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18th April 2015

Who Are You?

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Guest blogger Jaysee Costa explains why he’s cool with being labelled an “anti” by the foxhunting brigade who continue to cling on to a dark past.

Who are these “antis” we often hear about?

Do you know who you are?

You probably think you do, but other people may have other ideas based on just a pinch of truth and a barrowload of negative stereotypes. They may have put them all on a label that could be stuck on you forever.

I got many labels stuck on me over the years and one of them is the label “anti”. It’s not a term of endearment.

The label “anti” as a label has been used by those who regularly abuse animals – or are against laws and regulations that aim to stop animal abuse and suffering – to describe anyone that oppose what they do. “Anti” was a word used by bear baiters to describe politicians who voted for the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 which banned their bloodsport; it was used by vivisectionist to describe those who erected the ‘brown dog’ statue at Battersea in 1906 in honour of all the dogs that had been tortured in scientific experiments; it was used by terriermen to describe the campaigners who lobbied for the Protection of Badgers Act 1992; today it’s the word used by foxhunters to describe anyone supporting the hunting with dogs ban. So, it is meant to be a negative term used to insult (equivalent to “scum”) or simply a term to warn others in their fraternity that this person “is not one of us”. It is the nasty version of the condescending “bunny hugger” or “tree hugger” which looks down on animal protectionists and environmentalists and is often embellished by claiming that it means “anti-freedom”, “anti-countryside” or “anti-tradition”.
However, this label, which most of us wear as a badge of honour, has a dangerous side. Propagandists of animal abuse fraternities have been relentlessly using it to influence the general public – plus the police, CPS and the Courts – into believing that there is something wrong with being someone that does not want animals to be abused. Animal abusers have been quite successful in getting into journalists’ minds, who then write reinforcing the negative stereotype, creating a vicious circle. For instance, people or organisations who believe in the philosophy that all animals have the right to a life without abuse are immediately labelled by cheap journalists as “animal rights activists” with the implication that there is something extreme and dangerous in such beliefs. The term “animal rights”, as opposed to “animal welfare”, is actually an old 20th century cliché. These days most animal protection organisations, despite their names and logos which were created last century or earlier, have gradually converged into a philosophy of rights and a morality of welfare where the intrinsic value of animals is recognised at the same time that pragmatism is used to resolve human-animal conflicts.
“Anti” as a derogatory label is not only used against hunt saboteurs or volunteer hunt monitors. Organisations such as the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports or IFAW employ inspectors and investigators to gather evidence for Hunting Act prosecutions (among other wildlife crimes) and the negative label affects them too. Despite the fact such investigators technically work in ‘law enforcement’ as they are paid to gather evidence of crimes in a lawful, peaceful and respectful manner, and such evidence is primarily used in criminal prosecutions – not campaigning – they are not treated as such by the police and the Courts. Their evidence is treated as suspicious just because it comes from “antis”. To compensate for that they need to work on a ‘belt and braces’ approach to prove every single event which demands far more evidence than would be required in any other type of crime, and they cannot rely on their testimony or expertise because the defence will claim that they are not credible.
Investigators who take to the field to enforce and reinforce the Hunting Act have to endure the harassment and violence of hunts supporters who behave as if part of organised crime rings that prevent evidence of illegal hunting being secured. Hunting Act enforcers and reinforcers hardly ever have an adequate response from the police if they call them when they have been obstructed, attacked or robbed. All that, because they have the “anti” label. It does not matter if they explain what their job is and show that their teams include reputable ex-policemen and ex-military. They still call them “antis” and do not take their testimony and evidence as seriously as they should. This explains why there are not many prosecutions of illegal foxhunters. The police and CPS don’t take allegations of illegal hunting seriously and believe false alibis such as ‘trail hunting’ without checking they hold water. To cover for this lack of proper enforcement ‘”antis” are forced to spend valuable resources and time operating in a hostile environment full of pressures and difficulties.
Despite the fact that we’re now in the 21st century and our society has evolved so animal welfare principles form part of our modern lives, our opponents (who by nature are people that live more in the past than in the present) continue to be obsessed with these old labels, thinking that they offend us when using them. They don’t.
So yes, I am an “anti”. I am anti-violence, anti-cruelty, anti-bullying, anti-abuse, anti-crime, and this is why I support people who try to help animals in need. And I am proud of it, as most people with the same beliefs are. Naturally, as in all walks of life, there have been some who turned violent unnecessarily and who crossed the line of decency with the misguided idea that this would actually help our cause. There are so many of “us” that it would be impossible to prevent this happening since we are a very diverse bunch where all races, genders, cultures, creeds and even states of mind are represented. But you know how propagandists work. They pick on the exception and they make it a rule. You can see this all over the press and internet these days. Personally, if asked to identify just a few people to represent an entire group, I would have chosen any of the following “antis”: William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, Saint Francis of Assisi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Gautama Buddha, Pythagoras, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Frances Power Cobbe, or Frank Kafka (it’s nice to think that I could be seen as belonging to the same ‘club’ as them!).
Here is what happens when those who do not have any problem with violence became activists against those who do: the “anti-antis” are spawned. For quite some time people who want to continue hurting animals regardless of whether their activities are legal or ethical have organised themselves to hunt down the “antis”, so they can intimidate us away, or even worse. For those who are aware about how foxhunting works, the euphemism ‘hunt steward’ would have come to mind when reading this paragraph. Yes, these are the heavies who may have been contracted or simply volunteered to go out looking for people opposed to hunting (it does not matter who; hunt saboteurs, Wildlife Crime Investigators, charity inspectors, bystanders, etc) and ensure they cannot become witnesses of the hunt’s activities.
There seems to be a recent revival of these type of anti-antis. They sometimes don’t even hide their violent disposition, with masked faces and signs on their shirts which unequivocally advertise their cruel intentions.
So really, if there is any negative connotation to the word “anti”, this is now attached to those who created the label in the first place, because their actions reinforce the stereotype, not ours. They are the ones that want to stop people having the freedom to protest, they are the ones who want to stop people having the freedom to speak, they are the ones who want to stop people knowing what happens to the innocent animals they victimise, they are the ones who actively disrupt legal activities in favour of crime, and they are the ones who add violence where there was peace.
Sometimes, though, in this ocean of violence, propaganda and mis-labelling, there is a gust of fresh air. Recently, a district judge who was presiding a case where two “antis” had been prosecuted for aggravated trespass because of their attempts to help an injured deer that had been attacked by a hunt’s hounds, seemed to be able to see clearly through the mist. He acquitted them.
In his summing up of the case, the judge criticised the hunt and police, and praised the hunt saboteurs saying: “All of you contribute immensely to society not only in your working lives but in your free time. You deserve high praise for managing yourselves and your behaviour.”
I am proud to know who I am.
Jaysee Costa
An anti

