Remember, remember. The fifth of November marks the anniversary of the infamous gunpowder plot. The tale of sabotage is a cornerstone of British history; but not enough to deter the latest wave of demonstrators from their attempts to destroy another British establishment.
A number of shoots have already been impacted by saboteurs this year, including Kexwith Moor and Bransdale Moor in Yorkshire. This also follows the protests at Haworth, Stanbury Moor and Turley Holes – areas of land owned and managed by Yorkshire Water. The picketers aimed to force a ban on grouse shooting, much like the veto taken on Ilkley Moor earlier this year.
‘Sabs’ were once thought to be confined to the fox hunting world but that is clearly no longer the case. Responding to the rise in incidences, the Countryside Alliance published an updated guidance sheet to raise awareness of the risks and give advice on dealing with saboteurs. The guidance provides practical advice for shoot managers on what arrangements to make before the day, and what actions to take if saboteurs do turn up.
The advice to members is very clear: better safe than sorry. Saboteurs are often well briefed on legislative procedures and will try to use this knowledge to their advantage. It is therefore essential that shoot managers are equally well equipped, with a good understanding of the surrounding area and good relationship with local authorities, including the police.
Following a number of targeted saboteur attacks on shoots at the beginning of last season, Jack Knott, CA campaigns manager, commented: “There is no expectation of a rise in disruption by animal rights extremists this season. However, following a couple of incidents last year, it is best to be fully prepared just in case that disruption does occur.
“The guidance requests that shoot managers brief guns on the possibility of disruption. In the event of a saboteur attack it is essential that all participants in the shoot day remain calm, keep safety as a priority and allow the police to deal with the situation. The saboteurs will try anything to provoke and intimidate to create a newsworthy event. As frustrating as it may be, you must not allow yourself to be provoked. Always remember it’s the saboteurs who are acting illegally, not you.”
The Countryside Alliance has decades of experience dealing with animal rights extremists, but recent remarks from a Labour minister have also proved detrimental to their aim for a harmonious countryside. Shadow DEFRA secretary of state, Sue Hayman, published an article in August entitled ‘It’s time to end grouse moor practices that harm the environment.’
The article appears to contain arguments directly lifted from copy produced by the League Against Cruel Sports and Animal Aid. Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner said: “Either Ms Hayman has worked with an animal rights extremist convicted of revolting crimes to write this article in her name, or she has plagiarised his work.”
Animal Aid, in particular, has established a vigilante reputation and routinely subjected those working with animals to harassment and intimidation, as reported in the Guardian in 2012. “It is part of their methodology to equate animal work with paedophilia,” said a former target. “If they find out your name, you will appear on their website as a paedophile. It is disgusting. Another worker found out that his neighbours had all been sent notes claiming that he was a rapist.”
Tim Bonner added: “We suggest Ms Hayman reconsiders whether these words are an accurate reflection of her own views or indeed of the facts. “The low grouse numbers we are seeing this year are costing hard-working people thousands of pounds across rural areas of the country. Instead of showing compassion and understanding, the Labour Party is threatening to condemn them to lost income and livelihoods in perpetuity. The article may claim to be simply calling for a review of grouse shooting, but directly lifting copy from some of the most extreme anti-shooting campaigners tells its own story.
“This article is unfortunately another example of Labour’s slide towards animal rights extremism. The Labour Party needs to show the countryside that it is not too late to reverse this slide, and the Countryside Alliance will continue to be open to working with any MP interested in developing policies that work for rural Britain.”
The updated guidance documents are a positive step to facing the issue of sabotage as Julia Mulligan, chair of the National Rural Crime Network and Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, explains: “This guidance on what to do if your shoot is targeted by saboteurs is essential reading for anyone who wants to shoot safely and enjoy the sport without incident.
“I know that people at times feel the police response is not as good as it might be and that saboteurs are not dealt with robustly, but it is nonetheless very important to report incidents to your local police and to work with them.
“More generally, we also know from the National Rural Crime Survey published in July, that many crimes in rural areas go unreported. This means the police are often unable to respond or have the right resources in place. I am very keen for the police to understand better what’s going on in the countryside and would urge you to report incidents to them, and encourage others to do the same.”