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Hunting and Hunt Saboteurs: A Censure Study

Elizabeth Stokes

Introduction

In the abstract, there is no relation of logical or rational necessity between what is popularly morally censured and what is practically censured in the criminal justice system; it is a political relationship and therefore the degree of correspondence between the two will reflect the level and type of democracy within the state and its apparatuses of social regulation. (Sumner 1990:46).

The conflict between supporters of field sports and anti-bloodsports protesters (both physical and ideological) has attracted little academic attention [1]. It has certainly escaped criminological inquiry, largely due to its perceived marginal, rural, isolated and political nature [2]. The aim of this paper is to explore the key issues which arise in relation to hunting (primarily foxhunting) and the activities of hunt saboteurs, to illustrate how the criminal law, criminal justice agencies and other 'apparatuses of social regulation' have 'policed' this conflict of interests and to question what those interests are and where they originate from.

From a sociological perspective this conflict is of considerable interest; why should hunt saboteurs be so readily censured as deviant when the activity they seek to prevent is also widely 'socially' censured ? [3]. Is it just a question of their chosen methods of protest of is there more to it than that ?

As the title indicates, this is an attempt to illustrate the interrelationship between censure and counter-censure in the context of an unusual, if not unique social practice [4]. Foxhunting is peculiarly anglo-centric and its present day controversiality, as will become clear, is grounded in a particular social history. There is no claim to offer a comprehensive account of the processes involved, such a task would extend way beyond the limitations of this project. Nor are the arguments for and against the continuation of hunting addressed or evaluated. My aim is more modest, to point out possible avenues of enquiry and hopefully to aid a more informed discussion of the above issues.

This paper draws upon sources from a number of different disciplines, as a 'censure study' it clearly does not fall within the restrictions of 'administrative criminology'. In developing a sociology of censures, with "multiple ideological imputs and variable historical constitutions and roles" (Sumner and Sandberg 1990) such diversity is necessary. The research involved informal interviews and on-going communication with saboteurs and ex-saboteurs, semi-structured interviews with the Police and contact with hunt supporters during the 1994-5 hunting season. All interviewees were guaranteed confidentiality, given the sensitivity of the current climate and the initial reluctance of saboteurs to talk to a criminologist [5]. Information about the present situation was also gained through contact with the British Field Sports Society (BFSS), the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) and from a collation of the national press coverage over the last ten years [6].

The first section, "Policing the Conflict", is concerned with the background to and implications of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, sections 68/9. This Act created the controversial new offence of 'Aggravated Trespass', which effectively criminalised the practice of hunt sabotage. The CJand POA 1994 therefore forms an obvious starting point to study the censure of hunt saboteurs, criminalisation being the ultimate state censure. The section adopts an extended notion of 'policing' including an inquiry into the role of political and judicial processes in shaping which interests are to be protected.

It is important to note that as the first arrests were made under this statute an ill fated Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, which included provisions to ban (and therefore criminalise) the use of dogs for hunting, was passed unopposed on its second reading in the House of Commons [7]. Leaving aside for the moment the complexities of the passage of this legislation, it would appear that notions of what is considered to be worthy of the protection of the criminal law have recently been a site of considerable contestation.

The second section, "Media-ting the Conflict", focuses on the role of the media as one of the primary sources of information about social censure in modern societies. It comprises a critical analysis of the press representation of hunters and saboteurs.

Finally, "Explaining the Conflict" is a historical and theoretical inquiry into the origins of the debate. This aims to be suggestive rather than a definitive explanation, raising avenues for possible exploration. Whilst potentially the most interesting inquiry it should be considered only as 'work in progress'.

Any study which challenges received views of social conflicts and questions the definitions of deviance contained therein, is open to allegations of bias. In the words of Elias:

  • It may not be easy given the temper of our time to study this kind of hunting in a matter of fact way, as a social process....as a figuration in flux formed by human beings. (Elias and Dunning 1986:25).

As this paper shows, hunting is an issue which is clouded by preconceptions. I am aware that adopting a critical approach risks categorising the author as a vegan animal rights activist with an urban upbringing. As a farmer's daughter I am none of the above and this thesis was conceived whilst travelling through a village where as a child I would annually see off the Boxing Day Meet.

The fact that this explanation seemed appropriate is testimony to the importance of censure in regulating social (and academic!) life.

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Policing the Conflict

  • Many of the problems presented by new age travellers, ravers, hunt saboteurs , squatters and such like cannot be solved by new legislation alone, nor by police action to enforce those laws. Many of the problems have much deeper roots and wider implications. (D. Wilmott, Chief Constable Greater Manchester police, chairman of ACPO Public Order Committee, Police Review 18/11/94:20 ) [My italics].

The public order provisions introduced in the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act have attracted criticism on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties. "The Act represents a comprehensive toughening up of the law relating to those with marginal or somewhat unorthodox lifestyles" (Smith 1995:19).

The sections relevant to the 'novel' offence of Aggravated Trespass however, have only raised concern in so far as they could be applied to a range of activities hitherto considered to be legitimate (for example ramblers access to the countryside; road protesters; consumers picketing outside shops on land belonging to the shop; trade union pickets). Few have questioned the propriety or suitability of the criminalisation of hunt sabotage, including, as will be argued below, the Government which sponsored the legislation.

This chapter aims to redress this oversight. It will become clear that Michael Howard's characterisation of all hunt saboteurs as "Thugs, wreckers and bullies" [8], is inaccurate, neither side has a monopoly on bad behaviour. The conflict which arises in the field has a rather more complex sociogenesis and cannot be resolved through partial legislation whose true significance lies in its political nature rather than practical efficacy. This is not to refute that the police face considerable difficulties when involved with disorder at a meet, or that the hunt have an equal right to go about their lawful business without undue harassment or intimidation, it serves only to suggest that the problem requires more detailed consideration before the residual right of individuals to protest peacefully is denied.

Trouble at the hunt: the problem:
The HSA's statement of purpose is "To save the lives of hunted animals by legal, non-violent, direct means and to bring to the attention of People and Parliament the barbaric cruelties involved in the hunting of animals until such time as these practices are banned by law" [9]. Like other forms of non-violent direct action hunt sabotage involves working within (if only just within) legal restriction. Official tactics include distracting the hounds by voice or horn calls, making a noise in coverts to encourage foxes to go to earth, the use of scent dullers, sprays such as anti-mate or citronella to mask the scent of the hunted animal and whips, to be used in the manner of the Huntsmen, cracking in front of and not on the hounds, in order to divert them. Many saboteur groups have an additional evidence gathering role, photographing or filming incidents to expose what the hunt actually do to the animals (and as will be seen below what they do to saboteurs). In 1974 the HSA turned down a request that the 'immobilisation of hunt vehicles' should be included as an acceptable tactic (RH Thomas 1983:110). Successful hunt sabotage, rather like successful hunting requires a skilled knowledge of hunting techniques (possible 'lines' which may be taken, direction of scent) and communication in order to keep up on foot with the fast moving 'field' and wide distances covered. While it can provide excitement it is more often a long, cold, wet and boring day, as one interviewee informed me "anyone who was just doing it because it was 'trendy' or something is not going to stick at it". For the majority it requires commitment, often their only spare time activity, and conviction.

Inevitably these methods bring saboteurs into situations of direct confrontation with the hunting community which can lead to verbal abuse, arguments, physical violence, criminal damage and assault. It has also resulted in the death of two young saboteurs in separate incidents involving hunt vehicle accidents, Michael Hill, 18, in Cheshire 1991 and Thomas Worby, 15, in Cambridgeshire 1993 [10]. Trouble which does arise is conventionally blamed on hunt saboteurs for threats, intimidation, provocation and more organised forms of attack. The BFSS provide 'evidence' [11] of these claims in their publications, notably 'The Real Animals' and 'The Unacceptable Face of Protest'. While not aiming to excuse individual 'saboteurs' responsibility for unlawful actions which undoubtedly do occur, it is also necessary to recognise that they are collectively censured for the behaviour of others, through ignorance, misrepresentation and misinterpretation of their activities and frequently (the HSA claims routinely) victims themselves [12].

It is important from the outset to make a distinction between organised anti-hunt violence and incidents which are consequential to friction in the field. In 1975 the 'Animal Activists' split from the HSA and in 1976 the Animal Liberation Front was formed which disavowed the HSA's lawful stance. Blame for their activities is therefore attached to the HSA because those who left retained nominal membership (RH Thomas 1983:109). Hunt supporters, Master of FoxHounds (MFH) and Hunt Kennels have been targeted by these groups as have those with high profiles, royalty and politicians [13]. Letter bombs, incendiary devices, hidden wire, glass and nails on the coursing field at the Waterloo Cup in 1981 are all examples of the more sinister side of Animal Rights Terrorism. The 'Hunt Retribution Squad' claimed responsibility for a number of fire bombings following the deaths of saboteurs, last heard from in 1984 for the desecration of graves [14]. The Justice Department claim to have carried out more than 150 letter bomb attacks in the last 18 months, other groups exist, the Animal Rights Militia and other self styled offshoots. The ALF itself claims to be non-violent, concentrating on break-ins etc. although this has been met with some scepticism, the Research Defence News 1994 suggest they are just operating under different names.

Hunt Saboteurs have had their image damaged through association in the press and police speculation about such incidents. Ben Ponton HSA Press Officer has acknowledged "I suppose it is true to an extent that every ALF member sabs, but not every HSA member is an ALF supporter" (Sunday Telegraph 7/1/93). Indeed the HSA have carried adverts for 'Ark Angel' the ALF magazine in 'HOWL'. Overlapping membership however is not enough to incriminate law-abiding members of the HSA. Most HSA members also support the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and many the RSPCA.

This conspiratorial view is reinforced by allegations that saboteurs receive payment to turn up and recruit children, misfounded beliefs which stem largely from a lack of comprehension of why people would want to protest [15]. "If the accuser can be viewed as someone whose opinion is worthless, an extremist or terrorists, the self-concept can more easily be maintained" [16] .Whilst the BFSS recognise saboteurs are not motivated by financial gain (they are financed by subscriptions, fund-raising activities, public donations, frequently by their own contributions and with high transport running costs many local groups run on a shoe-string) [17]. It is a view which remains widely held even within official police circles [18].

It is unsurprising that when fundamental beliefs or a way of life is under threat there are those who are willing to go outside of the law. Supporters of hunting are no exception, there have always been incidents of violence when hunting was challenged. In 1843 when farmers, opposed the damage caused by the hunt crossing their land, Masters of Foxhounds "dealt with the uppishness of lower orders on the spot with their fists" (Carr 1986:219). Rev J. Stratton a pioneering member of the Humanitarian League who followed hunts on foot to record their 'cruelty' "received abusive letters and once his house was fired at" (Windeatt, 1982:21). The first organised attack on members of the HSA occurred when a carload of saboteurs were surrounded and one saboteurs' jaw broken on 2 May 1964 (Windeatt 1982:27). In an often quoted phrase some hunters do continue to feel that "Horsewhipping a hunt saboteur is rather like beating a wife. They are both private matters"[19]. RH. Thomas notes (1983:260) that in 1978-9 "violence on the property and persons of hunt sabs reached such a pitch that the HSA asked the BFSS for a meeting to discuss ways to diffuse the issue".

This is not necessarily to suggest that particular hunts have an official policy of aggravation towards saboteurs but that rather like the animal rights campaigners, more organised forms of violence do exist, both on and off the field. Saboteurs' vehicles have been ambushed and damaged, car bombs reported and recently 'punishment squads' attacked known hunt saboteurs in their homes in Liverpool and Manchester [20]. In 1990 a hunt supporter was jailed for hoaxing a car bomb under his own car.

There have been ongoing problems with 'hunt heavies', for example in 1977 the Enfield Chase started a 'hunt protection association' to sabotage the saboteurs (RH Thomas 1983:113). The widespread introduction of hunt stewards in Autumn 1992 has intensified this situation (see below). The HSA report that "in the first three months of 1993 alone some 75 saboteurs were victims of violent attacks by hunts, 13 of them requiring hospital attention as a result. 5 incidents of hunters using vehicles as weapons, 10 of damage to sabs vehicles and at least 2 others of damage to saboteurs' property". While "The HSA knows of no saboteurs convicted of violence in the last 12 months"[21].

It would appear that this picture, though difficult to verify in full, is not without foundation. As will be seen below, and in the following chapter the saboteurs version of events is often not reported either to the police or in the press, partly because they lack 'credibility', partly because their presence is interpreted as provocation and perhaps because it really has become 'routine'. Occasionally their evidence is corroborated when the injuries are serious [22], caught on camera [23], or the victim is 'mistaken' such as an official researcher or a BBC News Crew [24].

From the analysis of the situation given thus far it would be easy to reach the conclusion that the combination of hunt saboteurs and huntsmen/women equals trouble. No such simple equation can be made, there is great diversity across the country, some hunts have a reputation for more volatile conduct than others and similarly some sab groups (about half of the active sabs are not HSA members) take a more pro-active approach [25]. Violence and disorder is the consequence of a complex series of relationships between the hunt, saboteurs and (as will become clear in the next section) the police.

Tension may be inevitable but a sabbed hunt can pass without incident, commentators in the past have observed with surprise cordial relations at meets: saboteurs and hunt supporters exchanging pleasantries with knowing smiles. Curiously the process has been viewed as a type of 'game' in itself by some, notably in the 'field' of riders. As one interviewee explained " often it was commented to us that our presence made their day a little more interesting, its a bit sad to think that we might even have been encouraging them". Normally hunt sabotage involves small numbers, some hunts are sabbed infrequently and others regularly which may increase tension or, conversely, increase tolerance of a known quantity.

It could be argued that the conflict which does arise is concentrated on interaction between certain members of the hunting community. As already noted, the riding followers, not being the focus of the saboteurs activities are often unaffected. The Huntsmen and Terrier men [26] on the other hand, whose jobs are directly affected, have been involved in most incidents, as have a 'hard-core' of foot or car followers (who, since using the roads, regularly cross-paths with saboteurs). Following a ridden hunt on foot or by car entails, as it does for the saboteurs, waiting around for any action. Arguments can therefore develop.

Conflict can also fall into a cyclical pattern, as the fox hunting season (between September - March) progresses, tension builds. "Various niggling from events at the start leading up to assaults around Christmas.. more serious things tend to happen at the end of the season", with a "cooling off period during the summer.. The next season always starts out in a far more mellow fashion"[27].

There is an additional element to this dynamic, national 'hits', where a particular Hunt is targeted in response to incidents of cruelty or aggravation during the season. This tactic is a matter of some controversy within the HSA membership, with hundreds of saboteurs from all over the country descending on one meet, there is an obvious tendency for disorder to result [28]. Saboteurs are aware that they may face confrontation and such events may attract those who do go 'prepared'. These 'hits' do not occur under co-ordinated control of the HSA which, as an umbrella body for 150 independent groups, does not operate in that way. Once a call has gone out there is little even the local group can do to stop it happening.

Police and the Law Pre-Aggravated Trespass
There is a routine police presence at hunt meets to supervise traffic, the crossing of roads and any problems which may arise (e.g.. hunts out of control, hounds on railway lines). The addition of saboteurs however complicates this practice, creating a unique and unsuitable environment for public order policing. Maintaining impartiality to allow the hunt to take place and the saboteurs to protest is a difficult role and one which (individual consciences aside) the police do not like. It puts considerable strain on the resources of rural divisions, forming part of their regular duties. Field sports events do not fall within the legislation which covers other sporting occasions where police presence is paid overtime. It is also a role which some forces have found financially burdensome in another respect, in the last two years 80 saboteurs have won more than £80,000 in damages and awarded costs of up to £250,000 for false arrest and wrongful imprisonment.

Police areas differ in the scale and their manner of policing a hunt, some maintaining a more objective and relaxed attitude than others given the wide scope for discretion in public order laws. It is perhaps more accurate however to refer to the 'policing' of saboteurs, who are largely perceived as the trouble makers and warned to demonstrate lawfully and peacefully at the outset [29]. It is probable that this perception is largely the result of secrecy surrounding saboteurs activities, and their persistence (even when hunts stopped publishing details of proposed meets and developed saboteur diversion tactics). Relations with the police worsened in the late 1970's when "it was disclosed that the Police National Computer had details of HSA activists and their cars" (RH Thomas 1983:113). Intelligence gathering on what remained a legal activity was understandably a concern to members of the HSA, some of whom adopted balaclavas in response. On larger 'hits' some forces would film those present which, while providing documentary evidence of incidents may have had an additional intelligence role (at least from the perspective of the saboteurs [30]). In 1986 Scotland Yard set up an Animal Rights Index which between 1990-2 recorded 3,073 crimes ranging from hunt sabotage to attacks on butchers shops [31].

It is unsurprising that rural police officers should have in general a closer relationship to the hunting community with whom contact is ongoing outside of their leisure pursuits [32]. Hunt saboteurs are very rights oriented' and tend to push the law to the limit. This knowledge may threaten the authority of some officers who do not like to be contradicted on statutory details whilst on the job. A saboteur (who was in fact arrested under the 1994 act) recalled informing an officer that he knew the law only to meet the reply "Sonny, I am the law"[33].

What then was the law prior to 3rd November 1994 and how was it applied in practice. Police powers to control the environment, whilst adequate in principle, were restricted. Officers would not enter private land unless required to prevent a Breach of the Peace or in response to a crime (Police Review 18/11/94). They were reluctant to become involved in the eviction of trespassers because such assistance could be interpreted as being outside the execution of their duty.

Trespassers, contrary to common parlance, cannot be 'prosecuted' for breaching the civil law. Hunt sabotage involves trespass, even when conducted from footpaths or other public rights of way [34]. The landowner or hunt stewards acting as agents, may direct the trespasser to leave the land and use 'reasonable force' and allow 'reasonable time' for them to do so. [With respect to footpaths a Police Officer should give this direction, failure to comply resulting in arrest for obstruction]. There has often been some confusion over land ownership and whether saboteurs are there with 'implied' or actual permission (some sympathetic landowners give permission to saboteurs and not the hunt and saboteurs often carry Ordinance Survey maps for the identification of public footpaths). Litigation rarely follows this routine trespass, as a tort which attracts only nominal damages the costs outweigh the advantages. An injunction may be sought but it could not cover all saboteurs or all of the land and therefore would be of little use. Allegations of 'unreasonable force' are frequent, allegations which are difficult to substantiate because the police were not present and witnesses are biased on both sides.

Allegations and counter-allegations of assault or criminal damage faced similar difficulties and police reactions, in the absence of evidence, were based more on a concern to defuse the situation and less on a reflection of what had actually occurred. The police did not generally make use of their powers against the hunt; saboteurs were more likely to be arrested on the spot and removed from the scene, which can affect the way in which a case develops against them. Reliance on arrest data therefore only provides a social construction of events which is biased against the saboteur. In the majority of cases they are not charged with an offence or Breach of the Peace or are acquitted. In an attempt to remedy this situation hunt protests have become among the most documented on record, the saboteurs are filming the hunt, stewards are filming the 'sabs' and the police are filming both sides. A strangely post-modern development, with the added risk of damage to expensive equipment and targeting of the camera operator.

This tendency to arrest the saboteur in case of doubt has made victims of hunt violence reluctant to report minor infractions. Even if the hunter is to be arrested and charged for ABH or common assault it is likely that the hunt saboteur will also be arrested and charged on a minor public order offence. The financial outcome for both sides is usually identical, although it may be a greater consequence to the saboteur than it is to the hunter [35]. Hunt saboteurs are also reluctant to become witnesses in such cases since witnesses have been bound over to keep the peace by the invocation of the obscure 1361 Justices of the Peace Act [36]. This suggests that not only do saboteurs have little confidence in the Police but also that they feel the system itself is inherently biased against people in their position [37].

Common law powers of arrest for actual or apprehended Breach of the Peace have in some instances been misused as a kind of 'informal internment' for saboteurs, who should have been released as soon as the likelihood of a Breach of the Peace is gone, not held all day until the hunt is over. "The weighting of the costs and benefits of various courses of action to prevent threatened breaches of the peace is neither a scientific nor an apolitical matter" (Feldman 1993:793). A 'Breach of the Peace' does not include the disruption of hunts, the spraying of anti-mate or blowing a hunting horn [38]. It requires violence or the threat of violence on behalf of the saboteur; given the analysis earlier in this chapter such violence should not be presumed but in police practice it has been [39]. For example, hunt saboteurs have been arrested in vehicles before reaching the hunt [40].

In 1986 the HSA feared that the controversial Section 5 of the Public Order Act (threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby) would be used to control saboteurs. After early enthusiasm (there was no requirement of actual harassment etc.) the Police were unable to secure convictions and lawsuits followed. A saboteur who was charged with disorderly behaviour for calling a beagle pack official a 'prat' had his case thrown out (Independent 29/2/92).

The judicial system has not always been so accommodating to hunt saboteurs. The HSA are aware that "the proclivities of the judge or magistrate who hears the case will be of great significance" (RH Thomas 1983:112). In Kelly v CC of Hampshire the Court of Appeal held that in the case of a breach of the peace it is for the judge and not the jury to decide "whether at the time of an arrest the officer was or should have been aware that the person he was arresting was in fact the victim of an assault by a huntsman"[41]. As noted above, the innovative application of obscure or old laws against saboteurs has met with some success. Until recently a development of the civil law of 'trespass to goods' (in this case the hounds) had been allowed to secure injunctions against saboteurs blowing the horn [42].

The Escalation of Violence
The primary argument for the introduction of aggravated trespass was that there had been an increase in violent incidents in the field since 1992. The BFSS reported over 600 incidents during the 1992-93 season, a figure repeated by press and politicians. Following the death of Thomas Worby at the Cambridgeshire Hunt in April 1993, it was claimed there had been a pro-active approach by hunt saboteurs, an idea repeated in the press (see Chapter 2). The Guardian explained "a martyr would strengthen the hands of extremists" (6/7/94).

The HSA agrees that this escalation is not imaginary, violence has intensified in recent years, but they claim (supported by LACS monitors [43]) that such incidents were instigated primarily by hunt supporters. A national 'hit' did follow the second saboteur death but the Cambridgeshire Police acknowledge surprise that the expected targeting of the hunt and trouble, did not eventuate [44]. The 1994 season started (and continued) quietly.

The counter-argument explains that after the Quorn Incident in 1991 (a widely publicised incident of hunt cruelty) and the narrow defeat of the MacNamara anti-hunting Private Members bill by 12 votes in 1992, the hunting community realised for the first time the strength of the threat to their way of life. Their response in the autumn of 1992 was to introduce hunt stewards across the country, as Nick Herbert, political adviser for the BFSS explained "from now on we're going to start hunting the saboteurs".

The police welcomed the presence of the stewards, who, acting as agents in the landowners absence had the authority to evict trespassers and therefore, as one officer related "relieved a lot of the responsibility from us"[45]. This 'hands off' attitude provided cause for concern. The HSA has detailed evidence of unlawful actions by private stewards, some of whom were private security firms, others local volunteers trained by outside firms [46]. This information was collated for a report to the Select Committee on Home Affairs review of Private Security. The committee recommended on 7th June 1995 closer regulation of the security industry, ACPO estimates that around 2,600 offences are committed each year by security guards [47].

Hunt Stewards were employed who had previous convictions for offences against the person, night club bouncers and in some areas even military personnel. "There have been many instances of stewards evicting saboteurs from land on which they had no authority to be themselves... even illegally removing saboteurs from land from which the hunt was specifically banned"[48]. Even LACS monitors who do not trespass on private land and are present as observers, easily identifiable wearing tabards, have been victims of assault and moved on from public land by hunt stewards [49].

Security firms have in addition been hired to gather intelligence for hunts on known saboteurs for civil actions. Given the activities of 'punishment squads' hunt saboteurs are understandably worried. Private security is an expensive outlay (contrary to common opinion many hunts are not financially secure) and there have been suggestions of a cynical strategy by the BFSS aimed to intensify conflict and add strength to their campaign. Such claims remain at the level of speculation, not all hunts have stewards and there is diversity among those that do; some being more heavy-handed than others.

This diversity in levels of violence between hunts has been overlooked in discussion of the 1994 act. Differing police and stewards reactions obviously have an effect on the approach of saboteurs, having a "self fulfilling quality mutual antagonism is bound to build up" (RH Thomas 1983:113). In fact considerable progress had been made in some police areas towards avoiding confrontation whilst allowing peaceful protest by creating a 'working relationship' with hunt saboteurs. "After sabs started to actually talk to the police, remove the balaclavas from their heads and say hello, the local cops started to have a much more reasonable attitude"[50].

In the summer of 1993 meetings were held in some of the most troublesome areas with police, Surrey, Essex, Cheshire and the Thames Valley. In Thames Valley presentations from representatives of the HSA and LACS were held and the Operations Department gave policy guidance and awareness training for senior officers and a Hunt Liaison officer. This "resulted in the withdrawal of paid stewards by the hunt and a lessening of activity by those willing to disrupt the hunt"[51]. The local saboteurs "try to let the relevant officer know at which hunts saboteurs will be present and roughly how many of us will be coming, to keep numbers to manageable proportions"[52]. Thus tension was considerably reduced.

Police and the Law Post-Aggravated Trespass
Under section 68 Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994 it is now a criminal offence (punishable with three months imprisonment or a fine) to trespass on land in the open air with the intention of intimidating a person to deter him from engaging in a lawful activity or obstructing or disrupting that lawful activity. Section 69 empowers the police to direct aggravated trespassers or people they 'reasonably believe' to intend to commit the offence, to leave the land. Failure to comply is an offence. Hunt sabotage is clearly covered by these wide provisions, the offence can be committed on private land, footpaths and rights of way (as defined in the Act section 5a) and arguably public 'common' land. [53]. 'Sabbing' from roads is not included but the police have existing powers to prevent such protests.

Smith (1995:22) has argued that "it is not wholly clear what it adds that could not be dealt with quite satisfactorily by the police under their breach of the peace powers". Presumably as defined by Lord Denning MR in the CEGB case as "Whenever a person who is lawfully carrying out his work is unlawfully and physically prevented by another from doing it"[54]. This statement however does not make a Breach of the Peace automatic (as we have seen blowing a hunting horn has been held not to be a breach of the peace), Lord Denning MR argued that because self help is possible by workers to evict protesters any obstruction could give reasonable apprehension to the police of possible violence (Feldman 1993:788). Aggravated trespass clearly goes further, it presumes violence and criminalizes saboteurs on perceived intention alone, it does not require anyone actually to have been 'intimidated, obstructed or disrupted' and it is therefore a victimless offence. Despite its actual provision aggravated trespass implies a violent nature in its offenders. Elsewhere in the criminal law an 'aggravated' offence connotes serious harm (e.g. aggravated burglary). This perpetuates the image of saboteurs dispelled above, the presumption of violence is unjustified and legitimate peaceful protest has been outlawed as a result.

"This raises an important issue of principle - what extent should private and semi-private property rights in land be permitted to trump or override rights to freedom of speech and expression in public" (Smith 1995:24). To effectively protest against hunting, to record incidents of 'cruelty' and register their opposition, hunt saboteurs have to get close to the hunt. It is a question of conscience, "In a society that permits such a controversial activity as hunting it is reasonable also to permit non violent direct action against it" (Liberty Briefing 1994/3). Amnesty International have suggested that if hunt saboteurs are imprisoned for aggravated trespass they will become prisoners of conscience (Sunday Telegraph 11/12/94).

To introduce some perspective to the argument it is important not to overestimate the scale of disruption at hunts across the country. Ben Ponton HSA Press Officer claims that 3,000 regular sabs will be disrupting 50 of Britain's 340 hunt meetings each week. (Independent on Sunday 9/10/94). This is just under 15%; of these a kill will not always be prevented and the days hunting can pass without incident.

Peaceful protest "is designed to inform, persuade and cajole. It may be a nuisance; it may even be intended to be. It is often noisy and inconvenient. But it is a legitimate form of public expression protected by the European convention on Human Rights"[55]. Aggravated trespass arguably falls foul of Article 10 and 11 of the European convention, it is not necessary to prevent disorder and makes the activity a crime. It also possibly contravenes Article 6(2) because it places the burden of proof on the defendant. It is unclear how a line can be drawn between creating a nuisance, interrupting or disrupting a hunt.

After its first two seasons of application it is possible to conclude that the Act has not solved the problem of violence or police difficulties, in fact it has worsened the situation. Hunt saboteurs, undeterred by the 'Criminal Injustice Act' have vowed to continue despite their now unlawful status. They also appear to have changed tactics in protest against their criminalization; 'hitting' bloodsports events by county, on a scale which police forces (many have three or four hunts in their area) cannot effectively contain [56].

"Even those who don't care one way or another will not be happy to know that while their house was being burgled or their car stolen, some three dozen of the local constabularies finest were down the road arresting a handful of animal lovers walking across a field" [57].

Hunt Stewards have been withdrawn in most areas but the police face huge operational difficulties to fulfil their new role, with budget restrictions already in force they simply do not have the manpower to prevent 'sabbing'. Some forces, notably Thames Valley, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire voiced their concerns prior to its introduction.

Almost all of the arrests in the 1994-5 season took place in seven police areas, notably Kettering and Corby in Northamptonshire, Essex, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent which took a pro-active approach at the outset. At GoodEaster 19/11/94 (which accounts for 28 arrests) the Essex Constabulary employed ahelicopter, a mobile 'prison', 10 transit vans, patrol cars and Land Rovers to 'control' 200 protesters. Saboteurs were arrested whilst the hunt was out of sight and for being in a group, part of a 'joint enterprise', which virtually prevents any protesters from being present, on footpaths or otherwise. Many forces remain unclear about the precise implications of the act with predictable results. Out of the 154 saboteurs arrested or reported for summons in the 1994/95 hunt season there have only been eleven convictions (fines imposed) one bindover to keep the peace and over 60 cases dropped before getting to court. Those convicted are on appeal and threaten to challenge the law in the European Court in Strasbourg, those who have had their charges dropped threaten civil action [58].

Relations between saboteurs and police are obviously damaged and 'working relationships' have broken down [59]. Given the differences in approach between forces, even calling in aid from outside forces has caused difficulties. A HSA news release claims Hampshire Police instigated an 'arrest on sight' policy at a Berkshire hunt to the 'amazement' of understaffed local police (7/1/95).

Tension between saboteurs and the hunting community has also been amplified. "The saboteurs may opt for more covert activities, involving more serious criminal offence" (Chief Inspector T. Davies Thames Valley Police) [60]. There is a possibility that criminalization, once convictions are secured, may deter those with full time employment, reinforcing the perceived image of hunt saboteurs. There are also indications that hunt supporters may read the Act as justification for violence against saboteurs.

Overall, as Smith (1995:27) describes the complete new legislative package, Aggravated Trespass is "a mean spirited, intolerant, ungenerous piece of work that may, if equally ungenerously implemented, lay trouble in store for years to come".

Legislative history and the politics of hunting
The public order provisions of the 1994 Act, with their focus on travellers, squatters, ravers and hunt saboteurs, give the authoritative sanction of the criminal law to owners of property and supporters of the hunt in a manner reminiscent of previous centuries.

Disruption of hunting has historically attracted censure from the dominant classes in society. In the 18th and 19th Century, killing a fox, 'vulpicide' was considered a serious 'social crime' and farmers doing so (and thus depriving the Hunt of its game) faced social disapprobation. E.P. Thompson has well documented the political construction of crime in his analysis of the 'Black Act' of 1723 in 'Whigs and Hunters'. The punitive game laws, the criminalization of 'poachers', clash of rights and violence described therein, is not without relevance, by analogy, to the modern conflict between hunting and hunt saboteurs. "The game laws ... united the two great pre-occupations of the landed ruling class in one knot of emotion. Field sports and justice tended to merge in their minds, and often, in the end, to mean the same thing" (Hay 1975:248).

It is extraordinary, given the social upheaval, changing moral sensibilities and democratisation that has taken place, that once again field sports and 'justice' have combined forces. It is less surprising however if it is recognised that the Home Secretary's proposals "have far more to do with party politics than law and order"[61]. The Home Office has acknowledged that no formal research or consultation was undertaken into the aggravated trespass law, it was conceived instead through the lobbying of the BFSS, the Association of Masters of Fox Hounds and the Moorland Association, all pro-field sports bodies [62]. It was carried on the back of the prevailing law and order ideology. Labour, whilst active in opposition during the committee stages, declined to oppose on the 2nd reading of the bill "for fear of being seen to be soft on crime". This left the Peers; "given the targets of this part of the Act and the social make-up of their Lordships house.. the prospect of serious opposition was negligible" (Smith 1995:27). Most of the debates in the Lords centred around the issue of hunting rather than the supposed disorder caused by saboteurs.

After heavily criticising hunt saboteurs at the Conservative Party Conference in 1993 the relevant clauses of the Bill (cl. 52/53) failed to specify hunt sabotage as its object. This raised concerns about its possible extension to other forms of protest but its symbolic absence was overlooked. The clause appears to protect lawful activities impartially; in the current climate it is probable that a clause to prevent the intimidation, destruction or disruption of bloodsports may have had a more difficult passage.

Previous attempts to outlaw hunt sabotage had met with little success. In 1971 F. Bennion tried to persuade the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge the HSA Committee with 'conspiracy to disrupt a lawful event'. Conspiracy charges have in the past succeeded where the offence was civil [63] but after early backing from the BFSS this failed (RH Thomas 1983:111). In 1986 David Mellor, then Minister of State at the Home Office explained on BBC radio that the government had no intention of introducing a criminal trespass law (Liberty Briefing 94/3). Whey then did the field sports lobby succeed in 1993? The 'escalation of violence' theme noted above is the main reason, the hunting community were in crisis. The Government, also faced with an increasingly disillusioned middle class electorate could be assured of the traditionally conservative hunting support if they included Aggravated Trespass in their legislation, if not, the newly formed pro-hunting group in the traditionally anti- Labour party could gain votes.

Though not exactly a 'moral panic' (many urban dwellers were indifferent and there was a significant increase in trouble at hunts) there is clearly "a radical discrepancy between the nature of the threat and the scale of the containment" (Hall et al 1978:146). It appears that law and order ideology helped reinforce the ruling hegemony and the resulting tendency towards 'authoritarian statism' was felt by the hunt saboteurs. As one interviewee suggested it could be said that there has been a change in approach towards all forms of protest from 'contain, control and disperse' to 'smash'.

It is striking that 1994 also saw the introduction of legislation against anti-bloodsports campaigners in the USA and Germany, although this is against different constitutional and political backgrounds. In the US Crime Bill, the 'Recreational Hunting Safety and Preservation Act' sec 320802, "any physical conduct that significantly hinders a lawful hunt" on federal land attracts a civil penalty [64]. The legislators claim not to infringe the first amendment right of free speech and the offender must both intend to disrupt and actually have a negative affect on the hunt, it is narrower than aggravated trespass in this respect. The US has popular support for hunting although the animal rights movement is growing with UK support. In Germany the legislation also directly mentioned hunting, it is primarily concerned with disruption of shooting since hunting with dogs has been illegal since the 1930's [65].

A more general objection to the 1994 Act supported by LACS, a landowner itself, is that is creates two classes of landowner; those who object to hunting still only have recourse to the civil law in case of hunt trespass and 'rioting' by hounds. They consider these to be violent acts and yet for structural reasons their concerns were not addressed. (The proposed amendment was rejected in the House of Commons Standing Committee - HC Debates 8/2/94).

It is important to remember therefore that in this conflict the nature of violence and criminality is a matter of perspective. "What was a hunt after all, but a gang of men in red coats who rode about the country booted and spurred cracking whips, committing trespass and forming a riotous assembly" (Ridley 1990:60).

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Media-ting the Conflict

  • The media are not interested in portraying sabs as seriouscampaigners... writers in Horse and Hound present anti-bloodsports campaigners either as 'misguided and sentimental' or as fuelled by class hatred. (Windeatt 1982:29).

It is not surprising that a specialist magazine, such as Horse and Hound, which clearly advocates the continuation of field sports should consistently present anti-bloodsports campaigners in an unfavourable light. Horse and Hound, The Field, Country Life and similar publications appeal to a readership which is wider than just the hunting community however, they cover other country pursuits and issues and, being well established, have status as authoritative sources of information about 'country matters'. They also have a certain 'social cachet' and in the latter case especially depict an affluent rural idyll. To those for whom these magazines provide their only contact with rural life this ideology may be persuasive, it is certainly attractive. However, their obviously partisan viewpoint on the hunting issue should allow those with different sentiments the freedom to decode and read the text 'oppositionally'[66].

It is of more interest in the present context to question how anti-bloodsports campaigners (and more specifically hunt saboteurs) are portrayed in the general news media. News coverage has considerable impact, not only because of its wide circulation but more importantly because of a belief in the 'impartial' and authoritative quality of what constitutes 'news'.

As Cohen and Young (1981:340) write: "In modern urban societies there is an extreme social segregation between different groups. The media are the major and at times the sole source of information about a wide range of phenomenon" [my italics]. This is particularly true with respect to public awareness of activities in the hunting field. Any misrepresentation or distortion of the issues as a result of this mediating process would therefore prove cause for concern, it could influence the way in which the conflict is viewed and predicate the eventual outcome.

It is important to emphasise at the outset the centrality of media publicity to opponents of bloodsports. From the 1890's, when Rev J. Stratton (a member of the Humanitarian League) followed the Royal Buckhounds, to hunt saboteurs and LACS monitors with camcorders in the present day, it has always been a primary concern of the anti-hunt to document and publicise incidents of 'cruelty' [67] . The hunt is otherwise afforded the protection of private space, veiling events from the public eye. As one ex-saboteur informed me "if this happened on the High Street it would have been banned years ago".

In response to this adverse publicity the BFSS launched their 'Campaign for Hunting' in 1991 which lobbied successfully for the introduction of aggravated trespass and reports that "encouraging numbers of commentators in the press and on television and radio are adopting a supportive line, and we are seeing signs of a shift in public opinion" [68]. Both sides of the debate therefore operate within a modern promotional culture, in an increasingly censorious society where image management is crucial to their legitimation and survival.

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Opinion and the Media

RH Thomas (1983:187) has traced the way that changes in Britain's social, economic and political structures over the last century has affected media coverage of hunting for sport. In the 19th Century the press largely reflected the propertied interest and the Times, like all 'quality' newspapers had regular hunting and coursing columns. With the advent of universal suffrage 'public opinion' became more influential but hunting was not automatically of concern to the urban majority. There is a dialectical relationship between press content and the formation of public opinion and it was only with the growth of the radical press in the 20th Century, which provided a platform for the anti-hunting movement, that a wider consciousness of issues of cruelty developed.

The Times continued extensive coverage of all field sports and their attendant social calendar until the mid 20th Century and in the 1930's the BBC censored programmes with anti-hunting sympathies [69]. It was only after the Second World War, with the breaking up of the large estates and the introduction of an anti-hunting Private Members Bill [70], that the 'quality' press reports changed their focus to the political issue. Thomas writes (1983:188) "by the 1950's the majority of the reports in The Times concerned 'news' items such as parliamentary debates, pressure group activity or violence on the hunting field. Photographs of hunting members of the Royal Family appeared from time to time but hunting as an activity had little news value unless it was in trouble". He notes that in the second half of 1970 only one report in The Times out of five did not imply a criticism of hunting. The 'News Chronicle' and the 'Guardian' are identified as early opponents of hunting, joined in the 1960's by the Daily Mirror and the popular Sunday papers. "These papers published stories in which the themes of cruelty, snobbery and class-antagonism could be exploited in order to discredit the supporters of hunting and coursing" (1983:188).

Current media attention has altered little in character since Thomas made the above observation. The majority of the broadsheets remain in favour of hunting (in protection of a rural minority) with the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent feeling strongly enough to editorialise on the issue during the recent McFall debate. The Guardian and the Daily Mirror, as expected, voiced their support for the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, whilst the remaining tabloids gave it minimum coverage, with a slight bias of articles in favour but no official comment.

What Thomas' study overlooks however is the treatment of anti-bloodsports campaigners in the media and the themes used to discredit their point of view. Public opinion may have grown in its general sympathies towards the aims of the movement but the line taken by the press has remained largely consistent in the last thirty years, the issue of cruelty is somehow blurred and identification with the campaigners made more difficult. This cannot be explained away as a simple product of editorial conspiracy, it is not only publications which are concerned to protect the freedoms of a 'besieged minority' which marginalize those actively protesting against the hunt. The irony is that even in the 'anti' press the hunting community have been portrayed as victims of the conflict more often than the fox.

Press censure of the 'saboteur'
When the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, pledged to introduce legislation against the "thugs, wreckers and bullies" who disrupt hunting [71] the media's response (with the notable exception of The Guardian [72]) was not to challenge this definition or indeed the criminalisation of non-violent protest by hunt saboteurs. The press focused instead on the possible extension of this law and its implications for ramblers access to the countryside. This reaction is unsurprising, the hunt saboteur was already clearly visualised as deviant. The interesting question is how, given the changing climate, this image was produced and sustained; whose definition of deviance was employed?

The HSA blame a 'smear' campaign co-ordinated by the BFSS (HSA 1994c:1). While the BFSS, as noted above, have over the last few years cultivated press opinion and were instrumental in the new law, they are far from having definitional authority. It will become clear that the true picture is rather more complex. The hunt saboteurs have been disadvantaged by the professional and commercial imperatives of the journalistic process, by their own name, terminology and appearance and ultimately by their lack of 'cultural capital' to offer alternative interpretations of events in a media which is structured towards the reproduction of the dominant ideology. It is well established in media sociology that the 'essence of news' is its emphasis on social deviance and control (Ericson 1987). Routine hunt sabotage is therefore not newsworthy unless it occurs on an abnormally large scale (such as a national 'hit') and people or property are harmed in the course of the activity. Hunt saboteurs are therefore unavoidably linked in press discourse with an intimidating presence and violence on the hunting field.

This is not a new development, "as early as 1964 a group of four Culmstock Otter Hunt supporters and seven HSA members were bound over to keep the peace because of a well publicised scuffle in which a saboteur's jaw was broken. As a result of this court case the HSA became newsworthy and relatively trivial incidents became major stories" (RH Thomas 1983:110).

The HSA used to welcome this publicity "It has felt that demonstrations and even violence, whether inflicted on members of by them, generates publicity which will, on balance, harm the hunting community more than it hurts them" (RH Thomas 1983:261). This belief now appears to have been mistaken if, as is submitted, negative press coverage has in fact diverted critical attention away from the hunting community and onto the saboteurs.

A summary survey of national press coverage from the last four years uncovers considerably more incidents of reported violence by 'hunt saboteurs' than by hunt supporters; a picture which does not reflect the analysis of the conflict in Chapter 1. This is partly a result of the acknowledged police tendency to arrest the saboteur when a situation of conflict arises, it is also a consequence of the reporting of charges which, when dropped, do not fit the criteria of newsworthiness. It may be argued that journalists give primacy to the official police definition of events; reporters are rarely 'in the field' and require 'authoritative' sources on which to react (Ericson 1989). When that source is also reliant on a construction of the incident and responds according to expedience, the press coverage can easily distort and simplify actuality.

This cannot however fully explain the skewed picture which emerges. It is notable that only three out of the nine examples of "Hunting Criminals" given as examples by the HSA [73] were reported by the national press surveyed for the same period [74]. "Quantity of course is not definitive of meaning or significance but it is one indicator or symptom" (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:1973).

When hunt supporters do make the news for their infractions the incident is often presented in a less censorious manner. Firstly their actions are individualised and therefore distanced from the hunting community whereas 'saboteurs' tend to be grouped together. The coverage can also be more personalised, stressing the impact of the outcome on home and family. Finally, and most strikingly, there is a concern to place the violence in an aetiological context, huntsmen are 'intimidated' and 'provoked' their reaction is therefore at least understandable. This tendency is clearly illustrated by an article on "Hunt Thugs" in the Daily Mail which failed to mention one subjects previous conviction for violence against a saboteur, included sympathetic statements by both the Hunt and the defence counsel, referred to the impending marriage of the offender and allowed their explanation that "they acted out of pure frustration"[75].

In sharp contrast press coverage rarely places saboteurs actions, non-violent or otherwise, within a rational context and usually the issues behind the protest are not addressed. The perception of hunt saboteurs in the general media appears to be remarkably similar to Windeatt's observation highlighted at the beginning of this chapter, they are not portrayed as serious campaigners. They are portrayed however through a peculiar mixture of recurring themes, as either violent terrorists, angry hooligans 'fuelled by class hatred' or as 'misguided' sentimentalists, all of whom were probably paid to be there. The cumulative effect of these themes is to discredit the hunt saboteurs cause and to signify their form of protest as militant.

How does this pattern emerge? Summer and Sandberg in their study into the press censure of 'dissident minorities' have identified an emphasis on violence, anger without reason and the staging of events as characteristic censures. This "paradigm of militancy" is applied selectively to extra-parliamentary protests which run counter to the governing ideology (1990:163). Hunt sabotage, with its disregard for property rights (trespass, game), of 'tradition' and of the democratic process, clearly falls within this paradigm. This is not to suggest however that the saboteurs' image results from a conscious application of this framework by 'interested' journalists or simply through 'primary definition' by institutional sources (see Hall et al. 1978). It is merely to observe that "the content and form adopted by news values in specific instances are determined by the ideological understanding of the newsworthy event "(Sumner and Sandberg 1990:178).

The over association of hunt saboteurs with violent protest has already been addressed above, but saboteurs are also found 'guilty' by association with the more extreme members of the animal liberation movements . This is partly due to the press translation or 'normalisation' of unusual events by reference to established "vocabularies of motive" (Hall 1974). Hunt sabotage is within common understanding and the 'new' phenomena can be 'explained' as an extension of this. It is also partly a case of semantics; attacks on horses [76], hunt kennels [77], letter bombs [78] and so on, are frequently blamed on a mythical 'saboteur', much to the consternation of the HSA and providing armour for the BFSS campaign [79]. "The term saboteur (is) often used as a catch-all description to describe any anti-hunt activity, no matter what its nature and no matter whether saboteurs were involved or not" (HSA 1994a:5). The connotations of the language of hunt sabotage are unfortunate in this respect, ironically the HSA have chosen a censure for a name, a censure with a specific historical and ideological origin [80] and a word which retains its violent overtones aside from its descriptive context [81]. National 'hits' are also open to misrepresentation.

