We are happy to share with everyone an interview with Manchester Hunt Sabs! With the growing opposition to hunts in North America around government culls, and the recent rise in organized hunting, they spoke with us to share some tips and information about hunt sabbing, and how people can keep up the fight to defend the wild in their own backyards!
BWM: Can you briefly explain what hunt sabs do for people who might not be familiar with your work, and why you became involved with this particular type of action in your area?
MHS: Hunt Sabotage is a form of direct action that originated in the UK 50 years ago. The basic premise is to disrupt a hunt (fox, deer, hare, rabbit, sometimes shoots) by making it difficult/impossible for the hunters to operate. Generally most sabotage takes place against hunts that use packs of hounds. These are mostly but not always mounted packs (on horseback.)
MHS: Many Hunt sabs work so the constraint is often based around that but it’s during the hunting season (late August – March in most areas) and tends to be weekends though weekdays do happen regularly depending on numbers.
BWM: How long has your group or individuals in your group been involved with this kind of direct action for animals?
MHS: I personally have been doing it for just under 20 years on and off. There was a time when as a form of protest it seemed to be dropping off as most people doing it were getting on a bit! A lot of hunting was banned in the UK in 2005 so many people dropped out as the perception was our job was done but over the years it’s become apparent that the ban is widely ignored by hunters.
Over the last 5 years or so a whole new generation of people have got involved as this reality has become better known and there is a resurgence in the numbers of groups out there. There are probably more now than at any point in the last 20 years.
BWM: In North America, we don’t have organized hunting in the same way that they do in the UK, but something that is happening regularly is culls and government organized killings of wild animals in specific areas during specific time frames. People here are beginning to organize around these hunts and interfere with them on behalf of animals, do you have any advice or wisdom you would share with people who are trying to organize against a sanctioned hunt in north america?
MHS: It’s very difficult to give advice when your law enforcement and hunting culture varies so much from ours. Be adaptable. Be careful. Don’t get caught! Take advantage of social media to sidestep mainstream media to get your message across. Don’t underestimate what a small number of organized people can do.
BWM: Can you take us through some of the victories or successes your group or hunt sabbers you have worked with have experienced in the past?
MHS: Every time an animal is known to escape from a hunt is a victory. Hunt Sabs (alongside other campaigning groups) have been widely blamed for the ‘failure’ of the first round of the badger cull in 2 areas of the UK in 2013. We definitely considered that a victory though the cull continues it was massively over budget and massively below target.
BWM: Do you feel as though there are take-aways or lessons you have learned from doing this work that could be applied broadly across the animal liberation community or perhaps into other forms of resistance and activism?
MHS: It varies from group to group, cause to cause. We, Manchester Sabs, I hope would be seen as pretty straight forward and down to earth people. We try to be open to new recruits but do not accept racists, homophobes or sexists. You have to accept that not everyone will go as far as the next person and that everyone has limits to the commitment they can make and that those that don’t go as far still have very important contributions to make to what we do.
BWM: How does the community, both inside and outside of animal liberation circles respond to work of this kind? Do you find you are well-supported in your work or is this really a labour of love for the individuals involved?
MHS: We are well supported. Hunt sabbing is generally seen as being on the sharp end of direct action in the UK. We’re not a campaign group, we are the last line of defence for the hunted animal. And people respond to that. There’s a historical perception created by the press and the pro hunt side that doesn’t reflect modern sabs which sometimes makes more ‘mainstream’ people wary of us. Our work against the badger cull has brought us in to contact with a lot of these people and I think broadened out not only our support but also the types of people who join us.
BWM: Is there anything individuals can do to help support your group or your efforts from afar?
MHS: Yes. Donations always welcome! Follow what we do on line via twitter and Facebook especially. There is increasingly social media lead actions that can help what we do in the field.
BWM: If you could say one thing to people who hunt for animals as sport or for their own pleasure what would it be?
MHS: It’s a difficult one. We’re not there to argue with them or change their minds. That’s not what we do. Their mindset to me is pretty difficult to comprehend. But probably ‘grow up and get a proper hobby – it’s 2014 your time and your ‘sport’s’ time has gone’ springs to mind.
