Hunts are reporting a new breed of saboteurs who appear to be trying to engineer situations that might lead hunts to inadvertently break the law.
They call themselves hunt monitors and claim their aim is to ensure the Hunting Act is adhered to. But hunts have been visited by balaclava-clad saboteurs, whose intention seems to be to drive hunt followers to break the law while intimidating and harassing them.
Most recently, hunts in the south-east and north-west have borne the brunt of aggressive saboteur activity. One group spent a day disrupting the Surrey Union, following the drag-layer and spraying where he had been, eventually trying to take the scent-doused sock from him by force.
The obvious conclusion is that they hoped to force us into a position where we accidentally broke the law, said Surrey Union master Mark Sprake.
The Crawley and Horsham hunt has reported similarly provocative tactics and harassment.
Master Anthony Sandeman said: You have to ask why, if they are coming out as hunt monitors, they are dressed in balaclavas, carrying sticks, sprays and whips, with a clear intent to intimidate and provoke? If anyone were to walk down the main street in Horsham in similar attire and video minors, they would be arrested on the spot.
League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) spokesman Wanda Wyporska denied its Hunt Crimewatch monitors behaved in such a way, adding traditional saboteurs wouldnt sign up as monitors because our hunt monitors have a strict code of practice and a severe and rigorous training procedure.
They will not trespass, they will not cause disruption or obstruction, and if it came to our attention that they were, it is possible disciplinary action would be taken, Wyporska said.
A Surrey Police spokesman said the force, although committed to tackling public order problems, cannot justify hanging about at every hunt on the basis that violence might break out.
Foxhunting is not a priority for Surrey Police, the spokesman said.
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