Dorset | Pro-wildlife group banned from agricultural show

Two years ago Dr Mark Avery’s guest spot at the Game Fair was suddenly withdrawn. He had been invited onto a guest panel, but, as he blogged later, he had been dis-invited because “…the high-ups who run the Game Fair – it seems they are the Countryside Alliance, BASC and GWCT – had said that neither Chris [Packham], nor I, nor some other bloke were welcome”.

The ironic joke doing the rounds at the time was that the organisers were genuinely scared that some idiot from the so-called ‘shooting community’ might have taken a swing at Mark, and were erring on the side of caution. More likely was that the Game Fair and its bird-killing crowd just don’t like to be argued with. Whatever the reason it made the Game Fair look small-minded and unsure of itself. Mark has of course enjoyed retelling the story ever since.

Decisions like these may not reach a huge audience, but – like an unpleasant smell – they do linger.

Which brings us to Dorset’s Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show, an ‘agricultural show’ which would apparently rather butter up fox hunts than honour an invitation given to a small group that campaigns against illegal fox hunting. But there’s an added twist here. The decision to ban Action Against Fox Hunting (AAF) came after they say ‘countryfolk’ on a notorious online Facebook group threatened them with violence. Which just stinks to high heaven frankly…


The email that the show’s organisers sent to AAF telling them that they would no longer be welcome at the show seems to be claiming (irony alert) that they will ‘not tolerate circumstances which risk the safety of those at the Show”. Which in their opinion means banning AAF rather than those that have threatened them (who are apparently still welcome). Again, that stinks to high heaven.

I am writing to you today to inform you that we have no option but to cancel your position at the 2021 Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show.

We are aware of post online about your attendance which is beginning to cause issues in the Office and will likely escalate at the Show. While we appreciate you booked into an Agricultural Show so are fully aware of the views on this political topic we are a family event and will not tolerate circumstances which risk the safety of those at the Show. We must do what is right for attendees and traders and being aware of this situation over 3 weeks prior to the Show means we will do the correct thing which is cancel your booking with us.

We fully appreciate that this not the outcome you would be hoping for but hope you appreciate the position we as the organisers are in.

AAF recognise – as Mark Avery does when going to the Game Fair – that they will be at odds with some of the elements at the Show and have taken steps to avoid confrontation. They state clearly on their website that as the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show is a family-friendly show, they had “decided to aim our outreach at children and make it about foxes, rather than hunting. We bought masks for children to colour in, and we bought crayons. We had some life-size cardboard cutouts of foxes made. We also professionally designed “Learning Boards” for children. We spent a lot of our precious donations on equipment for the stall. We planned to keep the hunting information very low-key.

It’s difficult to draw any conclusion other than that the organisers of the Show are intolerant of pro-wildlife views, don’t want to be held responsible for the actions of the people they let into the showground, and would much rather allow fox hunts to parade without opposing views upsetting the sensitive darlings. Which – you’ve guessed it – stinks to high heaven and back..


Is there anything we can do though? It’s highly unlikely that the organisers will change their minds now, but AAF suggest emailing the Show and have provided a template and two relevant email addresses:

I understand that you have cancelled Action Against Foxhunting’s booking for the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show in August. This is because of an online post about their presence that appeared on a pro-hunting Facebook page. This post attracted threats of violence towards AAF – an entirely peaceful and professional group. AAF did not respond to the post. 

However, instead of cancelling the presence of those who threatened the violence, you cancelled the victims. 

Additionally, you also called it a “political” issue. If AAF represent one side of the debate, then the hunt represents the other. By cancelling AAF and not the hunt, you are showing unfair political bias.

You should also consider the issue of the “Leaked Webinar” in which the hunts admitted that “trail hunting” is a smokescreen for fox hunting. The webinar was run by the Hunting Office (their own governing body) and attended by over 100 Hunt Masters. In it, they admitted that they were deliberately deceiving the police by laying fake trails. A high-ranking Hunting Office official is being prosecuted for his involvement in the webinar. Many public bodies (including the National Trust and the Forestry Commission) have banned the hunt from their land because of the webinar. The very hunt that is displaying at the show has been in court many times.

You are happy to welcome a group which operates under the guidance of a governing body who have been caught openly discussing how to break the law, yet have barred a group which operates in a non-confrontational way and within the law at all times. This is not right at all.

Please explain your decision, ban the hunt and issue an apology to Action Against Foxhunting. 

Please use this or adapt as you see fit (we will be adding our own comments about cowardice and lingering smells) and send to: