HSA news release 17th November 2001

Hunt Saboteurs Association letter to DEFRA

16th November 2001

Ms Patricia Schofield
DEFRA
Area 108
1A Page Street
London SW1P 4PQ

Dear Ms Schofield

I write to advise you of the comments of the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) on the Government’s proposals to allow the resumption of hunting with hounds from the 17th December, following the outcome of the Veterinary Risk Assessment report.

The HSA was appalled, but unfortunately not surprised, to learn that the Government proposes to allow the resumption of hunting with hounds (and by this we mean any type of hunting with dogs, and make no distinction between the three types referred to by DEFRA) before the whole of the UK is declared Foot and Mouth Disease free. We believe that this seriously misguided decision was reached following pressure from organisations representing hunting interests, with the main instigator highly likely to be the Countryside Alliance, and that the decisions can never be in the best interest of the countryside.

We do not simply object to the decision to resume hunting simply as traditional opponents of hunting, but from the knowledge of hunt activities gained from almost 40 years attending, monitoring and sabotaging hunt meets. In brief, our arguments against the resumption of hunting prior to the UK being free of FMD are as follows:-

  • Hunts are unable to realistically control the ‘hunting area’ – Despite the proposed licence restrictions asking for maps of the hunt country, and for precautions such as ‘buffer zones’ to avoid crossing from a FMD county to an At/High Risk county, hunters have proved time and time again that they are unable to control hounds once they are on the scent of the fox or hare. The term ‘riot’ is a familiar term amongst the hunting fraternity, and not without good reason – once the hounds are on the scent of the hunted animal they do not care for pre-planned routes, ‘buffer zones’, the huntsman’s calls or disinfected feet! Incidents of hounds causing havoc by trespassing on busy roads, railways and private property have consistently shown that a huntsman can never be 100% in control of his hounds, and as such a real risk exists of hounds and horses helping to spread FMD.

  • In the same way that hounds do not care for pre-planned routes, they often do not care which animal they hunt, and the term ‘riot’ can also be applied to hounds who chase an animal other than that intended. As such it should be a real concern to DEFRA that hounds are not only likely to disturb deer, but may also hunt them after ‘rioting’ from the correct quarry. This of course has serious implications as deer can not only carry FMD, but are susceptible to it. The risk of spreading FMD this way surely warrants more concern than asking the hunt's ‘best endeavour’ to disturb deer as little as possible?

  • The HSA, like many other anti-hunt organisations, has recorded numerous incidents of hunts blatantly failing to abide by their own scant codes of conduct. In light of this we find it beyond belief that you have effectively left the policing of restrictions up to the hunters themselves, through the appointment of the MFHA to act as an ‘independent assessor’ in respect of licence conditions. How likely is it that a body in charge of the people it is sent to police will report any lapses with all the bad press this could attract, when the wider issue of a hunt ban hangs over them? And what of unregistered packs, or indeed hare hunts (which are regulated by the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles rather than the Master of Foxhound Association?)

  • Your failure to consider the involvement of hunt protestors, whether actual hunt saboteurs who by their very nature will be present with the hunt in the hunting field, or hunt monitors who watch the hunt from the road and footpaths is indicative of your failure to understand the wider hunting issue. Hunt saboteurs will always endeavour to sabotage hunts as and when they take place, and this remains the case once hunting is resumed, as indeed it has been for almost 40 years. Despite this you have failed to even consider the consequences of our presence (and this is not the first time we have been so spectacularly ignored, as the Government failed to invite us to make submissions to the Burns Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs until we complained!). Had the HSA been consulted on this matter we could have advised of this potential problem from the outset, and despite the lack of consultation we are stating categorically now that this situation will arise.

I trust that the above comments are self-explanatory, but should you require any further information and have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me on 07961 113084. A copy of this letter has been passed to our press contacts, as we believe that DEFRA’s current proposals concerning the resumption of hunting prior to the UK being declared FMD free are seriously flawed, and that the general public has the right to access this information.

