No fracking way!

For many years the government has been spending a large amount of money on the research of the highly controversial process of ‘fracking’. Fracking is the process in which holes are drilled deep in to the earth’s crust and small explosions are set off deep underground in order to extract shale gas. This research has also been to find out what areas of the UK have good enough shale reserves to carry out the process and there have been up to 8000 fracking sites proposed for the country, including in Herefordshire! Recently Herefordshire Council has revealed three potential sites in the east of the county in which fracking could take place; Fownhope, Much Marcle and Eastnor.

What’s the problem?

Since similar areas have been used for exploratory sites, the problems have been clear to see. These problems are both environmental and economic. In the US, where ‘fracking’ has been established for a number of years, water supplies have been poisoned, seismic activity has increased and some people have experienced several linked health issues. In 2011, earth tremors were caused in Lancashire after test drilling there. Likewise, heavy vehicle activity associated with fracking in such small, rural places is neither good for the quality of life of residents, their health or the environment. Many are also opposed to it as it furthers the use of fossil fuels, a trend which environmental campaigners argue should be reversed.

The economic issues are equally as serious, house prices in some areas have dropped up to 30% in some areas of the country where the oil company Cuadrilla has started the construction process and many people have struggled to obtain house insurance.

Herefordshire is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with prestine countryside and what is generally seen as a green and healthy area to live. Fracking will almost definitely have an impact on the landscape of the county, with tourism likely to suffer. As an agricultural county, there are also potential risks to this industry from fracking. Experience in the US shows that fracking can create problems for local agriculture, including the loss of agricultural land, and concerns about clean water supplies.

Opposition rising

Opposition to fracking has been hitting the headlines recently. National newspapers have been running pieces on the practise of fracking, and the opposition to it, for a number of weeks now; namely because of events in Balcombe, West Sussex. Residents and environmentalists there have peacefully been opposing the site recently erected by Cuadrilla and have proved to be a force to be reckoned with. They successfully stopped the process from starting for over a week, despite the army of police officers deployed to push it through. This weekend saw a ‘weekend of action’ by protesters at the site, with camps set up for the weekend, a protest march which was 2,000-strong and a series of blockades, occupations and other forms of ‘direct action’ taking place against Cuadrilla and associated companies.

The opposition to fracking in Herefordshire has also been building. Nearly 400 people have signed an online petition to get Herefordshire council to reject all planning applications they get that relate to fracking, both exploratory and sites proper. A facebook campaign page has also been set up and meetings are being arranged to discuss the possibility of fracking in the county and what to do about it.

The coming weeks and months will show which way it’s going to go; will drilling companies start applying to drill in Herefordshire or is it just a case of ‘what if?’ Time will tell but the wheels are already in motion to oppose such a move. For any campaign against fracking to be successful, it needs to ensured that local people and the concerns of their communities are at the forefront of any camapign, as we have seen to an extent in Balcombe. Professional activists parachuting in from elsewhere just won’t cut the mustard, especially if drilling is rolled out to thousands of potential sites across the country.

Resources and more information

Petition against fracking in Herefordshire

‘Ban Fracking in Herefordshire’ facebook page

Frack Off (UK)

by Meadow Ender

Badger cull saboteurs: ‘We will put ourselves between the bullets and the badgers’

As the badger cull gets closer to beginning, anti-cull activists are stepping up their efforts to stop the slaughter. In the last few weeks there has been a national march in London which attracted a couple of thousand people, daily sett surveying in the west Gloucestershire and west Somerset areas to map the locations of where the shooting will take place and ‘walk-ons’ at shooting estates and farms involved in the cull. On Friday a piece in the Independent featured local activists from the Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs,who put across their case and challenge accusations from elements of the media and the pro-cull and hunting communities.

Anti-cull activists patrol part of the cull zone, at the Forthampton shooting estate in Gloucestershire

Lynn, a 46-year-old midwife, finds a novel way to fill her days off. The one-time hunter is now a hunt saboteur who finds herself at the centre of the Government’s controversial badger cull. She splits her time between maternity wards and patrolling country estates of Worcestershire.

She is just one of an estimated 700 saboteurs who are fighting the plan to use licensed marksmen to shoot around 5,000 badgers in two pilot cull zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Around 500 of them are prepared to trespass on property to disrupt the cull.  “Obviously at night we’ll be finding the marksmen and putting ourselves between the bullets and the badgers,” Lynn told The Independent.

