Presteigne vicar and cops round on Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo coverA barmy local vicar has compared satirical cartoons in the French anti-racist magazine Charlie Hebdo with the anti-Semitic blasphemy of nazi Germany.

Writing in Presteigne’s parish magazine, Revd Steve Hollinghurst called it ironic that the west condemns the murder of Jewish people under Hitler’s rule but defends “to the hilt the right of others (cartoonists in this case) to ridicule and offend people of faith and their beliefs”.

The vicar goes on to ask readers, “didn’t the holocaust begin with vile anti-Semitic cartoons? Is there that much difference?”

Well yeah, a lot as it happens. The off-his-rocker rev clearly isn’t familiar with the magazine and its many calls for unity, which include the follow-up to the 2011 firebombing of its offices. On that occasion Charlie Hebdo responded by publishing a front page illustration of one of its cartoonists and a Muslim man kissing, under the headline “Love is stronger than hate”. Not really the sort of actions synonymous with Hitler are they!

In an altogether more sinister move, Dyfed-Powys police have questioned a newsagent, also in Presteigne, in an attempt to monitor sales of Charlie Hebdo.

Owner, Paul Merrett, said a detective and a community support officer spent half an hour asking his wife Deborah about the magazine.

“They wanted to know about Charlie Hebdo. They came in unannounced and we had customers,” he said.

“There were questions asking where we got the Charlie Hebdo copies from, did we know who we sold them to – which we didn’t say. We were a bit bemused because it was out of the blue.

“My wife said, ‘Am I in trouble?’ because she thought she was in trouble for selling them. They said, ‘No, you’re not in trouble’ but just continued with their questioning for half an hour.”

Merrett added: “It was all about Charlie Hebdo. I guess they wanted names and addresses of people we sold them to, which we didn’t tell them anything like that. We sold 30 copies.

“My wife was a bit worried with the questioning but she certainly wouldn’t have given any names to the police. I’m shocked they asked. They wanted to know where we got the copies from, how did we let the customers know that we had them.”

So which of these two stories more accurately portrays life in nazi Germany: The one where satirical journalists poke a bit of fun at all religions but ultimately promote a message of love and tolerance; Or the one where the strong arm of the state harasses a newsagent and demands to know details of customers who have bought copies of a legally published magazine?

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…

Herefordshire huntsman fined £3000 after racially abusing hunt saboteur

Lee Peters, huntsman for the Ross Harriers Hunt who operate in south Herefordshire, has been found guilty of racially aggravated harassment and threatening behaviour after a three-day trial at Hereford Magistrates Court.

David Lee Peters – convicted racist huntsman

Peters, a 33-year-old father of two who lives in Coughton near Ross-on-Wye, was fined £720, ordered to pay £2,000 court costs and £200 compensation to his victim.

The conviction relates to an incident on January 7th 2012, when hunt saboteurs attended a meet of the Ross Harriers hunt at the Penny Farthing Inn at Aston Crews near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. Peters shouted racist abuse at a black saboteur and threatened to attack another. The comments were overheard by a local man who was in his garden next to the road. He soon after reported it to the police.

Lee Peters – shortly before his arrest

A saboteur who was present told the Heckler:

“We hadn’t long arrived near their meet, and were parked up in one of two land rovers on a verge on the side of the road. The Harriers left their meet at the Penny Farthing pub and came around the corner, with Lee Peters riding at the front. His aggressive behaviour started immediately.

“He shouted “you’re all going to fucking get it” and either kicked the side of the vehicle or hit it with his riding crop. He then went to the rear of the land rover and looked through the window. He then said very loudly – presumably to the rest of the nearby riders – “Look, they’ve even got a f***ing w** in here.” This was aimed at one of our number who’s a black female.

“Despite this aggressive and repulsive behaviour, we carried on with what we intended to do for the rest of the day- monitoring the hunt and intervening if we believed illegal hunting was taking place.

“Word had obviously got back to Peters that the police were now after him, as he left his horse and took the hounds into a hard-to-reach area on foot, thinking that he could evade the police who were patrolling the area in a number of vehicles. He was arrested not long afterwards.”

In a press release by the Hunt Saboteurs Association, spokesman Lee Moon said:

“Decent people know that racism is completely unacceptable.  The hunting community however appear to be stuck in some kind of time warp where it is still OK to use this kind of disgusting language.  Maybe they would like to join us in the 21st Century  and realise that racism, along with the senseless murder of animals in the name of sport, is something that society no longer tolerates.  We hope the Ross Harriers do the right thing and sack Mr. Peters immediately to show that they do not condone racism.”

This local hunt has a growing reputation for being badly behaved. Only a fortnight ago we reported that one of their supporters was found guilty of assaulting a saboteur on another occasion.

You can find out more about Hunt Saboteurs and opposing by visiting the local sab group’s website, or by reading our ‘interview with a hunt saboteur.’

Badger cull delayed until next summer

The pilot badger culls planned for two areas in the West Country have been postponed until next summer.

The Heckler previously reported on the trial badger culls, planned to begin in areas of west Somerset and west Gloucestershire this autumn. But last week the badgers and the animal activists opposing the cull won a reprieve with the news breaking that the cull would not begin until at least the summer of 2013.

Initially rumours were rife that the cull was about to commence, with areas near badger setts found baited and Natural England working around the clock to issue the final licences to farmers and marksmen. But at the 11th hour (quite literally), the task ahead seemed too overwhelming and uncertain. The National Farmers Union wrote to DEFRA asking for its postponement, claiming that the cull “cannot be confident of removing at least 70 per cent of the populations.” This followed the news that the number of badgers in the cull zones had been vastly underestimated.

Animal rights and badger activists are continuing to oppose the cull, by using the additional delay to garner more public support for their campaign and putting the pressure on those who will be carrying out the cull.

Hunt Saboteurs plan to use ‘non-violent direct action’ to disrupt the cull if and when it goes ahead

On 14th October, around 80 hunt saboteurs and animal activists gathered at the Forthampton shooting estate, near Tewkesbury, to “show their disapproval at the proposed cull.” Dozens of police officers, additional private security and even a police helicopter were mobilised to keep an eye on the protesters, who did little more than walk around footpaths on the estate, where badger culling was due to take place. The Hunt Saboteurs Association issued a press release detailing the protest, which can be read here.

According to the campaign group ‘Stop the Cull,’ fox hunt saboteurs and anti-cull activists are planning to attend the opening meet of the Ledbury Hunt at the Corse Lawn Hotel on Friday 2nd November, as the hunt has a number of people involved with the cull within its ranks and the hotel is linked to the Forthampton Estate.

For continued updates or to get involved in opposing the cull, visit the Stop the Cull and Hunt Saboteurs Association websites.