The 'terrorist' image is therefore frequently reproduced in the context of 'ordinary' sabbing. Even the usually sympathetic Guardian has included articles to this effect [82]. Other discernible themes and metaphors such as 'guerrilla warfare' and animal imagery have particular significance with reference to hunting whilst reinforcing the 'violent' censure. The news media have simply transposed the 'inferential structure' from hunting coverage into the conflict. The hunting field has historically been related to military training and tactics, guerrilla warfare is therefore representative of not 'fighting fair'. The 'animal' slur is more obviously pertinent, it turns the cruelty argument upon itself and therefore legitimates the pro-field sports lobby.

News media professionals trade in these key images and phrases and artificially reduce reality into a picture which, once established, in the absence of counter-definition, will recur [83] . Almost without the selective choice of news photographs the external image of the hunt saboteur fits the deviant stereotype outlined above. Scruffy youths, some with long hair, others in army surplus or ethnic clothing, with balaclavas, whips and spray cans, tend to look incongruous alongside the Christmas Card hunt and can easily be misconstrued. Saboteurs cover long distances on foot , over the open countryside, their choice of attire therefore, given changing youth fashions is understandable. The tools are those of non-violent hunt sabotage (whips, to imitate the huntsman and citronella or anti-mate scent to divert the hounds). Finally, the balaclava provides anonymity, not from intended criminal acts but in most cases from police intelligence gatherers, where records are known to exist irrespective of previous contact with the police (this also accounts in part for 'sabs' reluctance to be identified in media interviews).

The censure of youth and prejudice based on appearance is familiar and widespread both in the press and in society at large, though it can undoubtedly be amplified by media attention [84]. An image can be reinforced even when it clearly does not apply. In a recent case for example, the tabloid press focused on a 'glamour girl' saboteur (of 23!) who "didn't look the type" and "hid a violent streak"[85]. This is censure by implication.

Sumner and Sandberg refer to the 'angry' face of militancy which signifies irrationality. Sabotage is often portrayed as a phase of 'youthful rebellion' or, alternatively, an expression of 'class hatred'. These themes are fed by the focus on appearances identified above and references to unemployment or 'time wasting'. The class issue also has important consequences, it intentionally clouds the debate and when employed as a censure has a hegemonic function [86]. As will be seen in the third section the actual demography of the HSA is rather more diverse than this media construction suggests.

"From our study, feminism, childishness, foreigners, emotions, animals and pests seem to be major symbols of unreason" (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:180). Feminism is also linked in news discourse with hunt saboteurs (and vice versa [87]). Traditionally women are regulated as passive subjects, their involvement in direct action therefore is perceived to be uncharacteristic and they tend to be described either as 'feminists' or as 'girls'. While this censure is familiar in political demonstrations [88] it also has a specific history in relation to hunt sabotage and the anti-hunt. Consciousness of animal cruelty and the womens liberation movement have a shared heritage in the Humanitarian League and the Fabian Society . In more recent history a womens national hit on the Hursley Hambledon Hunt followed allegations of a sexual assault on a female saboteur and there is concern that women in particular are the targets of violence in the field [89].

Anger is not the only indication of 'unreason', ironically saboteurs are also presented as sentimentalists who wouldn't harm anyone. They are 'loony liberals' with 'a love affair for all things green or furry', suffering from 'cuddly bunny syndrome'[90]. This is the tone sometimes taken by seasonal feature articles, which are subject to fewer practical constraints than news items but often closely adhere to editorial opinion. The over sensitivity of 'girls', youth, and animal activists is emphasised as a source of their misguided, one-issue fanaticism.

Finally, and fulfilling the 'paradigm of militancy' hunt saboteurs are thought to be 'misguided' in another, conspiratorial sense. Obviously 'sabbing' is an organised activity at the local level but the media, with their focus on large gatherings and inattention to the diversity of groups (and hunts) create the impression of a centrally co-ordinated movement aimed at creating conflict, not preventing 'kills'. This 'staging' of events does little to discredit the belief that many are paid to take part. References to unemployment, urban origin, rent-a-mobs and the 'protesting classes' [91] are common. The Poll Tax Riots it has been argued [92] and other forms of violent dissent all become symptoms of the same cause. This conspiracy theory neatly 'divides the unthinkable' into a 'ring of troublemakers' and their sentimental dupes (Sumner 1973). It avoids confronting changing consciousness.

Occasionally a news story occurs which exhibits all of the above themes and is directly damaging to the subject. It is almost as if the press feel that their preconceived picture has been justified and are emphatic in their denouncement of the 'militants', irrespective of the actual dynamics of the incident concerned. News coverage following the tragic death of a fifteen year-old saboteur who was crushed under the wheels of a horse box at the Cambridgeshire Hunt in 1993, is a case in point. It has all of the elements: an 'innocent' child, a 'wicked' woman and a 'battleground' with 'ringleaders'. As one ex-saboteur related "within 48 hours we were Nazis"[93].

The Thomas Worby story, ( or more accurately the Margaret Flynn story, for press attention focused on her rather than the accident victim) is interesting to discuss in further detail. It provides a more obvious example of the way in which events can be distorted by the journalistic process. The accident happened on a Saturday and was reported briefly by some Sunday newspapers, quoting a statement from the hunt ("saboteurs were desperate, it is not surprising another accident has happened") and from a saboteur present [94]. By Monday journalists had traced the parents/grandfather, who were obviously devastated, and suggested that the woman who had transported the saboteurs (not a local group) had 'recruited' youngsters from school. This was denied (although the HSA has a junior 'Fox Cubs' membership it does not 'recruit' in this sense [95]) the idea however that children were being led astray predominated, "this idealism is being harnessed by Hunt Saboteurs, vegetarian proselytises and pseudo-religious cults" [96].

On Tuesday April 6th the real damage was inflicted when 'Today' newspaper led with "Nazi past of hunt death saboteur". Animal activists were not just 'fanatical' they were violent, willing to 'sacrifice' youngsters for a cause. "Putting swastika's on the front page obviously had us in tears, with a bit of retrospective a lot of people reading if for a second time would agree, but how many people read tabloid papers twice? The image sticks" [97].

Suggestions of far right political extremism are not new and in the individual case not without foundation [98].The hunting of wild animals with dogs was banned in Germany in 1936, the animal rights movement in this county however has a very different history and political complexion [99]. During and after the Second World War when hunting attracted renewed criticism anti-hunt sympathisers were viewed as un-English, the enemy within [100] . Resurrecting this censure of the saboteurs therefore, alongside the suggestion that hunt saboteurs would use the occasion for propaganda purposes, is highly condemnatory [101].

Isolated reports in the Northern Echo (6/4/93) and the Guardian (10/4/93) [102] presented a more balanced account and re-focused the issue: "the incident itself is clearly at the centre of all judgement ... is it not very odd that in such circumstances we should be hearing so much about Mrs Flynn's old politics and talk about saboteurs seducing and manipulating youngsters?"[103]. The image however is less easily dispelled and the incident was recalled in media coverage of the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill.

By way of contrast, recent demonstrations against live animal exportation at Shoreham, Brightlingsea and Coventry have had a completely different reception in the press. While still concerned with cruelty to animals they reflect the 'paradigm of moderation', peaceful protest and spontaneous rallying for a good cause (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:181). To an almost unprecedented extent in recent history the 'law and order' orientation of news has given column inches to criticism of the police. With headlines such as 'Like a Lamb to Slaughter: Brutal Police 'out of control' at port protest' (Today 19/1/95): and also the Times 'A tyrannical penalty against a small town' (20/1/95). Jill Phipps, the protester who died at Coventry airport was a 'heroine', a 'nice ordinary girl', a 'mother'[104]. Why should this be the case when the issue is the same and its economic value in the latter case much higher?[105].

The 'primary definers' appear to have lost their definitional advantage, indicating some plurality in media discourse and their 'relative autonomy'[106].The police are understandably concerned with what they perceive to be press sensationalism and recommend that "Forces must take steps to ensure that press coverage of public order incidents is not dictated by anti-police groups", "giving certain fringe groups publicity which is disproportionate to their true level of support" (Police Review 6/1/93:27). Pre-event briefings, camera points and information packs are suggested to redress the 'balance' and reinforce the image of policing by consent. This is a re-negotiation of definitional control and shows the potential for construction of news coverage.

But why should the press look beyond the official construction in this instance and not with respect to hunt-saboteurs? The received opinion is that: "The difference is of course, in those who are demonstrating. Nightly television pictures prove a large proportion of the protesters are white, middle class, middle aged and female. They are in short from the section of society who could normally be expected to offer total support to the police" (Police Review 27/1/93:19). This selectivity in itself shows the ideological, moral and political judgement underlying the censure of extra-parliamentary protest [107], it is not however a satisfactory conclusion. As will be seen hunt saboteurs share many of the above characteristics but as this section has argued, based on mediatized information, this picture in unclear. Their protest is not centred on a convoy of lorries through small towns it, is away from the public-eye in different locations all around the country. There are signs that news coverage of animal exports is changing back to more familiar territory with 'hard-core' agitators coming into the frame (Sunday Times 5/2/95) including a post-humously relabelled Jill Phipps. Perhaps the story was getting old and its implications unpalatable?

The HSA are well aware of their image problem, they lack the respectability and credibility which allows the LACS and RSPCA for example to participate more fully in the Media debate.

"They created a very bad image. And if you want to achieve anything worthwhile it's a mistake to let yourself get a disgusting image - look what's happened to the Greenham women. They have a perfectly sane and moral position, but they have not cared enough about their image. If you want to beat the tweeds and green wellingtons brigade you have to have more tweeds and green wellingtons than they do" (J. Bryant LACS in Blackwood 1987:38).

The hunt saboteurs however would argue that they are achieving something worthwhile each time they prevent a kill, the aim of their direct action was never to join in the democratic process it was in lieu of a slow legislative response. They did not consciously set out to take a media platform the media came to and marginalized them. In response to the Worby publicity one saboteur explained "You shouldn't stop what you are doing simply because of what the papers say. The problem remains of having eloquent spokesmen in every group" [108].

Because of structured access to the press, the saboteurs are limited in their ability to counter this definition. The scenario described below by a saboteur present at GoodEaster on 19th November 1994 when 28 arrests were made under the new Criminal Justice Act, is not uncommon.

"A freelance journalist was in the Observer Offices the day we were at Essex, he took some pictures (of heavy policing) and rushed down the offices as soon as possible, then he said that they were going to put a really good article in, based on what he'd seen when they got a press release from the police saying a policeman was unconscious, suddenly the article changed"[109].

Saboteurs have "made more effort to put their case"[110], they have a permanent press officer and prepare regular news releases which sometimes are picked up by national papers and has raised their public profile. However, "It is one thing to become a part of the debate in the media and another thing to be taken any notice of" (Sumner 1994:7). Access is known to be easier for pressure groups on a local level (Schlesinger 1994). The Cambridge Evening News for example, did not cover the Nazi angle of the Worby story, reporting instead "Hundreds rally to mourn hunt protester" and commenting on "friendly faces" at the demonstration (C.E.N. 12/4/93). While encouraging, the 'spectre' of violence by 'other' groups portrayed by the national media remains influential.

There are signs that 'alternative' press circulation may be growing as the internet provides access to a range of alternative news sources (including the HSA) and takes publishing into a new dimension, although it is likely that commercial imperatives will structure and preclude access and judgements of credibility remain. Other attempts to open up the tendency to 'ideological closure' in the general media are beginning to gain recognition. 'Small World Productions' who circulate "Undercurrents" videos to libraries, schools, and colleges and target 'those interested but inactive' have received a grant from the European Commission project on environmental issues [111]. They provide camcorder footage and an alternative perspective on non-violent direct action, including hunt sabotage. Small World also offers campaigners training in giving interviews and dealing with the media, their aim is empowerment. "These are people who are suffering injustices but who are unrepresented. They are active, trying to bring about change, but the media is not helping them out" (Information Booklet - Undercurrents 2).

In conclusion the counter-censure of hunting by LACS, RSPCA etc. in the media is easier partly because it is "different at the legislative where journalists control of the environment is substantial at all levels" (Ericson 1989:392). The image of all anti-bloodsports campaigners is however coloured by the treatment of a few.

The media is the primary source of information about the social censure of hunt saboteurs:

  • Through appeals to the 'rule of law' and the 'need for order' the censure promotes ideological and technical rearmament at the top and the criminalization of dissent from below. (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:188).

A final word of caution from Murdock (1981:222) is worthy of reproducing in full:

  • The question remains ... how long radical groups can continue to act both within and against the spectacle without internalising and acting out their ascribed role as 'deviants' and outsiders and hence reinforcing the very processes they are seeking to challenge.

With the apparent criminalization of hunt sabotage the 'spectacle' may well be self-fulfilling.

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Explaining the Conflict

  • Although hunting is not a major 'political' or 'economic' issue, nevertheless social norms and the values of pro- and anti-hunting activists are important, for if society deems one group or another to be 'extremist' then its views on hunting will be neither credible nor acceptable. (RH Thomas 1983:x).

The censure of hunt saboteurs as violent and their method of protest as 'extreme' has been addressed in the previous two chapters. It is clear that the process of censure is more complex than the above quotation implies; 'society' did not simply 'deem' hunt saboteurs to be extremists, this view has been shaped by the shared norms and values of the pro-hunting community and the key apparatuses of social regulation.

Social censures are negative ideological formations tied to the processes of regulation within social practice (Sumner 1994:303). The present chapter aims to show how historically hunting for sport provided a mechanism for creating ideological hegemony in rural areas. The controversy over 'bloodsports' can therefore be interpreted as the result of changes in the social relations of production which weakened this form of control and predicated the development of a new sensibility; the censure of violence and cruelty to animals. Not surprisingly this process was both gradual and complex, it helps explain why such a "peculiar privilege" has lasted so long (Itzkowitz 1977).

The censure of cruelty has been structured and restrained by the changing balance of power in society. It has been interpreted as an attack on the elite rural establishment and the primacy of social classes. In fact this represents a distinct source of the censure of hunting, predating the censure of cruelty, which is often merged with and employed to counter and discredit the anti's argument. The two censures do overlap, as will be seen, a concern for animals is linked to the growing consciousness for the rights of social subordinates but they are independent, the abolition of animal cruelty forming an end in itself.

The historical constitution of the social norms and values of pro- and anti- bloodsports activists is interesting (contrary to Thomas) precisely because hunting is no longer a major political or economic issue. The conflict is purely ideological and strikingly it is between sections of the middle class.

Why have blood sports (or field sports as the hunting community prefer) become such a site of contestation? Why is there a significant majority (some polls show over 80%) in favour of a ban on hunting and why do hunt saboteurs feel non-violent direct action is necessary?

Hunting as a form of social regulation:
William the Conqueror introduced hunting for sport to England from France. "Perhaps the foremost of the incentives that led the Normal barons to support William's invasion... was the promise of new hunting grounds" (Monbiot, G: Guardian 3/3/95). With the creation of the 'forests', royal hunting estates which under the rule of Henry II covered a third of England, the peasants were dispossessed and feudalism instituted. The Game Laws claimed exclusive hunting rights for the aristocracy, they represented a symbolic act of superiority rather than a concern for material gain (K Thomas 1983:183). Although ,as noted in the first section of this paper, in their repressive nature lay the seeds of class censure.

Hunting played a similar role in 'civilising' the colonies. It was exported with the Army (for whom it served as a form of military training) and accounts for the presence of this unusual social practice in remote parts of the world today [112]. The British settlers acquired status through designating their hunting lands "on which the inhabitants were characterised as either poacher or squatters and vigorously punished for taking game" (Monbiot).

Hunting therefore appeared to provide a means of differentiating between hunting 'gentlemen' and the lower classes, it signified inclusion in aristocratic 'society'. The language used still retains echoes of Norman French [113] and the strict rules and etiquette are marks of distinction. With hunting came claims to elevated status which appeased the squirearchy and later, merchants who entered the 'exclusive' field. "It link[ed] all classes together form the Peer to the peasant" (Ridley 1990) and performed an important function in reinforcing the hegemony of the ruling class. The lower classes of course were not included as members of the field, they had a different role, as terrier men for the kill or simply as spectators to the ritual. Fox-hunting also had an additional symbolic message, the Fox, a 'villain', met his just deserts [114]. The 'majesty' of this spectacle endures to the present day and is enhanced by the continued following of royalty.

"Foxhunts are not isolated social occasions they are part of a larger cultural scenario" (Windeatt 1982:53) whose importance should not be underestimated. Howe, an anthropologist attributes the lack of revolution in 19th Century England in part, to the sport which helped to "organise, maintain and give substance to that consensus" (1981:296). Consensus however is rarely complete and hunting inevitably was a source of class friction "from peasants who deliberately misdirected the hunt to Second World War airmen (irritated that others were hunting while they were risking their lives)" (Windeatt 19082:27). When the industrial revolution marked a change in social relations, hunting and the landed interest attracted radical criticism as "an anachronistic feudal sport out of place in an age of commerce" (Cobden). Whig Industrialists caricatured participants as uneducated 'bumpkins' "Country gentlemen equals Tory equals fox-hunting equals stupid" (Ridley 1990:4). And yet, with the advent of the Railways providing access to this leisure pursuit the urban middle classes were swayed. 'Hunt clubs' swelled in membership and even Engles hunted. Cobden blamed "the failure of his dreamed of bourgeois revolution on the snobbishness and toadyism of the middle classes" (Ridley 1990:66).

Changing land ownership has similarly had little impact, although property holders have had the right to withhold permission from the hunt since 1809 [115], few have done so [116], farmers remain the primary supporters of hunting. This prerogative over private land is remarkable for any sporting activity (Howe 1981:208).

Hunting has had to adapt in more recent times for its survival, it now claims to be fully 'democratic' (allowing for the restrictions of finances), the majority of the field are women [117]and from the professional classes. In 1962 a Welsh Miners pack was formed which Ridley (a supporter of hunting) describes as a "unique kind of industrial feudalism" (1990:171). Class consciousness however remains, albeit in a residual form, hunting still fulfils the aspirations of the middle classes who measure their social position against an old standard. The MFH's themselves come from a narrow socio-economic group, predominately upper - middle class, middle aged, conservative, public school educated with farming, business or military backgrounds [118]. RH Thomas refers to them as "a caricature of the political and administrative establishment" (1983:169).

RH Thomas recognises elsewhere the "greater social acceptability" of the members of the pro-hunting community and the "close correspondence" between their attitudes and the decision makers but he fails to draw the obvious conclusion (1983:17). The hunting community continues to exert a measure of control and their ideology provides consent to the social hierarchy. "The hunting of foxes is an integral part of the culture of the ruling elite: a symbol of part, more settled times (however unsettled these may have been for ordinary people)" (Windeatt 1982:21).

Changing moral sensibilities and the selective criminalization of cruelty The moral censure of cruelty to animals has a long history from classical theorists concerned with the brutalising effects on the human character and the puritanical censure of violence and pleasure in the 15th Century [119]. The late 18th century however saw a religious and humanitarian revival of these concerns among the educated middle class. "Modernisation had stood midwife to a new sensibility", mechanisation and mass urbanisation gradually removed animals from the production process and placed man and nature on a new footing (Turner 1980:38). It has been suggested that the Enlightenment, the Romantic movement in Poetry, Methodism and Evangelicalism all had an effect on the growing consciousness of animal rights. Bentham in his 'Principles of Penal law' felt cruel sports "suppose either the absence of reflection or a fund of inhumanity ... Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?". This 'harm' principle was no longer 'man' centred, although cruelty was still felt to degrade those involved, the suffering of the animal also was at issue [120].

Early anti-cruelty legislation was however motivated more by economic values and a concern for the maintenance of public order than by philosophical considerations. The first Act passed in 1822 was to protect cattle. The leisure activities of the working class were criminalized to prevent the "demoralisation of the people"[121], instil discipline and promote industrious habits [122]. This legislation did not threaten hunting, for which the Victorian era represented a 'Golden age". In 1924 the SPCA was founded by Wilberforce an Evangelical and keen huntsman; the first society of its kind, it was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1840. The RSPCA's early prosecutions targeted the "less influential members of society" causing JS Mill to decline its Vice Presidency in 1868. "The SPCA can thus be seen as yet another middle class campaign to civilise the lower orders" (K Thomas 1983:186).

In 1869 Oxford historian Professor EA Freeman published an article criticising the cruelty of fox hunting and arguing, on the 'harm principle' that the difference between violence to humans and animals was only one of degree [123]. In the 1890's the Humanitarian League and the Fabian Society led by middle class intellectuals and socialists included a ban on fox-hunting in their programme of radical reform [124]. All 'sentient' beings they argued, should be protected. Blackwood notes that "conventional society at the time considered their stance against fox hunting to be the most heinous of all their delinquent positions" (1987:31).

The hunting establishment perceived this as a challenge to their status, despite the middle class character of opposition. The divide between public and private land, between urban and rural values "should be preserved against sanscullotes preaching the rights of man" (K Thomas 1983:184). As Kellet observes "perhaps what is most significant was the fact that for many people this double standard did not need explaining" (1994:66)[125].

The Humanitarian League attracted censure as effeminate, physically feeble city dwellers, vegetarians and feminist 'cranks' (Ridley 1990:77). In an attempt to counter this image GB Shaw wrote in the preface to the League's "Killing for Sport" (1915), "I know several humanitarians and they are all ferocious". In retrospect it could be said that this new image set a dangerous precedent, forming the roots of the censure of hunt saboteurs.

The Humanitarian League made some progress, the Royal Buckhounds disbanded in 1901 and in conjunction with the RSPCA, the 1911 Protection of Animals Act (which covers cruelty to domestic and captive animals) was secured. The hunting issue however made little ground. Kellet has argued in the context of Pigeon shooting that the "power of princely patronage" enabled the criminalisation of a privileged pastime to be delayed [126]. This could apply, by extension, to fox hunting. The 1911 Act remains the basis of prosecutions for animal cruelty; the pacifism of the Humanitarian League with the onset of the First World War however turned 'respectable' opinion against them and legislation has ceased [127]. It has been cynically suggested that the laws against cruelty were introduced "to give legitimacy to an emerging British ruling class by incorporating 'benevolence' into its ideology, while at the same time carefully limiting the scope of that benevolence so that it could not threaten class hegemony" (See K Thomas 1983:187).

"In practice it was almost impossible to reflect on animals without being distracted by the conflicting perceptions imposed by social class". (K Thomas 1983:184). In 1925 Lord Willoughby De Broke MFH claimed:

  • Anyone who is temperamentally opposed to the sport... is hardly worth considering, his whole outlook would probably be anti-social and un-English. (quoted in Carr 1986:193).

The Social Censure of Hunting
At the turn of the century hunting for sport was not popularly censured. Field sports maintained their hegemony until after the Second World War when hunting truly became a political issue. The first independent poll in 1958 showed a slight majority opposed to fox hunting, only 53%, with 65% opposed to stag hunting. More recent polls show between 70% and 92% in favour of a ban with concern growing even in rural areas [128]. This development has "almost certainly owed little to anti-hunting groups and far more to structural changes" (Clarke 1985:202).

In 1924 former members of the Humanitarian League and RSPCA members critical of its stance on the hunting issue formed LACS to lobby for legislative change and publicise cruelty. Letter writing and pamphlets were the main methods employed although in 1958 it was LACS which first laid aniseed trails to actively disrupt hunts. During the war bloodsports understandably gained little attention although hunting continued during the war years, which was a source of some resentment [129]. Membership increased with its conclusion, possibly in reaction to a heightened sensitivity to violence. Ridley noted that after First World War carnage, middle class opposition grew, "the same attitude of mind which helped make the World War, was the very mental attitude that had made such a thing possible" (see Ridley 1990:166).

