In December 2015 an article was published in the tabloid newspaper the Daily Mirror entitled “Slurs and abuse over dog fund cash riddle”. The online version of the same article was titled “Dog charity cash mystery as animal lovers hounded for asking where £70,000 donations have gone”. The article appeared in a weekly column subtitled “from the fishy to the fraudulent” by a tabloid journalist who styles himself as a kind of investigator. The story centred around two figures, popular among some activists on Twitter, who have attacked our charity for their own personal reasons. (We will refer to these two persons as ‘X’ and ‘Y’ in order to avoid further accusations of ‘abuse’.)
The statements in this article were deliberately ambiguous and littered with incorrect information, designed to defame and attack the charity and to mislead the public into believing things which were not true – for this reason we need to set the record straight. If these accusations had been said outright it would have left the Mirror open to an action in libel, so instead, the writers used innuendo, misleading phrases (eg “missing money”) and the juxtaposition of statements, leaving it for the reader to join the obvious dots. This approach left the paper room to deny it actually meant these things – as it did in the subsequent IPSO press watchdog complaint.
These are the things which the article suggested and which any average reader would infer.
1. That donors money had gone astray.
This allegation is completely false in that the charity ran an open fundraiser and has kept donors updated at all times on how the funds raised have been spent. The charity has acted at all times within the law working closely under the advice of the Charity Commission. No funds have ever been lost or gone astray – the charity has distributed funds for the overarching and original purpose intended for the funds which is to directly and materially benefit dogs rescued from Yulin. Our detailed accounts are open and fully available to the Charity Commission and on its website.
2. That the charity had failed to provide information on the fund and failed to answer questions.
The charity kept the fundraiser page itself up to date with the correct information. It kept in regular touch with donors via email. There were also two posts on this site which went into great depth on the issues surrounding the fundraiser:
It is also pertinent to note that though the two protagonists of the article claim their questions were left unanswered, at no time did they contact the charity directly to ask these questions. In addition, they have been invited several times to call the charity CEO and speak to her in person and they have always declined, preferring instead to rely on their own ‘research’ efforts and faulty deductions.
3. That NoToDogMeat supporters/staff had been responsible for a ‘torrent of abuse’ directed at the two Twitter personalities.
There has been no evidence that any ‘torrent of abuse’ ever even existed – although the phrase has been used by the article’s participants over and over again on various forums, no doubt in the hope that it would stick in people’s minds. Instead a brief – and quite civil – Facebook exchange with a supporter (incorrectly described as an ‘admin’ in the article) is offered.
4. That the charity was ‘under investigation’ by the Charity Commission.
Another misleading phrase, there was , and is , no ‘investigation’. The Charity Commission was simply replying to the participants in the article telling them it was ‘looking into’ their complaints. The Charity Commission have worked closely to help guide the charity through this time.
5. That under UK charity law the charity was required to return the money to donors.
With regards to charity law, the article relied on the badly researched opinions of one of the Twitter personalities, who in real life is a geography professional, to present his own unqualified, inexpert and completely wrong interpretation of the law.
Moreover, the email ‘X’ received from the Charity Commission directly contradicts what he says in the article: “Our guidance on fundraising makes clear that if funds are raised for a specific purpose they should be spent on those purposes. If the trustees felt it was no longer appropriate to fund such purposes, we would expect them to seek permission of the donor/donors, if the charity wished to apply the funds for a different purpose.” (our italics)
The Mirror made an offer to the press watchdog to publish a clarification: “We would be happy to publish a clarification to set out Ms De Cadenet’s position in relation to the legal point”.
However, they have so far failed to do so.
Sadly, the Mirror succeeded in wriggling out of any real sanctions from the press watchdog who accepted their denials at face value while acknowledging article’s deficits: Point 13 IPSO report “The Committee acknowledged that the way in which the claims in the article were presented created some ambiguity as to who the questions had been asked of, and who had abused the campaigners online.”
These are some of the Mirror’s cynical statements in their responses to IPSO’s questions:
“The article did not assign blame for the abuse suffered by [X and Y] online to any member of the charity.”
Of the ‘questions asked’: “The article does not state or imply that [X] put this question directly to No To Dog Meat, but states that ‘he asked what happened to the balance’. [X] posed this question in an open LinkedIn post, which did not name the charity” (our italics)
Later, the Mirror went on to add insult to injury by using the IPSO ruling as an excuse to repeat it’s original lies, extraordinarily singling out our CEO for personal attack for submitting the complaint in the first place, contemptuously referring to her by her first name only in the article title.
If anyone needs further clarification of this subject they can contact the charity who will be happy to explain.
We believe the article to be part of an ongoing campaign to smear the charity by a small group of individuals some with the aim of raising their own public profile by getting their pictures in the papers and with an axe to grind, clear only to themselves. The charity commission are aware of these cyber trolls and have advised us to continue our work taking legal action where required.
Thankfully, leading serious newspapers like the Independent and the New York Times have directly interviewed the charity clarifying the position about Mrs Yang and focusing on our vital work helping to end the suffering of the dogs and cats in the meat trade.
Independent (published article is behind paywall): https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-independent/20170121/283167198269930