Guido doesn’t want to grouse too heavily about fake news in The Guardian, he’d be here all day, though Sunday’s example really does fly in the face of accuracy. In the Observer, Helena Horton celebrated that it was “game over” for animal cruelty lovers as the Ritz takes grouse off their menu “in victory for environment campaigners”. Horton claimed:
“those hoping to eat the tiny game bird in the gilded Ritz dining room in London will be out of luck this year, as the world-famous hotel has quietly removed it from the menu after an outcry from environmental campaigners.”
Just one problem: the restaurant is adamant this is absolutely not true. Multiple approaches by Guido and co-conspirators have received this emphatic denial from the restaurant’s PR team:
“Yorkshire Grouse is on the menu in the Ritz Restaurant and has been since 12 August.”
In other words, the story’s central claim is for the birds. So why did the Observer say otherwise?
Firstly it appears Helena Horton’s source was Luke Steele, who first tweeted the claim, however has mysteriously since deleted his post. He’s introduced to readers as “executive director of wildlife campaign group Wild Moors”, with the paper overlooking his previous convictions for attacks on laboratories and harassment and intimidation of lab workers. Perhaps not an entirely reliable starting point…
Then there’s Helena herself, who long-reading co-conspirators may remember. Back in 2019 while at the Telegraph she wrote a sensationalist piece claiming British trophy hunters were going to Iceland to hunt puffins, 100 at a time, and bringing their carcasses back to the UK. Guido did a fact check of this at the time and, once again, there was no foundation in truth. Repetitions of Helena’s claim were deleted by the Independent, Mirror and Metro, however her fake news stayed up.
The Countryside Alliance is reporting a much better year for grouse numbers this year – no doubt a relief for many living and working in otherwise very isolated Moorland communities. They have made a formal complaint to the Observer over the story. Based on her past precedent at the Telegraph, Guido doubts Helena will back down…