Between The Hunters and The Wild: An Interview With Manchester Hunt Sabs

Posted: April 9th, 2014 By BWM

We are happy to share with everyone an interview with Manchester Hunt Sabs! With the growing opposition to hunts in North America around government culls, and the recent rise in organized hunting, they spoke with us to share some tips and information about hunt sabbing, and how people can keep up the fight to defend the wild in their own backyards!

BWM: Can you briefly explain what hunt sabs do for people who might not be familiar with your work, and why you became involved with this particular type of action in your area?

MHS: Hunt Sabotage is a form of direct action that originated in the UK 50 years ago. The basic premise is to disrupt a hunt (fox, deer, hare, rabbit, sometimes shoots) by making it difficult/impossible for the hunters to operate. Generally most sabotage takes place against hunts that use packs of hounds. These are mostly but not always mounted packs (on horseback.)


BWM: What is the frequency with which you go out and do these kind of actions, does it depend on any specific criteria or do you oppose all hunting in your areas?

MHS: Many Hunt sabs work so the constraint is often based around that but it’s during the hunting season (late August – March in most areas) and tends to be weekends though weekdays do happen regularly depending on numbers.

BWM: How long has your group or individuals in your group been involved with this kind of direct action for animals?

MHS: I personally have been doing it for just under 20 years on and off. There was a time when as a form of protest it seemed to be dropping off as most people doing it were getting on a bit! A lot of hunting was banned in the UK in 2005 so many people dropped out as the perception was our job was done but over the years it’s become apparent that the ban is widely ignored by hunters.

Over the last 5 years or so a whole new generation of people have got involved as this reality has become better known and there is a resurgence in the numbers of groups out there. There are probably more now than at any point in the last 20 years.

BWM: In North America, we don’t have organized hunting in the same way that they do in the UK, but something that is happening regularly is culls and government organized killings of wild animals in specific areas during specific time frames. People here are beginning to organize around these hunts and interfere with them on behalf of animals, do you have any advice or wisdom you would share with people who are trying to organize against a sanctioned hunt in north america?

MHS: It’s very difficult to give advice when your law enforcement and hunting culture varies so much from ours. Be adaptable. Be careful. Don’t get caught! Take advantage of social media to sidestep mainstream media to get your message across. Don’t underestimate what a small number of organized people can do.

BWM: Can you take us through some of the victories or successes your group or hunt sabbers you have worked with have experienced in the past?

MHS: Every time an animal is known to escape from a hunt is a victory. Hunt Sabs (alongside other campaigning groups) have been widely blamed for the ‘failure’ of the first round of the badger cull in 2 areas of the UK in 2013. We definitely considered that a victory though the cull continues it was massively over budget and massively below target.

BWM: Do you feel as though there are take-aways or lessons you have learned from doing this work that could be applied broadly across the animal liberation community or perhaps into other forms of resistance and activism?

Manchester Hunt Sabs interfering with a hunt

MHS: It varies from group to group, cause to cause. We, Manchester Sabs, I hope would be seen as pretty straight forward and down to earth people. We try to be open to new recruits but do not accept racists, homophobes or sexists. You have to accept that not everyone will go as far as the next person and that everyone has limits to the commitment they can make and that those that don’t go as far still have very important contributions to make to what we do.

BWM: How does the community, both inside and outside of animal liberation circles respond to work of this kind? Do you find you are well-supported in your work or is this really a labour of love for the individuals involved?

MHS: We are well supported. Hunt sabbing is generally seen as being on the sharp end of direct action in the UK. We’re not a campaign group, we are the last line of defence for the hunted animal. And people respond to that. There’s a historical perception created by the press and the pro hunt side that doesn’t reflect modern sabs which sometimes makes more ‘mainstream’ people wary of us. Our work against the badger cull has brought us in to contact with a lot of these people and I think broadened out not only our support but also the types of people who join us.

BWM: Is there anything individuals can do to help support your group or your efforts from afar?

MHS: Yes. Donations always welcome! Follow what we do on line via twitter and Facebook especially. There is increasingly social media lead actions that can help what we do in the field.

BWM: If you could say one thing to people who hunt for animals as sport or for their own pleasure what would it be?

