No, not of the sexual kind (although sometimes, I do wonder). The passion of which I write is the love of horses.

In my line of work as a press photographer, I face a wide variety of subjects, stories and people on a daily basis. This is one of the main reasons why I love the job so much but, as you would expect, sometimes you shoot happy stories and sometimes you cover the darker sides of life.

Now some time ago, I went to Brighton to cover the annual Labour Party Conference. Normally a mixture of dry speeches and photo-calls mixed with the occasional bit of interest, the 2004 conference proved no different with lots of Blair-based handshakes and the odd “down with this sort of thing” placard-waving protester.

However, that changed when the pro-fox hunt groups galloped into town and decided to do this..

Now as it happened, I was shooting for The Times newspaper that day and was the only press photographer who got the shot which is a shame as The Times used it once, buried in a supplement and it’s never been printed since but that’s a separate story.

The pro-hunt group pulled up in a busy shopping street, opened the rear doors of their van, tied a rope to a lamp post then edged the van away, dragging the corpse onto the road. A man got out of the van and wedged the placard through the horses ribcage and drove off. The ensuing upset saw pro-hunt supporters (to rear of frame) smiling and clapping with local residents looking on shocked and disturbed with a group of girls near me, crying uncontrollably.

Fast forward a few years and I STILL get a very regular stream of angry people contacting me to tell me that I am, in fact, Satan’s more evil brother. This happens on such a regular basis that I have a standard response in a folder that I copy and paste into my replies;

I’m consistently astounded and disappointed by people thinking that they
have the right to order me to remove pictures from my site.

“Journalist”: a person who practices journalism, the gathering and
dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues and

Why is it only the animal lovers that seem to fail to grasp this idea? I’ve
also photographed fashion shows but never get emails from clothes lovers
asking how I designed the dresses. I’ve shot football matches but don’t get
emails from fans asking me how I scored the goal. For some reason, I get a
reasonably regular flow of misdirected diatribe from horse lovers thinking
that for some reason I personally decided to kill a horse. If you got this
email address, surely you read the rest of my site and looked at the other
images to see that I am a news photographer so take pictures of the news,
whatever it may be?

The news is all about raising awareness of issues that can range from
light-hearted nonsense to the darker aspects of life and death. To think
that things that upset you should be removed from public view is very
narrow-minded and would result in actions and events that you disagree with
happening without your knowledge, therefore denying you a chance to voice
your opinion and fight for your rights. Would you be happier if your daily
newspaper only featured photographs of happiness and rainbows or do you
actually find current affairs and events stimulating to conversations and

If someone takes a photo of a dead animal, is that automatically condoning it’s death or
is it allowing human beings to display the intelligence that they are born
with and make their own decision? Your blinkered vision of right and wrong
and how to go about highlighting your cause is decidedly naïve.

So, in response to your demand for me to remove the image, the answer is no.
This will undoubtedly lead to a continued flow of venomous
emails from people such as yourself but I believe that life and opinion should always
remain balanced.

I hope that next time you feel like sending an aggressive email such as the
ones that I received from you, you carefully check your details and facts
first to make sure you’re abusing the right person.

I’m still trying to decide if I should publish these rambling threats and abuse on this blog. A consistent theme of too many exclamation marks, a personal insult followed by a demand for the pictures destruction/removal provide quite a nice theme to them. Almost poetic. If anyone reads this and wants to see some of it, let me know and I’ll post a few here. If anyone reads this and wants to tell me how cruel I am and ask me why I killed a horse, you know where to find me.


32 Responses to “The ongoing war against passion-driven stupidity”

  1. Yeah come one Leon, lets see what these numbskulls have sent to you!

    Posted by Adcuz
  2. U r really mean and dat is a stupid thing to do just cus der banning hunting
    and y wuld u like to hunt anyway u sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick
    sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sicksick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sicksick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sicksick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick idiot i hate u !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    nobody likes this page anyway

    Frm bob

    Posted by bob
  3. It looks like Leon posted one to show you, Adcuz, but no, this is a genuine new post above, just beautifully timed 😉

    Posted by Kirsten
  4. I think it is a awful thing that has happened, and I think you should remove the image, but keep the story, I believe it should be removed from Google, when I typed in horse, I was shocked couldn’t believe what I saw, I hope you remove this as I think you should.

    Posted by J Stamp
  5. Jonathan, you’re really missing the point of my thread above. If you were doing a school project on Vietnam and you type the name in to google images, the very first picture you get is of a group of schoolchildren, running naked down a road, suffering from horrific napalm burns. I may be wrong but I’m guessing that Nick Ut, the photographer that shot this pulitzer prize winning image, will not get emails asking him to remove the image from the internet as it’s disturbing. At the risk of repetition, it’s wrong to think that images that upset should be removed from view. Bad things happen.

