Online abuse is everywhere on the internet. It has become an international pastime. To be honest, I never expected to be on the receiving end, but for the past few months it has been a very real experience. My name is Dr Daniel Allen, I’m an animal geographer, TV presenter and APGAW member who explores the cultural significance of animals around the world. I have a passion for animal welfare and have become known for my candid observations.
When the global media styled Chinese pensioner Mrs Yang (Yang Xiaoyun) as the “symbol of hope” of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, the world wanted to help her dogs. Fundraisers were set up. The public kindly donated. Lots of money was raised, but where did the donations go? This simple question made me the target of an online abuse I found both shocking and personally intrusive. I’ve decided to share my experience here to help others.
In June 2015 a restricted fundraiser with the title ‘HELP MRS YANG YULIN APPEAL’ was set up by UK registered charity 1154524 World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade (WPDCMT), also known as No To Dog Meat (NTDM). It had aimed to raise £5,000. With thousands of dog lovers from across the world wanting to save dogs from the cooking pot, the fundraiser helped raise over £80k. Despite this, less than £11k had reached the named recipient by August 13 2015. The organisation continued using the name and image of Mrs Yang to raise funds.
This was a genuine concern. As an independent writer with a passion for animal welfare, I wanted to find out more. I wrote two posts through LinkedIn, “Mrs Yang’s Missing Money” (August 13 2015) and “Sharing is Caring for Mrs Yang” (August 17 2015). The name of the charity was not mentioned, nor was the fundraising platform, nor names of any individuals aside from Mrs Yang.
My questions were relatively simple:
Despite this, the questions were not answered. Instead, this polite line of questioning started my personal experience as target of online abuse. Within hours of posting “Mrs Yang’s Missing Money”, a NTDM supporter and known admin for the organisation made their intention of harassment clear through Facebook.
By August 19 I was aware of past fallouts within the organisation. It was also clear that my articles had become platforms for mud-slinging and targeted attacks on other innocent members of public who had genuine concerns. With this, I made the unprecedented move of deleting the posts, whilst uploading this YouTube video.
My public support of a Care2 petition calling for all restricted fundraiser donations to reach Mrs Yang, and for No To Dog Meat to be investigated by relevant authorities, led to ongoing malicious and libelous accusations through Twitter. This petition currently has 7,664 signatures.
A clear pattern of targeted behaviour had developed. By September 19, rumours were surrounding Mrs Yang, and allegations escalating in China and beyond (as observed and documented on this blog) The level of desperation of those associated with No To Dog Meat also heightened. A petition attempted to defame me, seemingly set up and certainly supported by a handful of NTDM supporters, was promptly removed by Care2 for being untrue and unlawful.
Unlawful accusations and online harassment continued from a handful of charity supporters:
Politely asking a UK registered charity simple questions made me the target of online abuse. It was a surprise to me. It was a surprise to my local police officers. But it was not a surprise to Downton Abbey actor and Patron of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW), Peter Egan:
I was totally unsurprised by the appalling and shocking tactics levelled at you Dan by NTDM during these past months, the reason being, because this is their usual behaviour when they are confronted by sensible and open questions. You will have noticed that one of their most aggressive attack trolls, has recently posted that she was instructed by the CEO to target both myself, Jill Robinson, Animals Asia and Lola Weber. Indeed there is an audio recording of Julia De Cadenet threatening to destroy both Jill Robinson and myself.
Peter Egan, who is one of the most highly respected and active animal welfare advocates in the UK, continued:
You can understand that I was therefore very surprised to see a pic of my friend, and a man I admire hugely, Ricky Gervais, wearing a NTDM T-shirt posted everywhere on their site. I asked him if he supported NTDM, he replied that a friend had asked him to wear the t-shirt. He thought it was a generic opposition to the dog meat trade. He’d never heard of NTDM. He said he does not, nor does he want to, promote NTDM. I think it’s worth pointing this out because he is such a huge figure in the world of animal welfare and of course NTDM are capitalising on this. He categorically does not support them.
I personally echo the words of Peter Egan and Ricky Gervais, and add that charity accountability and transparency have become the focus of this situation. Over £70k raised in the restricted fundraiser remains frozen in a UK bank account. Legally, if this money is not going to the named recipient, it must be returned to the donors. My next article will uncover the possible reasons why this organisation felt the need to attack respected animal welfare professionals. It will also share official Charity Commission responses to my questions.
Far too many innocent people and animals have become embroiled in this uncharitable affair. If you feel a sense of injustice reading this article or have ever been affected by online abuse or bullying, please make a stand with me and share widely.