MHS: It’s a difficult one. We’re not there to argue with them or change their minds. That’s not what we do. Their mindset to me is pretty difficult to comprehend. But probably ‘grow up and get a proper hobby – it’s 2014 your time and your ‘sport’s’ time has gone’ springs to mind.

BWM: Do you have any final words you would like to leave with people who might be considering getting involved with hunt sabbing or organizing against culls/hunts in their own area?

MHS: All the people in our van got there through different routes and for different reasons. Everyone has a first time and most people don’t know anyone when they first get in the van. Sabbing can be frightening, funny, exhilarating, frustrating, boring. But when you see your first fox or hare get away from a hunt because of something you did….it’s hard not to throw yourself in to it.

Manchester Hunt Sabs 2014

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Between The Hunters and The Wild: An Interview With Manchester Hunt Sabs

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Pupil upset by bloody scenes of dead deer in path of Exmoor run

By Joseph Wilkes | Posted: April 10, 2014

THE SIGHT of ripped deer carcasses strapped to quad bikes has left a 12-year-old girl “very upset” as her school’s cross country event crossed paths with a hunt on Exmoor.

Richard Holloway, from George Nympton near South Molton, contacted the Journal to explain how his daughter Heather was forced to witness the bloody scenes on Thursday, March 27.

Mr Holloway, whose daughter Heather attends independent West Buckland School, said his daughter was taking part in a school cross country event when her and other pupils came across the hunt.

He said: “They were charging around with their vehicles and the children saw deer bodies being hauled away on the back of quad bikes.

“It was in front of everybody, the kids could see everything. My daughter came home very upset.

“They didn’t care about the children’s safety. The bodies were shredded and ripped.

“I am totally against blood sports. I am not a campaigner or a hunt saboteur I just think it is cruel.”

The school’s headmaster, John Vick, wrote to staff and parents in his Easter end-of-term letter.

In it he said: “I was very disturbed to learn that many of our runners, staff and spectators were alarmed by riders on quad bikes and horseback, as well as by some vehicles attached to the hunt.

“I am told there appeared to be little regard by some individuals following the hunt for the safety of the children.

“A small number appear to have ignored the efforts of teachers to alert them to the fact they were operating close to children.

“I have spoken to the hunt chairman of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, Mr Guy Thomas-Everard, who has expressed his apologies to the school community.”

In a statement to the Journal, Mr Vick added: “It was deeply unfortunate and regrettable the events clashed.

“This is the first time this has occurred and while no one came to any harm, we are working with Devon and Somerset Staghounds to understand how this happened and avoid it in future.”

Mr Thomas-Everard apologised for the incident but said hunt followers – who ride the quad bikes – do not actually work for the hunt.

He said: “If there was an incident at the school with parents speeding through the village, the headmaster would ask them to be more careful, and I will be doing the same with the hunt followers.

“We are sorry we ran into the event. We will take steps to stop it happening again.”
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Former Tyrone footballer faces badger baiting charge


DUNGANNON man and former Tyrone GAA star, Gerard Cavlan, has appeared before the local Magistrates Court on a charge of interfering with a badger sett.

The 38 year-old, from Willows Gardens, appeared alongside Shane Loughran, 33, of Clonmeen Cottages, also Dungannon.

The men are accused of intentionally or recklessly obstructing access to a badger sett contrary to the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

Cavlan won an All Ireland medal with Tyrone in 2003.

Although only minimal details of the allegation were conveyed to Dungannon Magistrates Court, a prosecution lawyer said police were called to an incident of suspected badger-baiting on the Caledon Estate on August 29 last year.

A defence barrister said he was aware the prosecution had engaged an expert to provide evidence and he required time to study this, requesting a four week adjournment.

However, District Judge John Meehan adjourned the case for two weeks until April 23 when a contest date is to be fixed.

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Father and son convicted of badger baiting offences

A father and son from Larkhall have been convicted of multiple offences relating to badger baiting

Tuesday 08/04/2014

Following a Scottish SPCA investigation, John Murray snr, 57, and John Murray jnr, 34, both of Earn Gardens, Larkhall, were sentenced at Hamilton Sheriff Court today.

Murray snr and Murray jnr were both banned from owning dogs for ten years and given 250 hours of community service, to be carried out within nine months.

