A children’s charity has cancelled a fundraising event at a greyhound racing track after what the charity’s chief executive called "an intimidating and threatening social media campaign from a group of greyhound activists".
The Brighton-based Rockinghorse raises money for the nearby Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and the Trevor Mann Baby Unit.
Rockinghorse announced on Twitter on 27 February that it would hold a charity race night on 16 July at the Brighton and Hove Greyhound Stadium, and has since said it expected to raise £5,000.
On 20 May, the greyhound welfare group Greyt Exploitations posted on its Facebook group: "We are sad to report that yet another worthy children’s charity – Rockinghorse – is holding an event at Brighton and Hove dog track." Greyt Exploitations urged supporters to email the charity’s chief executive, reminding the supporters to be polite and informative.
In a statement posted on Rockinghorse’s website yesterday, Ryan Heal, chief executive of the charity, said the event had been cancelled "due to an intimidating and threatening social media campaign from a group of greyhound activists".
He said in the statement: "When we received messages including that the activists should go to the baby unit and bet on which baby ‘would and would not make it’ (by way of a comparison to greyhound race betting), we knew we were dealing with dangerous individuals and felt enough was enough."
Trudy Baker, the coordinator of Greyt Exploitations, said the group admired the charity but had hoped it "would show some compassion towards the greyhounds and choose a more ethical way to raise funds".
She said that to her knowledge only one comment that was abusive in nature was sent to the charity, this was from a member of the public rather than the group itself and she had apologised to the charity when she was made aware of it.
Baker said that Greyt Exploitations itself had been subjected to abuse on social media as a result of the coverage in local press of the affair.
Baker said: "We campaign legally and peacefully at all times and we cannot be held responsible for the actions of individuals that do not adhere to our campaign policies – which in this case were to ‘please email the chief executive and politely ask him to have a heart for the greyhounds and cancel the event’."
Heal told Third Sector that the charity had contacted the police about the issue, but he would not be pursuing the matter because communication from the campaigners had now ceased.
He said: "As an individual, I respect the campaigners’ opinion, but they should take it up with the racing industry directly – it just feels like we are a bit of a soft target."
The charity’s accounts show that it had six staff and an income of £713,752 in the year to 31 March 2014, compared with eight staff and an income of £432,652 the year before.