Sussex

Fair Oak Farm owners get death threats after mistaken identity

Alpacas and a peacock at Fair Oak Farm, Mayfield Image copyright Fair Oak Farm
Image caption Part of Fair Oak Farm's selling point is the privacy it provides in its accommodation

A couple who run a holiday retreat are being bombarded with death threats from people mistaking it for a US farm at the centre of an animal-welfare row.

Covert filming of alleged animal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, has triggered an outcry on social media.

But similarly named Fair Oak Farm, in Mayfield, East Sussex, has found itself in the line of fire from death threats and false allegations.

Co-owner Ian Ledger says social media companies are failing to help him.

Mr Ledger says his award-winning countryside retreat's prominence on Google search pages has plummeted as a result of hundreds of threats and hate messages erroneously tagging his family's business.

Image copyright Fair Oak Farm
Image caption Ian and Penny Ledger have ploughed all their cash into Fair Oak Farm

"All that comes up [on a search] is animal cruelty," he said.

Mr Ledger, who gave up his job two years ago to run the business full-time with his wife, Penny, said at one stage Instagram blocked his access to the farm's account because it had been reported in error by so many people, compounding the problem of dealing with the fallout.

Instagram has since reinstated access, but Mr Ledger says neither it nor Facebook, had yet responded to his pleas for help - or to the BBC's request for a comment.

Image copyright Fair Oak Farm
Image caption The owners have posted photos of their animals, which are normally only for the eyes of their guests

He said: "We reported a couple of death threats and 12 hours later we got a standard response saying the account looked fine to them.

"But things like this need human intervention. We've had nothing."

Mr Ledger said the couple, who live on the farm with their three young children and his mother-in-law, had now become "blase" after receiving so many death threats.

Image copyright Fair Oak Farm
Image copyright Fair Oak Farm

But he said they did not yet know the extent of the impact on their business, which has been operating for 13 years.

"Our main thing is providing people with privacy. It's the reputational damage we are particularly concerned about. We're both in our mid-40s. Every single penny we've earned has gone into the place."

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