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5th April 2015

So You Fancy Moving To The Country?

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You thinking of moving to the country any time soon? Everything is not always as it seems, especially on a sunny day at Easter when the mud and chaos of winter seems so very far away. Read and follow the words of wisdom below, from one of our long-term supporters, to protect your property, livestock and pets from illegal bloodsports, hunt havoc and trespass:

When first going to live in the country, check out whether hunts are active. The way to do this is to go and talk to one of the fancy estate agents who deal with large properties. Do not tell them your views on hunting, instead ask, “is riding popular in the area?” If they say yes, follow up with, “do you know which is the nearest hunt?” and then “where do they generally meet?” Many of these estate agents are connected with the local hunting fraternity (they often sponsor hunt-related social events).

Once you’ve bought a property, find out from the locals in the pub etc which is the local hunt. Again, do not discuss your own views; there will be a range of views around you. Hounds Off can provide you with contact details; or search online (though this is becoming increasingly difficult as hunts try to avoid contact with the public).

Make sure to find the name and contact details of the Hunt Master. Try and get phone numbers, email addresses as a postal address. Now write a polite and clear letter to the Hunt Master saying that you do not wish to have their hunt, or anyone or anything connected with it, on your property. Enclose a plan of your property. Send it recorded or registered delivery and do keep the record of posting and also keep a copy of the letter. Open a large file and put it in their, in readiness for many more letters. Any discussions by phone, email or whatever should be recorded in your file. This is important for later. Keep these on computer, but have a hard copies too.

It’s perfectly reasonable that you contact the hunt in advance and ask that they do not come on your land. No need to express opinions.

If the hunt do not answer, then you could try an email with a further (electronic) copy. If that is not replied to try a phone call, or call round in a friendly neighbourly manner, ideally with someone else. Stay cool but be firm.

Another thing you can do at this stage of the process, while still relatively unknown, is to mix with the followers and watch the hunt in progress. Now and again take a photo with your mobile phone discreetly. If a fox is being chased you may be able to video it, but be careful and do not take any risks. If you pretend to be making a call if anyone comes near, that will help and you can also leave the video running and have a little conversation with anyone around to see what might be picked up about who and where. If you feel safe and accepted you can ask things like, “where did they pick up the scent?” or, “looks like the fox is getting tired” etc. But I stress, do not attempt anything like this if you feel there could be any danger. Anything you do should be lawful and reasonable; just casual conversation.

If the hunt then come on to your land regardless of your request not to, phone the police and explain the situation. Then call the Hunt Master, ideally on their mobile phone. Be careful of getting into an argument directly with anyone on the ground, just firmly tell them they must leave your property immediately and say that the police are aware.

After the hunt has gone, write down everything that happened. Then call the police again and tell them how you felt. If you felt harassed, distressed or alarmed, say so. If they fob you off then write to the local police station and complain. If they take it seriously and come and visit you, be calm and collected and explain the situation honestly. Always convey how you felt. They will say what they can and cannot do for you. Try to build an understanding with them so they recognise you are reasonable. They may then do their best to help.

Write again to the Hunt Master to complain and use a more strident tone; not rude or angry, but very clear.

At any stage it’s quite reasonable to contact Hounds Off and any other people you feel may be able to offer support and help. There are a number of ways they may be able to assist.

If you have the hunt come on your land again you’ll need to ramp up your efforts. As well as the police, contact your Parish Councillor, your District or Borough Councillor and your MP with a letter explaining your position. You should try and get to see the politicians face to face if you can. Go and see your MP and discuss it in person. Ask your MP to contact the police and ask them what they are doing about it.

When contacting the police this time, be very clear how you now feel. Follow up with a letter to the Inspector dealing with wildlife crime.

Now is also the time to link up with any other sufferers. Contact neighbours, see if they are affected, have a cup of tea and ascertain their views. Some will help, some will sympathise but not help, others will be frightened, and some will perhaps even support the hunt. So be aware who are your allies and who is not and may have connections.

Keep Hounds Off informed, keep records and keep up the pressure every time it happens. Call the police, ideally you will have direct mobile numbers for officers by this stage.

In terms of legal action, you may feel you wish to contact a solicitor to discuss your options.

Anon, Hampshire
April 2015

contact Hounds Off: help@houndsoff.co.uk

photo © Colin Varndell

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