NETCU fail to recognise hunt extremism whilst attacking activists.

NETCU fail to recognise hunt extremism whilst attacking activists.

As we all know the Hunting Act 2004 effectively banned the hunting of foxes, deer, hares and mink. After many years of struggle a law was finally passed. Even as far back as 1894 the 8th Duke of Beaufort wrote;

“In these days of change alarm, surprise, when the brutality of field-sports is being denounced with so much eloquence and energy that one cannot but wonder how the world has remained unconvinced through so many years, it is, perhaps, idle to speculate how much longer our attention will be suffered to employ itself on a pastime which so many wise men have agreed to brand as wanton and debasing”. (Hunting , the Badminton library).

Even in 1894 hunt leaders were aware of the fact that their “sport” was repulsive to many good folk.  On 4th December 1930 the threat from anti hunt campaigners was considered so great that the British Field Sports Society (forerunner of the Countryside Alliance) was founded by one Fred Beadle in response to the League Against Cruel Sports. In 1948 the Piccadilly Hunt club brought hounds and horses into London to protest against a proposed ban.

This battle is very old. Even in the ancient Babylonian Gilgamesh epic a hunt saboteur is sent by the gods to thwart the traps of hunters. All in all the hunting fraternity have had over a hundred years warning that a ban was on the cards and for over a hundred years and most certainly since the Second World War the ethics of hunting wild animals with hounds has been fought very hard both in parliament and in the fields with every angle scrutinised. The hunting fraternity were given more licence than most by the state but eventually most hunting was banned (with some very strange exemptions). It was in the hunting field through sabbing that the modern animal rights movement was born.

Throwing the dummy out of the pram is one way of describing what has happened next. Many hunts have not stopped unlawful forms of hunting, they continue as normal sometimes adding a bit of a pantomime concerning “a drag” with someone on a horse or a quad bike who never goes into the brambles where the hounds always pick up a scent oddly enough. Some hunt supporters(by no means all) are very violent towards people and over the years there have been 2 sabs killed, many fractured skulls (arms, legs etc etc), visits at the homes of those who campaign against hunting, animals nailed to front doors, bomb threats, arson and so forth. Of course some within the animal rights movement(again by no means all) do use the tactic of home visits and property damage but as yet have not killed anyone nor has anyone been injured  beyond the need of a few stitches on a couple of occasions. The only possible exception being the accidental death of a hunt supporter which has yet to be brought before a court so cannot be discussed.

A fair police response would be to regard hunt supporters as they would any other “extremist” group and to spend vast resources in upholding both the Hunting Act and investigating crimes such as GBH and killing people properly. In the Guardian “27th October 2009 following an expose of NETCU, the NDET and the NPIOU Superintendant Pearl head of NETCU stated that the police cannot ignore “crimes” carried out by climate change activists. Apparently there is no problem ignoring crimes carried out by hunt supporters. The CPS and courts would be fair if they prosecuted and sentenced hunt “extremists” in the same way as they have animal rights people. Now for example Otis Ferry MFH writing in Horse and Hound (22nd October 2009 page27) says;

“My latest scrape left me sitting in a 12ft prison cell, and brought me to only one conclusion. We must break the law.”

We do not want to see anyone (not even odious Otis or the H and H editor) locked up for free speech but think that in any other context this could be regarded as incitement. We know Otis has no regard for the Hunting Act some of us caught him leading the South Shropshire fox hunt in an illegal hunt and an illegal dig out which only ended when his terrier man put his foot down, abandoned the dig and took his terriers home all in front of a police officer, who watched. Otis was, allegedly, very naughty, he attacked someone and ended up being remanded. If he was an animal rights activist he would still be inside. Are hunts not organised, is there not a conspiracy going on between individuals to break the law and to use violence against sabs and monitors? Where then are the double figure sentences, the police surveillance and media denunciation?