BWM: Do you have any final words you would like to leave with people who might be considering getting involved with hunt sabbing or organizing against culls/hunts in their own area?
MHS: All the people in our van got there through different routes and for different reasons. Everyone has a first time and most people don’t know anyone when they first get in the van. Sabbing can be frightening, funny, exhilarating, frustrating, boring. But when you see your first fox or hare get away from a hunt because of something you did….it’s hard not to throw yourself in to it.
We are extremely excited to tell you about a new wildlife protection organization that has been brewing in British Columbia, Canada called Wildlife Defence League! WDL has been a year in the making and they are finally ready to show you their new website and tell the world what they have planned for Canadian wildlife. We had the privilege of doing a short interview with Tommy of WDL and he told us everything that we had to know about WDL and how we can help out! Make sure to like WDL on Facebook too!
BWM: Hey Tommy, so why WDL?
Tommy: We came up with the name, Wildlife Defence League, while on a Sea Shepherd campaign to Antarctica to stop the illegal Japanese whale hunt. The name sums up exactly what we do. Plus, we thought the name, Land Shepherd, might raise a few eyebrows.
BWM: Why was it necessary to start this group?
Tommy: It was necessary to start the Wildlife Defence League because of the dire situation that wildlife, especially grizzly bears, black bears and wolves, find themselves in throughout British Columbia. Science has never been the base for policy making in regards to the trophy hunt and in this province, we are on par to lose the iconic grizzly bear if drastic action is not taken to protect the species. As well, a substantial number of black bears hunted in the province carry a recessive gene that produces an all white bear, known as the Spirit Bear. It is estimated that only roughly two hundred Spirit Bears exist in the wild, which makes this sub-species more rare than the panda. Under British Columbian law, Spirit Bears are protected but the black bears that carry the gene are not. Wolves face a very different situation. Law in British Columbia does not protect any wolf. With a hunting license, trophy hunters are allowed to kill cubs, pregnant females and even a pack, should their sick minds desire to.
BWM: Can you describe the trophy hunt?
Tommy: Trophy hunters in British Columbia use rifles and bows to kill wildlife. Sadly, most animals suffer immensely at the hands of the hunters before they succumb to their wounds. Guide outfitters usually have to take the kill shot because of the inexperience of their clients, which results in a prolonged period of suffering due to the animal being shot numerous times. The Internet is full of videos that show this in detail.
BWM: What do you have planned to defend the wolves and bears?
Tommy: The Wildlife Defence League’s mission is to conserve and defend the forests and their inhabitants from destruction of habitat and trophy hunting.
BWM: What are the dangers of this campaign, how are you prepared for them?
Tommy: Carrying out a campaign in one of the wildest places on earth has numerous dangers. We will be at a great distance away from medical attention and search and rescue should something go wrong. The greatest danger we face is, without a doubt, the trophy hunters. These individuals have set out to slaughter an animal, simply for a rug, a wall mount and bragging rights among the disgraceful people they surround themselves with. We are facing a type of hunter with an extremely violent mindset and expect them to use violent tactics to combat us.
We will have crew with medical training, in case a situation arises. In preparing for confrontations with trophy hunters, the camera is our best weapon for self-defence. We will have a documentary team focused on the trophy hunters every move. We did consider bulletproof vests as an option but in British Columbia it is illegal to own a vest and because the actions we take are legal, we cannot compromise. Despite the dangers we may face, the danger of loosing these animals is far greater.
BWM: Why would you risk your life to save these animals?
BWM: How can someone support the WDL or the campaign?
Tommy: Folks can support the Wildlife Defence League in various ways. Becoming a support volunteer, hosting a fundraiser, sharing our website and Facebook page or donating a few dollars to help fund our campaign are all very much appreciated. Donations to the Wildlife Defence League campaign will help cover the cost of camping supplies, hiking gear and food. It will also cover our transportation to and from the area where we will be defending wildlife. The remoteness of our campaign makes it an expensive place to be transported to and from.