Apart from the war years LACS supported anti-hunting and coursing bills almost annually, with little success [130]. In 1949 the Scott Henderson Committee was set up to enquire into hunting and in 1951 it declined to recommend abolition. Interestingly in the context of the current paper the committee noted that "It has become apparent to us that many people who think they know what takes place obtain their information from propaganda, issued by organisations, who in turn rely to a surprising extent on press reports of particular incidents which are themselves based on misconceptions". LACS, in an attempt to drop its more radical image, withdrew from direct action in 1963 and the HSA was formed.

This is not to suggest that LACS had no effect, it promoted an awareness of cruelty and contributed to the growing media (tabloid) antipathy toward hunting . External social change however proved more influential. After the Second Word War the large estates were broken up, agriculture became less important to the national economy and there was a corresponding decline in 'deference' among agricultural workers [131]. Automation had replaced the horse in rural areas and the fox posed little threat to intensively farmed arable land.

Improvements in working class conditions were a precursor to creating sympathy for animals which had previously been restricted to the affluent middle class. It is not without irony that the ideology imposed over a century before, on the lower classes, for quite different reasons, should provide a foundation for their criticism of hunting. The British are notorious animal lovers and its extension to all wild mammals was probably only a matter of time.

In 1978 the Labour Party, recognising the popularity (and class overtones) of the issue, declared an anti-hunting stance. Also in the mid-seventies, after ongoing debate, the RSPCA brought respectability to the cause. The Liberal Democrats have also expressed their support and some Conservative MP's are sympathetic. This has led to successes at a local level with 154 councils including 35 County Councils, of all political persuasions banning hunting on their lands [132].

Social norms and values of anti-hunting activists Despite views to the contrary Hunt Saboteurs are remarkably heterogeneous in character, especially when compared to their opposition [133]. A 1993 survey carried out by the HSA found a 15% unemployment rate, "hardly the stuff of which class war thugs are made" (HSA 1994a). The majority claimed no political affiliation; of those who did, Labour was uppermost with a spread of Greens, Liberal Democrats and they estimate, as many as 20% may have Conservative sympathies [134]. The majority of saboteurs were in the 20-30 age range, with exceptions - a Surrey 'Granny Group' boasts members in their 80's. The quality press rather than tabloids were favoured. This survey was part of a marketing profile and had a relatively high response rate [135]. It is comparable to a survey completed eighteen years before by RH Thomas, which noted, in addition a significant proportion of students and those with at least a secondary education of both urban and rural backgrounds [136].

Hunt saboteurs are usually vegetarian or vegan (though not exclusively), actively involved in other environmental issues and in a curious Eysenck psychological profile were found to be generally reformist, tending slightly to viewing capitalism as immoral, less religious and less authoritarian than MFH's [137]. Ridley (1983) claims that this proved saboteurs were 'odd'; it is possible to suggest however that they represent part of a wider counter-cultural movement within the 'New Middle Class', an "emergence of new social groups, interest, values, which cut across traditional class-based alignments and cleavages" (Cotgrove and Duff 1980:333). With reference to the growth in environmentalism, a counter-paradigm of post-material values has been identified, which developed primarily among workers in the non-productive service sector [138]. Hunt saboteurs could be said to fall into this category, the 1986 HSA Committee, for example, included a Teacher, a National Health Administrator, a Tour Guide and a Civil Servant.

Cotgrove and Duff suggest this is "more than emotional satisfaction of expression of personal values in action", it has radical potential (1980:345). Hunt saboteurs ideology is self-less and stems from a concern for 'rights' of animals, as objects of discrimination or 'speciesism', rather than as the property of mankind [139]. This new activism is perhaps all part of the 1960's 'bomb culture' described by Nuttal (1968); one interviewee cited involvement in CND as his first experience of the effectiveness of non-violent direct action.

As a form of intra-class value conflict it raises many questions unanswerable in this thesis, concerning the source and possible effects of this new consciousness. "Any attempt to assimilate the ideology of this particular fraction of the middle class to that of either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat flies in the face of the evidence. Nor can their values and beliefs be explained away as 'false consciousness', being firmly rooted in their structural position" (Cotgrove and Duff 1980:344)[140].

Censure and the civilising process
Alison Young in her book on the censure of women at Greenham Common (another intra-class conflict) wrote: "I see the existence of a censure providing, as well as a condemnation of it's objects, by implication, an affirmation of the 'desired way of life' itself" (1990:7). The conflict between hunting and hunt saboteurs can be interpreted in this light. Animal rights activists practice lifestyle politics, in the belief that "a civilised society cannot allow killing of living creatures either for profit, curiosity or for fun" (Windeatt 1982:9).

Thus, animal rights claims a place in the 'civilising process'. "The hunter who kills for pastime, is a connecting link between the savage, who hunts for a living, and the civilised man, who does not hunt at all. The hunter, like the warrior, will finally pass away altogether" (J. Howard Moore quoted in Wildlife Guardian Spring 1993).

Norbert Elias describes civilisation as the processual formation of morality, a gradual sensitivity to violence caused by increasing identification with others and a recognition of man's interdependence [141]. In his 'Essay on Sport and Violence' fox hunting itself is used to illustrate a 'civilising spurt', what he terms the 'sportization' of pastimes from direct to symbolic conflict, as a means of channelling aggression. [142] Huntsmen and the field are distanciated from the kill, emphasis instead is placed on competition in the chase, even the language used is less emotive (foxes are 'accounted for') . He argues that Hunting etiquette developed, rather like other 'manners', as a means of demarcating huntsmen from 'inferiors'.

The 'civilising process' is one of control, the conditioning and internalisation of values and as such conflicts inevitably develop. The decline in social regulation exerted by the hunting community has been traced above, as has the growing influence of animal rights. We are perhaps observing a new 'civilising spurt'.

Elias does not claim that 'civilisation' is necessarily "the most advanced of all humanly possible modes of behaviour" (1977:xvii). It can represent a narrowed moral vision; the Nazi's for example were concerned to civilise Germany (they banned hunting and committed the holocaust). As Garland has observed:

  • Modern sensibilities display a definite selectivity. They are highly attuned to perceive and recoil from certain forms of violence, but at the same time they have particualr blind spots, or sympathetic limitations so that other forms are less clearly registered and experienced. Consequently, routine violence and suffering can be tolerated on condition that it is discreet, disguised, or somehow removed from view. (Garland 1990:243).

How can this perspective account for the censorious and violent nature of the conflict between hunting and hunt saboteurs? Why have saboteurs moved in the opposite direction, from spectating, to direct action, eschewing the democratic process; is this uncivilised? Dunning tentatively offers a qualification to the 'theory'. "Functional democratisation produces consequences which are, on balance, 'civilising' in its early stages, but that when a certain level has been reached it produces effects which are decivilising and promote disruptive conflict" (see Mennell 1992:148). It has been suggested in this thesis that dominant class interests have structured this civilising process and, extending Dunning, it could be argued that democracy is functional for those interests [143].

Non-violent direct action is a response to legislative inertia, despite growing social censure 26 anti-field sports Bills have been defeated so far. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill which passed its second reading in the House of Commons unopposed on March 3rd 1995, was subsequently talked out of time in the committee stage in a tactical move by the pro-hunting lobby. The latest Bill introduced by Alan Meale MP on 26th January 1996 had to forgo its anti-hunting clauses so as not to meet the same fate Horse and Hound suggest that certain pro-hunting Magistrates would not enforce the law if it ever came into being [144]. The judicial process has also denied the competence of local councils to ban hunting as the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling to overturn Somerset County Council's decision against the Quantock Staghounds in March 1995 [145].

The overall situation is therefore complex and the conflict fierce. "With a slight exaggeration, one might say that manners without morals stood one side, morals without manners on the other" (Elias 1986:173). There are few in the hunting world who do not recognise their eventual defeat. At present however hunt saboteurs are practising civil disobedience [146].

  • Civil disobedience is an honourable tradition in this country and those who take part in it may in the end be vindicated by history. (Lord Justice Hoffman. Twyford Down Appeal).

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Notes

* This paper is a revised version of my M.Phil.Thesis submitted to the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge in June 1995. I am indebted to Loraine Gelsthorpe, Colin Sumner and Mark Fenwick for their useful comments on the original and to my family for their love and support.

[1] Historical (e.g.Carr 1986) and philosophical works (e.g. Singer 1975) tend to focus on one side of the debate Other sources covering the current situation are in pamphlet form, written by pressure groups. A notable exception is R.H. Thomas 1983 which concentrates on the political organisation of the pro and anti-hunting communities.

[2] Reasons which in retrospect can be seen as significant, given the partiality of the criminologocal gaze.

[3] Although the accuracy and relevance of opinion polls may be questioned.

[4] Hunt packs are found elsewhere largely as a legacy of British colonialism and in much smaller numbers on the Continent. The strength and organisation of anti-bloodsports however differs, as does the social and legal context.

[5] Hunt saboteurs do not consider themselves to be criminals.

[6] This was aided by the UK News database and staff in the Periodicals Dept, Cambridge University Library. I maintained a cuttings file fot the 1994-5, 1995-6 hunting seasons.

[7] Private Members Bill introduced by J McFall MP. Second reading 3/3/95.

[8] Didcot Conservative Association speech 6/11/93.

[9] As stated in HOWL, official magazine of the HSA.

[10] Saboteurs challenged the Hunt's version of events at both inquests and on the former occaision by private prosecution. Both failed to establish a verdict other than accidental death.

[11] BFSS 1993/4. The HSA have published a detailed refutation of this 'evidence', albeit in a less glossy format. See HSA 1994a/1994c.

[12] See Section 2 for media representation.

[13] See e.g. Sunday Times 14/5/95, the 'Justice Department' calimed responsibility for sending devices to Prince Charles, Captain Mark Phillips and Michael Howard.

[14] See Ridley 1990:172.

[15] See section 2 for comment on the recruitment of children.

[16] P.Cass.

[17] See HSA 1994c:2.

[18] See Bedfordshire Police Annual Report 1993:22

[19] Extensively quoted this originates from HOWL 8/4/77 who attribute it to an ex Joint Master of the Essex Union Hunt.

[20] Guardian 23/2/95. See generally HSA 1994a, 1994c.

[21] See HSA 1994a/1994c for details of cases and a list of 'Hunting Criminals'.

[22] In 1993 two hunt supporters were imprisoned for deliberately running down a saboteur with a quad bike.

[23] In January 1993 a ITN news crew filmed two hunt supporters beating up a saboteur.

[24] In January 1994 an academic from Edinburgh University was injured whilst conducting his research at the Duke of Buccleuch Hunt. A BBC camreaman was assaulted and had his equipment and car damaged in Norfolk, March 1992.

[25] Personal communication. This was the environment within which the Criminal Justice Bill developed over the summer 1993.

[26] The Terrier men flush out a fox who has gone to ground- in approx half of all kills.

[27] Personal communication.

[28] While it should gain publcity for the cause and prevent a kill it is also a waste of 'resources'.

[29] Under sec5(4) P.O.A. 1986 a Constable may arrest only after first warning the suspect to stop the 'offensive conduct' and the subject engages in further conduct immediately or shortly after the warning . The practice of warning before unlawful conduct in the manner described (and confirmed by a police interviewee) is insufficient for this section and would not aid relations.

[30] Although and ex-policeman in conversation claimed to have seen pohotographs of known hunt saboteurs.

[31] Daily Telegraph 4/11/91, Times 30/12/93.

[32] It was suggested to me that many such officers, without promotion prospects would be 'interested' to side with the hunt. The accuracy of this observation is unclear. [33] Personal communication.

[34] See Harrison v Duke of Rutland 1893 1 QB 142 CA. The public right is of passage and repassage and therefore disrupting a shoot from a footpath is trespass. Whether the use of footpaths by hunt saboteurs to spray or get close to a hunt constitutes trespass in all cases is a matter of interpretation. Hunt followers could in theory be perceived as trespassers (though are not in practice).

[35] Personal communication.

[36] Windeatt 1982:27

[37] Personal communication.

[38] Although it is different under Scottish law see Herald 28/7/93.

[39] Compare L Denning MR in R v CC Devon and Cornwall ex parte CEGB 1982 QB 458.

[40] For a similar criticism of police practice during the miners' strike see Green, P (1990) "The Enemy Without", Buckingham OUP.

[41] Independent (Law Reports) 28/3/93.

[42] See Daily Telegraph 2/10/93. Portman Hunt and the Fitzwilliam Hunt. It was eventually challenged in an action by the West Norfolk.

[43] See Wildlife Guardian Autumn/Winter 1994.

[44] Personal communication.

[45] Personal communication.

[46] HSA 1994b

[47] See Daily Telegraph 8/6/95.

[48] HSA 1994b

[49] Wildlife Guardian Autumn/Winter 1994.

[50] Personal communiction.

[51] Thames Valley CC's Annual Report 1993.

[52] Paul Davies. HSA Campaign Officer. "Hunt Saboteurs and the Police:one step forward two steps back".

[53] See Police Review 2/12/94, but compare Police Review 18/11/94.

[54] 1982 QB 458 CA

[55] P.Thornton QC in Liberty Briefing 94/3.

[56] e.g. Essex 21/1/95.

[57] P. Davies HSA Campaigns Officer.

[58] Personal communication with HSA.

[59] Personal communication with P.Davies. Starting to re-establish contact in Thames Valley.

[60] Sunday Telegraph 23/1/94.

[61] P.Davies.

[62] HC Parliamentary Questions, written answers 731W 2/3/94.

[63] See DPP v Kamara (1973) 2 All ER 1242 per L Hailsham.

[64] Individual states have similar legislation.

[65] See Daily Telegraph 17/5/95.

[66] Indeed anti-bloodsports campaigners admitted in conversation to being avid readers. See Fiske and Hartley (in Woollacott:100) for the view that everyone is free to decode media messages.

[67] Perhaps their most successful expos in recent years was the Quorn incident in 1991. A LACS video resulted in the resignation of the Chairman and four Joint Masters of one of the oldest and most prestigious hunts. The Quorn's licence over National Hunt land was revoked.

[68] BFSS Campaign for Hunting, Christmas Greetings Campaign 1994-5 season.

[69] Coverage of 'Grey Owl' an environmentalist from Canada was dropped from Children's Hour.

[70] In 1949 a Private Members Bill was introduced which aimed to ban all hunting with dogs other than foxhunting.

[71] Speech given to Didcot Conservative Association 6/11/93.

[72] Note Guardian e.g. 6/11/93, 3/12/93: "Is the Government on the verge of outlawing the right to peaceful protest? ", 6/8/94, 8/9/94. See also Today 23/7/93. [73] HSA 1994a Appendix 2.

[74] Based on a UK News search, as yet an incomplete database with a bias towards broadsheet coverage. Whilst it is acknowledged that these incidents may have been covered by other tabliods, the observation holds with respect to the quality press which readily reported saboteurs.

[75] Daily Mail 15/6/93. See also Times, Telegraph 15/6/93 and Telegraph/Today 18/6/93.

[76] E.g. Independent 25/1/93, Sunday Times 30/10/94.

[77] E.g. Daily Express 31/12/94.

[78] E.g. Sunday Times 30/10/94, 14/5/95.

[79] See BFSS 1993/94.

[80] The fisrt 'saboteurs' were 19th Century French peasants who used their shoes ,'sabots', to immobilise the machines of the industrial age which were replacing their labour.

[81] The Oxford Concise Dictionary definition of sabotage is "malicious or wanton destruction".

[82] Guardian 18/2/93 "Saboteurs the real animals".

[83] See Rock 1981.

[84] See for example Pearson (1983) and Hall et.al. (1978).

[85] Daily Express 27/4/95.

[86] Class is an issue which underlies much of the historical tension between the hunt and the anti-hunt. It is addressed in more detail in section 3.

[87] Sunday Telegraph 18/4/93.

[88] See Young A. (1990).

[89] HSA 1994c:5, Independent 19/2/94.

[90] E.g. Daily Mail 26/3/94, Independent 4/7/91.

[91] Sunday Times 11/4/93.

[92] Horse and Hound, see HSA 1994a:5.

[93] Personal communication.

[94] E.g. Observer 4/4/93.

[95] Children of all age groups hunt, an equally dangerous sport.

[96] Daily Telegraph 7/4/93. See also Daily Telegraph 5/4/93, Today 5/4/93.

[97] Personal communication.

[98] Margaret Flynn had been expelled from the HSA for previous involvement but claimed to have distanced herself since.

[99] Independent 20/4/93. See also section 3.

[100] See Ridley:173.

[101] Guardian 8/4/93.

[102] Won LACS journalism award.

[103] Edward Pearce, Guardian 10/4/93.

[104] See Guardian 2/2/95, Times 2/2/95, 15/12/95.

[105] Although Benton and Redfearn (1996) argue that protests against animal exports are part of a 'welfarist' and not a 'rights' tradition.

[106] See Schlesinger and Tumber (1994), Ericson et.al. (1989).

[107] See Sumner and Sandberg (1990).

[108] Personal communication.

[109] Personal communication, see Observer 20/11/94.

[110] HSA 1994a:5

[111] They even received news coverage during the Brightlingsea protests. See Independent 5/2/95.

[112] E.g. the Game reserves of East Africa have not been reclaimed.

[113] Tally-Ho is an anglicisation.

[114] This censure is strongly opposed by anti-cruelty campaigners.

[115] Essex v Capel, per L Ellenborough.

[116] Institutional land ownership has made some inroads. LACS, the Co-op and 154 local councils including 35 County Councils have banned hunting from their land. LACS advises landowners on actions for trespass.

[117] Originally introduced as 'moral airfreshners' , Ridley 1990:55.

[118] See survey in RH Thomas (1983: Ch 7).

[119] See generally K Thomas (1983).

[120] LACS continue to report on psychological research demonstrating violence towards animals as a precursor of violence towards humans. Wildlife Guardian Autumn 1994.

[121] 1835 Act.

[122] See Kellet (1994:63). This is a popular censure, a saboteur interviewed recalled being asked why he was not working.

[123] Fortnightly Review, See Carr (1986:204).

[124] For improved prison conditions, the abolition of capital punishment, higher wages, the abolition of the Poor Law and the emancipation of women. Henry Salt claimed animal rights and the emancipation of man were 'inseparably connected'.

[125] The field sports lobby continue to protest against 'urban dictatorship'.

[126] A ban on pigeon shooting was first debated in 1883 and became law in 1921.

[127] The Humanitarian League disbanded in 1919.

[128] See MORI poll fer Mail on Sunday / NOP poll Independent on Sunday, March 1995. These figures are disputed by the BFSS.

[129] Windeatt (1982).

[130] Detailed in RH Thomas (1983:217).

[131] See Thomas (1983) and Newby ( 1977 ) "The Deferential Worker" Allen Lane.

[132] See Wildlife Guardian Winter 1994.

[133] See RH Thomas (1983:Ch7).

[134] Sunday Times 11/4/93. B.Ponton Press officer HSA.

[135] Personal communication with P. Davies, Campaigns officer.

[136] University groups are amoung the most active.

[137] RH Thomas (1983:Ch7).

[138] See McGrew (1993) and Cottgrove and Duff (1980), who note an absence of a study on the middle class working outside of the market.

[139] See Singer (1975), Godlovitch (1971). Wild animals are defined as property in the Theft Act 1968 sec 5(4) / Criminal Damage Act 1971 sec5(10). Sweeny (1990).

[140] See Eder, V. (1993): "The New Politics Of Class" Sage. Part 3.

[141] See Elias (1977).

[142] Elias and Dunning (1986).

[143] Elias referred to Established-Outsider relations rather than orthodox Marxism to explain this phenomena.

[144] See Horse and Hound 1/6/95.

[145] R v Somerset CC ex parte Fewings (1995) 1 All ER 20 CA.

[146] A Gallup survey recently found that a growing number of people from all social classes and political persuasions, who have joined protest groups, believe that it is legitimate to break the law in order to 'make their voices heard' . Independent 6/6/95.

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References

Bailey's (1993-4) Hunting Directory. Cambridge: Pearson Publishing.

Bailey's (1994-5) Hunting Directory. Cambridge: Pearson Publishing.

Benton, T. and Redfearn, S. (1996) The Politics of Animal Rights - Where is the Left ? New Left Review 43.

British Field Sports Society [BFSS] (1993) The Unacceptable Face of Protest. London: BFSS.

BFSS (1993) Disruption of Angling. Lonodn: BFSS.

BFSS (1993) Disruption fo Shooting. London: BFSS.

BFSS (1994) The Real Animals. London: BFSS.

BFSS (1994) Campaign For Hunting: The Case For Hunting. London: BFSS.

Blackwood, C. (1987) In The Pink. London: Bloomsbury.

Carr, R. (1986) English Foxhunting: A History. London: Wiedenfeld and Nicholson.

Cass, P. (1995) The Effects of Scema Priming in the Labelling of Environmentalists. Unpublished essay.

Clarke, M. (1985) The Politics of Hunting: Book Review. British Journal of Criminology, 25 p201.

Clough,C. and Kew, B. (1993) The Animal Welfare Handbook. London: Fourth Estate.

Cohen, S. and Young, J. (eds) (1981) The Manufacture of the News: Deviance, Social Problems and the Mass Media. London: Constable.

Cotgrove, S. and Duff, A. (1980) Environmentalism, Middle Class Radicalism and Politics. 28 Sociological Review p 333.

Elias, N. (1978) The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners. New York: Urizen.

Elias, N. and Dunning, E. (1986) Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Ericson, R,V. et.al. (1987) Visualizing Deviance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ericson, R.V. et.al. (1989) Negotiating Control: A Study of News Sources. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Feldman, D. (1993) Civil Liberties and Human Rights in England and Wales. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Garland, D. (1990) Punishment and Modern Society: A Study in Social Theory. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Godlovitch, S. et.al. (1971) Animals Men and Morals: An Enquiry into the Maltreatment of Non-humans. London: Victor Gollancz.

Gurevitch, et.al. (eds) (1982) Culture Society and the Media. London: Methuen.

Hall, S.M. et.al. (1978) Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order. London: Macmillan.

Hall, S.M. et.al. (1974) Deviance Politincs and the Media. In Rock, P. and McIntosh, M. (eds) Deviance and Social Control. London: Tavistock.

Hay, D. (1975) Poaching and the Game Laws on Cannnock Chase. In Hay, D. et.al. (eds) (1975) Albions Fatal Tree. London: Allen Lane.

Home Office (1994) Policing Low Level Disorder: The Police Use of Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Home Office Research Study 135: Home Office Research and Planning Unit.

Howe, J. (1981) Fox Hunting as Ritual. American Ethnologist, Volume 8, No 2 p278.

Hunt Saboteurs Association [HSA] (1994a) The Real Criminals: A Briefing Paper on the New Offence of Aggravated Trespass in the Crimnal Justice and Public Order Bill. Nottingham: HSA.

HSA (1994b) Public Order, Private Armies: The Use of Hunt Security. A report to the Select Committee on Home Affairs. Nottingham: HSA.

HSA (1994c) Thugs, Wreckers and Bullies: The Truth About Hunt Violence. Nottingham, HSA.

Itzkowitz, D.C. (1977) Peculiar Privilege. Brighton: Harvester.

Kellet, M.A. (1994) The Power of Princely Patronage: Pigeon Shooting in Victorian Britain. International Journal of the History of Sport, Volume II, No. 1, April 1994.

Liberty (1994) Restrictions on Peaceful Protest. Briefing Paper 94/3, London: Liberty.

