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Grove and Rufford masked men

A hunt supporter has his balaclava ripped off after he slashes saboteurs’ tyres

On 7 January, hunt saboteurs had their tyres slashed by a Grove and Rufford Hunt (GRH) supporter. But the culprit got a nasty shock when a sab bravely pulled off his balaclava to reveal his identity, and the man was arrested. The sabs recorded footage of the whole incident and gave it to the police.

Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs tweeted about the incident on 9 January, saying:

They were joined by Peak District Hunt Saboteurs for the day in Laxton, as they prepared to sab the GRH. Both groups had their tyres slashed.

The video begins with the sabs sitting in their car, filming three hunt supporters following the GRH huntsman, Ben Higgins, out of a pub. The sabs said on video:

“Upon seeing us the three men went to their car and grabbed a knife and balaclavas and tried to attack our vehicle.”

The masked-up men then started purposefully walking towards the sabs’ car. As the sabs waited for the pack of hounds to head down the street,

“the three hunt thugs returned with one slashing two of our tyres as the hounds passed. Sabs immediately exited the vehicle to confront the attacker.”

The sabs shouted that the man had a knife, and were promptly shoved by the attacker and his friend.

 

Part of the hunt

Of course, hunt supporters denied that the men were anything to do with the GRH. But the sabs stated on the video:

“Despite followers’ claims that the thugs were not part of the hunt, they followed the hunt for the rest of the day.”

And a hunt member even admitted that she knew that the attack would take place. A woman on a horse shouted to the sabs:

“I told you he was coming!”

Protect the Wild contacted Nottinghamshire Police, asking the force whether it would press charges against the man, and whether it could tell us his identity. The police said that it would neither confirm nor deny the man’s identity, and that “we only name suspects at point of charge”, but confirmed that it had released the main on bail, pending further inquiries. It continued:

“Police have taken positive action and arrested a man in connection with reports of two men being assaulted and criminal damage being caused to a vehicle.”

Nottinghamshire Police’s Temporary Inspector, Matt Ward, said:

“We will not tolerate acts of violence or the possession of weaponry in our community. We are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry to establish the full circumstances of this incident and a specialist Rural and Wildlife Crime Officer has been allocated to work with the investigative team to review the behaviour and activity of all those involved.”

Killing foxes, killing hounds, abusing terriers

It comes as little surprise that the hunt continued its day by chasing foxes. Sabs managed to guide the hounds off the scent of one fox by using horns and voice calls. And later on they captured on video a disorientated fox fleeing for her life.

Of course, chasing foxes is just business as usual for the GRH. Sheffield sabs have numerous footage of the hunt terrorising foxes and showing a complete disregard for the Hunting Act. In March 2017, three members of the hunt were convicted under the Hunting Act after birdwatchers filmed the GRH making no attempt to call their hounds off a fox.

A fox flees the Grove and Rufford Hunt
A fox flees for her life as she is chased by the Grove and Rufford Hunt, 7 January 2022. Photo taken from Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs’ video footage.

And in January 2021, the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) published covert footage of two men from the GRH attempting to force terriers into some artificial earth to force a fox, who was hiding, to bolt into the path of hounds. The pipe inside the artificial construction was too blocked for the terriers, so the hunt shoved rods into the earth to try to force the fox out. The HSA said at the time:

“This behaviour is shocking. Not only in their treatment of the terriers, but in their flagrant obsession with chasing wild animals. It is now more clear than ever that the presence of terrier men on a hunt is a direct indication of their intent to illegally hunt.”

On top of this, the GRH seems to have little regard for its hounds, too. In November 2022 a GRH hound was hit and killed by a car on the A614. The pack was out of control, forcing cars and lorries to come to a standstill. And in January 2020, GRH hounds were seen on a live railway line, prompting a police inquiry.

Support the hunt saboteurs

Sabs have faced numerous tyre-slashing attacks by GRH supporters over the years, as well as physical violence. On 10 January Sheffield Sabs tweeted that:

“Grove and Rufford Hunt Staff attacked us today to try and cover up their fox hunting. Tom Hopson stole a camera and threw sabs into brambles as we disturbed shady activity in some woods.”

It’s essential that we support hunt saboteurs and monitors on the ground as they continue to face constant abuse to save foxes.

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire Police is calling for any witnesses from the knife incident to come forward:

“We are urging anyone who saw what happened, or who has any video footage of or relating to this incident, to please call Nottinghamshire Police on 101, quoting incident number 199 of 7 January 2023, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Donate to Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs here, and to Peak District Hunt Saboteurs here.