Social Media and Goat Stalking on Islay – Lessons from ‘Goatgate’

I have already enjoyed a couple of shoot days this year and on each occasion the subject of ‘goatgate’ has been a hot topic of discussion. Even amongst those of us who know and understand country sports there appears to be a huge difference of opinion on the rights and wrongs of what was said and the images accompanying it. We can all make our own judgement.

I think the real lesson here is how we portray ourselves and what we say on social media. From the youngest angler having a photograph taken with their first fish to the serious stalker with a 16 point red stag, we like to have a reminder of our successes and a photograph is a quick and easy way of recording that memory, especially with easy access to smartphones.

On the day the ‘goatgate’ story began to emerge I checked the SCSTG website www.countrysportscotland.com as I knew it was very well illustrated with anglers, shooters and stalkers proudly posing alongside their quarry species. Open any shooting or fishing magazine and you will see any number of similar images. The difference being the lack of words apparently glorifying the kill. But back to those magazines, they will also describe the events of the day leading up to the capture or killing of the quarry. So what is the difference between those magazine words and what Larysa Switlyk said in her post? To those of us who do shoot and fish she probably said nothing we would not say to one of our own. But she said it on a public forum where her images and comments could be pounced upon by anyone with either a pro or anti message to air. The message she put out would not have caused the same stir in the USA as it did here.

Another interesting take away from this ‘storm’ was who commented and when. For about the first 12 hours it was very much an anti shooting/fishing/landed gentry agenda that was being voiced. However the following day it was much more reasoned and nearer the truth of the environmental necessity of managing wild deer and goats, and the way in which the wild goat was culled using the appropriate calibre rifle and scope to ensure a clean kill.

Would this have been quite the same ‘storm’ it was if the author was a middle aged bloke in green rather than a young, blonde female in camo with a hunting rifle and scope? I think it probably would not.

Has the media moved on from ‘goatgate’? Normally I would have thought yes but in this case the story continues to develop with Ms Switlyk launching a new range of t-shirts and investigative journalists digging away in the background.

Be careful if you post on social media as there are many other potential ‘storms’ ahead.

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