A great deal is said about the sabotaging of hunts and organised shoots, and
more people are now becoming involved in sabotaging angling, but I read very
little about the sabotage of actual shooting estates. Many Howl readers will be
well aware of the mass extermination of wildlife by gamekeepers.
As a recent edition of the League Against
Cruel SportsWildlife Guardian mentions, each year in Britain around
five million wild animals are killed with traps, snares. guns and poisons. Most
of it goes unseen, unlike hunting, and therefore it never reaches the media.
Often traps and snares are left unchecked tor long periods of time, and hence
animals and birds suffer slow and agonising deaths.
Sabbing hunts is usually done enmasse, but estates are best checked by
individuals or groups of just two people - confrontation is to be avoided, since
the immobilising of traps and snares cannot be carried out if the gamekeeper
knows you are there. Also, the same area should be regularly re-visited and
checked for reinfestation of the offensive implements. (On one occasion I
discovered fresh snares on one fence run three times in four weeks. Thankfully,
since the last time no more snares have been in evidence. A small success, but
one that has saved lives.)
Snares and traps can be placed in most countryside areas, but two of the most
common locations are:
Around release pens - snares are set around the perimeter and attached to
the fence. Traps are usually found under box-like tunnels, staked to the ground,
again around the perimeter fencing.
Along Wire fencing either deer fencing or stock fencing. Usually mammals
will use regular pathways, leading to a gap under the fence - the pathways are
easy to spot and the snares and traps are normally set in the gaps. Sometimes,
if there are no gaps under the fence, pathways will run along the edge. These
can also be snared, especially in areas where the undergrowth forces the animal
into a small gap. This can also occur in dense woodland away from both release
pens and fencing (I remember once falling flat on my face having stepped into
a snare along a pathway!)
The actual release pen can be a problem, especially if it is occupied. You
are faced with a dilemma - knowing full well what will happen to these young
birds in the near future. However, at this point I would not advise damaging the
pen in any way, or releasing the occupants, since if they are still confined
they are not mature enough to be able to escape from predators and since they
are semi- tame, and food is normally available, they will remain in that area.
Releasing them only plays into the hands of the gamekeeper, who will label you
irresponsible - unfortunately I would agree with him.
Satisfy yourself with being able to sabotage the actual shoots when they
occur. What you do with an empty release pen is obviously up to you, but they
are quite costly to erect, the wire being the most expensive component.
Once you know what you are looking for it becomes easier, though beware it
can become addictive!
Shooting estates are easy to spot if you are out walking you may notice food
bins amongst the woods; usually they are full of corn to keep the pheasants in
the area. You may even notice an area with an obvious over-abundance of
Be aware of the law - most sabs know all about trespass (ie, that it isn't a
criminal offence) but far more difficult is the law concerning the demobilising
of snares, an action which could be regarded as criminal damage, carried out
with what could be regarded as an offensive weapon. The best rule is not to get
caught, as much for your sake as the animals.
Anyone can be involved in this form of wildlife protection, whether you are
an active sab out in the country to visit a hunt, or just someone out walking.
It's something you can do even if you are unable to regularly sabotage hunts.
To conclude, might I suggest that local sab groups keep records of release
pens in their area? This would allow people to help save at least some of the
five million animals lives lost each year at the hands of gamekeepers and
Some other points to remember when visiting shooting estates:
Always carry a haversack to carry traps in - it also makes you look like a
member of the public.
A pair of binoculars and a birdwatching book in your pocket can be
invaluable as an excuse for being on keepered land.
Keep an Ordnance Survey map with you.
If at all possible avoid confrontation, but if you are seen don't run away -
approach the person and make out that you are lost and need guidance to get back
on the right path. Be courteous and apologetic remember that you may need to
revisit the same area on another day.
Finally, remember that it's not just shooting estates that put out snares
and traps. Farmers use them as well, so if you are out walking the dog why not
check along the bottom of stock fences'? You never know what you might find...
Reproduced from HOWL (No 53, Autumn/Winter 93-94) - magazine of the Hunt
Saboteurs Association. PO Box 5254, Northampton, UK. NN1 3ZA Telephone:
(+44) 0845 4500727