"Pet Rescue presenter Wendy Turner Webster is appealing to Boy Scouts to stop fishing. The animal lover has written to the Duke of Kent in his capacity of President of the Scout Association, asking him to 'retire the Scouts' Angler Proficiency badge' on the grounds of cruelty. Writing on behalf of the organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), vegan Wendy, 33, informs the Duke that killing fish is inconsistent with the Scouts' wholesome reputation and 'setting out to attack animals' is not in keeping with the image of Scouting."
Appealing to his traditional side, Wendy, who presents the Channel 4 animal rescue show, refers to the Scout Law that dictates "A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others, as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason". The letter appeals to the Duke to put the "violent pastime of fishing behind us and teach children to respect rather than kill wildlife".
In support of her letter PETA's spokesman Toni Vernelli says: "Scouts are supposed to be compassionate role models, not bloodthirsty fish killers" Wendy has proposed the Angling badge be replaced by The Waterway Clean-up badge with the bob-a-jobbers clearing fishing debris from rivers, ponds and lakes, thus providing the Scouts with a "justified sense of accomplishment and civic pride".
Wendy, younger sister of fellow TV presenter Anthea and wife of former minder star Gary Webster, is a strong supporter of PETA. In February she was among a host of celebrities such as Joely Richardson and Dame Judi Dench who designed heart shaped cards campaigning for the better treatment of animals.
This letter was sent by a minor celebrity who was looking to raise her profile using the anti angling bandwagon as a vehicle for her own self aggrandisement, hoping to appeal as being trendy and 'caring'. She is not the only one, there are plenty more neurotic celebrities and politicians who will cheerfully see our pastime destroyed for the furtherance of their own ends. Most of them, like Wendy, know nothing about angling nor do they care. Thankfully this item was spotted by Simon Newbold who brought it to the attention of thousands of anglers via the internet. What was to follow is a matter of some pride for angling unity and great concern with some lessons to be learned for the future.
The response of anglers was initially superb. Using the internet they pooled resources and came up with a rapid method of making their feelings known to both Channel 4 and the Daily Express and Wendy Turners management company. A web address was found for Channel 4's forum and this was put to immediate use, as was the e-mail address for the letters page of the Daily Express and Ms Turners management company. Needless to say all of these options were promptly bombarded with messages from anglers and scout leaders who were disgusted and upset by her remarks. Having read many of the threads that were placed on the C4forum, I was delighted to see that all of them were polite in their approach but got the point across strongly. Anglers really can write well when it suits them!
Some of us also got to use the e-mail address for C4's Chief Executive Officer Michael Jackson, which also came up on the site and appropriate letters were sent directly to him as well. Now for the worrying part. It became very rapidly apparent that the webmaster for the C4 site was deleting the threads that had been posted, despite the fact that all the posts were written in a manner that wholly fitted in with the forum's rules. Needless to say that this heavy handed censorship approach caused a great deal of upset amongst the small army of forum posters. Thankfully there are many anglers out there who are vastly more computer literate than I am and ways were found to make the censors job that much harder. However, a certain amount of energy was wasted by anglers letting off steam amongst themselves, frustrated by the stonewalling policy that was being pursued by C4. Eventually the pressure must have had some effect as the rate of deletions slowed and many critical threads were allowed to remain for a while.
The Daily Express has also failed to respond to the barrage of criticism that was fired its way, preferring a stony silence in the hope that we will go away. However, they will find that we haven't! To be fair though, one amongst our number used his contacts with the press and the Sunday Express published an account of the storm of protest that Ms Turners letter had provoked. This was a reasonably balanced account of events though as yet we have not achieved what we really want - and that is the exposing of Peta.
To return to C4, those of use who wrote to Michael Jackson got an e-mailed response that contained these responses.
"With regards to the issues you raised concerning Wendy Turner-Webster and PETA. Wendy Turner-Webster is not a member of PETA and has no formal links with the organisation. Her recent letter to the Duke of Kent regarding fishing with hooks reflects Wendy's own personal views, which she is entitled to hold. She was not expressing her views on behalf of Channel 4 or PET RESCUE. We can see no reason to question Wendy's role as its principal presenter."
All of which looks a little odd when the original piece states that "Writing on behalf of the organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), vegan Wendy,33" Needless to say we wrote back again outlining our concerns re Ms Turner and her links with Peta and the letter below was typical of the breed.