Again in the Guardian 26th and 27th October 2009 there is, quite rightly, an expose of police public order units which have effectively criminalised protest. NETCU have dealt primarily with animal rights people first, then climate protestors, then those protesting against the arms trade. No mention of policing extremist hunt activity. We are bemused by the fact that the Guardian has no problem when it comes to clamping down on “animal rights extremism”, it is OK to protest outside a weapons factory but not outside a fur shop. Interestingly an activist who one day attends Climate Camp and the next attends a demo outside HLS is the same person but simultaneously a victim of police oppression and a dangerous extremist. The Guardian have bought the line that all animal rights activists are dangerous “extremists” and should be locked up presumably because they do not think that animal abuse is important enough to protest about. If the issue being protested about concerns animal abuse, so the argument goes, then give the police free reign to do as they will. Only if other protests are affected should anyone be concerned. We at NW also wish to criticise the Guardian for its publication of the FIT spotter card with disarm DSEI activists photographs on despite being expressly asked not to. We also praise the Guardian’s stance against the slide into a police state.

Do FIT have spotter cards for Countryside Alliance activists? I think we would all like to know, if not why not? If so maybe the CA can join the fray. Maybe the Guardian could investigate? Interestingly in their evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee into policing and protest 2008/09 the CA only mentioned the ridiculous restrictions on protest in Parliament Square and other state curbs on peaceful protest, in fact they almost could have been Liberty if you missed who the authors of the written submission were. No mention was made of hunt monitors and sabs conspicuous by their absence now that the hunting fraternity are frothing at the mouth (maybe they should stop eating the bath bombs)regarding Lush’s support of the Hunt Saboteur’s Association and are demanding that the police arrest all who attend hunts who are not hunt supporters

If Lush were a laboratory or a hunt rather than a rather lovely chain of shops where nice vegan smellies can be bought, the police would have made sure that the staff within were protected from big blokes wanting to literally throw their weight around. The discrepancy is even more ridiculous when it is considered that laboratory staff are protected anyway by razor wire and security, Lush staff are vulnerable to anyone who walks into the shop. As yet despite threats, assaults, property damage and   disruption from hunt “extremists” NETCU have failed dismally to act. Now why is that? Our answer is that hunters are well connected and have a greater propensity to use violence. It is far easier to arrest a couple of monitors(trying to gather evidence on illegal hunting) on a hunt than it is to try and work out whether or not the pack is hunting unlawfully, or arrest some troll who is surrounded by other trolls who has just ridden his quad bike over someone. The police are unable to enforce the Hunting Act (or anything else) and so they try and take out one side by enforcing the Criminal justice Act 1994 instead.

Two weeks ago a covert south of Tewkesbury was drawn through by the Cotswold Vale Fox Hunt. Monitors found a badger sett stopped up (this stops a hunted fox using it as a refuge) directly on a public footpath. Later it was unblocked and it was discovered that petrol had been poured down the entrance of the sett to dissuade foxes, to kill any badgers or foxes that dwelt within or both so not only breaching the Hunting Act but badger protection laws too. The police have not exactly responded with lightning speed to deal with the crime likewise with serious unprovoked assaults on monitors already this season.

The Hunting Act and the police response to it is a prime example of how (despite asking nicely and lobbying as we are told to do by the state) getting laws changed within a rotten system does not in itself work. Hunting is one of many violations against other species, the earth and our own species. A ban of this and that is like moving deck chairs on the Titanic, parliament and the police and the courts are not fit for purpose i.e a just and compassionate society. In fact the complete lack of interest from the police in enforcing the ban and the persistence shown in harassing and prosecuting monitors and sabs is a stark lesson in realising that animal abuse is firmly supported by the powerful. Getting things banned may be a worthwhile exercise but the only thing that really helps change is responsible citizens using direct action to save lives. Taking responsibility ourselves and coming up with viable alternatives rather than leaving it all to the state is something we have to learn. Even after a century of campaigning the Hunting Act is under grave threat from the Tory party if they win the election. As it is unenforced anyway, except by animal rights groups, it remains an example of how it is a waste of time for direct action activists to lobby, leave it to the lobbyists, LACS, the BUAV etc, we have a different task at hand ,to directly challenge animal abuse and its practitioners. Whatever happens in parliament, whatever the police do, we need to be self sufficient and able to stop or at least hinder violence against the vulnerable using whatever tactics are effective and ethically viable.


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