“Here is what will happen if you take care of yourself–your body–in those ways; if you will respect your own animal rights in those ways: one, you’ll have more energy for the work that you need to do. Two, moving onto our topic of having to deal with the emotional trauma and the nightmares, etc. you will be less emotionally labile, notice that several of the things we brought up–not eating, not sleeping–are things that make you more emotionally on edge, so if you get enough of those, the reverse happens. If you get enough sleep and you are eating well enough you’re going to be less emotionally vulnerable. Not completely invulnerable, there is no way around some of these feelings, but they are going to be less devastating to you if you are well fed and well rested.” – (Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in Social Movements, Pattrice Jones; Resistance Ecology Conference; Portland, Oregon, 2013)
“I think by being so cut off within ourselves and among ourselves, that has also interfered with our ability to see connections. So really work on that. I think it will pay dividends not just for you but for our movements. So, how we take care of each other–it’s the same three. Okay, it’s almost self evident now with all the things I have said about taking care of yourself with your body, feelings and relationships.
Okay, body: understand that as deranged as most of us are, many of your comrades in social justice movements will need yo to remind them to eat lunch or to drink water or will need you to point out that they’ve got bags under their eyes an need to get more sleep. Be pro-active about doing that. Do not valorize self-neglect. No more applauding people for that. And also you know, make sure everyone has groceries–because they can’t eat if they don’t. By the way that touches on again what Breeze and Lauren were talking about; our social movements making us so proud of how little we pay people and granted there are a lot of material problems–it’s hard to get enough money to pay people decently and we talked about that too, but if you do become in a situation like the sanctuary that me and my partner co-founded, we didn’t take any money for a really really long time, and that was cool, I am fine with that, but the point is that once we started to hire people we didn’t hire anybody until we could pay them a livable wage. We actually have a reverse scale so the two co-founders get the the least and everyone else gets more–because they need it more–we’re older and we have some things already set like housing.
Feelings: okay so again this is a little harder, but you have to invite people to talk about their feelings. And that doesn’t have to be a deep soap-opera-y put your hand onto their hand and look deeply into their eyes and say ‘it looks like you’re having feelings!’ you could just say ‘you seem cranky are you okay?’ or ‘so, that thing yesterday was deep, how’s everybody doing?’ Initiating talk about feelings can be an important thing, particularly after an organization has maybe done something–like say you just went to a demo where everybody was tear-gassed–or maybe you weren’t tear gassed but you were picking and people were shouting at you. ‘How does everybody feel about that?’ and don’t presume you know how people feel, because actually, some people will have absolutely opposite feelings to having been shouted at. Just initiate inquiries into how people are feeling. And it doesn’t have to be deep! If you get that feeling, like you’re talking to somebody and you start to feel uncomfortable, because they’re having some uncomfortable feelings, so what you want to do is get away from it or make it all better or pretend it isn’t happening–that’s exactly when you actually want to talk about it. Like whenever you most don’t want to talk about it, that’s probably when you should. Although I am not sure how good that advice is–just an idea! [laughs]
I’m just going to give you a few really practical tips that I have found useful and that other people have found useful in having conversations before because we all were raised up not to talk about certain things–and no disrespect, but those of us in the animal movement are maybe really good at relationships with animals but maybe not so great with the other people. I am not saying all of us, but some of us are. And these skills don’t come automatically, at least not in this culture. Let me talk about a few things, one thing gets called by people ‘non-violent communication’ and I don’t mind using that phrase, but not surprisingly it got popular because some guy wrote it up calling it NVC but it was actually just the same stuff feminists had been telling people to do for a really long time, so anyways let me tell you some of the basics of what is now called NVC. One: is to use what are called ‘I statements’. When you are–and this is especially important when you have conflicts, because conflicts are a very hard thing and they can stress relationships and they can stress organizations–so ‘I statements’ are basically that you start things with ‘I’, and this might seem like the opposite of what you think you would do as a community oriented person, but the alternative is starting things with ‘you’–’you do this!’ or ‘don’t you do that’ or just stating something as though it were a fact as opposed to as though it were your opinion. Right? This is a dumb example, but there is a difference between saying ‘it’s cold in here’ and ‘I feel cold’–right, because ‘it’s cold in here’ presumes that everybody feels cold. whereas–I’ve experienced my first hot flashes recently, there may be someone who doesn’t feel cold at all in the room–so ‘I feel cold’ is better than ‘It’s cold in the room.’