The badger cull row tearing up the countryside shows no sign of dissipating. While ministers argue that a cull is necessary to curb the spread of tuberculosis in cattle; critics argue that the cull is unethical or scientifically and economically flawed.

The coalition of opponents might be diverse – it includes Queen guitarist Brian May, TV presenter David Attenborough, and some prominent scientists – but it is the hunt saboteurs who stand accused of directing a “reign of terror” on farmers.

But Lynn believes they have been unfairly smeared. “The typical stereotypical image of the hunt sab is someone dressed head-to-toe in black, someone who doesn’t work, a 20-something-year-old male, but that’s absolute nonsense. The farming industry makes us out to be terrorists, or all evil people, but we’re individuals,” she said.

Lynn, who has a number of animal rights convictions for her involvement in anti-hunting and anti-vivisection campaigns, founded the group 3 Counties Hunt Saboteurs, last year. She gave up hunting after she saw some “terrible things” done to foxes, deer, hares and mink. She said that “very committed” new people were joining the “sabs”, or saboteurs, and scouring the fields straight from work.

“We’re seeing doctors, teachers, all sorts of people,” said Lynn, who can spend up to 50 hours a week checking badger setts, organising volunteers, or doing outreach. She also works as a midwife on a shift basis at a local hospital, usually at night. “I’m actually quite open about things,” she said. “Some of my colleagues do know, just as I am aware of what they do out of work.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, national co-ordinator for domestic extremism at the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last year that clashes between protesters and cullers could pose “clear potential harm to public safety”. He added that there was “some potential for unlawful direct action, disorder and criminality” if the cull went ahead.

This week it emerged that officers policing the culls have carried out “wargames” with animal rights activists and cullers to simulate confrontations that might occur. Inspector Mark Ravenscroft of Gloucestershire Police said enforcing the cull remained a “big concern.” He stressed that the force will “allow people to bend the law to protest peacefully” by allowing a short protest on a highway, for example, to stop a group blocking the road all day.

But Elaine, a 49-year-old social care worker, who has volunteered as a hunting sab for over 25 years, said saboteurs “were not aggressors”. The Herefordshire-born activist treads a thin line between horse-owning country enthusiast and animal-rights crusader.

“I ride, I have my own horses, and I have drag hunted, but I was brought up to love and respect animals,” she said. “I don’t feel the need to go out in a balaclava. Work knows what I’m like and they don’t mind.”

She denied sabs were using intimidating techniques and dismissed claims that by trespassing, she could be breaching the law. “Whatever [the cull] is doing is 100 times worse that what I’m doing. When it comes to saving lives, if I have to tread off a footpath to do it, it’s worth it,” she said.

Michael, who is in his late sixties and has seven grandchildren, wants to help stop the cull. The retired builder lives in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and has been involved in animal rights for 50 years. The former trustee of a wildlife rescue centre said: “This unscientific experiment they’re doing is wrong. I’ll help as much as I can; [the grandchildren] are right behind me. I spend four out of five days a week surveying and mapping sites, and checking setts aren’t baited. We’ve definitely got public support.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “People have a right to protest but this must be carried out within the law. The pilot culls are a legal and lawful activity and it is wholly unacceptable that those involved should be subject to intimidation or be a target for criminal activity.”

Originally posted in the Independent.

Police investigate ‘attack’ on local hunt kennels

Disgraced huntsman of the Ross Harriers, Lee Peters, who was found guilty of racially abusing a saboteur in November, claims to have had his pet dog killed and vehicle vandilised in an attack by animal rights activists.

The Ross Harriers hunt are in the media yet again this week with an article published claiming that the police are investigating an attack on their kennels, including the dumping of a dead dog on the huntsman’s driveway.

Police were called to the address in Coughton, near Ross-On-Wye last Tuesday, 19th March, to reports of criminal damage to a 4×4 belonging to the huntsman, David Lee Peters, and the death of his dog.  In the article an ‘anonymous source close to the hunt’ suggests that the attack and murder of the dog was the work of animal rights activists. The initials ‘ALF’ (standing for Animal Liberation Front) were apparently scratched onto the vehicle and the source claimed that the dog was ‘beaten to death.’

