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 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.
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.
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…