How can you keep new recruits interested in hunt sabotage?
Former HSA Marketing Officer Helen Carter describes five ways to improve
your local sab group by organizing better campaigns and getting more people
involved. I don't intend to preach "thou shalt..." in this article, but
it should be taken as advice for anyone trying to recruit new people into the
To start off, I feel I should explain my own experiences
when I first tried to become involved . . . and to anyone who recognizes the
following, take heed!
Appealing to the Public
A minority of people are involved in the HSA yet
the majority of people seem to be for us. If so why, can't we pick up more of
their financial or active support? The answer could be that we are too
The first time I ever heard of hunt saboteurs was on a television
documentary. I despised hunting and had done for years, but this programme
opened my eyes to a cause which I wanted to become involved in. I was 18 then.
and I went to a 'Freshers Fair' at a University where I was delighted to .see an
Animal Rights stall. I stood there for a while perusing the literature while two
grumpy hippies crouched behind it with their noses firmly stuck in books neither
By this point, my horsey friend had found me and proceeded to tell me what
dreadful people animal rights activists were. ' Do you know that hunt saboteurs
spray weed killer into horses' eyes! Sometimes the horse even has to be put
down!" she wailed. Meanwhile the grumpy hippies just carried on reading their
books. This was my first face-to-face encounter with sabs.
Lesson 1: Meet the public
Stalls make a superb way of liaising with the
public. Make sure your local group is represented at 'Fresher Fairs' ete. At
every stall staff it with people who are extrovert and who are ready to talk to
Don't let hunting people get away with
spouting propaganda - be quick to counter act the lies. And lastly. make sure
the stall looks good - don't confuse
it with too many other issues and display material neatly and clearly.
Spreading the message
For a few years afterwards I heard nothing else.
Then miraculously in 1983 a "Stop the Killing" poster appeared in the local bus
station, so I immediately wrote to the address in Kent. Unfortunately my letter
was returned with 'Gone Away' written on it. There was nothing else I could do.
Lesson 2: Seek out the 'target audience'
Out there somewhere there are
people actively seeking out our cause. Spread the word using HSA posters,
leaflets, car stickers - but make sure they are up-to-date ones. Anything
without the Nottingham address is doomed to fail!
Responding to enquiries
My search continued, and from 1981 to 1984 I did
not succeed in joining the anti-hunt movement. How many people are there out
there like me? The HSA was more difficult to join than the freemasons! But in
1986 the Animal Rights Confederation set up a stall in the town, I enquired. got
a HSA leaflet, and Whoopee! Finally my membership was accepted, I was
'non-active' for a year but after reading several issues of Houl I wanted to go
out sabbing. Next hurdle getting in touch with my local group. I wrote to the
address on the list. Result'? Nothing! When I called in at the address given, I
was told that the group had moved, but it was not known where to.
Lesson 3: Leaflets & Addresses
Distribute leaflet. to anyone
interested and keep the stocks up so that you can respond to enquiries. Most of
our supporters learn and about us - and join us - through leaflets. Publicise
your local group through the HSA and make sure the address details are
up-to-date. The HSA's Contacts List is regularly updated - all it takes is a
minute to make sure your group's address is shown correctly. If your group
starts using a new address make sure any mail is re-directed. Also try to reply
promptly to enquiries!
Many of the above points came across in the HSA's market research last year -
a lot of people are very angry at having been denied the chance of being active
sabs - and justifiably so. It is common sense to make sure a contact address is
kept up-to-date and common manners to respond to anyone who expresses an
Meeting your potential new sabs
Finally, I saw a message in a student
newsletter announcing a hunt sabs' meeting. I decided to go along. However, it
is pretty daunting for a new, fairly straight type, dressed in jeans and a
M&S woollie, to walk into the middle of a room full of really hard punks. It
is even more intimidating when they look you up and down and refuse to talk to
you, because you obviously 'don't fit'. Quite frankly I was scared stiff.
Fortunately, at the end of the evening, a girl asked my name and if I was
genuinely interested in sabbing. Once I confessed that I had never been out
before, the ice broke. It took me a while to be accepted, but after a season or
two. I found that my fellow sabs were not only dedicated people but also good
Lesson 4: Be nice to new recruits
Publicize meetings for the benefit of
new people - or better still, tell them the date of the next meeting. Never
alienate potential new sabs - to discriminate against someone because of their
age, accent or appearance is akin to racism or sexism. If a new person walks
into a meeting talk to them. Imagine yourself in their place - think of how
nervous you would feel walking into a room full of strangers.
Basically, it took me four attempts to become involved
in the HSA yes, four! But how many people would have been as persistent as me?
Very few. I'd imagine. Yet all the various foul-ups were due to the inefficiency
of local groups.
On a lighter note, my experience of moving and joining a new group
(Chichester & Bognor) was entirely different. I wrote to the address printed
in Howl and received a reply inviting me to a meeting in the same week. Whell I
turned up. I was immediately made very welcome. This group is run very
differently. and have their own professional-looking leaflets, stickers, posters
and newsletter. These are distributed through regular outlets and stalls - all
of which wins the group favorable support.
The group also holds regular meetings for new members with talks and video
shows. Turnover is very low and new people who join generally stay with the
Lesson 5: Sharpen your image
If you produce literature, do it well. Use
clear graphics and well-written, interesting news. Remember that leaflets and
newletters are for everyone to read - not just hardcore sabs. DonĘt include
swearing or anything which could be interpreted as violent or theatening - it
could work against you. DonĘt alienate the public, who would otherwise support
you. Keep your novice members involved by invluding them and making them feel
- Ensure your group is regularly mentioned in Howl's Group News section so
that new sabs can see what is going on in their area.
- Circulate stories and letters to your local paper to keep your group in
- Have lots of meetings, show videos, review tactics and keep everyone in
touch with what is happening.
- Volunteer to do talks - to other animal groups, youth groups and any other
potentially interested audiences.
- Keep a library of good photos for your group. These work well in albums on
stalls, and are good to have handy for press or TV local coverage.
- If a local hunt gets coverage in the press, phone and ask if you can do
the same, to "give your side of the argument". Include your group's address
and phone number, and respond promptly to enquiries.
- Introduce your group to your MP and
councilors (but don't waste your time
if they are pro-hunt!) to improve your effectiveness. Influential people do
count - whatever your views.
- Contact the HSA, who can supply you with up-to-date leaflets, information
booklets, posters and HSA merchandise, along with information and ideas to
improve your effectiveness.
Reproduced from HOWL (No 53, Autumn/Winter 93-94) - magazine of the Hunt
PO Box 2786, Brighton BN2 2AX