Questions raised

Questions are already being raised about the validity of the claims, especially regarding the involvement of animal rights activists.

Firstly and most obviously, what motivation would activists associated with the animal rights movement have for harming a dog, let alone ‘beating it to death’ and leaving it on the huntsmans driveway? The pro-hunting community often slander animal activists as ‘people haters’ but whatever point the activists could have wanted to make, either about hunting or about Peters himself, would vegetarian and vegan protesters who commit themselves to ending all animal exploitation (often at the risk of injury or arrest) have done something so counterintuitive and  opposed to their beliefs to make this comment? Given the obvious public backlash that would follow and the condemnation and even stronger backlash from the rest of the animal rights movement, we think not!

The ‘hunt source’ in the article heavily suggests that the ALF was responsible for the attack and attempts to explain who and what the ALF is. The Animal Liberation Front is a loose collection, or more accurately concept, often attributed to those who carry out non-violent direct action in defence of animals. Over its 40 year history the ALF has rescued (or ‘liberated’) hundreds of thousands of animals from places of cruelty and exploitation (including factory farms and animal experiment labs). It has also caused £millions of financial loss to those who profit from the exploitation of animals.

In the ALF aims and guidelines, which have to be clearly adherred to for the name to be used in a direct action, it is imperatively stated that activists should:

  • Take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human.

If this does not happen, then it quite simply is not an action of the ALF.

Vicious dog murderers or victims of slander campaign? Hunt saboteurs play with foxhounds rarely shown affection at the weekend.

Vicious dog murderers or victims of a slander campaign? Hunt saboteurs play with foxhounds who are rarely shown affection, at the weekend.

Hunt saboteurs are also mentioned in the article, as they are often active in the region close to the kennels and have previously attended meets of the Ross Harriers Hunt. Again there is the suggestion that they may have be involved in the attack, or that they and the ALF are one-and-the-same.

Hunt saboteurs also use non-violent direct action to save hunted animals. They put themselves between the hunted animal and the hunters, using scent-dulling sprays and hunting horns to mimik the huntsman and call hounds away from the hunted animal.

In the 50 years that hunt saboteurs have been active, there have been all sorts of accusations made against them by the hunting fraternity; spraying hounds with battery acid, using trip-wires to trip up horses, even bringing pre-caught foxes along and releasing them in front of hounds to prove that hunts are illegally hunting – none of which have ever been proven.

The Hunt Saboteurs Association introduction literature clearly states that saboteurs should never harm or put animals at risk, whether they are the hunted animal or animals used by the hunt. This is seen as somewhat of a golden rule by hunt saboteurs and monitors. The press officer of the Hunt Saboteurs Association commented on the incident saying:

“We simply do not engage in or condone criminal damage or any attacks on animals,”

“We engage in legal disruption of illegal hunting and we had nothing to do with this whatsoever.

“It doesn’t sound like the sort of thing the ALF would do either, killing a dog. They have been known to steal an entire pack of hounds, but they wouldn’t harm one.”

In short the murder of this innocent animal (if that is indeed what happened) is obviously a heinous crime, something that animal rights activists and hunt saboteurs would also be extremely opposed to, whoever it belonged to.

http://hsa.enviroweb.org/images/stories/hsa/bad/RossHarriersAttack.jpg

Attack on saboteurs by members of the Ross Harriers hunt last year.

The Ross Harriers – not so squeaky clean

It seems that the media (including, unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail) are swallowing up yet another animal rights scare story, without looking any deeper and only giving a glancing refference to the recent history of this particular hunt.

The Heckler has reported on the Ross Harriers a number of times in the recent past. In November, Peters was fined £720 by magistrates in Hereford and ordered to pay £200 compensation to a hunt saboteur he was found guilty of racially abusing during a meet at Aston Crews last January. In October a supporter of the Harriers was also found guilty of assaulting a saboteur and around this time last year members of the hunt attacked the vehicle of anti-hunt protesters and some of its occupants with an iron bar. Hardly the track record of law-abiding, non-violent and decent human beings and certainly far from the image of ‘victims’ that they appear to have gained with some.

A ‘false flag’ attack?

