Essex businessman Syed Rizwan is a conservation hero. That’s what hunters call him. The father-of-three pours hundreds of thousands of pounds into wildlife and biodiversity projects worldwide.
Anti-hunters take a different view. They call him ‘scum’ and ‘filth’ among hundreds of repulsive emails, messages and phone calls.
The reason the antis hate him is because he also hunts the wildlife he conserves. While his money pays for millions of acres of habitat, he goes into that habitat to hunt big game. He posts pictures from his hunts on Facebook, and his family and friends applaud him.
The antis would not have heard of Syed had it not been for one of them, Nada Farhoud, who writes for the Daily Mirror.
She has a contact at the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, Eduardo Gonçalves, who trawls Facebook looking for people like Syed.
Gonçalves sends Farhoud pictures, which she prints in the Daily Mirror without permission. Gonçalves then posts the rest of the Syed’s pictures, again without permission, which he uses to fundraise for his organisation.
Syed says: “When I saw the article, I was completely shocked. More worryingly, most of the things I said she’d never mentioned. She reported them in such a way it makes me look like a killer.
Syed says that, as a direct result of the article, he has been receiving life threatening phone calls, emails, and messages.
Farhoud knows that her articles in the Daily Mirror inspire lynch mobs.
She printed her article about Syed in the Daily Mirror on Saturday 14 January 2023.
Two days later, in the small hours of 16 January, a group of three men claiming to be from the food delivery group Just Eat came to Syed’s house. One of them went to his door – claiming to make a delivery – while the others stayed in their cars.
Appalled by the online abuse he was receiving, Syed had to send his wife and children to stay with a family member. He had already called the police twice to show them the death threats. He called them a third time.
They told him for the third time that they could do nothing unless the antis attacked him. “They claim they’ve done their bit,” he says. “I mean, obviously it’s their duty to turn up. But they very clearly passed the message to me that there’s nothing they can do. It’s a civil matter and we can only help if something actually happened.”
He was shocked the police couldn’t do more.
Syed has taken action against the Daily Mirror, complaining to the newspaper ombudsman IPSO that Farhoud violated his privacy and the privacy of his children.
He is also taking a copyright claim against the newspaper. He wants to take them to court to stop them doing it to other people.
He says: “If they wanted to complain about trophy hunting, they should be just complaining about trophy hunting itself.”
He is upset they mentioned his family, his children and his business.
Syed says that Daily Mirror journalist Nada Farhoud and her photographer broke all sub-clauses of Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the IPSO Editors’ Code.
Farhoud asked Syed not to report where he lived out of respect for his private and family life. She ignored that and identified his home address by including the name of his business. Syed works from home.
Although he posted pictures on social media of himself with big game he has hunted, that context allows a reasonable expectation of privacy.
He says that the Daily Mirror printing it in its newspaper accompanied by hate speech contributed and continues to contribute to the abuse he has received.
Syed was born in Pakistan and grew up in a hunting community. He says: “There are places in Pakistan where they only live on the money which comes from the conservation that hunters do. Their only income is what hunters pay as a trophy fee. 80% of the fee goes towards the community to build schools and hospitals. Everything they do is out of the money that hunters give them.
“Hunting tourism pays for most of the wildlife and biodiversity in southern Africa. Instead, the journalist chose to describe my actions as ‘vile’ and ‘disturbing’ in her article,” says Syed.
Daily Mirror photographer Adam Gerrard photographed Syed and his vehicle at his home, which the newspaper chose to print and put out online.
The journalist highlighted the most obvious part of my vehicle numberplate, the letters G U N, making Syed easily identifiable in his home town of Rainham.
This contravenes clause (iii) that ‘It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy’.
According to Clause 6, sub-clause (v), editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.
Having made Syed famous among her violent supporters,in contravention of this sub-clause, Farhoud wrote that he had posted ‘dozens of images of his son at hunts in the UK, including one of the youngsters smiling next to a dead deer’.
Gonçalves went on to promote the Daily Mirror article to groups of the same violent animal rights extremists by posting pictures of Syed’s son on Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting social channels.
Syed says what he has experienced is ‘media bullying’ and he wants to make sure people don’t get away with it.
He says: “We have to do something to stop them. Because what I have gone through, and all the people like me that have gone through the same. People have lost their livelihoods, their businesses, and their work.“
Syed’s experience is nothing new, as extremists work with journalists sympathetic to their causes, such as Farhoud, to target hunters. Diggory Hadoke of VintageGuns.co.uk has also been vilified by the press and social media for his support of hunting.
He says the Daily Mirror is a campaigning newspaper. He says: “They’ve already made up their minds that they want to ban hunting. They want to ban overseas hunting by British sportsmen. So, they don’t approach any of these stories with an open mind. They approach it as campaigners.”
He says that, as a result, journalism suffers. Diggory says: “There is a team at the Daily Mirror who are tasked with ending sport hunting abroad by British people, and they spin every story that they can to that end.”
Syed is disappointed that the police do not offer more protection as a crime prevention measure. Former detective Ian Jensen says forces are in a difficult position. He says: “The threats to kill require specific intent on a person making the threat, and that intent is that the individual would receive the threat and believe it. And it’s hard to get that kind of evidence unless the person tells you that’s what they intended or whether it’s obvious from what they’ve done.“
He says that people regularly make threats on social media. He says: “It seems to be a platform where people’s agitations are amplified.”
Ian understands Syed’s concerns but says the police see a lot of activists demonstrating how angry they are, especially when an issues or argument escalates on social media.
Syed’s experience is mirrored across the world, too.
Robbie Kroger of pro hunting channel Blood Origins in the USA says that hunters are constantly fighting the tide of lies from antis. He says: “The practice of hunting is completely legal, completely sustainable, and is saving habitat and wildlife all over the world.” He criticised the newspaper for publishing the article without thorough research into the issues.
Despite the abuse Syed is determined not to give up hunting. He says: “I believe what I’m doing is actually for the good of animals. I’m actually saving animal’s that are going to be extinct.”
Syed says antis are harming animals with their lack of understanding over the conservation work that hunting funds. Robbie agrees and says the Daily Mirror‘s anti-trophy hunting campaign will harm the communities it benefits.
He says: “It’s going to lead to hundreds of thousands of people all around the world having their livelihoods affected, which means poverty, job losses and no meat for people.”