A local hunt protest group has reacted with relief to the jailing of a prominent supporter of the South Pembrokeshire Hunt. Steven Barrett, 66, of St Clears, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court on Friday 20th July to three and a half years in jail for the possession of illegal firearms and ammunition. The customised weaponry was discovered following his arrest last year, in connection with the shooting of a hunt monitor near Yerbeston, in the Cresselly area of south Pembrokeshire.
The incident happened when two members of West Wales Anti Bloodsports were observing the early morning activities of the South Pembrokeshire Hunt from a footpath. After encountering a gang of hunt supporters, a protestor was shot in the head with some kind of projectile, possibly an airgun pellet. Six individuals were arrested and their vehicles searched, and a sawn-off rifle and ammunition was discovered in Barrett’s possession. He claimed in court that it was for shooting foxes. Later, a huge collection of airguns was found at his home.
The shooting occurred at a pre-season ‘cubbing’ meet, at Campshill Farm near Yerbeston. It resulted in the protestor being taken to hospital with a profusely bleeding head wound. Shortly beforehand, Barrett had subjected the couple to highly offensive and apparently racist abuse, and a South Pembrokeshire Hunt terrierman had challenged them to a fight.
“We had a strong suspicion that a fox had been illegally dug out, and I was about to phone the police when I heard a metallic pinging noise. Suddenly, there was an intense sharp pain in my forehead, and blood pouring down my face. I knew that I had been shot with something, and a feeling of terror came over me” said the protestor. “I was taken to hospital in an emergency ambulance, and found to have a circular head wound that had penetrated right through the skin. I would have lost an eye if the missile had hit me lower in the face”.
A spokesman for West Wales Anti Bloodsports said that Barrett had previously been openly threatening towards them, and his behaviour reported to the police. “We are immensely relieved that this violent individual has been jailed. We are however disappointed that the South Pembrokeshire Hunt Master was not apparently inclined to reign in such loose cannons. Even after being arrested, Barrett continued to attend hunt meets, and was able to continue his pattern of intimidation. On one such occasion, he appeared to be working for the hunt, and was cracking a long whip in a frightening manner. We have had our car tyres slashed on three occasions when out watching the South Pembrokeshire Hunt, and had horses backed into us on dozens of occasions.
The incident also raises the question of why Barrett thought a local farmer might ask him to shoot a fox on the same day the South Pembrokeshire Hunt were out. We are now more determined than ever to continue our wildlife protection work, as it is clear that barbaric animal cruelty, despite being illegal, is still rife in our countryside”.
West Wales Anti Bloodsports is a law-abiding, peaceful protest group, which monitors and records the actions of local fox hunts during the hunting season. Participants abide by a strict code of conduct. Most of their work involves the use of video cameras, although simple non-violent interventions may be undertaken to help wild animals being pursued by hounds. West Wales Anti Bloodsports is therefore allied to, and supportive of, the peaceful activities of the Hunt Saboteurs Association.
Pre-season hunting now officially goes by the sanitised name of ‘autumn hunting’, but is still widely known as ‘cubbing’. It describes a now banned practice in which hunts take hounds to woodlands where fox families are known to live, surround them with riders and supporters on foot, and drive the young foxes back into the woods - to be torn apart - if they try to escape.
West Wales Anti Bloodsports has filmed foxes being pursued by packs of hounds on several occasions. The group has recorded one instance in which a fox was shot and disembowelled. On another occasion, a fox was filmed escaping from a hedge, where Pembrokeshire terriermen with nets and a dog were trying to trap it. In addition, at least two active badger setts were dug out, one on land belonging to the Master of the South Pembrokeshire Hunt. These acts echo wildlife crimes for which hunt officials in England have been convicted. The group has published video clips of what it witnessed on the Internet. http://www.youtube.com/user/westwalesantis