Last Saturday I was one of the 70 odd sabs which disrupted 2 driven Grouse shoots in Yorkshire. There has been plenty of coverage on this on social media as well as the local press. The excellent Raptor Persecution UK site also ran a short piece on it as well and the comments make interesting reading.

I won’t go over all the details again (you can read about it here) but needless to say it was a successful day, many Grouse are no doubt still flying about now which would have otherwise been blasted from the sky and there may be the odd Stoat or Weasel still lurking in the heather which won’t suffer a painful death in a fen trap. However the estates which got visited are no doubt seething having lost money and the ignominy of being targeted and having no way to respond.

What was interesting was one of the comments which came from one of the shoots in question and typical of how these organisations respond when their sordid minority death sports are pushed into the public eye. It was reported in the local paper, the Richmondshire Today

Dalesport, which runs shoots, said the saboteurs tried to stone shoot vehicles and intimidate shoot staff. A spokesman said:

“It was a shocking encounter in this tranquil area of the national park. Half the sabs were dressed in black with balaclavas in an attempt to prevent their identity. The police arrived to disperse them but not before further threats were made to the shoot staff.”

To be honest this is utterly laughable. The standard starting point for these comments is always to paint a picture of peace and tranquillity in the area, but lets face it, lots of ruddy faced men in tweed with guns blasting away at unfortunate birds is anything but tranquil and if indeed sabs were stoning cars surely there would be evidence of this, broken windows, dented body panels etc. Oddly enough, this evidence seems to be completely missing. Where were all the arrests the police made for this threatening and loutish behaviour?

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Estate lacky didn’t want his face on the internet. Oh well never mind.

It’s clearly fake news, an utterly feeble and poorly imagined lie in an effort to gain support by those less well informed, a fairly standard response and straight out of the CA’s manual. Amusingly a spokesperson for the fun day in the village of Reeth reported that the sabs had spent a lot of money and the event  had been a great success. So there you have it, sabs are good for the local economy!

The other point of interest was the attempted detention of sabs and the level of effort in which the estate staff and farmer went to in an effort to prevent the sabs from leaving. When we arrived in the area of Bransdale moor the shoot was in the process of already packing up. The track we used was a gated road and clearly marked on the OS map as being open access. Arriving at the top of the track we were confronted by 3 shoot vehicles which blocked the track. We were informed that the police had been called and were on their way. This was fine by us. No laws had been broken and we were just monitoring the shoot vehicles leaving.

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Gotta love the 19th century attire.

At this point we decided to carry on further down the track to where it joined the road at the other end. We were followed some of the way by one of the estate vehicles however they were clearly planning something and this was revealed when we arrived at the other end of the track and faced with a recently chained and padlocked gate with an estate vehicle parked in front of it to prevent us from leaving.

Turning around we proceeded back to our original position to be faced once again with another locked gate and a further 2 estate vehicles, both refusing to move. It seemed a somewhat odd tactic, surely they would want those who had scuppered their days shoot to leave as soon as possible? We has some discussion with the staff who, it has to be said weren’t the sharpest tools in the box but seemed happy to be detaining us. With sketchy phone signal we just managed to get a call out to both the police and another sab group however it seems we would be stuck there for some time.

3 hours later and finally the shoot staff decided to leave, we took our chance and proceeded back to our original entry point. It seemed the bumpkins had been busy!

Tree sized logs from the forestry work had been strewn across the track, the next gate had been locked with a large chain and a heavy agricultural trailer parked behind it. The next gate 50 metres further along had been treated in the same manner, chained up with a trailer blocking. What amazed us was the shear effort they went to for this and the sense of entitlement that they could detain us in this (illegal) manner. It beggars belief.

 

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Farmer forced to unlock gate on the unpaved byway – photo courtesy of North Cambs Hunt Sabs

Needless say the first set of obstacles were moved quickly, and with some ingenuity, team work and a capable sab vehicle both gate and trailer were soon dealt with and we were on our way to tackling the next one fairly quickly. The red faced angry farmer arrived at this point with the police a short distance behind and then the fine sight of around 50 sabs for some moral support. Angry farmer was sent to get his tractor and directed to move the trailer and unlock the gate. Despite protestations to the contrary the police confirmed that the area was indeed open access and no crimes had been committed. Once again they had failed in their somewhat strange plans and we were free to continue our journey.

I know the Countryside Alliance had issued advice to shoots and estates in the event of disruption but I’m fairly certain this kind of reaction wasn’t part of that. You have to wonder what they were trying to achieve as it was only even going to end in one way. For us the day was a 100% success, shoots were prevented from killing, no-one was shot or arrested, we got some nice PR by just walking on the moors and the local economy got a nice boost with the influx of sab money.

Finally, while we were waiting for our chance to leave a ruddy faced shoot employee asked if we get paid, then proclaimed our employer was none other than Paul McCartney! They never seem to get it, what we do is based simply on the combined desire to save lives and right the injustice of those who take delight in abusing our wildlife.

