Cops contain gang of cuddly toys

Worcester Evening News Tuesday 21st Mar 2006

BEMUSED animal rights campaigners were told to end their protest by police because their cuddly toys were offending passers-by.

The demonstrators were dressed as seals and waving placards outside the Guildhall on Saturday to highlight the annual Canadian seal cull.

However, the group of eight was ordered to move away by the police – under Section 14 of the Public Order Act – to prevent disorder..

This comes only three weeks after Herefordshire police were ridiculed for seizing three golly toys in Bromyard..

The demonstrators claim it was the presence of fluffy white seal toys which they had spattered with red dye, which prompted the police action..

A protestor said: “When we arrived at 12.30pm we were told by police that we were causing a disturbance and they threatened to arrest us under Section 5 of the Public Order Act..

“We had these fluffy toy seals and the officers then quoted section 14 of the Act, saying it could get out of hand and told us to move within an hour..

“We weren’t getting out of hand and I can’t see how a toy seal would be offensive to anyone..

“I find it scary you can’t have a very fluffy demonstration without being told to move..

“Beautiful seals are being killed en masse and we wanted to show how we felt about it..

“It was handled badly and I’m going to make a formal complaint to West Mercia Police.”.

However, a South Worcestershire Police spokesman said: “The order was issued to prevent disorder, or distress or disruption to passers-by..

“These orders are used where the senior officer policing any event or incident considers that it could give rise to serious disorder, disruption to the community, or intimidation, or could cause harassment or distress.”.

The Section 14 Order was issued at 2pm and the demonstration ended at 3pm..

Anna Walton, manager of a nearby lingerie shop said: “I didn’t notice anything that was out of hand.”.

She said that the High Street was usually lively on a Saturday. “Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary,” she added..

Susannah Mewsome, of Peplow jewellers, said: “We couldn’t see what was going on because the Guildhall is just down from us, but we were told of the demonstration..

“When I came out at 2pm it seemed to have been moved on. I can see why the police moved them away because sometimes people demonstrate around here and it can intimidate customers.”.

Staff at Barratts shoe shop said the police handled it well and the demonstrators were out of order..

One staff member said: “I think the people with seals covered in blood were way over the top and thought they went about it the wrong way..

“Parents coming into the store were looking unhappy because kids were going past and were quite intimidated by it..

“I thought the police handled it well. Some of the staff here were quite upset.”.

Animal rights campaigners claim that last year’s seal cull resulted in the deaths of 317,672 seals..

However, according to the Canadian government, the cull is necessary to control seal numbers.


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