McGrew, A. (1993) The Political Dynamics of the 'New Environmentalism'. in Smith (ed) Business and the Environment. Paul Chapman Publishing.

Mennell, S. (1992) Norbert Elias: An Introduction. Oxford, Basil Blackwell.

Murdock, G. (1981) Political Deviance: The Press Presentation of Militant Mass Demonstrations. In Cohen, S. and Young, J (eds) (1981).

Nuttall, J. (1986) Bomb Culture. London: MacGibbon and Kee.

Pearson, G. (1983) Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears. London: Macmillan.

Ridley, J. (1990) Fox Hunting. London, Collins.

Rock, P. (1981) News as Eternal Recurrence. In Cohen, S and Young, J. (eds) (1981).

Sagoff (1988) Can Environmentalists be Liberals ? In The Economy of the Earth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Salt, H.S. (1893) Cruel Sports. Westminster Review, Vol 140 p545.

Sharpe, R. A. (1994) Fox: Anti Hunting Guide. Ashbourne: Anna Press.

Singer, P. (1975) Animal Liberation: Towards an End to Man's Inhumanity to Animals. London, Paladin.

Schlesinger, P. and Tumber, H. (1994) Reporting Crime. Oxford: Clarendon.

Smith, A.T.H. (1995) The Public Order Elements. Criminal Law Review 1995 p19.

Sumner, C.S. (1973) The Press Signification of Political Demonstrations. Sheffield: Sheffield Polytechnic Socio-Legal Studies Group.

Sumner, C.S. (1990) Censure Politics and Criminal Justice. Buckingham, Open University Press.

Sumner, C.S. (1994a) The Sociology of Deviance: An Obituary. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Sumner, C.S. (1994b) Media-ted Justice: Trial by Media, the Crime Control Technocracy and Moral-ideological Censure. Paper given to the 'Trail by Media Conference', Paris September 1994.

Sumner, C.S. and Sandberg, S. (1990) The Press Censure of Dissident Minorities: The Ideology of Parliamentary Democracy and Moral Ideological Censure, in Sumner, C.S., (1990).

Sweeny, N. (1990) Animals and Cruelty and Law. Bristol: Alibi.

Thomas, K. (1983) Man and the Natural World. London: Allen Lane.

Thomas, R. H. (1983) The Politics of Hunting. Aldershot: Gower.

Thomas, R.H. (1986) Hunting as a Political Issue. Parliamentary Affairs, Vol 39 p19.

Thompson, E. P. (1975) Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act. London: Allen Lane.

Turner, J. (1980) Reckoning with the Beast: Animals Pain and Humanity in the Victorian Mind. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Van Krieken, R. (1989) Violence, Self Discipline and Modernity: Beyond the Civilizing Process. 37 Sociological Review p193.

Windeatt, P. (1982) The Hunt and the Anti-Hunt. London: Pluto Press.

Wollacott, J. (1982) Messages and Meanings, in Gurevitch et.al. (1982).

Young, A. (1990) Femininity in Dissent. London, Routledge.

Young, A. (1990) Strategies of Censure and the Suffragette Movement, in Sumner, C.S. (1990).

Elizabeth Stokes ,
School of Law,
University of East London,
Longbridge Rd,
Dagenham,
Essex RM8 2AS
E-Mail: e.stokes @uel.ac.uk

(c) Elizabeth Stokes, 1996

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Staff

Research publication series<strong> </strong>

Hunting and Hunt Saboteurs: A Censure Study

Elizabeth Stokes

Introduction

In the abstract, there is no relation of logical or rational necessity between what is popularly morally censured and what is practically censured in the criminal justice system; it is a political relationship and therefore the degree of correspondence between the two will reflect the level and type of democracy within the state and its apparatuses of social regulation. (Sumner 1990:46).

The conflict between supporters of field sports and anti-bloodsports protesters (both physical and ideological) has attracted little academic attention [1]. It has certainly escaped criminological inquiry, largely due to its perceived marginal, rural, isolated and political nature [2]. The aim of this paper is to explore the key issues which arise in relation to hunting (primarily foxhunting) and the activities of hunt saboteurs, to illustrate how the criminal law, criminal justice agencies and other 'apparatuses of social regulation' have 'policed' this conflict of interests and to question what those interests are and where they originate from.

From a sociological perspective this conflict is of considerable interest; why should hunt saboteurs be so readily censured as deviant when the activity they seek to prevent is also widely 'socially' censured ? [3]. Is it just a question of their chosen methods of protest of is there more to it than that ?

As the title indicates, this is an attempt to illustrate the interrelationship between censure and counter-censure in the context of an unusual, if not unique social practice [4]. Foxhunting is peculiarly anglo-centric and its present day controversiality, as will become clear, is grounded in a particular social history. There is no claim to offer a comprehensive account of the processes involved, such a task would extend way beyond the limitations of this project. Nor are the arguments for and against the continuation of hunting addressed or evaluated. My aim is more modest, to point out possible avenues of enquiry and hopefully to aid a more informed discussion of the above issues.

This paper draws upon sources from a number of different disciplines, as a 'censure study' it clearly does not fall within the restrictions of 'administrative criminology'. In developing a sociology of censures, with "multiple ideological imputs and variable historical constitutions and roles" (Sumner and Sandberg 1990) such diversity is necessary. The research involved informal interviews and on-going communication with saboteurs and ex-saboteurs, semi-structured interviews with the Police and contact with hunt supporters during the 1994-5 hunting season. All interviewees were guaranteed confidentiality, given the sensitivity of the current climate and the initial reluctance of saboteurs to talk to a criminologist [5]. Information about the present situation was also gained through contact with the British Field Sports Society (BFSS), the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) and from a collation of the national press coverage over the last ten years [6].

The first section, "Policing the Conflict", is concerned with the background to and implications of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, sections 68/9. This Act created the controversial new offence of 'Aggravated Trespass', which effectively criminalised the practice of hunt sabotage. The CJand POA 1994 therefore forms an obvious starting point to study the censure of hunt saboteurs, criminalisation being the ultimate state censure. The section adopts an extended notion of 'policing' including an inquiry into the role of political and judicial processes in shaping which interests are to be protected.

It is important to note that as the first arrests were made under this statute an ill fated Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, which included provisions to ban (and therefore criminalise) the use of dogs for hunting, was passed unopposed on its second reading in the House of Commons [7]. Leaving aside for the moment the complexities of the passage of this legislation, it would appear that notions of what is considered to be worthy of the protection of the criminal law have recently been a site of considerable contestation.

The second section, "Media-ting the Conflict", focuses on the role of the media as one of the primary sources of information about social censure in modern societies. It comprises a critical analysis of the press representation of hunters and saboteurs.

Finally, "Explaining the Conflict" is a historical and theoretical inquiry into the origins of the debate. This aims to be suggestive rather than a definitive explanation, raising avenues for possible exploration. Whilst potentially the most interesting inquiry it should be considered only as 'work in progress'.

Any study which challenges received views of social conflicts and questions the definitions of deviance contained therein, is open to allegations of bias. In the words of Elias:

  • It may not be easy given the temper of our time to study this kind of hunting in a matter of fact way, as a social process....as a figuration in flux formed by human beings. (Elias and Dunning 1986:25).

As this paper shows, hunting is an issue which is clouded by preconceptions. I am aware that adopting a critical approach risks categorising the author as a vegan animal rights activist with an urban upbringing. As a farmer's daughter I am none of the above and this thesis was conceived whilst travelling through a village where as a child I would annually see off the Boxing Day Meet.

The fact that this explanation seemed appropriate is testimony to the importance of censure in regulating social (and academic!) life.

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Policing the Conflict

  • Many of the problems presented by new age travellers, ravers, hunt saboteurs , squatters and such like cannot be solved by new legislation alone, nor by police action to enforce those laws. Many of the problems have much deeper roots and wider implications. (D. Wilmott, Chief Constable Greater Manchester police, chairman of ACPO Public Order Committee, Police Review 18/11/94:20 ) [My italics].

The public order provisions introduced in the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act have attracted criticism on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties. "The Act represents a comprehensive toughening up of the law relating to those with marginal or somewhat unorthodox lifestyles" (Smith 1995:19).

The sections relevant to the 'novel' offence of Aggravated Trespass however, have only raised concern in so far as they could be applied to a range of activities hitherto considered to be legitimate (for example ramblers access to the countryside; road protesters; consumers picketing outside shops on land belonging to the shop; trade union pickets). Few have questioned the propriety or suitability of the criminalisation of hunt sabotage, including, as will be argued below, the Government which sponsored the legislation.

This chapter aims to redress this oversight. It will become clear that Michael Howard's characterisation of all hunt saboteurs as "Thugs, wreckers and bullies" [8], is inaccurate, neither side has a monopoly on bad behaviour. The conflict which arises in the field has a rather more complex sociogenesis and cannot be resolved through partial legislation whose true significance lies in its political nature rather than practical efficacy. This is not to refute that the police face considerable difficulties when involved with disorder at a meet, or that the hunt have an equal right to go about their lawful business without undue harassment or intimidation, it serves only to suggest that the problem requires more detailed consideration before the residual right of individuals to protest peacefully is denied.

Trouble at the hunt: the problem:
The HSA's statement of purpose is "To save the lives of hunted animals by legal, non-violent, direct means and to bring to the attention of People and Parliament the barbaric cruelties involved in the hunting of animals until such time as these practices are banned by law" [9]. Like other forms of non-violent direct action hunt sabotage involves working within (if only just within) legal restriction. Official tactics include distracting the hounds by voice or horn calls, making a noise in coverts to encourage foxes to go to earth, the use of scent dullers, sprays such as anti-mate or citronella to mask the scent of the hunted animal and whips, to be used in the manner of the Huntsmen, cracking in front of and not on the hounds, in order to divert them. Many saboteur groups have an additional evidence gathering role, photographing or filming incidents to expose what the hunt actually do to the animals (and as will be seen below what they do to saboteurs). In 1974 the HSA turned down a request that the 'immobilisation of hunt vehicles' should be included as an acceptable tactic (RH Thomas 1983:110). Successful hunt sabotage, rather like successful hunting requires a skilled knowledge of hunting techniques (possible 'lines' which may be taken, direction of scent) and communication in order to keep up on foot with the fast moving 'field' and wide distances covered. While it can provide excitement it is more often a long, cold, wet and boring day, as one interviewee informed me "anyone who was just doing it because it was 'trendy' or something is not going to stick at it". For the majority it requires commitment, often their only spare time activity, and conviction.

Inevitably these methods bring saboteurs into situations of direct confrontation with the hunting community which can lead to verbal abuse, arguments, physical violence, criminal damage and assault. It has also resulted in the death of two young saboteurs in separate incidents involving hunt vehicle accidents, Michael Hill, 18, in Cheshire 1991 and Thomas Worby, 15, in Cambridgeshire 1993 [10]. Trouble which does arise is conventionally blamed on hunt saboteurs for threats, intimidation, provocation and more organised forms of attack. The BFSS provide 'evidence' [11] of these claims in their publications, notably 'The Real Animals' and 'The Unacceptable Face of Protest'. While not aiming to excuse individual 'saboteurs' responsibility for unlawful actions which undoubtedly do occur, it is also necessary to recognise that they are collectively censured for the behaviour of others, through ignorance, misrepresentation and misinterpretation of their activities and frequently (the HSA claims routinely) victims themselves [12].

It is important from the outset to make a distinction between organised anti-hunt violence and incidents which are consequential to friction in the field. In 1975 the 'Animal Activists' split from the HSA and in 1976 the Animal Liberation Front was formed which disavowed the HSA's lawful stance. Blame for their activities is therefore attached to the HSA because those who left retained nominal membership (RH Thomas 1983:109). Hunt supporters, Master of FoxHounds (MFH) and Hunt Kennels have been targeted by these groups as have those with high profiles, royalty and politicians [13]. Letter bombs, incendiary devices, hidden wire, glass and nails on the coursing field at the Waterloo Cup in 1981 are all examples of the more sinister side of Animal Rights Terrorism. The 'Hunt Retribution Squad' claimed responsibility for a number of fire bombings following the deaths of saboteurs, last heard from in 1984 for the desecration of graves [14]. The Justice Department claim to have carried out more than 150 letter bomb attacks in the last 18 months, other groups exist, the Animal Rights Militia and other self styled offshoots. The ALF itself claims to be non-violent, concentrating on break-ins etc. although this has been met with some scepticism, the Research Defence News 1994 suggest they are just operating under different names.

Hunt Saboteurs have had their image damaged through association in the press and police speculation about such incidents. Ben Ponton HSA Press Officer has acknowledged "I suppose it is true to an extent that every ALF member sabs, but not every HSA member is an ALF supporter" (Sunday Telegraph 7/1/93). Indeed the HSA have carried adverts for 'Ark Angel' the ALF magazine in 'HOWL'. Overlapping membership however is not enough to incriminate law-abiding members of the HSA. Most HSA members also support the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and many the RSPCA.

This conspiratorial view is reinforced by allegations that saboteurs receive payment to turn up and recruit children, misfounded beliefs which stem largely from a lack of comprehension of why people would want to protest [15]. "If the accuser can be viewed as someone whose opinion is worthless, an extremist or terrorists, the self-concept can more easily be maintained" [16] .Whilst the BFSS recognise saboteurs are not motivated by financial gain (they are financed by subscriptions, fund-raising activities, public donations, frequently by their own contributions and with high transport running costs many local groups run on a shoe-string) [17]. It is a view which remains widely held even within official police circles [18].

It is unsurprising that when fundamental beliefs or a way of life is under threat there are those who are willing to go outside of the law. Supporters of hunting are no exception, there have always been incidents of violence when hunting was challenged. In 1843 when farmers, opposed the damage caused by the hunt crossing their land, Masters of Foxhounds "dealt with the uppishness of lower orders on the spot with their fists" (Carr 1986:219). Rev J. Stratton a pioneering member of the Humanitarian League who followed hunts on foot to record their 'cruelty' "received abusive letters and once his house was fired at" (Windeatt, 1982:21). The first organised attack on members of the HSA occurred when a carload of saboteurs were surrounded and one saboteurs' jaw broken on 2 May 1964 (Windeatt 1982:27). In an often quoted phrase some hunters do continue to feel that "Horsewhipping a hunt saboteur is rather like beating a wife. They are both private matters"[19]. RH. Thomas notes (1983:260) that in 1978-9 "violence on the property and persons of hunt sabs reached such a pitch that the HSA asked the BFSS for a meeting to discuss ways to diffuse the issue".

This is not necessarily to suggest that particular hunts have an official policy of aggravation towards saboteurs but that rather like the animal rights campaigners, more organised forms of violence do exist, both on and off the field. Saboteurs' vehicles have been ambushed and damaged, car bombs reported and recently 'punishment squads' attacked known hunt saboteurs in their homes in Liverpool and Manchester [20]. In 1990 a hunt supporter was jailed for hoaxing a car bomb under his own car.

There have been ongoing problems with 'hunt heavies', for example in 1977 the Enfield Chase started a 'hunt protection association' to sabotage the saboteurs (RH Thomas 1983:113). The widespread introduction of hunt stewards in Autumn 1992 has intensified this situation (see below). The HSA report that "in the first three months of 1993 alone some 75 saboteurs were victims of violent attacks by hunts, 13 of them requiring hospital attention as a result. 5 incidents of hunters using vehicles as weapons, 10 of damage to sabs vehicles and at least 2 others of damage to saboteurs' property". While "The HSA knows of no saboteurs convicted of violence in the last 12 months"[21].

It would appear that this picture, though difficult to verify in full, is not without foundation. As will be seen below, and in the following chapter the saboteurs version of events is often not reported either to the police or in the press, partly because they lack 'credibility', partly because their presence is interpreted as provocation and perhaps because it really has become 'routine'. Occasionally their evidence is corroborated when the injuries are serious [22], caught on camera [23], or the victim is 'mistaken' such as an official researcher or a BBC News Crew [24].

From the analysis of the situation given thus far it would be easy to reach the conclusion that the combination of hunt saboteurs and huntsmen/women equals trouble. No such simple equation can be made, there is great diversity across the country, some hunts have a reputation for more volatile conduct than others and similarly some sab groups (about half of the active sabs are not HSA members) take a more pro-active approach [25]. Violence and disorder is the consequence of a complex series of relationships between the hunt, saboteurs and (as will become clear in the next section) the police.

Tension may be inevitable but a sabbed hunt can pass without incident, commentators in the past have observed with surprise cordial relations at meets: saboteurs and hunt supporters exchanging pleasantries with knowing smiles. Curiously the process has been viewed as a type of 'game' in itself by some, notably in the 'field' of riders. As one interviewee explained " often it was commented to us that our presence made their day a little more interesting, its a bit sad to think that we might even have been encouraging them". Normally hunt sabotage involves small numbers, some hunts are sabbed infrequently and others regularly which may increase tension or, conversely, increase tolerance of a known quantity.

It could be argued that the conflict which does arise is concentrated on interaction between certain members of the hunting community. As already noted, the riding followers, not being the focus of the saboteurs activities are often unaffected. The Huntsmen and Terrier men [26] on the other hand, whose jobs are directly affected, have been involved in most incidents, as have a 'hard-core' of foot or car followers (who, since using the roads, regularly cross-paths with saboteurs). Following a ridden hunt on foot or by car entails, as it does for the saboteurs, waiting around for any action. Arguments can therefore develop.

Conflict can also fall into a cyclical pattern, as the fox hunting season (between September - March) progresses, tension builds. "Various niggling from events at the start leading up to assaults around Christmas.. more serious things tend to happen at the end of the season", with a "cooling off period during the summer.. The next season always starts out in a far more mellow fashion"[27].

There is an additional element to this dynamic, national 'hits', where a particular Hunt is targeted in response to incidents of cruelty or aggravation during the season. This tactic is a matter of some controversy within the HSA membership, with hundreds of saboteurs from all over the country descending on one meet, there is an obvious tendency for disorder to result [28]. Saboteurs are aware that they may face confrontation and such events may attract those who do go 'prepared'. These 'hits' do not occur under co-ordinated control of the HSA which, as an umbrella body for 150 independent groups, does not operate in that way. Once a call has gone out there is little even the local group can do to stop it happening.

Police and the Law Pre-Aggravated Trespass
There is a routine police presence at hunt meets to supervise traffic, the crossing of roads and any problems which may arise (e.g.. hunts out of control, hounds on railway lines). The addition of saboteurs however complicates this practice, creating a unique and unsuitable environment for public order policing. Maintaining impartiality to allow the hunt to take place and the saboteurs to protest is a difficult role and one which (individual consciences aside) the police do not like. It puts considerable strain on the resources of rural divisions, forming part of their regular duties. Field sports events do not fall within the legislation which covers other sporting occasions where police presence is paid overtime. It is also a role which some forces have found financially burdensome in another respect, in the last two years 80 saboteurs have won more than £80,000 in damages and awarded costs of up to £250,000 for false arrest and wrongful imprisonment.

Police areas differ in the scale and their manner of policing a hunt, some maintaining a more objective and relaxed attitude than others given the wide scope for discretion in public order laws. It is perhaps more accurate however to refer to the 'policing' of saboteurs, who are largely perceived as the trouble makers and warned to demonstrate lawfully and peacefully at the outset [29]. It is probable that this perception is largely the result of secrecy surrounding saboteurs activities, and their persistence (even when hunts stopped publishing details of proposed meets and developed saboteur diversion tactics). Relations with the police worsened in the late 1970's when "it was disclosed that the Police National Computer had details of HSA activists and their cars" (RH Thomas 1983:113). Intelligence gathering on what remained a legal activity was understandably a concern to members of the HSA, some of whom adopted balaclavas in response. On larger 'hits' some forces would film those present which, while providing documentary evidence of incidents may have had an additional intelligence role (at least from the perspective of the saboteurs [30]). In 1986 Scotland Yard set up an Animal Rights Index which between 1990-2 recorded 3,073 crimes ranging from hunt sabotage to attacks on butchers shops [31].

It is unsurprising that rural police officers should have in general a closer relationship to the hunting community with whom contact is ongoing outside of their leisure pursuits [32]. Hunt saboteurs are very rights oriented' and tend to push the law to the limit. This knowledge may threaten the authority of some officers who do not like to be contradicted on statutory details whilst on the job. A saboteur (who was in fact arrested under the 1994 act) recalled informing an officer that he knew the law only to meet the reply "Sonny, I am the law"[33].

What then was the law prior to 3rd November 1994 and how was it applied in practice. Police powers to control the environment, whilst adequate in principle, were restricted. Officers would not enter private land unless required to prevent a Breach of the Peace or in response to a crime (Police Review 18/11/94). They were reluctant to become involved in the eviction of trespassers because such assistance could be interpreted as being outside the execution of their duty.

Trespassers, contrary to common parlance, cannot be 'prosecuted' for breaching the civil law. Hunt sabotage involves trespass, even when conducted from footpaths or other public rights of way [34]. The landowner or hunt stewards acting as agents, may direct the trespasser to leave the land and use 'reasonable force' and allow 'reasonable time' for them to do so. [With respect to footpaths a Police Officer should give this direction, failure to comply resulting in arrest for obstruction]. There has often been some confusion over land ownership and whether saboteurs are there with 'implied' or actual permission (some sympathetic landowners give permission to saboteurs and not the hunt and saboteurs often carry Ordinance Survey maps for the identification of public footpaths). Litigation rarely follows this routine trespass, as a tort which attracts only nominal damages the costs outweigh the advantages. An injunction may be sought but it could not cover all saboteurs or all of the land and therefore would be of little use. Allegations of 'unreasonable force' are frequent, allegations which are difficult to substantiate because the police were not present and witnesses are biased on both sides.

Allegations and counter-allegations of assault or criminal damage faced similar difficulties and police reactions, in the absence of evidence, were based more on a concern to defuse the situation and less on a reflection of what had actually occurred. The police did not generally make use of their powers against the hunt; saboteurs were more likely to be arrested on the spot and removed from the scene, which can affect the way in which a case develops against them. Reliance on arrest data therefore only provides a social construction of events which is biased against the saboteur. In the majority of cases they are not charged with an offence or Breach of the Peace or are acquitted. In an attempt to remedy this situation hunt protests have become among the most documented on record, the saboteurs are filming the hunt, stewards are filming the 'sabs' and the police are filming both sides. A strangely post-modern development, with the added risk of damage to expensive equipment and targeting of the camera operator.

This tendency to arrest the saboteur in case of doubt has made victims of hunt violence reluctant to report minor infractions. Even if the hunter is to be arrested and charged for ABH or common assault it is likely that the hunt saboteur will also be arrested and charged on a minor public order offence. The financial outcome for both sides is usually identical, although it may be a greater consequence to the saboteur than it is to the hunter [35]. Hunt saboteurs are also reluctant to become witnesses in such cases since witnesses have been bound over to keep the peace by the invocation of the obscure 1361 Justices of the Peace Act [36]. This suggests that not only do saboteurs have little confidence in the Police but also that they feel the system itself is inherently biased against people in their position [37].

Common law powers of arrest for actual or apprehended Breach of the Peace have in some instances been misused as a kind of 'informal internment' for saboteurs, who should have been released as soon as the likelihood of a Breach of the Peace is gone, not held all day until the hunt is over. "The weighting of the costs and benefits of various courses of action to prevent threatened breaches of the peace is neither a scientific nor an apolitical matter" (Feldman 1993:793). A 'Breach of the Peace' does not include the disruption of hunts, the spraying of anti-mate or blowing a hunting horn [38]. It requires violence or the threat of violence on behalf of the saboteur; given the analysis earlier in this chapter such violence should not be presumed but in police practice it has been [39]. For example, hunt saboteurs have been arrested in vehicles before reaching the hunt [40].

