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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 anti-hunt movement.
    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 apathetic.

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 looked up.

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 the public.

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 interest.

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 friends.

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.

Keeping Members

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 group.

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 welcome.

Additional tips

    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 the limelight,

     

    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 Saboteurs Association.
    PO Box 2786, Brighton BN2 2AX
    Telephone: 01273 622 827
    Email: mailto:info@huntsabs.org.uk