Sharp­shooter

The Na­tional Trust, which boasts 4.5mil­lion mem­bers, is bat­tling a pro­posal to ban hunt­ing — put for­ward by a tiny mi­nor­ity of ac­tivists

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CLASSIFIED -

The head­line on a re­cent story in the Ob­server reads “Na­tional Trust to fight mem­ber­ship over res­o­lu­tion to ban hunt­ing”. Well, that’s pretty straight­for­ward, isn’t it? No room for mis­un­der­stand­ing. The Na­tional Trust is at log­ger­heads with its mem­ber­ship, who want to ban hunt­ing. The Ob­server — which is ef­fec­tively the Sun­day ver­sion of the Guardian — is much re­spected in cer­tain cir­cles, notably those that de­cry the naked bias of what they sneer­ingly term the “right-wing press”.

The first hint that all might not be what it seems comes in the Ob­server story’s “stand­first”. For those who don’t know, that’s the bit at the top of the story, a brief in­tro­duc­tion. In this in­stance, it reads “Trustees are act­ing cyn­i­cally, say ac­tivists who want to re­voke all li­cences on Na­tional Trust land”.

Hmm. So it’s not the “mem­ber­ship” that the Trust is fight­ing, but an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of ac­tivists. That’s not ex­actly the same thing, is it?

The first sen­tence of the ac­tual story states: “The board of the Na­tional Trust is to urge its mem­bers to vote against a land­mark res­o­lu­tion at its forth­com­ing an­nual con­fer­ence that would ef­fec­tively ban all hunt­ing with hounds on Trust land if passed.” A few sen­tences later, we get more con­text: “Dozens of Trust mem­bers, in­clud­ing the ex­plorer Sir Ran­ulph Fi­ennes, have en­dorsed a mo­tion that will be de­bated at the an­nual meet­ing next month, that would re­voke all li­cences al­lo­cated to hunts us­ing Trust land.”

So there we have it. A few dozen ac­tivists — a tiny frac­tion of the Na­tional Trust’s 4.5mil­lion mem­ber­ship — are try­ing to push through a mo­tion ban­ning hunt­ing. But the Trust’s board doesn’t think a ban is jus­ti­fied and is ad­vis­ing the mem­ber­ship against it. In­stead, it is propos­ing a va­ri­ety of new li­cens­ing mea­sures, which are them­selves un­wel­come to hun­ters. Yet the Ob­server’s head­line gives the im­pres­sion that the Trust’s mem­ber­ship has risen in re­volt against hunt­ing.

I’m not blam­ing the journalist who wrote the story. The head­line would have been the work of a sub-edi­tor. We are al­lowed to spec­u­late whether the Ob­server’s cor­po­rate mind­set played a role in sanc­tion­ing a head­line which, by any ob­jec­tive mea­sure, gives the ca­sual reader a dis­torted im­pres­sion of the facts. I mean, re­gard­less of how Trust mem­bers even­tu­ally vote at the AGM in Oc­to­ber, the mo­tion in ques­tion is the hand­i­work of a minis­cule group of ac­tivists.

Fur­ther down the story, one of them is quoted as say­ing: “I don’t doubt that the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers would sup­port this res­o­lu­tion, if they are only made aware.” That’s the nub of the mat­ter. If only the Trust’s mem­ber­ship knew more about this mo­tion, you see, they’d vote the right way. This is how a rep­utable broad­sheet is used to re­cruit its read­ers to a right­eous cause. There is noth­ing quite so il­lib­eral as liberals on a mis­sion to re­strict free­dom.

Of course, the left-wing me­dia doesn’t have a mo­nop­oly on bias. It’s just that some me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions are more open about it than oth­ers. The Ob­server is part of the Guardian Me­dia Group, which makes much of the fact that it is owned by the Scott Trust Lim­ited, which doesn’t in­ter­fere in ed­i­to­rial pol­icy. This is true. Yet it is also be­side the point. The bias of the Guardian Me­dia Group isn’t im­posed from out­side. It springs from within.

“There is noth­ing quite so il­lib­eral as liberals on a mis­sion to re­strict free­dom”

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