Hunt saboteurs’ behaviour is unacceptable



Last month saw the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet troops.

Over 1 million people, mainly Jews, were murdered by the Nazis in this sprawling death factory. No one who has ever visited this complex -the gas chambers, execution yards, sleeping quarters, latrines, collections of stolen items of clothing and the harrowing photographs of the men, women and children who perished there – could ever really forget what they have seen. 

Many years ago, while still in my teens, I met one of the first soldiers to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Northern Germany in the last months of the Second World War. The British Army had liberated the camp in April 1945 and Benny told me how he’d used a bulldozer to push the dead, emaciated and diseased bodies into mass graves.

I say this because Benny had no reason to lie to me, no reason to exaggerate or make a political point – he had witnessed this horror first hand and he rightly felt we should never forget what the Nazis had done and why they had to be stopped.

When I see far-right groups using the swastika as some kind political statement and acting like their fascist heroes or far-left groups, some within the Labour Party, acting is a not dissimilar way, I remember what Benny told me. 

When abusive comments, now commonplace on social media, liken any opponent to Nazis, this does nothing more than prove the writer simply has no idea of what fascism really is and where it can lead. Likening foxhunters and the Countryside Alliance to Nazis is quite common on some social media sites. One even went so far as to call for “Compulsory sterilisation of all people who take part in hunting. No age or sex discrimination.”  – a perfect example of idiocy, ignorance and malice combined. But if that sounds like something Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who conducted horrendous experiments on Auschwitz victims, might have advocated there is even more of an irony in this ridiculous comment. It lies in the history of the hunt saboteurs.

The name Dave McCalden may not mean very much to today’s sabs, but back in the early 1970s he was a leading light in the anti-hunting movement. McCalden sat on the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) committee and edited HOWL, the official magazine of the group.  In the very first issue, a centre page was almost entirely dedicated to attacking the Jewish form of slaughter known as shechita, in which the animal is not stunned before being killed by a cut to the throat. 

Personally, I do not accept any argument, religious or otherwise, for not properly pre-stunning animals destined for slaughter – a position held by the British Veterinary Association and the RSPCA -but the puzzling point here is that kosher slaughter is hardly an issue central to the anti- hunting debate. Why it was included in a hunt saboteur magazine is odd to say the least, unless of course the editor and others sought to influence the young and naïve in a particular way.

McCalden was a senior member of the National Front and later the National Party, helping them form their anti-hunting policy, which was happily reported in HOWL. It was no secret in hunt saboteur circles at the time that McCalden had links to the National Front and other far-right groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. 

He was a Holocaust denier, founding the Institute for Historical Review before his death in 1990. YouTube carries numerous films of Dave McCalden, some of which show his attempts to deny and disparage the Holocaust, even visiting Auschwitz to make his own documentary that supposedly ‘proved’ the Nazi concentration camps did not exist. 

These were the days when the National Front and the Anti-Nazi League often clashed and it was inevitable that McCalden’s involvement in the anti-hunting movement would come to a head, as it did at an HSA meeting where a motion for his expulsion had been tabled. The arguments from both sides were bitter, with the Holocaust frequently being quoted. I can vividly remember the reaction of one prominent animal rightist, who said, “Well, if they were meat eating Jews, so what?”. 

It must be said that the majority of those present did not hold this view and McCalden was expelled from the HSA, though not without other prominent saboteurs making it clear that they regretted the move, one saying in an outburst, “Why are we doing this? We’re all anti-hunting, aren’t we?” as if that alone was the all that mattered. It sums up the gullibility, naivety and obsessive nature of those who see everything – human abuse, animal abuse – through the narrow prism of hunting and it appears to justify their behaviour.

Look at the recent footage the Countryside Alliance and other pro-hunting bodies are now gathering. The group of saboteurs in the customary black outfits swearing at a woman on whose property they have driven. The similarly dressed masked thugs, lined up and hand-cuffed by the police at the Cheshire Hunt after being arrested for violence towards hunt members. The foul-mouthed and intimidating fanatic at the Warwickshire Hunt who claimed to have been imprisoned for murder, shouting threateningly at a female hunt steward that he would “go in again”, while at the same time sexually assaulting her. It’s hard to think that animal welfare is their true motivation. 

The next time a saboteur attempts to denigrate those who hunt by comparing them to ‘Nazis’, ‘ISIS’ or any other manifestation of human wickedness and brutality, it might be worth reminding them that some of the original members of their organisation had alternative agendas and were not as compassionate as they might believe.

Jim Barrington is a former Executive Director of the League Against Cruel Sports. He is now an animal welfare consultant to the Countryside Alliance. Follow him on twitter @jimbarrington