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PROTESTERS 'BEATEN UP'
20 March 2006


file photo of hunt saboteurs

A Police investigation was under way yesterday after a group of hunt saboteurs claimed they were at tacked by a dozen huntsmen in Gloucestershire. On what, for most hunts, was the final meeting of the season across the West, two saboteurs required hospital treatment after what they claimed was a "vicious beating" at the hands of the Cotswold Vale Farmers Hunt.

The hunt had been meeting around Sandhurst, near Gloucester, on Saturday and was accompanied for much of the day by a group of about a dozen protesters from the Forest of Dean Hunt Saboteurs Association.

But police are now investigating claims that violence flared later in the afternoon, at about 3pm. Two saboteurs had to have medical staples inserted into head wounds after suffering concussion. One also suffered broken ribs and the other a fractured cheekbone.

Yesterday, police confirmed they were investigating the incident, to which paramedics and police officers were called. Police are also investigating claims that a member of the hunt stole a video camera used by the saboteurs to monitor the hunt.

Inspector Chris Williams, from Gloucestershire police, said: "We did attend a hunt on Saturday and a number of allegations of assault were made, as well as one of theft. We are in the process of obtaining witness statements and police inquiries are continuing at this time. No arrests have been made." A huntsman who was out on Saturday said: "I didn't see anything like this happening but, then again, I wouldn't be surprised if it was blown out of proportion by the sabs." Speaking on behalf of the Cotswold Vale Farmers' Hunt, Delly Everard, from the Countryside Alliance, said: "It seems the main reason for the hunt saboteurs to be there was to incite public disorder. They are obviously in agreement with the hunting community that the Hunting Act isn't working and felt the need to be there on that day in order to wind up hunters who are working with the police and within the law. Not a single fox was killed that day.

"It is a shame that the police had to be called when I'm sure they have far more important things to do, such as tackling real crimes.

"We were grateful to the police for their quick reaction and we empathise with them that despite this law being in place - this law that the anti-hunting groups worked for seven years - that they are now being caught in the middle. This proves that bad law doesn't work. We will be talking to the police and helping them with their investigation into this incident, because, as we have always said, the hunting community is law abiding." Last night a spokesman for the Hunt Saboteurs Association described the alleged attack as "vicious". Dawn Preston also blamed the police for not treating their allegations that the hunt was breaking the ban seriously, which she claimed led to the later incident.

She said: "It is safe to say that had the police spoken to the hunt so as to ensure that any hunting taking place was within the law - ie trail hunting - then we believe this situation would not have occurred."

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