Questions are being raised about the number of genuine signatures in online animal rights petitions following their ‘button-click’ approach.
Speaking about one particular example, Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said a petition by animal rights group Animal Aid, which claimed to have 12,700 signatures against shooting on public land in Wales, was later replicated in the form of an official Welsh Assembly electronic petition and gathered only 119 signatures – with just 24 of those from Wales.
It exposed ‘exactly how false, and frankly fraudulent, many petitions are’, Mr Bonner said.
He said: “Attempts to gather numbers of actual people to demonstrate against hunting or shooting have always ended in abject failure, so campaigners have sought to bypass real demonstrations of support and substitute cyber lists.
“It is crucially important that politicians, in particular, understand that much of the campaigning that happens in the digital sphere is manufactured dissent.
“The mass email campaigns, the targeted social media activity and, of course, the dodgy petitions do not represent a real reflection of public attitudes and opinions.
“The reduction of a ’12,700 signature’ petition to 24 Welsh voters is absolute evidence of that.”
A number of parliaments have made it possible for registered online petitions to be considered by elected representatives if they reach a certain threshold, and Mr Bonner said some were already putting hunt meets held on land owned or managed by local councils, on Boxing Day in particular, at risk of cancellation.
One meet has already been forced to relocate. He urged members to consider signing a Countryside Alliance-scripted message ‘from a real person to your local council leader’ in support of the Boxing Day meet.
He added: “By sending this letter, even if your local meet does not take place on council-owned land, you will be showing your support for those local councils that are being pressured to cancel meets.”