· Decision of the Complaints Committee 04794-15 Sailor v Daily Mirror
Summary of complaint
1. Adrian Sailor complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mirror had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in a print article headlined “Exposed: Brit safari killers”, published on 30 July 2015, and “Hundreds of bloodthirsty Brits exposed as safari killers who pay £29k to shoot lions and elephants”, published online on 29 July 2015.
2. The articles reported on the UK trophy hunting industry, following the widely reported death of “Cecil the lion”. They reported that the complainant operated the website “Safari Hunter”, which advertised big-game hunting trips, and contained a large number of photos of individuals posing with dead big-game animals. They also reported that the complainant was the UK agent for a big-game hunting company, and that he was an amateur taxidermist who ran a website called “taxidermy collector”.
3. The articles claimed that a hunting company for which the complainant was a UK agent offered a “Lion Combo Special” for £14,000; this package involved killing one male and one female lion. The articles were accompanied by a number of photographs of hunters posing with dead big-game animals, including an image of the complainant with a dead baboon and an image of the complainant with a tiger cub. In the online article, it was captioned “So cruel: A tiger cub picture posted on taxidermy collector website”. In the print article, it was captioned “Bad Business: Unidentified hunter with dead tiger cub on one safari trip”, and appeared immediately below and alongside two images of the complainant.
4. The complainant did not dispute that the company for which he was a UK agent had a ‘lion combo’ offer, but said that the offer was for the US market, with which he had no involvement, and that there was no “lion combo” offer on his “Safari Hunter” website. In relation to the image of a tiger cub, the complainant said that the cub was alive, and that he was stroking it; he said that he did not offer tiger hunting, which is illegal. The online article had inaccurately identified him as one of the individuals in a photograph of two men posing with a dead ibex.
5. The newspaper said that the complainant was the UK agent for a company that offered the “lion combo” for $22,000. It said that the image of the tiger cub was taken from the complainant’s taxidermy website, in the context of an article about taxidermy, which suggested that the tiger was dead. The caption to the photograph on the complainant’s website was “dangerous but nice”. The newspaper noted this website also contained a photograph of a mounted tiger head. It said that in this context, there was an implication that this was a species which could be killed and stuffed. The newspaper noted that the article had not alleged that the complainant had hunted and killed the tiger, and that in the context of the complainant’s wider activities, whether or not the cub was alive was not significant. It accepted that the caption to the photograph of the dead ibex was incorrect, and said it would make arrangements to have it removed.
6. The newspaper denied that there was a breach of Clause 1. Nevertheless, it offered to publish the following clarification:
“In our article of 30 July "Exposed: Brit Safari Killers", which featured pictures of hunter, Adrian Sailor, posing with a zebra and a baboon he had slaughtered and one of him stroking a tiger cub, he has asked us to make clear that the cub, originally featured in an article on his taxidermy website (which includes the mounted head of another tiger) was in fact alive.”
7. In relation to the newspaper’s response to his complaint, the complainant said that the mounted tiger head depicted on his taxidermy website was Victorian, when it was legal to hunt tigers. He did not accept the newspaper’s offer to publish a clarification.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. Clause 1 Accuracy
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
9. The articles reported on the complainant’s hunting and taxidermy activities. Aside from one photograph, they contained no further reference to tigers, and while the articles criticised the complainant, they did so on the basis of his wider activities; they did not place particular weight on the image of a tiger, or suggest that the complainant’s activities were illegal. In these circumstances, the photograph of the tiger cub and accompanying captions were not significantly misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
10. The inaccurate caption to the photograph of the dead ibex was not significant in the context of the article. It was not inaccurate to report that the big-game hunting company offered a ‘lion combo’ for £14,000, or that the complainant was a UK agent for this company. These aspects of the article did not disclose a breach of Clause 1.
The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 30/07/2015
Date decision issued: 29/10/2015Back to ruling listing