In 1986 the HSA feared that the controversial Section 5 of the Public Order Act (threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby) would be used to control saboteurs. After early enthusiasm (there was no requirement of actual harassment etc.) the Police were unable to secure convictions and lawsuits followed. A saboteur who was charged with disorderly behaviour for calling a beagle pack official a 'prat' had his case thrown out (Independent 29/2/92).

The judicial system has not always been so accommodating to hunt saboteurs. The HSA are aware that "the proclivities of the judge or magistrate who hears the case will be of great significance" (RH Thomas 1983:112). In Kelly v CC of Hampshire the Court of Appeal held that in the case of a breach of the peace it is for the judge and not the jury to decide "whether at the time of an arrest the officer was or should have been aware that the person he was arresting was in fact the victim of an assault by a huntsman"[41]. As noted above, the innovative application of obscure or old laws against saboteurs has met with some success. Until recently a development of the civil law of 'trespass to goods' (in this case the hounds) had been allowed to secure injunctions against saboteurs blowing the horn [42].

The Escalation of Violence
The primary argument for the introduction of aggravated trespass was that there had been an increase in violent incidents in the field since 1992. The BFSS reported over 600 incidents during the 1992-93 season, a figure repeated by press and politicians. Following the death of Thomas Worby at the Cambridgeshire Hunt in April 1993, it was claimed there had been a pro-active approach by hunt saboteurs, an idea repeated in the press (see Chapter 2). The Guardian explained "a martyr would strengthen the hands of extremists" (6/7/94).

The HSA agrees that this escalation is not imaginary, violence has intensified in recent years, but they claim (supported by LACS monitors [43]) that such incidents were instigated primarily by hunt supporters. A national 'hit' did follow the second saboteur death but the Cambridgeshire Police acknowledge surprise that the expected targeting of the hunt and trouble, did not eventuate [44]. The 1994 season started (and continued) quietly.

The counter-argument explains that after the Quorn Incident in 1991 (a widely publicised incident of hunt cruelty) and the narrow defeat of the MacNamara anti-hunting Private Members bill by 12 votes in 1992, the hunting community realised for the first time the strength of the threat to their way of life. Their response in the autumn of 1992 was to introduce hunt stewards across the country, as Nick Herbert, political adviser for the BFSS explained "from now on we're going to start hunting the saboteurs".

The police welcomed the presence of the stewards, who, acting as agents in the landowners absence had the authority to evict trespassers and therefore, as one officer related "relieved a lot of the responsibility from us"[45]. This 'hands off' attitude provided cause for concern. The HSA has detailed evidence of unlawful actions by private stewards, some of whom were private security firms, others local volunteers trained by outside firms [46]. This information was collated for a report to the Select Committee on Home Affairs review of Private Security. The committee recommended on 7th June 1995 closer regulation of the security industry, ACPO estimates that around 2,600 offences are committed each year by security guards [47].

Hunt Stewards were employed who had previous convictions for offences against the person, night club bouncers and in some areas even military personnel. "There have been many instances of stewards evicting saboteurs from land on which they had no authority to be themselves... even illegally removing saboteurs from land from which the hunt was specifically banned"[48]. Even LACS monitors who do not trespass on private land and are present as observers, easily identifiable wearing tabards, have been victims of assault and moved on from public land by hunt stewards [49].

Security firms have in addition been hired to gather intelligence for hunts on known saboteurs for civil actions. Given the activities of 'punishment squads' hunt saboteurs are understandably worried. Private security is an expensive outlay (contrary to common opinion many hunts are not financially secure) and there have been suggestions of a cynical strategy by the BFSS aimed to intensify conflict and add strength to their campaign. Such claims remain at the level of speculation, not all hunts have stewards and there is diversity among those that do; some being more heavy-handed than others.

This diversity in levels of violence between hunts has been overlooked in discussion of the 1994 act. Differing police and stewards reactions obviously have an effect on the approach of saboteurs, having a "self fulfilling quality mutual antagonism is bound to build up" (RH Thomas 1983:113). In fact considerable progress had been made in some police areas towards avoiding confrontation whilst allowing peaceful protest by creating a 'working relationship' with hunt saboteurs. "After sabs started to actually talk to the police, remove the balaclavas from their heads and say hello, the local cops started to have a much more reasonable attitude"[50].

In the summer of 1993 meetings were held in some of the most troublesome areas with police, Surrey, Essex, Cheshire and the Thames Valley. In Thames Valley presentations from representatives of the HSA and LACS were held and the Operations Department gave policy guidance and awareness training for senior officers and a Hunt Liaison officer. This "resulted in the withdrawal of paid stewards by the hunt and a lessening of activity by those willing to disrupt the hunt"[51]. The local saboteurs "try to let the relevant officer know at which hunts saboteurs will be present and roughly how many of us will be coming, to keep numbers to manageable proportions"[52]. Thus tension was considerably reduced.

Police and the Law Post-Aggravated Trespass
Under section 68 Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994 it is now a criminal offence (punishable with three months imprisonment or a fine) to trespass on land in the open air with the intention of intimidating a person to deter him from engaging in a lawful activity or obstructing or disrupting that lawful activity. Section 69 empowers the police to direct aggravated trespassers or people they 'reasonably believe' to intend to commit the offence, to leave the land. Failure to comply is an offence. Hunt sabotage is clearly covered by these wide provisions, the offence can be committed on private land, footpaths and rights of way (as defined in the Act section 5a) and arguably public 'common' land. [53]. 'Sabbing' from roads is not included but the police have existing powers to prevent such protests.

Smith (1995:22) has argued that "it is not wholly clear what it adds that could not be dealt with quite satisfactorily by the police under their breach of the peace powers". Presumably as defined by Lord Denning MR in the CEGB case as "Whenever a person who is lawfully carrying out his work is unlawfully and physically prevented by another from doing it"[54]. This statement however does not make a Breach of the Peace automatic (as we have seen blowing a hunting horn has been held not to be a breach of the peace), Lord Denning MR argued that because self help is possible by workers to evict protesters any obstruction could give reasonable apprehension to the police of possible violence (Feldman 1993:788). Aggravated trespass clearly goes further, it presumes violence and criminalizes saboteurs on perceived intention alone, it does not require anyone actually to have been 'intimidated, obstructed or disrupted' and it is therefore a victimless offence. Despite its actual provision aggravated trespass implies a violent nature in its offenders. Elsewhere in the criminal law an 'aggravated' offence connotes serious harm (e.g. aggravated burglary). This perpetuates the image of saboteurs dispelled above, the presumption of violence is unjustified and legitimate peaceful protest has been outlawed as a result.

"This raises an important issue of principle - what extent should private and semi-private property rights in land be permitted to trump or override rights to freedom of speech and expression in public" (Smith 1995:24). To effectively protest against hunting, to record incidents of 'cruelty' and register their opposition, hunt saboteurs have to get close to the hunt. It is a question of conscience, "In a society that permits such a controversial activity as hunting it is reasonable also to permit non violent direct action against it" (Liberty Briefing 1994/3). Amnesty International have suggested that if hunt saboteurs are imprisoned for aggravated trespass they will become prisoners of conscience (Sunday Telegraph 11/12/94).

To introduce some perspective to the argument it is important not to overestimate the scale of disruption at hunts across the country. Ben Ponton HSA Press Officer claims that 3,000 regular sabs will be disrupting 50 of Britain's 340 hunt meetings each week. (Independent on Sunday 9/10/94). This is just under 15%; of these a kill will not always be prevented and the days hunting can pass without incident.

Peaceful protest "is designed to inform, persuade and cajole. It may be a nuisance; it may even be intended to be. It is often noisy and inconvenient. But it is a legitimate form of public expression protected by the European convention on Human Rights"[55]. Aggravated trespass arguably falls foul of Article 10 and 11 of the European convention, it is not necessary to prevent disorder and makes the activity a crime. It also possibly contravenes Article 6(2) because it places the burden of proof on the defendant. It is unclear how a line can be drawn between creating a nuisance, interrupting or disrupting a hunt.

After its first two seasons of application it is possible to conclude that the Act has not solved the problem of violence or police difficulties, in fact it has worsened the situation. Hunt saboteurs, undeterred by the 'Criminal Injustice Act' have vowed to continue despite their now unlawful status. They also appear to have changed tactics in protest against their criminalization; 'hitting' bloodsports events by county, on a scale which police forces (many have three or four hunts in their area) cannot effectively contain [56].

"Even those who don't care one way or another will not be happy to know that while their house was being burgled or their car stolen, some three dozen of the local constabularies finest were down the road arresting a handful of animal lovers walking across a field" [57].

Hunt Stewards have been withdrawn in most areas but the police face huge operational difficulties to fulfil their new role, with budget restrictions already in force they simply do not have the manpower to prevent 'sabbing'. Some forces, notably Thames Valley, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire voiced their concerns prior to its introduction.

Almost all of the arrests in the 1994-5 season took place in seven police areas, notably Kettering and Corby in Northamptonshire, Essex, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent which took a pro-active approach at the outset. At GoodEaster 19/11/94 (which accounts for 28 arrests) the Essex Constabulary employed ahelicopter, a mobile 'prison', 10 transit vans, patrol cars and Land Rovers to 'control' 200 protesters. Saboteurs were arrested whilst the hunt was out of sight and for being in a group, part of a 'joint enterprise', which virtually prevents any protesters from being present, on footpaths or otherwise. Many forces remain unclear about the precise implications of the act with predictable results. Out of the 154 saboteurs arrested or reported for summons in the 1994/95 hunt season there have only been eleven convictions (fines imposed) one bindover to keep the peace and over 60 cases dropped before getting to court. Those convicted are on appeal and threaten to challenge the law in the European Court in Strasbourg, those who have had their charges dropped threaten civil action [58].

Relations between saboteurs and police are obviously damaged and 'working relationships' have broken down [59]. Given the differences in approach between forces, even calling in aid from outside forces has caused difficulties. A HSA news release claims Hampshire Police instigated an 'arrest on sight' policy at a Berkshire hunt to the 'amazement' of understaffed local police (7/1/95).

Tension between saboteurs and the hunting community has also been amplified. "The saboteurs may opt for more covert activities, involving more serious criminal offence" (Chief Inspector T. Davies Thames Valley Police) [60]. There is a possibility that criminalization, once convictions are secured, may deter those with full time employment, reinforcing the perceived image of hunt saboteurs. There are also indications that hunt supporters may read the Act as justification for violence against saboteurs.

Overall, as Smith (1995:27) describes the complete new legislative package, Aggravated Trespass is "a mean spirited, intolerant, ungenerous piece of work that may, if equally ungenerously implemented, lay trouble in store for years to come".

Legislative history and the politics of hunting
The public order provisions of the 1994 Act, with their focus on travellers, squatters, ravers and hunt saboteurs, give the authoritative sanction of the criminal law to owners of property and supporters of the hunt in a manner reminiscent of previous centuries.

Disruption of hunting has historically attracted censure from the dominant classes in society. In the 18th and 19th Century, killing a fox, 'vulpicide' was considered a serious 'social crime' and farmers doing so (and thus depriving the Hunt of its game) faced social disapprobation. E.P. Thompson has well documented the political construction of crime in his analysis of the 'Black Act' of 1723 in 'Whigs and Hunters'. The punitive game laws, the criminalization of 'poachers', clash of rights and violence described therein, is not without relevance, by analogy, to the modern conflict between hunting and hunt saboteurs. "The game laws ... united the two great pre-occupations of the landed ruling class in one knot of emotion. Field sports and justice tended to merge in their minds, and often, in the end, to mean the same thing" (Hay 1975:248).

It is extraordinary, given the social upheaval, changing moral sensibilities and democratisation that has taken place, that once again field sports and 'justice' have combined forces. It is less surprising however if it is recognised that the Home Secretary's proposals "have far more to do with party politics than law and order"[61]. The Home Office has acknowledged that no formal research or consultation was undertaken into the aggravated trespass law, it was conceived instead through the lobbying of the BFSS, the Association of Masters of Fox Hounds and the Moorland Association, all pro-field sports bodies [62]. It was carried on the back of the prevailing law and order ideology. Labour, whilst active in opposition during the committee stages, declined to oppose on the 2nd reading of the bill "for fear of being seen to be soft on crime". This left the Peers; "given the targets of this part of the Act and the social make-up of their Lordships house.. the prospect of serious opposition was negligible" (Smith 1995:27). Most of the debates in the Lords centred around the issue of hunting rather than the supposed disorder caused by saboteurs.

After heavily criticising hunt saboteurs at the Conservative Party Conference in 1993 the relevant clauses of the Bill (cl. 52/53) failed to specify hunt sabotage as its object. This raised concerns about its possible extension to other forms of protest but its symbolic absence was overlooked. The clause appears to protect lawful activities impartially; in the current climate it is probable that a clause to prevent the intimidation, destruction or disruption of bloodsports may have had a more difficult passage.

Previous attempts to outlaw hunt sabotage had met with little success. In 1971 F. Bennion tried to persuade the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge the HSA Committee with 'conspiracy to disrupt a lawful event'. Conspiracy charges have in the past succeeded where the offence was civil [63] but after early backing from the BFSS this failed (RH Thomas 1983:111). In 1986 David Mellor, then Minister of State at the Home Office explained on BBC radio that the government had no intention of introducing a criminal trespass law (Liberty Briefing 94/3). Whey then did the field sports lobby succeed in 1993? The 'escalation of violence' theme noted above is the main reason, the hunting community were in crisis. The Government, also faced with an increasingly disillusioned middle class electorate could be assured of the traditionally conservative hunting support if they included Aggravated Trespass in their legislation, if not, the newly formed pro-hunting group in the traditionally anti- Labour party could gain votes.

Though not exactly a 'moral panic' (many urban dwellers were indifferent and there was a significant increase in trouble at hunts) there is clearly "a radical discrepancy between the nature of the threat and the scale of the containment" (Hall et al 1978:146). It appears that law and order ideology helped reinforce the ruling hegemony and the resulting tendency towards 'authoritarian statism' was felt by the hunt saboteurs. As one interviewee suggested it could be said that there has been a change in approach towards all forms of protest from 'contain, control and disperse' to 'smash'.

It is striking that 1994 also saw the introduction of legislation against anti-bloodsports campaigners in the USA and Germany, although this is against different constitutional and political backgrounds. In the US Crime Bill, the 'Recreational Hunting Safety and Preservation Act' sec 320802, "any physical conduct that significantly hinders a lawful hunt" on federal land attracts a civil penalty [64]. The legislators claim not to infringe the first amendment right of free speech and the offender must both intend to disrupt and actually have a negative affect on the hunt, it is narrower than aggravated trespass in this respect. The US has popular support for hunting although the animal rights movement is growing with UK support. In Germany the legislation also directly mentioned hunting, it is primarily concerned with disruption of shooting since hunting with dogs has been illegal since the 1930's [65].

A more general objection to the 1994 Act supported by LACS, a landowner itself, is that is creates two classes of landowner; those who object to hunting still only have recourse to the civil law in case of hunt trespass and 'rioting' by hounds. They consider these to be violent acts and yet for structural reasons their concerns were not addressed. (The proposed amendment was rejected in the House of Commons Standing Committee - HC Debates 8/2/94).

It is important to remember therefore that in this conflict the nature of violence and criminality is a matter of perspective. "What was a hunt after all, but a gang of men in red coats who rode about the country booted and spurred cracking whips, committing trespass and forming a riotous assembly" (Ridley 1990:60).

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Media-ting the Conflict

  • The media are not interested in portraying sabs as seriouscampaigners... writers in Horse and Hound present anti-bloodsports campaigners either as 'misguided and sentimental' or as fuelled by class hatred. (Windeatt 1982:29).

It is not surprising that a specialist magazine, such as Horse and Hound, which clearly advocates the continuation of field sports should consistently present anti-bloodsports campaigners in an unfavourable light. Horse and Hound, The Field, Country Life and similar publications appeal to a readership which is wider than just the hunting community however, they cover other country pursuits and issues and, being well established, have status as authoritative sources of information about 'country matters'. They also have a certain 'social cachet' and in the latter case especially depict an affluent rural idyll. To those for whom these magazines provide their only contact with rural life this ideology may be persuasive, it is certainly attractive. However, their obviously partisan viewpoint on the hunting issue should allow those with different sentiments the freedom to decode and read the text 'oppositionally'[66].

It is of more interest in the present context to question how anti-bloodsports campaigners (and more specifically hunt saboteurs) are portrayed in the general news media. News coverage has considerable impact, not only because of its wide circulation but more importantly because of a belief in the 'impartial' and authoritative quality of what constitutes 'news'.

As Cohen and Young (1981:340) write: "In modern urban societies there is an extreme social segregation between different groups. The media are the major and at times the sole source of information about a wide range of phenomenon" [my italics]. This is particularly true with respect to public awareness of activities in the hunting field. Any misrepresentation or distortion of the issues as a result of this mediating process would therefore prove cause for concern, it could influence the way in which the conflict is viewed and predicate the eventual outcome.

It is important to emphasise at the outset the centrality of media publicity to opponents of bloodsports. From the 1890's, when Rev J. Stratton (a member of the Humanitarian League) followed the Royal Buckhounds, to hunt saboteurs and LACS monitors with camcorders in the present day, it has always been a primary concern of the anti-hunt to document and publicise incidents of 'cruelty' [67] . The hunt is otherwise afforded the protection of private space, veiling events from the public eye. As one ex-saboteur informed me "if this happened on the High Street it would have been banned years ago".

In response to this adverse publicity the BFSS launched their 'Campaign for Hunting' in 1991 which lobbied successfully for the introduction of aggravated trespass and reports that "encouraging numbers of commentators in the press and on television and radio are adopting a supportive line, and we are seeing signs of a shift in public opinion" [68]. Both sides of the debate therefore operate within a modern promotional culture, in an increasingly censorious society where image management is crucial to their legitimation and survival.

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Opinion and the Media

RH Thomas (1983:187) has traced the way that changes in Britain's social, economic and political structures over the last century has affected media coverage of hunting for sport. In the 19th Century the press largely reflected the propertied interest and the Times, like all 'quality' newspapers had regular hunting and coursing columns. With the advent of universal suffrage 'public opinion' became more influential but hunting was not automatically of concern to the urban majority. There is a dialectical relationship between press content and the formation of public opinion and it was only with the growth of the radical press in the 20th Century, which provided a platform for the anti-hunting movement, that a wider consciousness of issues of cruelty developed.

The Times continued extensive coverage of all field sports and their attendant social calendar until the mid 20th Century and in the 1930's the BBC censored programmes with anti-hunting sympathies [69]. It was only after the Second World War, with the breaking up of the large estates and the introduction of an anti-hunting Private Members Bill [70], that the 'quality' press reports changed their focus to the political issue. Thomas writes (1983:188) "by the 1950's the majority of the reports in The Times concerned 'news' items such as parliamentary debates, pressure group activity or violence on the hunting field. Photographs of hunting members of the Royal Family appeared from time to time but hunting as an activity had little news value unless it was in trouble". He notes that in the second half of 1970 only one report in The Times out of five did not imply a criticism of hunting. The 'News Chronicle' and the 'Guardian' are identified as early opponents of hunting, joined in the 1960's by the Daily Mirror and the popular Sunday papers. "These papers published stories in which the themes of cruelty, snobbery and class-antagonism could be exploited in order to discredit the supporters of hunting and coursing" (1983:188).

Current media attention has altered little in character since Thomas made the above observation. The majority of the broadsheets remain in favour of hunting (in protection of a rural minority) with the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent feeling strongly enough to editorialise on the issue during the recent McFall debate. The Guardian and the Daily Mirror, as expected, voiced their support for the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, whilst the remaining tabloids gave it minimum coverage, with a slight bias of articles in favour but no official comment.

What Thomas' study overlooks however is the treatment of anti-bloodsports campaigners in the media and the themes used to discredit their point of view. Public opinion may have grown in its general sympathies towards the aims of the movement but the line taken by the press has remained largely consistent in the last thirty years, the issue of cruelty is somehow blurred and identification with the campaigners made more difficult. This cannot be explained away as a simple product of editorial conspiracy, it is not only publications which are concerned to protect the freedoms of a 'besieged minority' which marginalize those actively protesting against the hunt. The irony is that even in the 'anti' press the hunting community have been portrayed as victims of the conflict more often than the fox.

Press censure of the 'saboteur'
When the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, pledged to introduce legislation against the "thugs, wreckers and bullies" who disrupt hunting [71] the media's response (with the notable exception of The Guardian [72]) was not to challenge this definition or indeed the criminalisation of non-violent protest by hunt saboteurs. The press focused instead on the possible extension of this law and its implications for ramblers access to the countryside. This reaction is unsurprising, the hunt saboteur was already clearly visualised as deviant. The interesting question is how, given the changing climate, this image was produced and sustained; whose definition of deviance was employed?

The HSA blame a 'smear' campaign co-ordinated by the BFSS (HSA 1994c:1). While the BFSS, as noted above, have over the last few years cultivated press opinion and were instrumental in the new law, they are far from having definitional authority. It will become clear that the true picture is rather more complex. The hunt saboteurs have been disadvantaged by the professional and commercial imperatives of the journalistic process, by their own name, terminology and appearance and ultimately by their lack of 'cultural capital' to offer alternative interpretations of events in a media which is structured towards the reproduction of the dominant ideology. It is well established in media sociology that the 'essence of news' is its emphasis on social deviance and control (Ericson 1987). Routine hunt sabotage is therefore not newsworthy unless it occurs on an abnormally large scale (such as a national 'hit') and people or property are harmed in the course of the activity. Hunt saboteurs are therefore unavoidably linked in press discourse with an intimidating presence and violence on the hunting field.

This is not a new development, "as early as 1964 a group of four Culmstock Otter Hunt supporters and seven HSA members were bound over to keep the peace because of a well publicised scuffle in which a saboteur's jaw was broken. As a result of this court case the HSA became newsworthy and relatively trivial incidents became major stories" (RH Thomas 1983:110).

The HSA used to welcome this publicity "It has felt that demonstrations and even violence, whether inflicted on members of by them, generates publicity which will, on balance, harm the hunting community more than it hurts them" (RH Thomas 1983:261). This belief now appears to have been mistaken if, as is submitted, negative press coverage has in fact diverted critical attention away from the hunting community and onto the saboteurs.

A summary survey of national press coverage from the last four years uncovers considerably more incidents of reported violence by 'hunt saboteurs' than by hunt supporters; a picture which does not reflect the analysis of the conflict in Chapter 1. This is partly a result of the acknowledged police tendency to arrest the saboteur when a situation of conflict arises, it is also a consequence of the reporting of charges which, when dropped, do not fit the criteria of newsworthiness. It may be argued that journalists give primacy to the official police definition of events; reporters are rarely 'in the field' and require 'authoritative' sources on which to react (Ericson 1989). When that source is also reliant on a construction of the incident and responds according to expedience, the press coverage can easily distort and simplify actuality.

This cannot however fully explain the skewed picture which emerges. It is notable that only three out of the nine examples of "Hunting Criminals" given as examples by the HSA [73] were reported by the national press surveyed for the same period [74]. "Quantity of course is not definitive of meaning or significance but it is one indicator or symptom" (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:1973).