Where you get into this with non violent communication is where someone comes late to meetings regularly–you could say–and again the thing is to not presume that you know what another person is experiencing, you do not, unless they tell you, all you know is what behaviour you’ve seen. So again, particularly dealing with conflict, non-violent communication involves speaking from your own perspective and focusing on behaviour, rather than on what you presume other people think or feel. So instead of saying ‘you disrespect me when you come late’ or ‘you disrespect the organization when you come late’ you say ‘I feel disrespected when you come late.’ Makes sense? and no, you are not allowed to say ‘I feel that you are dumb’ or ‘I feel that you must hate animals or you wouldn’t do that’ you have to do this with good intentions here. You’ve heard this, in the animal movement right now, what you basically have is people attacking each other’s motives, rather than presuming we are all trying for the same thing here, but we just have some differences.” - (Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in Social Movements, Pattrice Jones; Resistance Ecology Conference; Portland, Oregon, 2013)
“I felt like, how can people see this an not respond. And the positive side of that–of thinking ‘how can people see this and not respond’ is that I felt driven myself to respond–but the downside of it was that i started to think that everyone around me must not be reachable; that everyone around me must not be as smart as I am; or as compassionate as I am. So really early on in my campaigning, I became a it of an elitist asshole. And those of you who hang out with a lot of vegans are probably familiar with that. There are a lot of us who are a little bit evangelical, and a little bit holier-than-thou and a little bit puritan. That was one of the first mistakes of my activism. It meant that I was shutting off others that could have come into the fight, and who could have helped; it means that because I just assumed that they were callous and not ready to take action that I never invited them to do so.”
[Josh Harper "Effective Organizing for Animal Liberation." Resistance Ecology Conference. 2013.]
As of Tomorrow, February 12, Debbie will be on trial with the Blackmail 3 case. There is a call up now for individuals and groups to send statements of support for Debbie during her trial. The trial is expected to last between 4 and 6 weeks.
Please consider lending your voice and support to Debbie and the rest of the defendants!
Current support statements for the Blackmail3:
“We at the German Animal’s Rights Group ‘Tierrechtsinitiative Aschaffenburg‘ unequivocally support the blackmail3 and send our deepest solidarity!
Repression and so called counter terrorism is headed totally wrong to the ones helping to stop the ongoing barbaric and cruel actions against our brethren, the suppressed Animals.
Despite this, animal testing is not necessary and does not serve people’s health nor does it help healing any diseases!
We need to spread the truth about the social accepted wrongs and we need to do so on basis of free speech. We want justice!”
North Wales Hunt Saboteurs
“We at North Wales Hunt Saboteurs fully support the Blackmail 3. Animal testing is one of the barbaric and unnecessary practices you could ever imagine, and one the government are trying to stop people campaigning against it. We want justice.”
Bristol Hunt Saboteurs
“The Bristol Hunt Saboteurs stands in solidarity with Blackmail3, criminalised for its stance against horrific animal abuse in laboratories and elsewhere. Huntingdon Life Sciences conducts it’s practices behind closed doors and without the cleansing light of openness shining on them. Those who oppose them are oppressed, vilified and subjected to misguided and malicious prosecutions in an effort to shut off public debate and eventually subdue the oppressed.
We owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who stand up for the rights of those who share this earth, breathe this air and feel the same rain on their backs. They give them a voice and enable them to be heard. Massive international companies who exploit our fellow creatures have no such moral compass. The balance sheet is their sail through the turbulent ocean and they will stoop to breathtaking abuses in order to satisfy the shareholders.
Blackmail 3 and similar organisations seek to redress that balance and ask only for fairness, compassion and dignity for all.”
