Sunday, 13 June 2010

More fox-related hysteria from the nonsense-mongers of the press

Today's Mail on Sunday is apoplectic with rage;

Mother of twins mauled by fox is threatened by animal rights activists

Except, of course, that four paragraphs in we learn that this is complete and utter bollocks. In fact, "Scotland Yard said it was not aware of a specific threat against the family but admitted that there was ‘concern’ over inflammatory postings on social networking sites."

In essence, somebody set up a Facebook group which (perhaps in bad taste) called the mother of the twins a "lying bitch." It's understandable that the woman in question and her friends might consider this as being "harangued and besieged" by animal rights activists. Less understandable, though predictable, is how the Mail can run with the headline it does whilst quoting the police as saying "there is no tangible threat but we are keeping in touch with the family."

People might wonder why papers like the Mail admit in their own articles that they're lying. Surely, if you're going to go with sensationalism, you might as well eschew facts altogether? Depressingly, it's not necessary.

Hence the comment (rated with 338 green arrows by fellow angry simpletons) of Garvnor in Redbridge;
I would really love to get hold of one of these so called animal activists!!!!! THEY ARE ALL COWARDS HIDING BEHIND MASKS AND GOING OUT IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT!!!
If Garvnor ever does get hold of an animal rights activist, though, I suspect that they would be able to escape his grasp by doing this;

Despite the outrage the Mail deliberately provoked in Garvnor and his ilk, the cowardly mask-wearers may well have been onto something.

Quoted disapprovingly by the Mail, one commenter on the Facebook group Urban Fox Defenders said that "there is something here that simply does not add up" about the story of the original attack. This is certainly true when it comes to media coverage of the incident.

Saturday's Daily Mirror reported that "the scratches on her face and bandaged arm tell yesterday of the damage a fox did to baby Lola Koupparis." But, if she was mauled, wouldn't the toddler have bite marks on her face, not scratches? The Sun seems to think so;
Bite marks and bruises were clearly visible on little Lola’s face, and her arm was bandaged from where the animal tried to drag her from her cot.
Likewise the Daily Star;
Wounds from the attack were still clear on her face, which was covered in bite marks and cuts.
But, then, are we to believe "news" papers that would make a story out of the fact that an urban fox was alive, and being a fox, in an urban area?

The Sun tells us in shock, outrage, and horror that a fox walked past the home where the girls were attacked. And, as if a fox walking past an area where foxes are known to haunt wasn't scary enough, "the chilling sight in Hackney, East London, was echoed in towns throughout Britain." Apparently, the fact that "they have inhabited our towns and cities since the 1930s" isn't enough to mute the rag's surprise that news coverage of the incident hadn't shamed them into hiding.

The result of all this hyperbole and tacking urgent headlines to non-stories, as Iain Hollingshead writes for the Telegraph, is that "there now seem to be plenty of people who want revenge."

He notes that "John Bryant, of the British Humane Wildlife Deterrence Association, has had a particularly busy few days, telling any newspaper that will listen that, in his 40 years’ experience, he has heard of only two cases of fox attacks: “One victim was a cat, another a German shepherd” (a dog, presumably, not a Teutonic herdsman)."

And even if the hysteria were justified, Boris Johnson's call for a cull would be ineffective. " According to the Mammal Research Unit, at least 70 per cent of urban foxes would need to be killed each year, and every year for a long time, to reduce numbers." The real alternative, according to Bryant, "is to leave them in their territory to keep other foxes out and educate them about where they are not welcome."

It's doubtful he will be heard over the insanity of the tabloids in full flow. With headlines such as the Daily Express's "foxes are born killers that don't belong in cities," we are not going to see rational debate on this subject. All I can hope is that ordinary people somewhat more sane than Garvnor of Redbridge respond to urban foxes as Bryant has suggested.

But, ultimately, there needs to be a campaign for more humane deterrence which marginalises the fevered blood lust of the "hang 'em and flog 'em" brigade.