When hunt supporters do make the news for their infractions the incident is often presented in a less censorious manner. Firstly their actions are individualised and therefore distanced from the hunting community whereas 'saboteurs' tend to be grouped together. The coverage can also be more personalised, stressing the impact of the outcome on home and family. Finally, and most strikingly, there is a concern to place the violence in an aetiological context, huntsmen are 'intimidated' and 'provoked' their reaction is therefore at least understandable. This tendency is clearly illustrated by an article on "Hunt Thugs" in the Daily Mail which failed to mention one subjects previous conviction for violence against a saboteur, included sympathetic statements by both the Hunt and the defence counsel, referred to the impending marriage of the offender and allowed their explanation that "they acted out of pure frustration"[75].

In sharp contrast press coverage rarely places saboteurs actions, non-violent or otherwise, within a rational context and usually the issues behind the protest are not addressed. The perception of hunt saboteurs in the general media appears to be remarkably similar to Windeatt's observation highlighted at the beginning of this chapter, they are not portrayed as serious campaigners. They are portrayed however through a peculiar mixture of recurring themes, as either violent terrorists, angry hooligans 'fuelled by class hatred' or as 'misguided' sentimentalists, all of whom were probably paid to be there. The cumulative effect of these themes is to discredit the hunt saboteurs cause and to signify their form of protest as militant.

How does this pattern emerge? Summer and Sandberg in their study into the press censure of 'dissident minorities' have identified an emphasis on violence, anger without reason and the staging of events as characteristic censures. This "paradigm of militancy" is applied selectively to extra-parliamentary protests which run counter to the governing ideology (1990:163). Hunt sabotage, with its disregard for property rights (trespass, game), of 'tradition' and of the democratic process, clearly falls within this paradigm. This is not to suggest however that the saboteurs' image results from a conscious application of this framework by 'interested' journalists or simply through 'primary definition' by institutional sources (see Hall et al. 1978). It is merely to observe that "the content and form adopted by news values in specific instances are determined by the ideological understanding of the newsworthy event "(Sumner and Sandberg 1990:178).

The over association of hunt saboteurs with violent protest has already been addressed above, but saboteurs are also found 'guilty' by association with the more extreme members of the animal liberation movements . This is partly due to the press translation or 'normalisation' of unusual events by reference to established "vocabularies of motive" (Hall 1974). Hunt sabotage is within common understanding and the 'new' phenomena can be 'explained' as an extension of this. It is also partly a case of semantics; attacks on horses [76], hunt kennels [77], letter bombs [78] and so on, are frequently blamed on a mythical 'saboteur', much to the consternation of the HSA and providing armour for the BFSS campaign [79]. "The term saboteur (is) often used as a catch-all description to describe any anti-hunt activity, no matter what its nature and no matter whether saboteurs were involved or not" (HSA 1994a:5). The connotations of the language of hunt sabotage are unfortunate in this respect, ironically the HSA have chosen a censure for a name, a censure with a specific historical and ideological origin [80] and a word which retains its violent overtones aside from its descriptive context [81]. National 'hits' are also open to misrepresentation.

The 'terrorist' image is therefore frequently reproduced in the context of 'ordinary' sabbing. Even the usually sympathetic Guardian has included articles to this effect [82]. Other discernible themes and metaphors such as 'guerrilla warfare' and animal imagery have particular significance with reference to hunting whilst reinforcing the 'violent' censure. The news media have simply transposed the 'inferential structure' from hunting coverage into the conflict. The hunting field has historically been related to military training and tactics, guerrilla warfare is therefore representative of not 'fighting fair'. The 'animal' slur is more obviously pertinent, it turns the cruelty argument upon itself and therefore legitimates the pro-field sports lobby.

News media professionals trade in these key images and phrases and artificially reduce reality into a picture which, once established, in the absence of counter-definition, will recur [83] . Almost without the selective choice of news photographs the external image of the hunt saboteur fits the deviant stereotype outlined above. Scruffy youths, some with long hair, others in army surplus or ethnic clothing, with balaclavas, whips and spray cans, tend to look incongruous alongside the Christmas Card hunt and can easily be misconstrued. Saboteurs cover long distances on foot , over the open countryside, their choice of attire therefore, given changing youth fashions is understandable. The tools are those of non-violent hunt sabotage (whips, to imitate the huntsman and citronella or anti-mate scent to divert the hounds). Finally, the balaclava provides anonymity, not from intended criminal acts but in most cases from police intelligence gatherers, where records are known to exist irrespective of previous contact with the police (this also accounts in part for 'sabs' reluctance to be identified in media interviews).

The censure of youth and prejudice based on appearance is familiar and widespread both in the press and in society at large, though it can undoubtedly be amplified by media attention [84]. An image can be reinforced even when it clearly does not apply. In a recent case for example, the tabloid press focused on a 'glamour girl' saboteur (of 23!) who "didn't look the type" and "hid a violent streak"[85]. This is censure by implication.

Sumner and Sandberg refer to the 'angry' face of militancy which signifies irrationality. Sabotage is often portrayed as a phase of 'youthful rebellion' or, alternatively, an expression of 'class hatred'. These themes are fed by the focus on appearances identified above and references to unemployment or 'time wasting'. The class issue also has important consequences, it intentionally clouds the debate and when employed as a censure has a hegemonic function [86]. As will be seen in the third section the actual demography of the HSA is rather more diverse than this media construction suggests.

"From our study, feminism, childishness, foreigners, emotions, animals and pests seem to be major symbols of unreason" (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:180). Feminism is also linked in news discourse with hunt saboteurs (and vice versa [87]). Traditionally women are regulated as passive subjects, their involvement in direct action therefore is perceived to be uncharacteristic and they tend to be described either as 'feminists' or as 'girls'. While this censure is familiar in political demonstrations [88] it also has a specific history in relation to hunt sabotage and the anti-hunt. Consciousness of animal cruelty and the womens liberation movement have a shared heritage in the Humanitarian League and the Fabian Society . In more recent history a womens national hit on the Hursley Hambledon Hunt followed allegations of a sexual assault on a female saboteur and there is concern that women in particular are the targets of violence in the field [89].

Anger is not the only indication of 'unreason', ironically saboteurs are also presented as sentimentalists who wouldn't harm anyone. They are 'loony liberals' with 'a love affair for all things green or furry', suffering from 'cuddly bunny syndrome'[90]. This is the tone sometimes taken by seasonal feature articles, which are subject to fewer practical constraints than news items but often closely adhere to editorial opinion. The over sensitivity of 'girls', youth, and animal activists is emphasised as a source of their misguided, one-issue fanaticism.

Finally, and fulfilling the 'paradigm of militancy' hunt saboteurs are thought to be 'misguided' in another, conspiratorial sense. Obviously 'sabbing' is an organised activity at the local level but the media, with their focus on large gatherings and inattention to the diversity of groups (and hunts) create the impression of a centrally co-ordinated movement aimed at creating conflict, not preventing 'kills'. This 'staging' of events does little to discredit the belief that many are paid to take part. References to unemployment, urban origin, rent-a-mobs and the 'protesting classes' [91] are common. The Poll Tax Riots it has been argued [92] and other forms of violent dissent all become symptoms of the same cause. This conspiracy theory neatly 'divides the unthinkable' into a 'ring of troublemakers' and their sentimental dupes (Sumner 1973). It avoids confronting changing consciousness.

Occasionally a news story occurs which exhibits all of the above themes and is directly damaging to the subject. It is almost as if the press feel that their preconceived picture has been justified and are emphatic in their denouncement of the 'militants', irrespective of the actual dynamics of the incident concerned. News coverage following the tragic death of a fifteen year-old saboteur who was crushed under the wheels of a horse box at the Cambridgeshire Hunt in 1993, is a case in point. It has all of the elements: an 'innocent' child, a 'wicked' woman and a 'battleground' with 'ringleaders'. As one ex-saboteur related "within 48 hours we were Nazis"[93].

The Thomas Worby story, ( or more accurately the Margaret Flynn story, for press attention focused on her rather than the accident victim) is interesting to discuss in further detail. It provides a more obvious example of the way in which events can be distorted by the journalistic process. The accident happened on a Saturday and was reported briefly by some Sunday newspapers, quoting a statement from the hunt ("saboteurs were desperate, it is not surprising another accident has happened") and from a saboteur present [94]. By Monday journalists had traced the parents/grandfather, who were obviously devastated, and suggested that the woman who had transported the saboteurs (not a local group) had 'recruited' youngsters from school. This was denied (although the HSA has a junior 'Fox Cubs' membership it does not 'recruit' in this sense [95]) the idea however that children were being led astray predominated, "this idealism is being harnessed by Hunt Saboteurs, vegetarian proselytises and pseudo-religious cults" [96].

On Tuesday April 6th the real damage was inflicted when 'Today' newspaper led with "Nazi past of hunt death saboteur". Animal activists were not just 'fanatical' they were violent, willing to 'sacrifice' youngsters for a cause. "Putting swastika's on the front page obviously had us in tears, with a bit of retrospective a lot of people reading if for a second time would agree, but how many people read tabloid papers twice? The image sticks" [97].

Suggestions of far right political extremism are not new and in the individual case not without foundation [98].The hunting of wild animals with dogs was banned in Germany in 1936, the animal rights movement in this county however has a very different history and political complexion [99]. During and after the Second World War when hunting attracted renewed criticism anti-hunt sympathisers were viewed as un-English, the enemy within [100] . Resurrecting this censure of the saboteurs therefore, alongside the suggestion that hunt saboteurs would use the occasion for propaganda purposes, is highly condemnatory [101].

Isolated reports in the Northern Echo (6/4/93) and the Guardian (10/4/93) [102] presented a more balanced account and re-focused the issue: "the incident itself is clearly at the centre of all judgement ... is it not very odd that in such circumstances we should be hearing so much about Mrs Flynn's old politics and talk about saboteurs seducing and manipulating youngsters?"[103]. The image however is less easily dispelled and the incident was recalled in media coverage of the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill.

By way of contrast, recent demonstrations against live animal exportation at Shoreham, Brightlingsea and Coventry have had a completely different reception in the press. While still concerned with cruelty to animals they reflect the 'paradigm of moderation', peaceful protest and spontaneous rallying for a good cause (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:181). To an almost unprecedented extent in recent history the 'law and order' orientation of news has given column inches to criticism of the police. With headlines such as 'Like a Lamb to Slaughter: Brutal Police 'out of control' at port protest' (Today 19/1/95): and also the Times 'A tyrannical penalty against a small town' (20/1/95). Jill Phipps, the protester who died at Coventry airport was a 'heroine', a 'nice ordinary girl', a 'mother'[104]. Why should this be the case when the issue is the same and its economic value in the latter case much higher?[105].

The 'primary definers' appear to have lost their definitional advantage, indicating some plurality in media discourse and their 'relative autonomy'[106].The police are understandably concerned with what they perceive to be press sensationalism and recommend that "Forces must take steps to ensure that press coverage of public order incidents is not dictated by anti-police groups", "giving certain fringe groups publicity which is disproportionate to their true level of support" (Police Review 6/1/93:27). Pre-event briefings, camera points and information packs are suggested to redress the 'balance' and reinforce the image of policing by consent. This is a re-negotiation of definitional control and shows the potential for construction of news coverage.

But why should the press look beyond the official construction in this instance and not with respect to hunt-saboteurs? The received opinion is that: "The difference is of course, in those who are demonstrating. Nightly television pictures prove a large proportion of the protesters are white, middle class, middle aged and female. They are in short from the section of society who could normally be expected to offer total support to the police" (Police Review 27/1/93:19). This selectivity in itself shows the ideological, moral and political judgement underlying the censure of extra-parliamentary protest [107], it is not however a satisfactory conclusion. As will be seen hunt saboteurs share many of the above characteristics but as this section has argued, based on mediatized information, this picture in unclear. Their protest is not centred on a convoy of lorries through small towns it, is away from the public-eye in different locations all around the country. There are signs that news coverage of animal exports is changing back to more familiar territory with 'hard-core' agitators coming into the frame (Sunday Times 5/2/95) including a post-humously relabelled Jill Phipps. Perhaps the story was getting old and its implications unpalatable?

The HSA are well aware of their image problem, they lack the respectability and credibility which allows the LACS and RSPCA for example to participate more fully in the Media debate.

"They created a very bad image. And if you want to achieve anything worthwhile it's a mistake to let yourself get a disgusting image - look what's happened to the Greenham women. They have a perfectly sane and moral position, but they have not cared enough about their image. If you want to beat the tweeds and green wellingtons brigade you have to have more tweeds and green wellingtons than they do" (J. Bryant LACS in Blackwood 1987:38).

The hunt saboteurs however would argue that they are achieving something worthwhile each time they prevent a kill, the aim of their direct action was never to join in the democratic process it was in lieu of a slow legislative response. They did not consciously set out to take a media platform the media came to and marginalized them. In response to the Worby publicity one saboteur explained "You shouldn't stop what you are doing simply because of what the papers say. The problem remains of having eloquent spokesmen in every group" [108].

Because of structured access to the press, the saboteurs are limited in their ability to counter this definition. The scenario described below by a saboteur present at GoodEaster on 19th November 1994 when 28 arrests were made under the new Criminal Justice Act, is not uncommon.

"A freelance journalist was in the Observer Offices the day we were at Essex, he took some pictures (of heavy policing) and rushed down the offices as soon as possible, then he said that they were going to put a really good article in, based on what he'd seen when they got a press release from the police saying a policeman was unconscious, suddenly the article changed"[109].

Saboteurs have "made more effort to put their case"[110], they have a permanent press officer and prepare regular news releases which sometimes are picked up by national papers and has raised their public profile. However, "It is one thing to become a part of the debate in the media and another thing to be taken any notice of" (Sumner 1994:7). Access is known to be easier for pressure groups on a local level (Schlesinger 1994). The Cambridge Evening News for example, did not cover the Nazi angle of the Worby story, reporting instead "Hundreds rally to mourn hunt protester" and commenting on "friendly faces" at the demonstration (C.E.N. 12/4/93). While encouraging, the 'spectre' of violence by 'other' groups portrayed by the national media remains influential.

There are signs that 'alternative' press circulation may be growing as the internet provides access to a range of alternative news sources (including the HSA) and takes publishing into a new dimension, although it is likely that commercial imperatives will structure and preclude access and judgements of credibility remain. Other attempts to open up the tendency to 'ideological closure' in the general media are beginning to gain recognition. 'Small World Productions' who circulate "Undercurrents" videos to libraries, schools, and colleges and target 'those interested but inactive' have received a grant from the European Commission project on environmental issues [111]. They provide camcorder footage and an alternative perspective on non-violent direct action, including hunt sabotage. Small World also offers campaigners training in giving interviews and dealing with the media, their aim is empowerment. "These are people who are suffering injustices but who are unrepresented. They are active, trying to bring about change, but the media is not helping them out" (Information Booklet - Undercurrents 2).

In conclusion the counter-censure of hunting by LACS, RSPCA etc. in the media is easier partly because it is "different at the legislative where journalists control of the environment is substantial at all levels" (Ericson 1989:392). The image of all anti-bloodsports campaigners is however coloured by the treatment of a few.

The media is the primary source of information about the social censure of hunt saboteurs:

  • Through appeals to the 'rule of law' and the 'need for order' the censure promotes ideological and technical rearmament at the top and the criminalization of dissent from below. (Sumner and Sandberg 1990:188).

A final word of caution from Murdock (1981:222) is worthy of reproducing in full:

  • The question remains ... how long radical groups can continue to act both within and against the spectacle without internalising and acting out their ascribed role as 'deviants' and outsiders and hence reinforcing the very processes they are seeking to challenge.

With the apparent criminalization of hunt sabotage the 'spectacle' may well be self-fulfilling.

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Explaining the Conflict

  • Although hunting is not a major 'political' or 'economic' issue, nevertheless social norms and the values of pro- and anti-hunting activists are important, for if society deems one group or another to be 'extremist' then its views on hunting will be neither credible nor acceptable. (RH Thomas 1983:x).

The censure of hunt saboteurs as violent and their method of protest as 'extreme' has been addressed in the previous two chapters. It is clear that the process of censure is more complex than the above quotation implies; 'society' did not simply 'deem' hunt saboteurs to be extremists, this view has been shaped by the shared norms and values of the pro-hunting community and the key apparatuses of social regulation.

Social censures are negative ideological formations tied to the processes of regulation within social practice (Sumner 1994:303). The present chapter aims to show how historically hunting for sport provided a mechanism for creating ideological hegemony in rural areas. The controversy over 'bloodsports' can therefore be interpreted as the result of changes in the social relations of production which weakened this form of control and predicated the development of a new sensibility; the censure of violence and cruelty to animals. Not surprisingly this process was both gradual and complex, it helps explain why such a "peculiar privilege" has lasted so long (Itzkowitz 1977).

The censure of cruelty has been structured and restrained by the changing balance of power in society. It has been interpreted as an attack on the elite rural establishment and the primacy of social classes. In fact this represents a distinct source of the censure of hunting, predating the censure of cruelty, which is often merged with and employed to counter and discredit the anti's argument. The two censures do overlap, as will be seen, a concern for animals is linked to the growing consciousness for the rights of social subordinates but they are independent, the abolition of animal cruelty forming an end in itself.

The historical constitution of the social norms and values of pro- and anti- bloodsports activists is interesting (contrary to Thomas) precisely because hunting is no longer a major political or economic issue. The conflict is purely ideological and strikingly it is between sections of the middle class.

Why have blood sports (or field sports as the hunting community prefer) become such a site of contestation? Why is there a significant majority (some polls show over 80%) in favour of a ban on hunting and why do hunt saboteurs feel non-violent direct action is necessary?

Hunting as a form of social regulation:
William the Conqueror introduced hunting for sport to England from France. "Perhaps the foremost of the incentives that led the Normal barons to support William's invasion... was the promise of new hunting grounds" (Monbiot, G: Guardian 3/3/95). With the creation of the 'forests', royal hunting estates which under the rule of Henry II covered a third of England, the peasants were dispossessed and feudalism instituted. The Game Laws claimed exclusive hunting rights for the aristocracy, they represented a symbolic act of superiority rather than a concern for material gain (K Thomas 1983:183). Although ,as noted in the first section of this paper, in their repressive nature lay the seeds of class censure.

Hunting played a similar role in 'civilising' the colonies. It was exported with the Army (for whom it served as a form of military training) and accounts for the presence of this unusual social practice in remote parts of the world today [112]. The British settlers acquired status through designating their hunting lands "on which the inhabitants were characterised as either poacher or squatters and vigorously punished for taking game" (Monbiot).

Hunting therefore appeared to provide a means of differentiating between hunting 'gentlemen' and the lower classes, it signified inclusion in aristocratic 'society'. The language used still retains echoes of Norman French [113] and the strict rules and etiquette are marks of distinction. With hunting came claims to elevated status which appeased the squirearchy and later, merchants who entered the 'exclusive' field. "It link[ed] all classes together form the Peer to the peasant" (Ridley 1990) and performed an important function in reinforcing the hegemony of the ruling class. The lower classes of course were not included as members of the field, they had a different role, as terrier men for the kill or simply as spectators to the ritual. Fox-hunting also had an additional symbolic message, the Fox, a 'villain', met his just deserts [114]. The 'majesty' of this spectacle endures to the present day and is enhanced by the continued following of royalty.

"Foxhunts are not isolated social occasions they are part of a larger cultural scenario" (Windeatt 1982:53) whose importance should not be underestimated. Howe, an anthropologist attributes the lack of revolution in 19th Century England in part, to the sport which helped to "organise, maintain and give substance to that consensus" (1981:296). Consensus however is rarely complete and hunting inevitably was a source of class friction "from peasants who deliberately misdirected the hunt to Second World War airmen (irritated that others were hunting while they were risking their lives)" (Windeatt 19082:27). When the industrial revolution marked a change in social relations, hunting and the landed interest attracted radical criticism as "an anachronistic feudal sport out of place in an age of commerce" (Cobden). Whig Industrialists caricatured participants as uneducated 'bumpkins' "Country gentlemen equals Tory equals fox-hunting equals stupid" (Ridley 1990:4). And yet, with the advent of the Railways providing access to this leisure pursuit the urban middle classes were swayed. 'Hunt clubs' swelled in membership and even Engles hunted. Cobden blamed "the failure of his dreamed of bourgeois revolution on the snobbishness and toadyism of the middle classes" (Ridley 1990:66).

Changing land ownership has similarly had little impact, although property holders have had the right to withhold permission from the hunt since 1809 [115], few have done so [116], farmers remain the primary supporters of hunting. This prerogative over private land is remarkable for any sporting activity (Howe 1981:208).

Hunting has had to adapt in more recent times for its survival, it now claims to be fully 'democratic' (allowing for the restrictions of finances), the majority of the field are women [117]and from the professional classes. In 1962 a Welsh Miners pack was formed which Ridley (a supporter of hunting) describes as a "unique kind of industrial feudalism" (1990:171). Class consciousness however remains, albeit in a residual form, hunting still fulfils the aspirations of the middle classes who measure their social position against an old standard. The MFH's themselves come from a narrow socio-economic group, predominately upper - middle class, middle aged, conservative, public school educated with farming, business or military backgrounds [118]. RH Thomas refers to them as "a caricature of the political and administrative establishment" (1983:169).

RH Thomas recognises elsewhere the "greater social acceptability" of the members of the pro-hunting community and the "close correspondence" between their attitudes and the decision makers but he fails to draw the obvious conclusion (1983:17). The hunting community continues to exert a measure of control and their ideology provides consent to the social hierarchy. "The hunting of foxes is an integral part of the culture of the ruling elite: a symbol of part, more settled times (however unsettled these may have been for ordinary people)" (Windeatt 1982:21).

Changing moral sensibilities and the selective criminalization of cruelty The moral censure of cruelty to animals has a long history from classical theorists concerned with the brutalising effects on the human character and the puritanical censure of violence and pleasure in the 15th Century [119]. The late 18th century however saw a religious and humanitarian revival of these concerns among the educated middle class. "Modernisation had stood midwife to a new sensibility", mechanisation and mass urbanisation gradually removed animals from the production process and placed man and nature on a new footing (Turner 1980:38). It has been suggested that the Enlightenment, the Romantic movement in Poetry, Methodism and Evangelicalism all had an effect on the growing consciousness of animal rights. Bentham in his 'Principles of Penal law' felt cruel sports "suppose either the absence of reflection or a fund of inhumanity ... Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?". This 'harm' principle was no longer 'man' centred, although cruelty was still felt to degrade those involved, the suffering of the animal also was at issue [120].

Early anti-cruelty legislation was however motivated more by economic values and a concern for the maintenance of public order than by philosophical considerations. The first Act passed in 1822 was to protect cattle. The leisure activities of the working class were criminalized to prevent the "demoralisation of the people"[121], instil discipline and promote industrious habits [122]. This legislation did not threaten hunting, for which the Victorian era represented a 'Golden age". In 1924 the SPCA was founded by Wilberforce an Evangelical and keen huntsman; the first society of its kind, it was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1840. The RSPCA's early prosecutions targeted the "less influential members of society" causing JS Mill to decline its Vice Presidency in 1868. "The SPCA can thus be seen as yet another middle class campaign to civilise the lower orders" (K Thomas 1983:186).

