunting being a legitimate, sustainable activity with its own culture and community must be matched by the actions of our community members.

In Scotland especially, we operate in a tinderbox atmosphere where one ill-considered incident that seems minor to us can spark a wildfire of media intrusion and political grandstanding. And that is exactly what has happened with the goat and sheep hunting story that made the national news yesterday.

The management of goats in Scotland, whether considered wild or feral non-native, is lawful and necessary to manage the impact of goat populations on their habitat and wider ecosystem, just as with deer. Goat management is also an income-generating activity in economically fragile parts of rural Scotland. If someone wants to travel to Scotland and pay to shoot a goat that was going to be culled anyway, then where is the issue? Do it sensibly, quietly and crack on.

Posing with a dead wild goat for a ‘trophy’ photo is a matter of personal taste, but if someone chooses to do this, they should do so respectfully and, if they are posting the photo publicly on social media and especially as part of a commercial and product promotion campaign, they should do so with forethought for others who may come across the photos and not understand. At the very least, explain what you are doing in a management context and refrain from using stupid and emotive language such as 'sniper mode', 'gold medal trophy' and boasting about quite normal shooting distances as if they were some kind of extra long range effort.

Wearing camouflage is a total non-issue; after all, Scottish tweed is our home-grown camouflage, and to our knowledge no politician has yet called the wearing of tweed abhorrent. However, if like a SACS member did and caused another local furore, if you are popping down to Tesco for a Sunday paper, then try not to wear a bloodstained camo coat and trousers from the morning's successful stalk.

Many of us will have been called to assist a farmer or crofter in the cull of a sheep that has turned feral and cannot be caught, and which may pose a risk to breeding timing and flock health. I have had to shoot a number of them myself. But posing with dead livestock and bragging about the 'curl of its horn' as if it were a mouflon, is absurd and a bit sad. It's a former farmyard ram that has likely spent the bulk of its life being hand fed and shampooed for agri shows, not an Alberta wild sheep.

In the prevailing anti-shooting culture of Britain, we believe that the sheep photograph was a fundamental mistake and one that could have been avoided with a little research and forethought.

Opponents of fieldsports capitalise on public ignorance and the media obsession with scandal to foment further prejudice against our community. As a result, the Cabinet Secretary has now announced a review into the regulation of culling: and all because someone wanted to brag on social media, using language that could only antagonise antis.

Whether we like it or not, the vast majority of people do not understand our world, and they won’t seek to educate themselves. We are ALL advocates for our community, and the time for self-centred egotism is gone. SACS and our sister organisations, who are already at full capacity dealing with the many and multiplying other serious threats to our way of life, will now have to deal with this mess; we have already engaged with the politicians concerned, and with other stakeholders.

This is our clear message: think before you post. Perspective is not about doing something in particular, it is about how you are seen or perceived to do it. Don’t give the antis ammunition to fire back at us; make sure any photographs are respectful and convey the message that hunting is a sustainable activity necessary either for conservation or to provide healthy food. Use intelligent language. Don’t make life even more difficult when our community already occupies such a precarious position. And if your social media profile is dominated with photos of headshots and wound channels, then you need to grow up.

And if you regard yourself as one of the new generation of self-promotional hunting celebrities and public 'advocates', you must accept that with a public profile you have a greater responsibility not to make a complete arse of yourself and derail the competent, and necessarily less-public, real world advocacy work we and our sister organisations do on your behalf.

In essence this is a complete non-story; however, the stupid manner in which it was communicated could only have given antis ammunition against us. Meanwhile, this particular hunting celebrity has jetted away on another trophy hunt elsewhere in the world, leaving us, an extraordinarily hard-working shooting and fieldsports advocacy body, to deal with the political shit-storm she has left behind.

Alex Stoddart, SACS