The so called Countryside Alliance are without doubt a truly insidious organisation. While they make claims about being the “voice of the countryside” the realty of the situation is far from the truth. Their main focus was, and always has been the promotion and preservation of blood sports, hunting shooting and fishing. However with public opinion against hunting in particular at an all time high, a review of the laws surrounding hunting in Scotland currently underway and several high profile prosecutions going against them the CA are clearly feeling the heat and will once again resort to rummaging around in their box of dirty tricks to try and maintain their status and that of hunting within the UK.

Now the CA are no strangers to underhand and bully boy tactics. They tried to manipulate the legislation with regards to the monitoring of hunts (see here) as well as attempting to directly influence police policy with regards to saboteurs before so it came as no real surprise when a letter was leaked that was sent from their CEO Tim (not nice but dim) Bonner to all their members explaining how they intended to proceed with the coming hunt season. The Cheshire Monitors group were the first to publish this on their Facebook page and it makes interesting reading.

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Firstly Bonner sets out with some unadulterated self congratulation. Hunting only exists due to the CA it would seem but also admits that they despite the ban hunts are still flouting the law, “hunting as we know it” clearly refers to the pursuit of a live mammal. Even with a letter going to their own members any organisation regularly involved in the promotion of law breaking should, you’d think, be a little more discrete.

The next part is quite an admission and personally I’d like to thank Tim for the kind words regarding sabs. It’s abundantly clear that we are indeed having a “significant” impact on hunting although from what I understand the HSA membership has increased significantly and more active sabs are joining all the time but once again  it proves you should, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. Tim does get a little mixed up at this point though, the simple truth is we don’t have to make up lies to get our point across and show up hunting for what it really is. Social media has given us a platform in which to show the many examples of illegal hunting and the related violence each week during the hunting season to a huge audience and without the spin of normal media outlets. We’re winning the PR war that’s for sure.

This is where it get’s really interesting.

It would seem the CA’s new approach will be to expose individuals who oppose them (I’ll be disappointed if I’m not on their list) and try to get the police to do their dirty work. You see the problem here is they’ve just admitted to harassment, maybe even conspiracy? He goes on to mention all sorts of crimes which are regularly undertaken by both hunts and their supporters against non-violent monitors and sabs that Bonner and his cronies are mysteriously silent about. Violence in the countryside? Oh my Timmy, people in glass houses really shouldn’t start throwing stones you know. Now this revelation is in the public domain it will be interesting to see what they do next, will it be damage limitation time or just ignore this complete blunder and crack on regardless? How do they intend to “expose” their opponents, will I have to look out for private detectives rummaging through my rubbish bins in the hope of finding something incriminating? No doubt chief subverter Phillip Davies will play a leading role in this. If you don’t know who he is then you can read all about him here.

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Philip Davies – Ex cop and CA subverter.

Finally they get to the real point of the letter – they just want some money. This whole debacle is nothing more that a begging letter!. How terribly sad. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I was always under the impression that the CA weren’t short of a bob or two, especially considering the number of MP’s they have in their pockets and the number of millionaires which seem to hunt. I think one could safely assume if they needed some extra cash they’d be banging on the doors of a few of their wealthy members and asking for a handout, perhaps all is not well on the cash flow front?

Irrespective of all of the above this is likely to be a major embarrassment for the CA and the complete buffoon at their helm, Tim Bonner. Of course Bonner should be well used to cocking up by now, he’s the CA’s version Boris Johnson.

When you go into battle it’s usually a good idea not to let your enemy know your plans and the CA have unintentionally laid theirs out for all to see. Let’s see how this all pans out . . .

 

I’ve been a bit quiet recently, that’s largely to do with being fairly busy at work and also not wanting to sit in my studio in front of a computer wearing my pants and sweating like George Adams in Peterborough Magistrates Court. However my desire to comment on a recent news story was enough to put fingers to keyboard once again (that and more reasonable temperatures).

The Hunt Investigation Team were the people behind the now famous Herefordshire Hunt Fox Cub case, and while undertaking a new investigation of the Barlow Hunt in Derbyshire they were contacted by someone with regards to the persecution of predators which was being undertaken by known local bloodsports enthusiasts within the Peak District National Park. This program of predator control consisted of a vast network of Larsen traps (invented in Denmark where incidentally they are now banned for being inhumane) and the shooting of foxes at a time when both species would have dependent young that would no doubt starve.

Now this sort of thing is common practice on heavily managed Grouse moors where maximum bags of Grouse mean big financial benefits to the owners of the shoot however in this instance the organisation who commissioned this cruelty was in fact the RSPB.

This isn’t anything new, the RSPB carry out culling of certain species on their reserves if they deem that they represent a critical problem to endangered birds or present a risk to the habitat however in this instance it would seem they excelled themselves. Killing one animal to save another is, they claim a last resort however it would seem in this case they were employing the very people that they are meant to oppose.

