Where’s the ev­i­dence?

Field & Game Aus­tralia has lodged a for­mal com­plaint with Ad Stan­dards over a re­gional tele­vi­sion cam­paign mak­ing out­landish and un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims about duck hunt­ing, but while we wait for ac­tion the dam­age is al­ready be­ing done.

Field and Game - - NEWS -

Both com­mer­cials are anti-hunt­ing with the in­tent of shift­ing pub­lic sen­ti­ment in re­gional Vic­to­ria against duck hunt­ing, a le­gal prac­tice sup­ported by leg­is­la­tion en­gaged in by 25 646 peo­ple who hold ap­pro­pri­ate ac­cred­i­ta­tion (Game Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity li­cence data 2016).

Re­gional Vic­to­ri­ans Op­posed to Duck Shoot­ing and An­i­mals Aus­tralia can hide be­hind the la­bel of ‘po­lit­i­cal’ ad­ver­tis­ing where cur­rently there is no re­quire­ment for it to be fac­tual.

While the ads clearly lobby for a po­lit­i­cal out­come, the method­ol­ogy is not just lack­ing in fac­tu­ally or ev­i­den­tially, it risks rep­u­ta­tional and eco­nomic dam­age to FGA and its 18 000 mem­bers.

The com­mer­cials vil­ify hun­ters, re­spon­si­ble and eth­i­cal hunt­ing prac­tice and de­lib­er­ately mis­lead or de­ceive with state­ments like; • “You see the en­vi­ron­ment you live in get

de­graded, it hurts, I feel it in the guts.” • “Shoot­ing im­pacts ev­ery as­pect of my busi­ness, I can’t re­ally har­vest com­fort­ably the plants on my property without be­ing shot at,” and • “Their guns can reach us and this is our land.” While the cam­paign is about stop­ping duck hunt­ing, the ads are not about ducks, they are about hun­ters who they shame­fully por­tray as a dan­ger to the pub­lic (in­clud­ing scar­ing chil­dren) and the en­vi­ron­ment.

De­spite the se­ri­ous­ness of these claims, they have been picked up and re­peated in news­pa­per ar­ti­cles without any at­tempt to sub­stan­ti­ate or ver­ify the claims.

A Wim­mera Mail Times ar­ti­cle (May 8, 2018) on the ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign ran five quotes from an “or­gan­i­sa­tion spokesper­son” without re­quir­ing they were iden­ti­fied and, typ­i­cally, the claims were not chal­lenged and no al­ter­na­tive view was sought.

The spokesper­son gave a hint as to the need for anonymity. “It’s a huge thing for us to speak out in these ads — know­ing the shoot­ing lobby will in­evitably tar­get us — but we are sick of be­ing the hid­den vic­tims of duck shoot­ing.”

While FGA’S com­plaint is be­ing de­ter­mined, the com­mer­cials con­tinue to be aired and the likely out­come is that by the time any ac­tion is taken, the cam­paign will have run its course.

The Ad Stan­dards com­plaint process re­quires at­ten­tion. Cur­rently, there is no le­gal re­quire­ment for the con­tent of po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing to be fac­tu­ally cor­rect.

This may work for politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal par­ties who’s claims are fre­quently tested be­cause the par­tic­i­pants are reg­u­larly avail­able to be scru­ti­nised by their op­po­si­tion, their elec­torate, and the me­dia but it doesn’t work for ide­o­log­i­cally driven ac­tivists who will sink to any depth to get their way.

Politi­cians have to de­fend their po­si­tion, but Re­gional Vic­to­ri­ans Op­posed to Duck Shoot­ing can re­main anony­mous and the dam­ag­ing and fac­tu­ally derelict claims they make face no scru­tiny.

Equally con­cern­ing for FGA is the fol­low­ing line from the Pe­ga­sus Eco­nomics As­sess­ment of the GMA’S com­pli­ance and en­force­ment func­tion 2017 under the head­ing con­sul­ta­tion; “In ad­di­tion, Re­gional Vic­to­ri­ans Op­posed to Duck Shoot­ing con­tacted the project team and pro­vided use­ful in­sights on their ex­pe­ri­ence of the reg­u­la­tor.”

As ten­nis great, John Mcen­roe once said, “You can­not be se­ri­ous?”

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