Tie a Purple Ribbon

THE NEWCHURCH GUINEA PIG CAMPAIGN

R WILLIAMS
May 2003

I am an Animal Rights activist of many years standing. I first came into the movement with the Coventry Airport Live Exports Campaign in 1995. Over the years I have been involved with all the major campaigns: Consort, Hillgrove, Shamrock, HLS, and of course Newchurch (Darley Oaks Farm). I have also been active in some lesser-known battles against animal abusers: Gilder’s Live Exports, Stephen Wood’s Live Exports in Redditch, and Summers’ Poultry (halal slaughter) in Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire.

In all these campaigns two things have remained constant: firstly, the amazing commitment by campaigners to battle on, to be there in any weather, day or night (often all night), putting personal problems of health and well-being second in their commitment to the campaign. The commitment of scarce personal finances to the campaign, standing verbal and physical abuse from the retarded, pathetic lowlife that own these places, or work there, abusing and killing other sentient beings with whom we share this planet.

These caring and loving people are, and continue to be, imprisoned by the state. They endure long sentences out of all relation to any minor offence committed. Their frustration is with a system that condones animal and human abuse in the name of profit. These people, and those who have gone before them, are the first in history to stand and fight for the rights of other species. I am proud and honoured to stand amongst them.

The other constant I have observed and been subjected to over the years is that of the state and its lackeys, the police. The ‘officers’ involved in my arrest at Newchurch, however, hardly deserve the description ‘lackeys of the State’, as even that morally and ethically bankrupt entity would surely feel ashamed of such ‘officers’ as these.

At every campaign one gets to know the individual officers and there are always one or two officers who seem consumed by their zeal to stop the campaign in order to gain personal merit. Sometimes it is a young officer dreaming of attaining a high rank in the force and being accepted into Freemasonry, heady stuff for a young man unable to follow the more usual criminal path. Often it is the older officer with many years served in a quiet country force whose balance of mind is affected by a taste of ‘real policing’. He can see a chance to make up for all those missed promotions, he can see a chance to succeed at last.

Such officers were at Newchurch, they and three or four other misfits, made up the Special Environmental Group, which had the task of policing our demonstrations. The extra money paid to this unit of course enhanced dedication to duty.

A group of approximately 20, including myself, stood in our designated spot for our usual 12.00–3.00pm Sunday protest against the breeding of guinea pigs for vivisection. As usual we had placed placards and banners around the site of our protest. The banners display various slogans such as: ‘Toot if you’re against Animal Abuse,’ ‘The Halls breed animals for cruel and pointless experiments to test household products and cosmetics,’ ‘The RSPCA is against animal testing.’ One particular banner was a sheet on which were painted the words ‘The Halls are animal killers.’ This was without doubt a true statement: Chris Hall was on record as saying that he regularly ‘rung the necks of sick or deformed guinea pigs.’ The Halls were also poultry farmers and fur breeders prior to the campaign starting against their barbaric business. At the time they were also dairy farmers. Without doubt the Hall brothers had killed a great number of animals.

One particular tactic in use at that time by Staffordshire police was to stop the tying of purple ribbon on to trees, and to confiscate placards and banners. The banner bearing the words ‘The Halls are animal killers’ was tied to a tree just behind where the group stood. A police officer, who appeared to be in his fifties, wearily left his vehicle parked on the opposite side of the main road that separated him from us. He slowly crossed the road, walked behind our group, and produced a knife. He then cut the rope that held the banner to the tree. Despite our protest, he carried the banner back over the road placing it in the rear of the police vehicle.

We decided that two of our number would cross the road to ask for the banner to be returned to us. Although this meant leaving the designated area and risking arrest, I and another person who had a video camera crossed the road to the vehicle. An excited young officer, also with a video camera, met us. The young officer shouted excitedly in a strong northern accent about section this and section that, and about our impending arrest.

There then followed a standoff with cameras at point-blank range at the rear of the vehicle. I spoke to the older officer seated in the vehicle, asking for the banner to be returned to the group. It seemed to take some time for him to formulate his answer. He then said, ‘Is it yours?’ My answer was ‘No, it belongs to the group.’ He went on to say, ‘OK, but don’t put it up here again.’ I did not contest this statement as it seemed pointless to do so. We were to get the banner returned.

