Ireland – -(Ammoland.com)- In November last year a man, coming to the defence of his girlfriend, was beaten up on a lane in rural Gloucestershire so badly that a female fellow gang member eventually dragged the assailant away.
Two years earlier a farmer on his own land in Yorkshire was assaulted by a dozen people who advised his 12 year old daughter to look away whilst they held him and one of them repeatedly beat him over the head with a metal torch.
He suffered a broken nose and cheekbone, three fractures to his skull and has lost 90% of hearing in his right ear. A few weeks later another man in Derbyshire was attacked at his place of work and again beaten over the head with a metal torch and then kicked as he lay on the ground. He needed stitches to his head and knee.
The connection? All the assaults were committed by masked self-styled ‘hunt saboteurs‘ and no-one has ever been identified and charged in relation to any of the attacks.
That is why, when Wiltshire huntsman Mike Lane was punched, spat at and then kicked unconscious as he lay on the ground by masked hunt saboteurs last month, the Countryside Alliance launched a campaign to encourage police forces to use the powers they have to order the removal of face coverings. These powers are not straightforward: an authorisation to remove an item of clothing that a constable “reasonably believes that person is wearing wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing his identity” can only be given by a senior officer in writing when he or she believes that the individuals involved are going to commit an offence.
But it is precisely because the process is complicated that we believe all police forces should have plans in place to deploy these powers when animal rights extremists appear in their areas. Some do so consistently and effectively which decreases the likelihood of public order issues and violence, as well as making the protestors marginally less intimidating to local people. Some forces, however, are less well prepared to give officers on the ground the authority they need to deal with aggressive masked extremists.
The dress and behaviour of anti-hunting activists also betrays their motivation. This is not about caring for animals, it is about attacking a group of people and a way of life. The strange obsession with paramilitary style uniforms, reminiscent of the Balkan conflicts or even Northern Ireland during the troubles, is not for the benefit of animals.
It is a clear statement that these people are intent on ‘war‘ with rural people [farmers, hunters and outdoorsmen].
Thankfully the vast majority of the 300 registered hunts in the country rarely, if ever, see such extremists. Only about a dozen hunts have to deal with extremists on the average Saturday, but that is a dozen too many if the only aim is to intimidate and cause harm. Take action by signing up to our e-campaign here.
In the longer term the next Government, whichever party is in power, needs to look at the law around the wearing of balaclavas and face coverings. People assume that groups of people could not walk down a local high street, or into a football stadium, with their identities concealed, but unless the police are able and prepared to go through the full process of a senior officer issuing the authority in writing then they are. Surely it is time to give individual officers on the ground the authority to order the removal of face masks and remove the ability of extremists intent on violence to commit crimes without fear of being identified?
Director of Campaigns
This article is an edited version of a piece written for the Western Morning News
Countryside Alliance Ireland has been active since the early 1960s, providing Irish sportsmen and women with high levels of information and advice and representation. Over the years as the political environment has changed we have evolved into a highly effective campaigning organisation. Countryside Alliance Ireland is governed by an elected “Board” made up from members throughout Ireland. The Board sets policy and oversees financial and operational matters. Countryside Alliance Ireland partner groups nominate members of the “Board” also, making it truly representative of country sports interests in Ireland. Visit: www.countrysideallianceireland.org