Protect A Pup
“We would like to take this opportunity to send all our love and support to the Blackmail 3. People who stand up to animal cruelty and dodgy pharmaceutical companies which harm animals,people and the environment ought to be supported not vilified,persecuted and prosecuted. Solidarity is a important thing as people being persecuted need to feel supported, the powers that be try to isolate us but we stand together like trees in a forest and realise that from the roots up we can outgrow this evil system.”
“We, the activists from the grassroots animal liberation group Tierbefreiung Hamburg from Hamburg, Germany, would like to express our deepest solidarity with the Blackmail3 defendants. For us, it has always been important to support fellow activists that suffer from state repression in the form of raising money, holding demos at embassies and consulates, writing letters to prisoners and raising awareness for cases of repression.
We strongly reject the fact that activists who have spoken out against the violence on countless animals in the labs of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), who’ve organized protests to stop the unjustifiable suffering of sentient beings, have to justify themselves in court and face several years of imprisonment. It is important that we as the animal rights/animal liberation movement and other progressive movements show our solidarity with the activists, who could have been us. Repression affects not only the activists involved and their surroundings in a strong personal and emotional way, it also affects our movement on a broader level. For those reasons, we have to support criminalized activists and to raise awareness about these cases.
What has been happening in the UK and other countries in the last years is more than obvious: animal rights activists have challenged the economic power structure by successfully attacking animal exploitation industries, and the state has reacted by protecting economic interests with repressive measures. With long prison sentences, surveillance, undercover officers, special laws such as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in the US or the accusation of building criminal organizations, the animal rights movement is one of the most criminalized social justice movements nowadays. But we see this development not as a ‘malfunctioning’ democracy but rather as a systemic way that capitalist societies are organized to deal with those who question their core values. While institutionalized violence against animals and the profit that is made from it, is protected by law, we cannot expect a free and just world for human and non-human beings within the current legal system and the society that frames it. Therefore a radical societal transformation, not only of the human-animal relations, is necessary.
We wish you, our comrades, a lot of power for the future months and years. While the mass-violence against animals is normalized in society as well as sanctioned by law and those that take a stand against it are criminalized, these times may seem desperate and hard to bear. But with this statement, we’d like to show you and all the other people who take part in the animal liberation movement, that you are not alone. Together as an active and vital movement, with a strong culture of solidarity and by building bridges to other progressive struggles, we can face our enemies and obstacles and carry on fighting for a society without exploitation or domination.
We will continue fighting, as long as animals will be caged and people will be imprisoned.”
Close Down LPT
“The Close Down LPT-Campaign fully supports the activists who are facing repression in connection with the campaign to close down the animal testing laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). Both the campaigns against HLS and against LPT try to close down contract research laboratories, where animals suffer and die in experiments that are mainly financed by the pharmaceutical industry and the chemical industry. Therefore we have a legitimate interest in fighting the repression of animal rights campaigns, no matter where in the world it happens. Resisting violence against animals and organizing protests or actions of civil disobedience is necessary as long as the unjustifiable acts of violence against animals remains normality. If we allow the state and the (animal exploiting) industries to use their power to silence social movements we soon will face the end of all forms of protest that manage to actually influence or even change the structures of power and economy. If organizing demonstrations in front of a company that benefits from murdering animals is considered blackmail, ANY form of protest can be criminalised. Whether protests against Fracking, Nuclear Power, the Military or Arms Industry, against Landgrabbing, Neonazis or Gentrification – all forms of protest that do not simply ask for change but demand it, might suffer from the same repression that is happening in the UK at this very moment.
The Close Down LPT-Campaign does not accept this.
We will not be silent when our comrades are facing prison for putting pressure on those who make a living from killing other animals. We will not be silent when our basic human rights (such as the freedom of speech and the freedom to protest) are dismantled to protect financial interests. We express our solidarity with our British and Dutch friends who at the moment are victims of the above mentioned repression. We assure them that we will fight against repression and for animal liberation, no matter what measures our political opponent will use against the animal rights movement.”