In 1869 Oxford historian Professor EA Freeman published an article criticising the cruelty of fox hunting and arguing, on the 'harm principle' that the difference between violence to humans and animals was only one of degree [123]. In the 1890's the Humanitarian League and the Fabian Society led by middle class intellectuals and socialists included a ban on fox-hunting in their programme of radical reform [124]. All 'sentient' beings they argued, should be protected. Blackwood notes that "conventional society at the time considered their stance against fox hunting to be the most heinous of all their delinquent positions" (1987:31).

The hunting establishment perceived this as a challenge to their status, despite the middle class character of opposition. The divide between public and private land, between urban and rural values "should be preserved against sanscullotes preaching the rights of man" (K Thomas 1983:184). As Kellet observes "perhaps what is most significant was the fact that for many people this double standard did not need explaining" (1994:66)[125].

The Humanitarian League attracted censure as effeminate, physically feeble city dwellers, vegetarians and feminist 'cranks' (Ridley 1990:77). In an attempt to counter this image GB Shaw wrote in the preface to the League's "Killing for Sport" (1915), "I know several humanitarians and they are all ferocious". In retrospect it could be said that this new image set a dangerous precedent, forming the roots of the censure of hunt saboteurs.

The Humanitarian League made some progress, the Royal Buckhounds disbanded in 1901 and in conjunction with the RSPCA, the 1911 Protection of Animals Act (which covers cruelty to domestic and captive animals) was secured. The hunting issue however made little ground. Kellet has argued in the context of Pigeon shooting that the "power of princely patronage" enabled the criminalisation of a privileged pastime to be delayed [126]. This could apply, by extension, to fox hunting. The 1911 Act remains the basis of prosecutions for animal cruelty; the pacifism of the Humanitarian League with the onset of the First World War however turned 'respectable' opinion against them and legislation has ceased [127]. It has been cynically suggested that the laws against cruelty were introduced "to give legitimacy to an emerging British ruling class by incorporating 'benevolence' into its ideology, while at the same time carefully limiting the scope of that benevolence so that it could not threaten class hegemony" (See K Thomas 1983:187).

"In practice it was almost impossible to reflect on animals without being distracted by the conflicting perceptions imposed by social class". (K Thomas 1983:184). In 1925 Lord Willoughby De Broke MFH claimed:

  • Anyone who is temperamentally opposed to the sport... is hardly worth considering, his whole outlook would probably be anti-social and un-English. (quoted in Carr 1986:193).

The Social Censure of Hunting
At the turn of the century hunting for sport was not popularly censured. Field sports maintained their hegemony until after the Second World War when hunting truly became a political issue. The first independent poll in 1958 showed a slight majority opposed to fox hunting, only 53%, with 65% opposed to stag hunting. More recent polls show between 70% and 92% in favour of a ban with concern growing even in rural areas [128]. This development has "almost certainly owed little to anti-hunting groups and far more to structural changes" (Clarke 1985:202).

In 1924 former members of the Humanitarian League and RSPCA members critical of its stance on the hunting issue formed LACS to lobby for legislative change and publicise cruelty. Letter writing and pamphlets were the main methods employed although in 1958 it was LACS which first laid aniseed trails to actively disrupt hunts. During the war bloodsports understandably gained little attention although hunting continued during the war years, which was a source of some resentment [129]. Membership increased with its conclusion, possibly in reaction to a heightened sensitivity to violence. Ridley noted that after First World War carnage, middle class opposition grew, "the same attitude of mind which helped make the World War, was the very mental attitude that had made such a thing possible" (see Ridley 1990:166).

Apart from the war years LACS supported anti-hunting and coursing bills almost annually, with little success [130]. In 1949 the Scott Henderson Committee was set up to enquire into hunting and in 1951 it declined to recommend abolition. Interestingly in the context of the current paper the committee noted that "It has become apparent to us that many people who think they know what takes place obtain their information from propaganda, issued by organisations, who in turn rely to a surprising extent on press reports of particular incidents which are themselves based on misconceptions". LACS, in an attempt to drop its more radical image, withdrew from direct action in 1963 and the HSA was formed.

This is not to suggest that LACS had no effect, it promoted an awareness of cruelty and contributed to the growing media (tabloid) antipathy toward hunting . External social change however proved more influential. After the Second Word War the large estates were broken up, agriculture became less important to the national economy and there was a corresponding decline in 'deference' among agricultural workers [131]. Automation had replaced the horse in rural areas and the fox posed little threat to intensively farmed arable land.

Improvements in working class conditions were a precursor to creating sympathy for animals which had previously been restricted to the affluent middle class. It is not without irony that the ideology imposed over a century before, on the lower classes, for quite different reasons, should provide a foundation for their criticism of hunting. The British are notorious animal lovers and its extension to all wild mammals was probably only a matter of time.

In 1978 the Labour Party, recognising the popularity (and class overtones) of the issue, declared an anti-hunting stance. Also in the mid-seventies, after ongoing debate, the RSPCA brought respectability to the cause. The Liberal Democrats have also expressed their support and some Conservative MP's are sympathetic. This has led to successes at a local level with 154 councils including 35 County Councils, of all political persuasions banning hunting on their lands [132].

Social norms and values of anti-hunting activists Despite views to the contrary Hunt Saboteurs are remarkably heterogeneous in character, especially when compared to their opposition [133]. A 1993 survey carried out by the HSA found a 15% unemployment rate, "hardly the stuff of which class war thugs are made" (HSA 1994a). The majority claimed no political affiliation; of those who did, Labour was uppermost with a spread of Greens, Liberal Democrats and they estimate, as many as 20% may have Conservative sympathies [134]. The majority of saboteurs were in the 20-30 age range, with exceptions - a Surrey 'Granny Group' boasts members in their 80's. The quality press rather than tabloids were favoured. This survey was part of a marketing profile and had a relatively high response rate [135]. It is comparable to a survey completed eighteen years before by RH Thomas, which noted, in addition a significant proportion of students and those with at least a secondary education of both urban and rural backgrounds [136].

Hunt saboteurs are usually vegetarian or vegan (though not exclusively), actively involved in other environmental issues and in a curious Eysenck psychological profile were found to be generally reformist, tending slightly to viewing capitalism as immoral, less religious and less authoritarian than MFH's [137]. Ridley (1983) claims that this proved saboteurs were 'odd'; it is possible to suggest however that they represent part of a wider counter-cultural movement within the 'New Middle Class', an "emergence of new social groups, interest, values, which cut across traditional class-based alignments and cleavages" (Cotgrove and Duff 1980:333). With reference to the growth in environmentalism, a counter-paradigm of post-material values has been identified, which developed primarily among workers in the non-productive service sector [138]. Hunt saboteurs could be said to fall into this category, the 1986 HSA Committee, for example, included a Teacher, a National Health Administrator, a Tour Guide and a Civil Servant.

Cotgrove and Duff suggest this is "more than emotional satisfaction of expression of personal values in action", it has radical potential (1980:345). Hunt saboteurs ideology is self-less and stems from a concern for 'rights' of animals, as objects of discrimination or 'speciesism', rather than as the property of mankind [139]. This new activism is perhaps all part of the 1960's 'bomb culture' described by Nuttal (1968); one interviewee cited involvement in CND as his first experience of the effectiveness of non-violent direct action.

As a form of intra-class value conflict it raises many questions unanswerable in this thesis, concerning the source and possible effects of this new consciousness. "Any attempt to assimilate the ideology of this particular fraction of the middle class to that of either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat flies in the face of the evidence. Nor can their values and beliefs be explained away as 'false consciousness', being firmly rooted in their structural position" (Cotgrove and Duff 1980:344)[140].

Censure and the civilising process
Alison Young in her book on the censure of women at Greenham Common (another intra-class conflict) wrote: "I see the existence of a censure providing, as well as a condemnation of it's objects, by implication, an affirmation of the 'desired way of life' itself" (1990:7). The conflict between hunting and hunt saboteurs can be interpreted in this light. Animal rights activists practice lifestyle politics, in the belief that "a civilised society cannot allow killing of living creatures either for profit, curiosity or for fun" (Windeatt 1982:9).

Thus, animal rights claims a place in the 'civilising process'. "The hunter who kills for pastime, is a connecting link between the savage, who hunts for a living, and the civilised man, who does not hunt at all. The hunter, like the warrior, will finally pass away altogether" (J. Howard Moore quoted in Wildlife Guardian Spring 1993).

Norbert Elias describes civilisation as the processual formation of morality, a gradual sensitivity to violence caused by increasing identification with others and a recognition of man's interdependence [141]. In his 'Essay on Sport and Violence' fox hunting itself is used to illustrate a 'civilising spurt', what he terms the 'sportization' of pastimes from direct to symbolic conflict, as a means of channelling aggression. [142] Huntsmen and the field are distanciated from the kill, emphasis instead is placed on competition in the chase, even the language used is less emotive (foxes are 'accounted for') . He argues that Hunting etiquette developed, rather like other 'manners', as a means of demarcating huntsmen from 'inferiors'.

The 'civilising process' is one of control, the conditioning and internalisation of values and as such conflicts inevitably develop. The decline in social regulation exerted by the hunting community has been traced above, as has the growing influence of animal rights. We are perhaps observing a new 'civilising spurt'.

Elias does not claim that 'civilisation' is necessarily "the most advanced of all humanly possible modes of behaviour" (1977:xvii). It can represent a narrowed moral vision; the Nazi's for example were concerned to civilise Germany (they banned hunting and committed the holocaust). As Garland has observed:

  • Modern sensibilities display a definite selectivity. They are highly attuned to perceive and recoil from certain forms of violence, but at the same time they have particualr blind spots, or sympathetic limitations so that other forms are less clearly registered and experienced. Consequently, routine violence and suffering can be tolerated on condition that it is discreet, disguised, or somehow removed from view. (Garland 1990:243).

How can this perspective account for the censorious and violent nature of the conflict between hunting and hunt saboteurs? Why have saboteurs moved in the opposite direction, from spectating, to direct action, eschewing the democratic process; is this uncivilised? Dunning tentatively offers a qualification to the 'theory'. "Functional democratisation produces consequences which are, on balance, 'civilising' in its early stages, but that when a certain level has been reached it produces effects which are decivilising and promote disruptive conflict" (see Mennell 1992:148). It has been suggested in this thesis that dominant class interests have structured this civilising process and, extending Dunning, it could be argued that democracy is functional for those interests [143].

Non-violent direct action is a response to legislative inertia, despite growing social censure 26 anti-field sports Bills have been defeated so far. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill which passed its second reading in the House of Commons unopposed on March 3rd 1995, was subsequently talked out of time in the committee stage in a tactical move by the pro-hunting lobby. The latest Bill introduced by Alan Meale MP on 26th January 1996 had to forgo its anti-hunting clauses so as not to meet the same fate Horse and Hound suggest that certain pro-hunting Magistrates would not enforce the law if it ever came into being [144]. The judicial process has also denied the competence of local councils to ban hunting as the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling to overturn Somerset County Council's decision against the Quantock Staghounds in March 1995 [145].

The overall situation is therefore complex and the conflict fierce. "With a slight exaggeration, one might say that manners without morals stood one side, morals without manners on the other" (Elias 1986:173). There are few in the hunting world who do not recognise their eventual defeat. At present however hunt saboteurs are practising civil disobedience [146].

  • Civil disobedience is an honourable tradition in this country and those who take part in it may in the end be vindicated by history. (Lord Justice Hoffman. Twyford Down Appeal).

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Notes

* This paper is a revised version of my M.Phil.Thesis submitted to the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge in June 1995. I am indebted to Loraine Gelsthorpe, Colin Sumner and Mark Fenwick for their useful comments on the original and to my family for their love and support.

[1] Historical (e.g.Carr 1986) and philosophical works (e.g. Singer 1975) tend to focus on one side of the debate Other sources covering the current situation are in pamphlet form, written by pressure groups. A notable exception is R.H. Thomas 1983 which concentrates on the political organisation of the pro and anti-hunting communities.

[2] Reasons which in retrospect can be seen as significant, given the partiality of the criminologocal gaze.

[3] Although the accuracy and relevance of opinion polls may be questioned.

[4] Hunt packs are found elsewhere largely as a legacy of British colonialism and in much smaller numbers on the Continent. The strength and organisation of anti-bloodsports however differs, as does the social and legal context.

[5] Hunt saboteurs do not consider themselves to be criminals.

[6] This was aided by the UK News database and staff in the Periodicals Dept, Cambridge University Library. I maintained a cuttings file fot the 1994-5, 1995-6 hunting seasons.

[7] Private Members Bill introduced by J McFall MP. Second reading 3/3/95.

[8] Didcot Conservative Association speech 6/11/93.

[9] As stated in HOWL, official magazine of the HSA.

[10] Saboteurs challenged the Hunt's version of events at both inquests and on the former occaision by private prosecution. Both failed to establish a verdict other than accidental death.

[11] BFSS 1993/4. The HSA have published a detailed refutation of this 'evidence', albeit in a less glossy format. See HSA 1994a/1994c.

[12] See Section 2 for media representation.

[13] See e.g. Sunday Times 14/5/95, the 'Justice Department' calimed responsibility for sending devices to Prince Charles, Captain Mark Phillips and Michael Howard.

[14] See Ridley 1990:172.

[15] See section 2 for comment on the recruitment of children.

[16] P.Cass.

[17] See HSA 1994c:2.

[18] See Bedfordshire Police Annual Report 1993:22

[19] Extensively quoted this originates from HOWL 8/4/77 who attribute it to an ex Joint Master of the Essex Union Hunt.

[20] Guardian 23/2/95. See generally HSA 1994a, 1994c.

[21] See HSA 1994a/1994c for details of cases and a list of 'Hunting Criminals'.

[22] In 1993 two hunt supporters were imprisoned for deliberately running down a saboteur with a quad bike.

[23] In January 1993 a ITN news crew filmed two hunt supporters beating up a saboteur.

[24] In January 1994 an academic from Edinburgh University was injured whilst conducting his research at the Duke of Buccleuch Hunt. A BBC camreaman was assaulted and had his equipment and car damaged in Norfolk, March 1992.

[25] Personal communication. This was the environment within which the Criminal Justice Bill developed over the summer 1993.

[26] The Terrier men flush out a fox who has gone to ground- in approx half of all kills.

[27] Personal communication.

[28] While it should gain publcity for the cause and prevent a kill it is also a waste of 'resources'.

[29] Under sec5(4) P.O.A. 1986 a Constable may arrest only after first warning the suspect to stop the 'offensive conduct' and the subject engages in further conduct immediately or shortly after the warning . The practice of warning before unlawful conduct in the manner described (and confirmed by a police interviewee) is insufficient for this section and would not aid relations.

[30] Although and ex-policeman in conversation claimed to have seen pohotographs of known hunt saboteurs.

[31] Daily Telegraph 4/11/91, Times 30/12/93.

[32] It was suggested to me that many such officers, without promotion prospects would be 'interested' to side with the hunt. The accuracy of this observation is unclear. [33] Personal communication.

[34] See Harrison v Duke of Rutland 1893 1 QB 142 CA. The public right is of passage and repassage and therefore disrupting a shoot from a footpath is trespass. Whether the use of footpaths by hunt saboteurs to spray or get close to a hunt constitutes trespass in all cases is a matter of interpretation. Hunt followers could in theory be perceived as trespassers (though are not in practice).

[35] Personal communication.

[36] Windeatt 1982:27

[37] Personal communication.

[38] Although it is different under Scottish law see Herald 28/7/93.

[39] Compare L Denning MR in R v CC Devon and Cornwall ex parte CEGB 1982 QB 458.

[40] For a similar criticism of police practice during the miners' strike see Green, P (1990) "The Enemy Without", Buckingham OUP.

[41] Independent (Law Reports) 28/3/93.

[42] See Daily Telegraph 2/10/93. Portman Hunt and the Fitzwilliam Hunt. It was eventually challenged in an action by the West Norfolk.

[43] See Wildlife Guardian Autumn/Winter 1994.

[44] Personal communication.

[45] Personal communication.

[46] HSA 1994b

[47] See Daily Telegraph 8/6/95.

[48] HSA 1994b

[49] Wildlife Guardian Autumn/Winter 1994.

[50] Personal communiction.

[51] Thames Valley CC's Annual Report 1993.

[52] Paul Davies. HSA Campaign Officer. "Hunt Saboteurs and the Police:one step forward two steps back".

[53] See Police Review 2/12/94, but compare Police Review 18/11/94.

[54] 1982 QB 458 CA

[55] P.Thornton QC in Liberty Briefing 94/3.

[56] e.g. Essex 21/1/95.

[57] P. Davies HSA Campaigns Officer.

[58] Personal communication with HSA.

[59] Personal communication with P.Davies. Starting to re-establish contact in Thames Valley.

[60] Sunday Telegraph 23/1/94.

[61] P.Davies.

[62] HC Parliamentary Questions, written answers 731W 2/3/94.

[63] See DPP v Kamara (1973) 2 All ER 1242 per L Hailsham.

[64] Individual states have similar legislation.

[65] See Daily Telegraph 17/5/95.

[66] Indeed anti-bloodsports campaigners admitted in conversation to being avid readers. See Fiske and Hartley (in Woollacott:100) for the view that everyone is free to decode media messages.

[67] Perhaps their most successful expos in recent years was the Quorn incident in 1991. A LACS video resulted in the resignation of the Chairman and four Joint Masters of one of the oldest and most prestigious hunts. The Quorn's licence over National Hunt land was revoked.

[68] BFSS Campaign for Hunting, Christmas Greetings Campaign 1994-5 season.

[69] Coverage of 'Grey Owl' an environmentalist from Canada was dropped from Children's Hour.

[70] In 1949 a Private Members Bill was introduced which aimed to ban all hunting with dogs other than foxhunting.

[71] Speech given to Didcot Conservative Association 6/11/93.

[72] Note Guardian e.g. 6/11/93, 3/12/93: "Is the Government on the verge of outlawing the right to peaceful protest? ", 6/8/94, 8/9/94. See also Today 23/7/93. [73] HSA 1994a Appendix 2.

[74] Based on a UK News search, as yet an incomplete database with a bias towards broadsheet coverage. Whilst it is acknowledged that these incidents may have been covered by other tabliods, the observation holds with respect to the quality press which readily reported saboteurs.

[75] Daily Mail 15/6/93. See also Times, Telegraph 15/6/93 and Telegraph/Today 18/6/93.

[76] E.g. Independent 25/1/93, Sunday Times 30/10/94.

[77] E.g. Daily Express 31/12/94.

[78] E.g. Sunday Times 30/10/94, 14/5/95.

[79] See BFSS 1993/94.

[80] The fisrt 'saboteurs' were 19th Century French peasants who used their shoes ,'sabots', to immobilise the machines of the industrial age which were replacing their labour.

[81] The Oxford Concise Dictionary definition of sabotage is "malicious or wanton destruction".

[82] Guardian 18/2/93 "Saboteurs the real animals".

[83] See Rock 1981.

[84] See for example Pearson (1983) and Hall et.al. (1978).

[85] Daily Express 27/4/95.

[86] Class is an issue which underlies much of the historical tension between the hunt and the anti-hunt. It is addressed in more detail in section 3.

[87] Sunday Telegraph 18/4/93.

[88] See Young A. (1990).

[89] HSA 1994c:5, Independent 19/2/94.

[90] E.g. Daily Mail 26/3/94, Independent 4/7/91.

[91] Sunday Times 11/4/93.

[92] Horse and Hound, see HSA 1994a:5.

[93] Personal communication.

[94] E.g. Observer 4/4/93.

[95] Children of all age groups hunt, an equally dangerous sport.

[96] Daily Telegraph 7/4/93. See also Daily Telegraph 5/4/93, Today 5/4/93.

[97] Personal communication.

[98] Margaret Flynn had been expelled from the HSA for previous involvement but claimed to have distanced herself since.

[99] Independent 20/4/93. See also section 3.

[100] See Ridley:173.

[101] Guardian 8/4/93.

[102] Won LACS journalism award.

[103] Edward Pearce, Guardian 10/4/93.

[104] See Guardian 2/2/95, Times 2/2/95, 15/12/95.

[105] Although Benton and Redfearn (1996) argue that protests against animal exports are part of a 'welfarist' and not a 'rights' tradition.

[106] See Schlesinger and Tumber (1994), Ericson et.al. (1989).

[107] See Sumner and Sandberg (1990).

[108] Personal communication.

[109] Personal communication, see Observer 20/11/94.

[110] HSA 1994a:5

[111] They even received news coverage during the Brightlingsea protests. See Independent 5/2/95.

[112] E.g. the Game reserves of East Africa have not been reclaimed.

[113] Tally-Ho is an anglicisation.

[114] This censure is strongly opposed by anti-cruelty campaigners.

[115] Essex v Capel, per L Ellenborough.

[116] Institutional land ownership has made some inroads. LACS, the Co-op and 154 local councils including 35 County Councils have banned hunting from their land. LACS advises landowners on actions for trespass.

[117] Originally introduced as 'moral airfreshners' , Ridley 1990:55.

[118] See survey in RH Thomas (1983: Ch 7).

[119] See generally K Thomas (1983).

[120] LACS continue to report on psychological research demonstrating violence towards animals as a precursor of violence towards humans. Wildlife Guardian Autumn 1994.

[121] 1835 Act.

[122] See Kellet (1994:63). This is a popular censure, a saboteur interviewed recalled being asked why he was not working.

[123] Fortnightly Review, See Carr (1986:204).

[124] For improved prison conditions, the abolition of capital punishment, higher wages, the abolition of the Poor Law and the emancipation of women. Henry Salt claimed animal rights and the emancipation of man were 'inseparably connected'.

[125] The field sports lobby continue to protest against 'urban dictatorship'.

[126] A ban on pigeon shooting was first debated in 1883 and became law in 1921.

[127] The Humanitarian League disbanded in 1919.

[128] See MORI poll fer Mail on Sunday / NOP poll Independent on Sunday, March 1995. These figures are disputed by the BFSS.

[129] Windeatt (1982).

[130] Detailed in RH Thomas (1983:217).

[131] See Thomas (1983) and Newby ( 1977 ) "The Deferential Worker" Allen Lane.

[132] See Wildlife Guardian Winter 1994.

[133] See RH Thomas (1983:Ch7).

[134] Sunday Times 11/4/93. B.Ponton Press officer HSA.

[135] Personal communication with P. Davies, Campaigns officer.

[136] University groups are amoung the most active.

[137] RH Thomas (1983:Ch7).

[138] See McGrew (1993) and Cottgrove and Duff (1980), who note an absence of a study on the middle class working outside of the market.

[139] See Singer (1975), Godlovitch (1971). Wild animals are defined as property in the Theft Act 1968 sec 5(4) / Criminal Damage Act 1971 sec5(10). Sweeny (1990).

[140] See Eder, V. (1993): "The New Politics Of Class" Sage. Part 3.

[141] See Elias (1977).

[142] Elias and Dunning (1986).

[143] Elias referred to Established-Outsider relations rather than orthodox Marxism to explain this phenomena.

[144] See Horse and Hound 1/6/95.

[145] R v Somerset CC ex parte Fewings (1995) 1 All ER 20 CA.

[146] A Gallup survey recently found that a growing number of people from all social classes and political persuasions, who have joined protest groups, believe that it is legitimate to break the law in order to 'make their voices heard' . Independent 6/6/95.

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Elizabeth Stokes ,
School of Law,
University of East London,
Longbridge Rd,
Dagenham,
Essex RM8 2AS
E-Mail: e.stokes @uel.ac.uk

(c) Elizabeth Stokes, 1996

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