Yours sincerely

Dawn Preston (Ms)
Press Officer - HSA

HSA news release 21st September 2001

Animal Welfare campaigner beaten with baseball bats by thugs


John Gill, an animal welfare and anti-snare campaigner from Castleside near Consett in Co Durham was yesterday viciously and cowardly attacked by 3 armed 'men' in his own home.

He spent the day and night in the University Hospital, Durham under observation for head injuries, after receiving stitches to head and leg wounds, and was expected to be released today.

John was beaten severely about the head and body with Baseball bats, by 3 'men' who attempted to break down his front door (one of the men apparently shouted that they were police officers) on Thursday morning (Sept 20) at about 0930.

It may be a coincidence that this attack comes the day after the parliamentary vote in Scotland to ban hunting with dogs (Protection of Wild Mammals Bill) and after increasing threats from pro-hunting supporters that they will not obey the law or go down without a fight. John Gill has upset some very powerful people in his local area with his tireless and direct campaign over the last decade to stop the torture and killing of wild and domestic animals by wire snares.

It seems obvious to us that this was a 'professional' and premeditated attack. The police are investigating, but from previous experience, local and national campaigners will not be holding out much hope of the sort of vigour and limitless resources that were spent on the case of Brian Cass, the head of Huntingdon Life Sciences, who was the subject of an assault earlier this year. His case led to a lengthy nationwide investigation and massive publicity.

In John's case, he has specifically requested that several local police officers not be involved because of their previous treatment of him.


HSA news release 10th September 2001

Dyfed Powys Police Pay Hunt Protestors 21,000 Compensation For Wrongful Arrest


A group of seven foxhunt protestors arrested whilst they were eating lunch in a minibus have each been paid £21,000 compensation by Dyfed Powys Police for wrongful arrest and for trespass to property. The group of 4 men and 3 women, the majority of which are from the Swansea area, were arrested on 21 November 1998 whilst peacefully observing the movement of the Sennybridge Farmers Foxhunt near Brecon.

Police officers said they were following the orders of senior officers and detained the protestors to 'prevent a breach of the peace' at approximately 12.15 pm. They were ordered to drive to Brecon Police station where they were held in custody for some 10 hours before being released until 10.30 pm that night.

One of the group, Carey Lynne Jurczyk of Swansea, said they were merely observing the hunt: "We arrived at the hunt with the intention to monitor what went on. It was an entirely peaceful activity and something we had done before. We couldn't believe the over-reaction from the Police and as the day went on, when it became apparent they planned to search my house for evidence, I was even more concerned and upset by the police's actions", says Carey Lynne Jurczyk.

Acting for the group, Iftikhar Manzoor of national law firm Irwin Mitchell says: "My clients were eating lunch in a minibus when they were arrested, and I find it hard to believe that the Police seriously saw this as a risk of a breach of the peace.

"This substantial compensation is for the wrongful arrest as well as for the Police trespassing on their property, when searching their homes, and for retaining property belonging to our clients."

On 19 February, almost three months after the incident, the people arrested received a letter from the police saying no further action was to be taken. They then spent a further three weeks trying to recover from the Police property that had been taken on the day of their arrest.

"With Dyfed Powys Police paying such a large sum in compensation this demonstrates that an over-reaction to peaceful and lawful conduct will not be tolerated and gives hope to others that their rights can not be violated without redress," says Iftikhar Manzoor.

The above Press Release is from the rather excellent Irwin Mitchell & Co (www.irwinmitchell.co.uk) who have acted on behalf of wronged sabs for many years.

An HSA spokesperson added: "Yet again it has taken the courage and dedication of Hunt Saboteurs to stand up to policing that harks back to feudal times! The police are all too willing to arrest Saboteurs for no reason whatsoever to pander to powerful people in the hunt, through ignorance or laziness or sometimes as in this case, sheer bloody mindedness.

"Police force insurers around the country have paid out many hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation or out of court settlements over the last decade. If the police think they can get away with this type of victimisation and partial policing, they should be bought to book and this is exactly what happened in this case. Sadly, we expect this is another 7 people who will never view the police in the same light."

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