I started writing the piece below as a letter to the Times, to complain about an article that appeared in the paper on Tuesday of this week. I’ve since learned that the story was also on Good Morning Scotland on Radio Scotland on Wednesday, but I am unsure as to whether or not this article prompted the BBC to follow it up.
Here is an image of the article, I don’t want to link to the original.
On Tuesday 2nd September, a story ran in The Times newspaper on the Guga Hunt titled ‘Scottish SPCA wants end to ‘brutal’ hunt’ and I wish to raise some issues with the reporting of this.
While the SSPCA has raised issues in regards to the Guga Hunt in the past, they have not, to my knowledge, issued a press release on this matter since 2011. The piece in the paper appears to be a rehash of old releases, with no new quotes and referring to SSPCA efforts from over 3 years ago. Why this is deemed to be newsworthy is unclear.
There are also no attempts to gain the Ness men’s perspective, with a quote from John MacFarlane (Dods) lifted from a 2011 BBC documentary. The article also describes Mr MacFarlane as ‘retired from leading the cull’. Mr MacFarlane is currently on Sulasgeir, having led and partaken in this year’s hunt.
I also have issues with some of the over the top language used in the report. I am unsure as to why they are referred to as ‘baby’ gannets. This kind of language is not used when talking about ‘baby’ lambs or ‘baby’ chickens as food sources. It is an unacceptable bias in the article, attempting to humanise the juvenile gannets and make them appear ‘cute’.
The description of the process after death is also unnecessary. Use of words like ‘decapitated’ and ‘singed’ are totally unnecessary in this context. Nearly every animal eaten in the UK is decapitated after slaughter, yet we won’t hear of a piece of sirloin steak having been decapitated, skinned and butchered as part of it’s preparation.
That brings me to the slaughter process. It is described in the article as ‘clubbed to death’ and ‘killed with a stick’. These terms are used, in my opinion, in an inflammatory manner to make it appear barbaric and give the image of numerous blows required to kill each bird. This is not the case, with birds killed by a single blow and are dead within 2-3 seconds of leaving the nest.
We currently have an issue of geese wreaking havoc on crops and land in the Western Isles and the only way of dealing with this is shooting them. This is deemed to be acceptable, despite wounded birds dropping from the sky and possibly dying a slow and painful death.
Do the SSPCA or news media raise issues about this on as regular a basis as they do about the Guga? Or about Halal slaughter? Or the mincing of male chicks, which are of no use to egg laying industry, at birth? No, because these have big industry and money behind them. They continually target a small community and attempt to bring negative world-wide attention on them through half-truths and inflammatory language.
Long live the Guga Hunt!