At an earlier appearance in court, both men were found guilty of damaging a badger sett, entering a dog into a badger sett and attempting to kill, injure or take a badger, contrary to the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Commenting on the investigation and court case, Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn, said: "This was a very complex and challenging investigation requiring technical forensic work and a great deal of time and specialist resources.

"In February, 2012, the Murrays were witnessed digging out an active badger sett in the Sandilands area of Lanark accompanied by a number of dogs, one of which was seen being retrieved from the ground.

"The witness was able to take photographs of the men in the act of damaging the sett and these images became vital pieces of evidence which were used to secure these convictions.

"During the course of our investigation we found and seized three dogs, two Patterdale terriers and one Staffordshire bull terrier.

"Both Patterdales were found to have severe injuries to their lower jaws, including tearing to the lips and missing teeth. The Staffordshire bull terrier had injuries to its upper and lower lips and nose and missing teeth.

"Following the outcome of this case we are very pleased we can now find these three dogs the loving new homes they deserve.

"This case serves as a warning that we will do all we can do identify and detect persons involved in this barbaric activity, which causes severe suffering, mutilation and death to both badgers and dogs. This includes working with other agencies throughout England and Northern Ireland.

"We would like to give particular thanks to Police Scotland, Scottish Badgers and Kate Fleming, wildlife procurator fiscal, for their role help in securing these convictions."

Anyone with information relating to wildlife crime, including the persecution of badgers, should contact the Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999. All information is treated in the strictest of confidence and can be given anonymously.
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Somerset badger cull police costs revealed

8 April 2014 Last updated at 03:39

Policing the badger cull in Somerset cost £739,000, new figures released by the Avon and Somerset force reveal.

A breakdown of the figures shows the initial six week cull cost £541,000 with an extra £198,000 for the three-week extension.

By far the greatest single expenditure – £575,000 – was for rest day working, overtime and unsocial hours payments.

The costs for the badger cull will be met by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Deputy Chief Constable John Long said careful planning had avoided the need to take officers away from normal duties.

The cull in Somerset began on 27 August and concluded on 1 November last year.

Its aim was to kill 70% of the badger population to test how effective, humane and safe a cull could be.

Government ministers and the National Farmers’ Union believe culling badgers will curb TB in cattle.

Opponents say shooting the animals is not a good way to control the disease.

Defra’s own independent assessment showed that culls in the two pilot areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire were not effective, and raised questions about their humaneness.
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Countryfile hit by complaints over Princess Anne’s call for badgers to be gassed – Mirror Online

Apr 07, 2014 20:51
By Tom Bryant

The Princess, who lost rare breed cattle to TB spread by badgers, appeared on the BBC show and said gassing was “nicer” than shooting as they “go to sleep, basically”

BBC’s Countryfile has been hit by complaints over Princess Anne’s call for badgers to be gassed .

Viewers are being urged to boycott the show following its controversial interview with the royal on Sunday night.

The Princess, who lost rare breed cattle to TB spread by badgers, said gassing was “nicer” than shooting because they “go to sleep, basically”.

But her comments sparked fury among animal lovers. And the Badgers Trust is leading a campaign calling on the show’s fans to stop watching it.

Trust chief Dominic Dyer said: “People feel that the BBC hasn’t upheld its charter commitments for impartiality. There was no balance.

"This has not been very well dealt with.

“They have chased the ratings and put a member of the Royal Family in a difficult position. They put also put us in a position where they haven’t given us an accurate, balanced view.

“They have taken sides on a very controversial issue. We deal with huge amounts of illegal gassings and this gives a green light for more illegal behaviour.”

Princess Anne said gassing was more humane than shooting because badgers “go to sleep basically”..”

Filmed at her Gatcombe Park estate in Gloucestershire, the Princess also repeated calls for horse meat to be sold in the UK.

The BBC received 118 complaints shortly after the show was aired. A spokesman said: “Both sides of the debate were covered in the programme.”
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Investigation underway after TB cases linked to dispersal sale

4 April 2014 | By Alistair Driver

A MAJOR veterinary investigation is underway after a number of herds across Britain tested positive for bovine TB following a dispersal sale from a Cumbrian dairy herd.

More than 100 animals from a Cumbrian dairy were sold at the end of February at a market in Cheshire to buyers from across England, Wales and Scotland.

