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Tim Bonner: Policing review backfires on hunt saboteurs

I am sure that animal rights organisations thought that getting the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner to engage Wrexham Glŵyndr University to undertake an independent review of the policing of hunting was some sort of victory. The review, however, has backfired and revealed exactly how dishonest and duplicitous anti-hunting activists are. Researchers reported that most videos submitted to the inquiry by activists purporting to show illegal hunting were "heavily edited, poor quality and had no date/time stamp".

They also revealed the experience of police officers in North Wales, who said hunt saboteurs had provided them with footage which is "often edited, or grainy, long distance and...of no evidential value". Officers also told researchers that gathering statements from anti-hunt protestors was "near impossible" and that the activists' "focus is on sabotage".

The report includes evidence from police officers who stated that anti-hunt campaigners often refuse to engage with them claiming that they "have the evidence but won't give it to us". Activists then "post on social media saying [the police] haven't done anything".

The report included a survey of the local population and the resounding response from the residents of North Wales was that they wanted resources to be directed to protecting "children and vulnerable people", rather than on policing hunting. Nor do the academics advocate the issue of hunting be given greater policing priority stating there are "serious cost implications" that come from training police forces to handle allegations of hunting-related crimes.

None of this is particularly surprising for those of us who have been involved in the politics of post-ban hunting. The anti-hunting movement has moved from elation at the implementation of the Hunting Act in 2005, through bemusement at the adaptability of hunts, to rage at their failure to exterminate hunting. This essentially circular journey has taken them back to where they started: driven by hatred and desperately looking for any lever to attack hunts. This report is a devastating exposé of their strategy.

Many within the rural community have known for some time that there is an organised attempt among anti-hunt groups to create an impression that hunts are not operating legally. Activists regularly make false allegations and provide unreliable and fraudulent evidence to back their claims. This obsession with attacking hunts is not just a problem for those involved in the activity, it has serious consequences for everyone who relies on the police and the criminal justice system. A small but vocal minority of anti-hunt activists are wasting police time on a systematic basis and compromising the ability of officers to tackle real crime.

This review should send a warning shot across the bows of any politician who thinks that they can justify further legislation on the basis of the flawed and biased 'evidence' of the anti-hunting movement.

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