Meet the Brighton Hunt Saboteurs: The vigilantes sabotaging animal hunts
Non-violent and direct action preventing the killing of animals for sport – meet Brighton’s unsung animal welfare heroes.
Despite the illegality of hunting mammals in the UK since 2004; hunting itself still goes on all throughout the UK, especially prominent in countryside and woodland areas such as the South Downs. To counteract this unnecessary slaughter of animals, Hunt Saboteurs was formed – a group of individuals aiming to prevent such brutality through non-violent methods.
I spoke to Martin Howard, a member of the Brighton branch of Hunt Saboteurs to find out more about the work of the saboteurs and the action they take locally.
Hunt Saboteurs is a national group of animal “vigilantes” who use peaceful methods to prevent the success of hunting groups around the UK. Hunt Saboteurs take direct action or ‘sabbing’ (sabotaging) to intervene the killing of foxes, minks and hare. Tactics used by the group involve keeping up with those on horseback or using calls to divert animals used for the hunt.
When we asked the Saboteurs why they choose to cover up, they said:
“Hunt saboteurs conceal their identity as hunters have targeted people’s homes and places of work in the past.
“People have had dead foxes dumped on their doorstep and hunt members causing a nuisance at their place of work. Therefore most of us dress in similar clothing and wear a scarf over our faces.”
The original group has been longstanding – the Brighton branch has been around since the 1980s. The group itself takes action regularly – Martin told me that around 10-15 people per week will try to prevent any illegal animal hunting in Brighton and the surrounding area. Through the Facebook page, the group follows up on reports of potential hunts from members of the local community. The Facebook group is also a hub of domestic activism that urges locals to sign and protest decisions from the Brighton council.
When I asked Martin about the legality of what Brighton hunt saboteurs, he responded: “We get quite mixed reactions from the police; people have been arrested for sabotaging hunts but now fox hunting is illegal, there are no criminal offences as trespassing itself isn’t a criminal offence.” The group focuses on documenting any illegal acts of hunting going on throughout the local community to prevent it from happening again in the future.
At present, the group believes that it is very successful in achieving its aim of deterring and preventing cruelty to animals in the Brighton area – hoping to totally eliminate it entirely. The majority of their activism stops the hunting and prevents the huntsman from returning to that location.
To get involved, Martin told me that messaging the Facebook page is a great start if you suspect any acts of hunting. The group go out every Saturday during the fox hunting season between September and March – whilst prioritising the summer season for sabotaging badger culling.