After some of the cattle sold were found to have tested positive for bTB, AHVLA launched a nationwide operation to trace, isolate and test all animals from the sale, alongside increased surveillance in surrounding herds.

The incident has generated significant concern among Government vets and the farming industry and raised fresh questions about the effectiveness of TB surveillance in England’s four-year testing areas, where pre-movement testing is not compulsory.

The disease has been confirmed at the Cumbrian farm which sold the cattle and it has been placed under movement restrictions. TB testing of neighbouring holdings within a 3km (1.9-mile) radius is underway.

An AHVLA spokesman said: “We are aware of a number of TB-positive cattle cases across Great Britain linked to the sale of dairy cattle from a herd in Cumbria.

“AHVLA has taken robust and rapid action to identify all animals originating from this herd so they can be isolated and tested for TB.”

He said it was too early to comment on the likely number of herds involved, or how this could have happened with a herd originating in the relatively clean four-year area.

“This incident highlights how serious a problem TB is for all cattle farmers, regardless of where they farm,” he said.

NFU North West regional director Robert Sheasby said: “We’ll continue to be involved in supporting our affected members in Cumbria and across the country and working with AHVLA. Investigations into the outbreak are at an early stage.

“It would be premature to speculate as to the origin of infection in the Cumbrian herd.”

The incident will prompt further debate about cattle TB controls as Defra publishes its long-term TB eradication strategy for England, which covers TB testing and movement controls and includes a proposal for comulsory post-movement testing in the TB Low Risk Area.
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Devon & Somerset Staghounds charged with illegal hunting a second time

Tristan Cork | Posted: April 07, 2014
Devon & Somerset Staghounds charged with illegal hunting a second time

One of the West’s biggest hunts has been charged with breaking the ban on hunting for a second time and now faces the prospect of fighting two court battles simultaneously.

The joint master of the Devon & Somerset Staghounds, David Greenwood, has been charged with breaching the ban in late October last year, and will appear before magistrates later this month.

Mr Greenwood was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service alongside huntsman Donald Summersgill with an allegation of illegal stag hunting on October 24 in west Somerset, and is due to appear before Taunton magistrates on April 25.

The joint master is already due in court later this week on an earlier charge of breaking the Hunting Act 2004, this time relating to a separate incident that happened in September last year. He faces that charge alongside fellow joint master Rupert Andrews, with the pair due at Taunton Magistrates on Friday this week.

Both cases were initially investigated by police following the submission of video evidence taken by monitors from the League Against Cruel Sports. The police passed the cases on to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has instigated formal state prosecutions.

Following the first charge being laid, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance pledged that the hunt would fight the legal action, and predicted the prosecutions would fail. Another case, against two men from the Weston & Banwell Harriers for illegally foxhunting in Somerset in 2012, failed last week when the huntsmen were cleared.
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Cull the Royal family not badgers

Badgers should be gassed, says Princess Anne

Royal intervenes in badger cull debate advocating gassing of infected animals to curb bovine TB – a practice illegal since 1982

Matthew Weaver, Friday 4 April 2014 11.45 BST

Princess Anne told the BBC: ‘If we want to control badgers, the most humane way of doing it is to gas them’.

Princess Anne has prompted more anger from animal welfare campaigners by calling for an end to a ban on gassing badgers.

The princess royal waded into the controversy over the badger cull by claiming that gassing the animals was the most humane way of tackling the rise of tuberculosis in cattle.

She made the remarks to the BBC’s Countryfile programme to be broadcast on Sunday. In the interview Princess Anne also repeated a much-criticised call she made last year for horses to be farmed for their meat, according to the Radio Times.

Her latest comments were dismissed by experts as ill-informed and were rounded on by the animal rights lobby.

The royal intervention came a day after the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, abandoned plans to extend badger culls across England after an independent report found that pilot shoots were ineffective and inhumane.

A leading badger expert dismissed Princess Anne’s suggestion as no better than the shooting cull. Dr Rosie Woodroffe, who conducted a 10-year trial of badger culls, said gassing badgers failed to control the spread of TB when it was tried in the 1970s.

She said: "Gassing badgers was government policy in the 70s and if you go back to reports of the time, there was frustration about how it just wasn’t very effective. Sets would be gassed and then opened up again by badgers again and again."

Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, she said the practice of gassing badgers with cyanide proved to be so inhumane that it was banned in 1982. Woodroffe said: "The problem seemed to be that badger sets are built to hold warm air in and keep cold draft out, so it was very difficult to achieve a lethal concentration of gas. And sub-lethal concentrations of gas were inhumane – that’s why ministers banned gassing in 1982."

She suggested the princess was being too simplistic. "It is tempting to think it would be easier to kill badgers when they are a sitting target underground, but it turns out from reports from the 70s that it is just not that straightforward," Woodroffe said.

"There are rumours of farmers trying to use carbon monoxide on the quiet, using a tractor exhaust. That is something that is potentially not very effective and potentially inhumane."

Woodroffe recommended testing the idea of a mass vaccination programme for badgers. She said: "It is not necessarily [expensive] … there are hundreds of wildlife lovers willing to do it for free. It is cheaper than culling because it doesn’t require any policing, and people will come forward offering to help to do it. We don’t know how effective it could be in controlling cattle TB. It is very promising. What we need are trials of vaccination instead."

Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director of the animal protection campaign the Humane Society International UK, said: "It is extremely disappointing that a prominent member of the royal family should endorse the gassing of a supposedly protected indigenous wild mammal. Gassing experiments carried out at Porton Down in the early 1980s were abandoned because of the appalling levels of suffering to which the badgers were exposed.

"Any attempt to reintroduce gassing would doubtless result in a slow and painful death for many badgers, and potentially other non-target animals."

He said the princess should be better informed before making public statements on such controversial and divisive issues, and questioned her views on horsemeat.

"Princess Anne’s passion for horse riding is not in doubt, but she’s simply wrong when it comes to horsemeat, and as a vet I would urge her to think again. Horse neglect and abandonment continue to be an issue throughout Europe and in countries exporting horsemeat to the EU, even though sending a horse to slaughter is already an option."

Peta, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, offered to send the princess on one of its eight-hour courses on empathy and animal protection.

It’s managing director, Ingrid Newkirk, said: "Peta’s course teaches the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. Those who have everything in life should not be calling for the death of horses and badgers, whose only crime is to be born into a world where humans are in charge and other animals are viewed by some as replaceable."

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Hunt cleared after saboteurs’ video fails to sway judge

By Western Morning News | Posted: April 03, 2014

Two Somerset huntsmen have been cleared of illegal fox hunting after evidence provided by hunt saboteurs failed to persuade a judge.

Weston and Banwell Harriers joint hunt master George Milton, huntsman and whipper-In Toby Lee were both acquitted today (Thursday) after a four-day hearing at Taunton Magistrates Court.

It is the second time Mr Milton, has been cleared of an offence under the Hunting Act after being found not guilty last year.

The case hinged on 93 seconds of footage out of 20 hours of video captured by six supporters of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) when the hunt meet at the Old Piggery, in Axbridge, in October 2012.

District Judge Davison said that it was clear that Milton and Lee had stopped the hounds, adding he was “not persuaded at all that the defendants were not trail hunting".

He was also critical of the time the case had taken to reach trial saying that it "did not reflect well on the court".

The Countryside Alliance (CA) welcomed the judgement but said the actions of the Crown Prosecution Service and Avon and Somerset Police amounted to “a campaign of harassment” against the hunt and its master.

"Individuals working for a charity, the League Against Cruel Sports, have carried out dozens of sophisticated covert surveillance operations over several years targeting Mr Milton and made a series of allegations under the Hunting Act and other legislation,” spokesman Tim Bonner added.

“This is the second time he has been cleared of illegal hunting allegations in court, but he has also been charged with other offences which were dropped before they even got to trial.

Mr Bonner said the police and CPS had wasted "large amounts of taxpayers money and court time."

In contrast, the League expressed “shock” and “disappointment” at the acquittal.

Joe Duckworth, chief executive, added: “We believe the footage captured by our investigators clearly shows evidence of illegal fox hunting.

“Despite this result our team of investigators up and down the country remain committed to catching and bringing individuals who subject animals to the horrors of hunting and other cruel sports, to justice. “We have a proud 90 year history of campaigning to protect animals from cruel sports, and our enforcement work is a key part of that now that hunting a wild animal for sport is rightly banned.

“We are going to be releasing the footage to the public so they can make up their own mind.”
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