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?
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.
North West Hunt Saboteurs Association
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ManchesterHuntSabs
Direct Action Against All Forms of bloodsports