According to the results of the survey, conducted by the Countryside Alliance, 62 per cent of country sports fans had received bullying or harassment online.
Respondents to the survey said people had had death threats against them, their children’s pictures posted online, and emails to their employers to try to lose them their jobs.
Countryside Alliance head of policy, Sarah Lee, said: “The impact this kind of abuse has on individuals cannot be underestimated, often leaving people feeling vulnerable, afraid, and alone, as they were unsure how to deal with it. Our survey showed that people are changing their behaviour on social media and posting less as a result of bullying. This silencing effect is a worrying trend and country sports enthusiasts should not have to censor their behaviour.
“The Countryside Alliance has long campaigned to raise awareness of the issue and has called on social platforms to take the threats seriously and take action by standing up to those who incite hatred and violence. We have a government who has committed to make the UK the “safest place in the world to be online”, yet it is clear that those who are passionate about the countryside are still experiencing online bullying for their beliefs. If this was aimed at any other community it would not be tolerated.”
And the association highlighted how the mass media can exacerbate the problem, after the BBC revealed the name of a person accused of criminal activity by an animal rights group.
The group posted footage apparently showing Chris White running a cage trap, and the BBC shared it on its news website under the header “Derbyshire hunt master filmed setting badger trap”. Since then, he has received dreadful abuse, both online and around his home.
But there was no evidence a crime had been committed, and the police even went on to say that the edited video “can distort the truth and lead to conclusions being drawn that may not reflect the reality of what has happened.”
The Countryside Alliance has now submitted a formal complaint with the BBC to ask why this video was published and why Mr White’s name was made public.