You have to ask yourself how can they fight against the culling of Ravens on one hand and with the other massacre their close relatives with another? The population of foxes is in severe decline (41% since 1996) so why are these wonderful animals being further persecuted by a so called environmental charity?

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A Curlew on the Isle of Mull

It all comes down to the Curlew.

The Curlew was cited as the reason a dodgy collective of shooting interests got together (Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW)) and was granted a license to kill Ravens in Scotland, something the RSPB rightly challenged although this has now been suspended after being proven to be devoid of any scientific justification and anyone with an IQ above 30 would know this was more about protecting Grouse than Curlew.

The Curlew is, it seems top of the list of birds that require action to prevent the further decline in their population. However the RSPB themselves will claim that the biggest threats to the Curlew are environmental. Both harmful farming methods and poor land management are the reason the Curlew has suffered so much. Exterminating predators that may or may not impact on the current population is not an acceptable course of action to take and certainly one many of their members will feel uneasy about.

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Perhaps it should read “giving some nature a home, others a bullet”?

I’m lucky enough to have seen many Curlew, nearly all while on Holiday on the Isle of Mull. While Mull doesn’t have foxes it does have a very healthy Raven and Hooded Crow (a very close relative of the Carrion Crow) population along with many raptors and other mustalid predators. So what makes them so successful there?

The ideal environment for them, ample nesting sites and feeding opportunities with little or no disturbance from humans.

As far as I’m concerned everything has a right to life, killing one species to save another is, in my eyes a very slippery slope indeed and even more so when the people doing the killing are those which you oppose in every other aspect of your work. Rather than undertaking these hugely questionable practices they should be concentrating on restoring the habitat and rewilding the very areas that are so poorly managed. When the people at the HIT got in touch with the RSPB the response they got was poor to say the least (you can read the whole story here). You would expect an organisation with these kind of huge resources to respond properly and at least attempt to offer some kind of justification but it appears they are above all that. There’s no doubt they do some good work but many people, including myself will now be considering their membership in light of these disgraceful practices.

UPDATE: It seems the RSPB have responded after the pressure was mounting on them to provide some sort of explanation. You can read it here. Quite frankly it falls well short of the mark and judging by the comments they will be losing many members and the money which goes with them.

Interestingly one comment highlighted an article by the excellent George Monbiot and gives an insight into the thinking of the RSPB and the problem with their “solution”. You can read it here.

Now I’m fairly sure most people like to get good value for money. It’s a simple fact that paying over the odds for services or products is to be avoided, it’s simple economics and applies to the man on the street right up to the Government and their policies.

The Badger Cull in England has been a financial disaster alone and that’s completely ignoring the tragic waste of life and cruelty subjected to one of our most iconic species. With the expansion in culling these costs are only going to increase but current estimations are in the region of £50 million to the public purse, that’s a hell of a lot of money by any measure.

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Of course the National Farmers Union and their stooges at Defra will churn out the now fairly standard response of; “Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK and costs taxpayers more than £100m each year” but that’s largely an irrelevant if the policy they support won’t work and the money is simply being wasted.

Of course we’ve known all this for some time and I’ve written about the cull at length before but the news story breaking this week was from a targeted cull which took place in Wales. For those that don’t know a targeted cull will only take place in a small area on farms which suffer consistent bTB breakdowns. Badgers will be trapped and tested on site for TB, those being found to be positive will be killed.

Now for those who agree that livestock should have a higher priority over wildlife (that’s not me by the way) this would seem to be a fairly logical solution. However once the results came in it came as somewhat as a shock in more than one way.

37 badgers trapped and tested. 5 tested positive and killed. Post-mortem tests showed only 1 of these was positive and none were actually infectious.

Total Costs: £383,112

That’s £76,6222 per non-infectious badger.

Now I’m no economist but that doesn’t look much like value for money to me.

Well known biologist and extremely clever person Rosie Woodroffe summed things up on her Twitter feed.

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Rubbish blood test indeed Rosie.

Not only was this utterly wasteful in terms of value (and life) it also showed the reality of bTB occurring in livestock and the role badgers play. However that didn’t stop the pro cull numpties from trying their luck.

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We’re not really sure how Bob here managed to come to that conclusion considering none were infectious and shows their desire to just kill badgers but he was suitably corrected by the real scientist.

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Game, set and match to Miss Woodroffe.

It’s no great leap of faith to suggest that similar figures could be applied to the 35,000 badgers already killed in England, over 30,000 would have been perfectly healthy and of those tested positive, none may have been infectious which once again means that £50 million already spent killing healthy badgers will do nothing in reducing bTB and is a complete waste of money.

Your money.

And the Government want to spend  more of your money on this cruel and pointless exercise, in fact they’ve already started. The best we can do is take the most effective form of action. Non-violent, direct action. It’s time to get involved. Contact your local sab group or check here for more info.

Note: We’re working very hard in surveying potential new culling zones and will be on the front line when the killing starts. If you can’t physically help please consider helping us with the costs. You can donate quickly and simple right here: Donate