HSA news release 21st January 1995
Hunt Saboteurs today effectively imposed a blanket ban on bloodsports in Essex. In a well-coordinated and sophisticated operation, nearly 100 saboteurs reduced three foxhunts and a pheasant shoot in locations across the county to a shambles, forcing all of them to pack up early in disarray.
Saboteurs hit the Essex Farmers’ & Union Foxhunt meet at the Fox and Hounds, Tillingham; the Essex & Suffolk Foxhunt meet at Tendring Lodge; the Essex Foxhunt meet at Hatfield Broadoak; and a pheasant shoot at Bradwell. Saboteurs took effective action to ensure that no animals were killed at any of the locations and by 2 p.m. all the hunts and the shoot had given up: Essex was a bloodsports-free zone and saboteurs claimed victory.
Meanwhile, Essex police were caught entirely off-guard and were forced into a humiliating climbdown from their previous hardline policy against anti-hunt protesters as their command system more or less collapsed. Previous anti-hunt protests in Essex have been dealt with by the same hardline tactics that have caused such outrage in Brightlingsea this week, with mass arrests and saboteurs being beaten by police. Today, however, Essex police seemed bewildered by the tactic of hitting all across the county and struggled to cope as reports came in from all across the county. Police coverage of the hunts was, to say the least, patchy and appallingly coordinated: while the Essex Farmers’ and Union Hunt initially got only a couple of traffic patrol cars, police numbers at the hunt eventually climbed to some 60 officers and the force helicopter; meanwhile the Essex Hunt received only four officers and the Essex and Suffolk only about eight. The shoot had to make do with “spares” from the Essex Farmers’ and Union Hunt. The police made no arrests at any of the four locations in what must be considered a serious reversal for Geoffrey Markham’s hardline policy of attempting to crush saboteurs at any opportunity.
Today’s fiasco ends what must be one of the worst weeks in the history of Essex police. Their failure today adds to the pressure created by the almost complete alienation of southeast Essex from the police by the disgraceful scenes of peaceful protesters being attacked by riot police. It is believed that there is now serious speculation about Mr Markham’s position in the force.