    Posted by tabascokid
  6. These people replying surely have no ounce of intellect. I have a family, luckily they are all still alive, but on the way to work I saw 3 photos in the paper of dead people from the cyclone and earthquake. I am not blaming the photographer for these deaths, as Leon said, he is bringing the story, in a neutral way to everyones eyes, for them to make their mind up! All these comments must be coming from the same inbred chain of people who killed the horse. A ‘Pro-hunt’ group, dropped the dead horse on the street! Now, they might have killed the horse for this stunt, it might have died naturally, it might have been one of the unfortunate horses that top themselves at the Grand National each year. But this was a dead horse, put there by a Pro-hunt group, a group that like to hunt, probably like to hunt on horses, they must LOVE horses! How fucked up are they! That would be like killing your Dad in protest over the possible ban on Fathers Day! You bunch of douchebags, pay attention and use your inbred shriveled brains to work this one out.

    Posted by Stu
  7. I would like to say that these are Hilarious but it was only brought to my knowlegde because of a friend(Jonathan) telling me. He said that it was disgusting and it should be taken down at frist i was inclined to agree. However i read more and came to realises that it is extremly hypocrtical of all thosde asking for it to be taken down. As the news is posted everyday and we say nothing, if all the people in the world that tried to change the fact the image has been posted, the world could actually make a true difference to something that matters. You could stop poverty, so get your heads out of the sand and grow up, sh*t happens get over it!

    Posted by sam
  8. tabascokid, no, you are really missing the point, yes you can type what you say in, and a upseting image might be on. But I didn’t type in Dead Horses, I typed in horses, and yes bad things happen, but they shouldn’t happen anywhy, I am rushing this and listening to a song a like which is Sarah B, love song

    Posted by J Stamp
  9. Sam; Thank you. It makes it worthwhile if, after reading the blog, someone’s convinced that writing a critical email to me isn’t such a good idea after all.

    Jonathan; I’m really struggling to work out what I did in a previous incarnation to deserve having to face emails from you.

    Posted by tabascokid
  10. This is rediculous how can Bob not read the post above yet reply with such shite?

    Posted by Adcuz
  11. What is the world coming to? People who cannot spell thinking they have the right to take the higher ground. People who do not realise that if it were not for the picture of the dead horse nobody would have read the story. Hurrah for Sam! Huzzah for Leon (huzzah is a little bit better than Hurrah). I think it’s a fantastic photograph. It is utterly fit for purpose. It is people who turn their face away that condone the horrors of the world and allow them to continue. It is selfish to refuse to accept that this is an image that should be looked at. Because what you don’t know can’t hurt YOU can it and thats all that matters isn’t it Bob, J Stamp, Jonathon?

    Posted by The Bodhi Zephyr
  12. J Stamp. Complain to google if their searches are not accurate.

    Posted by The Bodhi Zephyr
  13. Not sure what I can add to this but look at some of the comments in the light that a donkey charity in the West Country gets more money than three charities for women suffering from domestic violence put together and you start to wonder when it all went wrong.

    Posted by Stew ( MrBirch )
  14. It’s JonathAn, I can under where your coming from, but I don’t find the photo fantastic, and people feel more careing to animals than human, I see The B. Zephyr is not one of them

    Posted by J Stamp
  15. JonathAn, I’m glad that you’re slowly reaching a more reasonable point of view. I get the idea; you don’t like the picture. Now it would probably cause you less distress if you were to stop visiting the site.

    Posted by tabascokid
  16. It’s not the site which is distressing, and am not distress to start with, it was the image, not the story. and it’s Jonathan, I did the JonathAn, because you thought my name was JonathOn

    Posted by J Stamp
  17. Good lord, it’s like being pursued by a T1000 from a particularly dim future..

    Posted by tabascokid
  18. lol!

    Posted by Kirsten
  19. Leon

    I suppose it’s one of the pitfalls of the profession you are in that in the same way a magnet will attract iron filings, you will end up attracting emails from both the completely stupid, and weirdo’s who have way too much time on their hands. How anyone can ask you to take the picture down is beyond me. It was a news story. The Countryside Alliance supporters ( or whichever similar group ) staged the event, did so to try and cause shock at the Labour party conferenct of that year. In hindsight, I would guess they were probably quite relieved the photograph didn’t receive a wider covering as doing such things, even to dead animals is completely out of order, and would probably have backfired on their cause.

    Back to the emails. I guess you can only go so far trying to educate people as to the merits of why such terrible atrocities such be shown. People need to be told that that scene was staged by so called ‘horse lovers’. The ban was put in place by the government, and yet three years later, I don’t recall ever driving past a dead horse in the middle of a high street.