I could hear the discussion between my friend and the now hysterical young officer taking a turn for the worse. I collected the banner and returned to the group in the company of my video-equipped friend. After ten minutes or so the older officer became very animated and stated, via a megaphone, that we must all leave immediately, section something or other was now in force.

We could sense that they were just itching to arrest someone so we all drove to a wood two or three miles away. The police followed us there, and again stated via a megaphone, that sections something or other were also alive and well there. We were getting tired of their arrogant behaviour and decided to drive to Burton-on-Trent police station to complain. We set off in convoy to the police station, observing the young police officer red in the face and barking in to his radio.

The cars carrying our group arrived at the police station. We parked nearby, assembled near the public entrance and discussed who would be spokesman and what would be said. On trying to enter the police station we found the door had been locked. This was around 3.00pm. The sign on the door stated ‘Open 9.00-5.00pm.’ We continued our protest outside the police station, displaying the banners we had previously used. All this was done in view of the camera mounted on the police station wall.

At around 3.45pm, five or six of us decided to walk up the road the short distance to Sainsbury’s to buy some fruit juice. We carried the placards and banners we had previously been holding with us. It was not really possible to open the banner that said ‘The Halls are animal killers’ properly because of the width of the footpath. As we walked we saw the older officer driving a 4 x 4 vehicle coming towards us. On seeing us he seemed to momentarily lose control and mounted the footpath, then dropped back down on to the road and carried on, as did we to the supermarket.

On reaching the supermarket three of us, including myself, entered the shop. The others stood outside. The banner and placards were now in a small pile in front of the people who had remained outside. A female friend and I were checking the smallprint on a carton of orange juice to make sure it was vegan. As we walked towards the checkout, the older officer closely followed by the young northern officer, ran down the shop knocking over a display of tinned fruit. They each grabbed one of us saying we were under arrest. We were marched out of the shop and put in a police car and driven by the young officer the short distance to the police station. As we passed our other friends who were still outside the police station, we faintly heard and saw a lady with a small megaphone complaining about our being arrested.

Once inside the station we were taken to the custody suite to be processed. Having been arrested before, I attempted to warn the other two prisoners of the tricks the police try on first-timers. This clearly annoyed the custody sergeant, who had me placed in a small room with a window in the door. I stood looking out of this window down a corridor. I then saw the lady who had been outside with the small megaphone. She was being flanked by a policeman, swaying from side to side, was red in the face and clearly in great pain. As she walked passed the door that I stood behind she said to the officer by her side, ‘Look what he’s done to me. Get the police surgeon to look at my arm.’ I later learnt that the older officer had assaulted her outside the police station. The ladies name was Janet.

We were all processed and put in separate cells to ‘soften up.’ The usual tricks were tried such as ‘Your solicitor has been delayed but you can have your interview now and be on your way quicker’ and ‘will your pets be OK if you’re here all night?’ I was in a cell for over six hours before the interview was started. It appeared that all the other officers at the police station were unwilling to help the ‘terrible two’ that had arrested us. They were left to interview us, fingerprint, photograph and take DNA swabs. A lengthy process, times three.

The case turned on the fact that the older officer maintained that he had told me not to display the banner anywhere in Staffordshire. He in fact said, as you read earlier, ‘Don’t put it up here again.’ Secondly, whatever he said to me, it was only to me. He had arrested others who could not have heard what was said to me and therefore had no reason to take caution in their further conduct that day. If he had told me to give a directive to others in the group it would not be lawful as I am not a police officer or a steward of that group.

The charge was of displaying a sign likely to distress or alarm a person or persons unknown. This is again nonsense. A butcher, gamekeeper, slaughterman, or vet even, would be guilty of the same offence in their advertising material.

The three of us were bailed but not with the usual conditions of having to keep away from the farm. I feel that this was because the custody sergeant in charge of setting bail conditions could see that this whole thing was the product of two deranged minds. He clearly didn’t wish to be associated with the lunatic fringe.

We were all released by 3.00am. Thankfully our cars were nearby and we went our separate ways. We appeared in court the following Friday to plead not guilty. A date was set for the trial. Well before that date we received a letter from the CPS saying the case was dropped. We were given recompense for our costs in travelling to court but have been unsuccessful in gaining any other compensation.

This account gives insight in to the petty way ridiculous charges are invented against animal rights people by an inefficient and largely corrupt police force. Time and time again taxpayers’ money is wasted inventing and pursuing these nonsensical charges.

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