The rough handling of hunt saboteurs by Derbyshire Police has come in for strong criticism from the leader of Derby City Council, Chris Williamson. A battle many thought had been and gone.
Sadly the anti-hunting legislation is so poorly drafted, and the hunting fraternity so determined, little has changed. Christmas saw much coverage of hunt meets, like the Minehead Harriers on Boxing Day, who from their press clippings appear to have reinvented themselves as harmless drag hunters. But when two Minehead Harriers pled guilty to illegal hunting this week, reports appear restricted to the League Against Cruel Sports website.
Consequently, hunt saboteurs have reinvented themselves as hunt monitors, on a mission to record illegal activity because the police refuse to do so.
Yet hunting continues to consume a great deal of police recourses. When hunting was legal, harassment of hunt saboteurs was rife. When I sabbed, our minibus was stopped for what was claimed to be a random road worthiness check, its occupants were filmed and names and addresses requested. We obviously refused to identify ourselves, a right we should fight to retain.
That was late 1980s. Today the police are supposed to have switched sides. But instead the force helicopter was dispatched to oversee the arrest of eleven hunt monitors filming the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt, who were held overnight.
So in Derbyshire, and probably many other places, the police can still be relied upon to defend the hunt, legal or not.