    As for bob ( with a little ‘b’ ), I don’t think the poor guy had the mental capacity to take in both the photograph, and the fact you were not one of the perpetrators.

    Keep up the good work Neon, and regard the hostile emails as an amusement on the side.

    Posted by snakester
  20. Great photojournalism, shame about the idiots. It’s a credit to you that you deal with them so fairly and courteously. Keep up the good work!

    Posted by Mark (aka bitrot)
  21. Hi Leon
    The unthinking comments here just show what people are really like unfortunately. I can remember commenting on this picture on flickr ages ago, I can’t believe its still causing disturbance… its sad that people are complaining about seeing the image of the event, rather than the event which it documents, as if you stuck the sign in the horse! Its a strange old world we live in… its sad too.
    Guardians of the countryside? Don’t make me laugh…


    Posted by Joey Ramone
  22. It’s always good to hear that intelligent people are prepared to leave comments too. The internet is a dangerous playground that is often only filled with those who need to vent or fight.

    In case you missed it, there’s been an update to this saga..

    Posted by tabascokid
  23. i think the picture of the dead horse os wrong but the event was to. yes i agree with the ban but there was no need to put a dead horse in the middle of the road with a sign stuck in the middle of it!!!!!!!! lol.

    Posted by kozzik
  24. Looking at some of the replies I would say you’re flogging a dead horse here.

    Posted by Midori no Saru
  25. Your remark “It’s like being pursued by a T1000 from a particularly dim future”, is the best laugh I’ve had in some time! I stumbled on all this, actually looking for the horse photo, to prove a point to a friend.
    Job done, thanks! Pity you aren’t on fb.

    Posted by John Parker
  26. this is sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! not the horses fault whoever did this deserved to be hunted

    Posted by jodie
  27. I notice no new anti comments .
    Perhaps they are all busy in Margate at present :)
    Maybe the Times got more e-mails than you did Leon .
    If anything it shows the stupidity of the people that did it .
    You have the right to publish what is legal to publish and that which shows all aspects of our society.
    perhaps you should invite one or two of them abroad with you on your more exotic locations such as Afghanistan .
    The act itself was not right but not to report it would be worse .
    Without the visual , the impact would not be anywhere near as potent .
    I think hate mail is a sign of success .
    At least your name will be remembered .

    Posted by Ray Fothergill
  28. If they did it today, Tesco would be there like a shot.

    But seriously, I found this by chance (searching for a picture of “down with this sort of thing”.

    I was disgusted. I already knew that fox hunring folk are generally vermin, and that the countryside alliance cares about foxhunting, but not about the countryside, but I never realised quite how low they’d go.

    And we call ourselves a civilized country.

    Keep up the good work – we need more old fashioned, honest journalism, and less press release rewording and celebrity photos. Down with that sort of thing.

    Posted by Andrew Heenan
  29. @Midori no Saru – The oldies are the best… 😉

    @John Parker – Thanks! It just seemed relentless for a while. It seems to have ended. For now.

    @Ray – Yeah, it definitely seems to have died off. The whole purpose of this blog was to make these people feel like fools for threatening me and it seems to have worked!

    @Andrew – Ha! I’d noticed that “down with this sort of thing” is a regular search result that brings people to my site. Now I get to find one of the actual searchers! Glad your hunt was successful (and didn’t end in bloodshed).

    Posted by tabascokid
  30. Though the photo is upsetting and makes you question the mentality level of the person/s to do that to an animal is disturbing. But I wouldn’t have known how serious it had gotten until I saw this photo. It’s not a laughing matter but you cannot spit bullets at someone that just wanted to inform you of what happened. He was proberly as shocked at you were when you first saw the image. I have horses and I couldn’t even picture myself hurting them, not even for a protest! Animals should not be used in protests in my opinion , but I accept that sometimes it cannot be avoided, however this is not one of them. Cut this guy some slack, he’s just going his job. If you don’t like the photo, don’t keep staring at it making yourself more upset, and you cannot have sympathy when it’s self-inflicted. Now here’s the 19year old coming out now. If u don’t like it, shut the hell up and continue with your life! Leave the guy alone, you complaining about it is just childish and attention seeking and just shows you have nothing better to do but try and bully this guy. Grow up and pay your bills and let him do his job in peace, just pipe the fcuk down.

    Posted by MBB1893
  31. it does not seems very real to me…

    Posted by leonardo
  32. From one photojournalist to another… The fact this image has become so controversial is a living testament of how powerful it is and how well you captured the essence of the moment. If we don’t photograph, the world will never know. People certainly can’t know what we feel when having to photograph such things. But we do it because the story must be told. Keep up the great work.

    Posted by Lee

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