"I am aware that Ms Turner was not expressing the view of Channel 4 or indeed Pet Rescue I have no problems with either the Channel or indeed the programme. My area of expressed concern was that Ms Turner was acting on behalf of Peta regardless of any membership status when she sent the letter to the Duke of Kent - naturally cc'd to the press!!
I am expressing the gravest doubts about a person who is prepared to use public persona to promote the views of this group who are quite open about their support for the use of violence in the furtherance of their cause.
You may recall that a 6 year old child was recently injured as a result of a mail bomb sent by an 'animal rights' activist.
I regard her views on angling as misguided as they appear to be uninformed but I do not deny her the right to hold such views.
Equally one has to consider that she has upset untold numbers of people in trying to inflict her views on the lives of others.
However I must bring into question her suitability to present a programme on animal welfare when the group she has so publicly endorsed is opposed to any form of human / animal interaction particularly as pets"
Needless to say C4's response was quite unequivocal.
"We were sorry to read that you question Wendy Turner-Webster's suitability as a presenter of the programme PET RESCUE. We do feel that we have clearly stated Channel 4's position and that we have done our best to assist you. Therefore, we regret that we are unable to enter into any further correspondence on this subject."
Stalemate?? No. Several of us have now formally complained to the Independent Television Commission on two grounds, these being C4's censorship of things it doesn't like and of course, questioning the validity of Ms Turners position in the light of her supporting an organisation that openly supports the use of violence.
So this war rumbles on and will do so for some time to come. An approach is due to be made to a magazine who loves to expose hypocrisy - though it has incurred some large legal bills in the past following this pastime. This will give you a clue as to who the magazine is! So what have we learned from this little skirmish? The answer is, plenty! Perhaps the most important thing is that we are all the eyes and ears of angling and it is important that if anybody spots items like the one that started this article then it is up to that person to flag it up on the sites as soon as possible.
It is much easier to attack than defend in the media, and that 'celebrities' can access the media more easily than can the general public. We have our own celebrities who are household names and we need to make more use of them. Within our ranks we have some incredibly talented people who are capable of making their feelings known and also computer buffs who can help overcome barriers.
Through the Internet we can organise ourselves very quickly via the angling sites and through e-mail. However I feel that we have to tighten up the co-operation between the sites so that we can network more effectively and thus speed up a strong response. This an issue for the webmasters at one end and for us to pay attention to what is going on with other sites. Both sheer weight of numbers and continued pressure will eventually get results, persistence pays so we need to stick at it.
When dealing with an apparently intractable organisation, don't be afraid of thinking creatively and using other media or forms of pressure to embarrass them. When writing to large organisations such as the national papers, always send copies of your letters to the local press exposing the issue, as all the Nationals employ people to read the local press from all round the country as a way of getting stories. The letters pages of your local press is a happy hunting ground for them. There is nothing more satisfying to a hungry editor than to be able to rubbish a rival paper.
Abandon the mindset of defending angling - instead go for your opponents weak areas. Thankfully in the case of Peta, this group contains within their pronouncements the seeds of their own destruction.
Play up the violence that this group openly supports and make reference to occasions when children have been injured by the mail bombs sent out by animal rights terrorists. The most recent example is the 6 year old who was injured in a mail bomb attack a few months ago.
Flag up Peta's statements on the keeping of pets and how they would force people to give up their pets. Ask the question "Do we want a society run by Vegan fascists who would kick your door in to see if you have a pet cat in the house?"
Make play of the statement by Peta that they would like to see Foot and Mouth disease imported into the USA to "punish farmers" there.
Visit their website to collect new statements, as these are a priceless source of stupidity which can be used against them and, with a little bit of work, act as a stick to beat all the anti's with.
Most importantly, do not waste your anger by venting it by writing only on angling sites. Organise and bring your literary guns to bear on your opponents in non-angling national and local media. Be aware of the licensing and complaints bodies and make use of them. Bombard them with letters and e-mails. Make maximum use of politicians, both local and national and not forgetting European M.P.s either. They all respond to communication and lobbying. So I'm afraid to say that the price of fishing and freedom is both eternal vigilance and the will to get writing or typing. So dip your keyboards and pens in Vitriol and get started!