So with it looking extremely unlikely that the people who carried out the murder of this dog were associated with hunt saboteurs or the animal rights movement and the previous bad behaviour of the hunt examined, who could have been responsible? A number of possible (and in our opinion much more likely) explanations for the attack and who carried it out have been raised online:

  • It could be part of a smear campaign by the hunting community to slander hunt saboteurs and animal rights activists. Lee Peters is appealing his conviction of racially abusing a saboteur last year, and the retrial will be heard at Worcester Crown Court in the Summer. The media attention and police investigation would serve as a well timed attempt to gain public support for Peters and to discredit and put pressure on the activists who oppose him and who will presumably play a part in the case against him.
  • It could have been committed by somebody with a personal gripe against Peters, or another rival, local hunt. There are often bitter rivalries over hunting territory, support and finances. The pro-hunting community have also been known to dump dead foxes at the houses of hunt opponents, have killed and injured pet animals (such as dogs) and have vandalised vehicles and houses. This sounds awfully similar to the type of attack described in the article, and the ‘antis’ would make for perfect cover for such an attack.
  • It could have been proponents of the upcoming badger cull, which will take place in the area. The badger cull is conveniently mentioned in the article and by the hunt’s ‘anonymous source,’ without anything else suggesting that this alleged ‘ALF action’ had anything to do with the cull. By making it look like ‘animal rights extremists’ are operating in the area, the police would be forced to take more of an active interest in pursuing the animal rights activists who would oppose the cull.
  • The ‘ALF’ attack on the vehicle could have been an action genuinely committed by animal rights activists, with the dog being dumped (or planted) by others afterwards – the dog either dying of natural causes and being made to look like it was killed, or being killed in a more sinister manner. Again this could serve to discredit the action and the activists, by giving a scapegoat for the death and turning the media attention to what the hunting community would portray as ‘hypocritical hunt opponents.’

It is not unheard of for such ‘false flag’ attacks to happen, after all. Back in 1990 an unheard of group called the ‘British Animal Rights Society’ claimed responsibility for having attached a nail bomb to a huntsman’s Land Rover in Somerset. Forensic evidence led police to arrest the owner of the vehicle, who admitted he had bombed his own car to discredit the animal rights movement. He was jailed for nine months.

Whoever the perpertrator of the alledged attack on the Ross Harriers kennels was, we think there is more to this story than meets the eye…

Protests hit Starbucks stores across the country

Saturday 8th December saw over 1,000 people take part in protests at over 40 Starbucks stores across the UK.

The day of action, organised by UK Uncut, was held in response to the recently well-publicised case of Starbucks avoiding paying £millions tax in the UK. This is whilst government spending cuts are closing community centres, schools, hospitals, women’s refuges and workers are being forced to pay the brunt, with job losses, pay freezes, benefits and pensions cuts.

 In a press release following the actions, UK Uncut said:

“Growing public anger at Starbucks was clear today as over 40 of their shops across the UK- including in Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol and Shrewsbury- were targeted today by the anti-cuts direct action network, UK Uncut.

“In central London a creche and women’s refuge were set up in Starbuck’s flagship stores, and in Birmingham people slept in sleeping bags on the floor to highlight homelessness. In Barnet, activists turned Starbucks into a library, while in York protesters handed out free tea and coffee in store.

“The group took action to confront the company over its tax avoidance and highlight the impact of the government’s cuts on women. The group says that Starbucks’ offer of £10 million is a ‘PR stunt straight out of their marketing budget’.

“Starbucks and other tax-dodging companies, including Google and Amazon, have had to face increasing public outrage and stinging criticism from the Public Accounts Committee over their tax practices this week. Nearly £5 billion new cuts were announced by George Osborne on Wednesday in the Autumn Statement.

Sarah Greene, a UK Uncut activist said: “It is an outrage that the government continues to choose to let multinationals like Starbucks dodge millions in tax while cutting vital services like refuges, creches and rape crisis centres. It does not have to be this way. The government could easily bring in billions by clamping down on tax avoidance that could fund vital services by clamping down on tax dodging.”

The independent and member-led union, the IWW, has also released a new leaflet aimed at Starbucks workers, calling to organise against the buck of the tax bill being passed from the management of the company to the workforce.  This follows the success of a similar organising drive in the USA, which led to the formation of the Starbucks Workers Union and a number of victories for struggling Starbucks staff.