Pro-hunting extremists in the United Kingdom are demonstrating that they can be every bit as violent as animal rights activists.
This was amply demonstrated when Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw was injured by a pro-hunt activist in January, and then received death threats from pro-hunting extremists in March.
Bradshaw was assaulted in a January 17th incident when about 70 pro-hunt protesters showed up to protest Bradshaw’s appearance at a fishing industry conference. One of the protests threw a piece of hollowed out fruit which had been filled with animal entrails at Bradshaw. The object hit him in the face and caused a small cut beneath his right eye.
Later, in March, Bradshaw told The Times of London that a pro-hunt extremist had left a death threat on his voice mail system.
Bradshaw quickly spoke out against the violence,
I’ve had fake blood thrown over me in an anti-Kosovo war protest and an offal bomb thrown at me by hunt protesters and now this death threat. This goes with the territory and anyone in public life is aware that they are vulnerable because we are democratically elected politicians and we are accessible.
But I am deeply troubled about the effect of all this on the people who work in my office and civil servants who are with me on visits and get caught up in it all. Most of my officials are female and they have been affected and are unsettled by it all. It is extremely threatening behavior, very loud and frankly pretty abusive.
Bradshaw is wrong about one thing — death threats and abuse should not come with the territory. Those who assaulted and threatened Bradshaw are no better than the animal rights extremists who threaten and commit assaults. There is no place in a democratic society for this sort of nonsense, regardless of the ideology or the issue.
Unfortunately, police in Bradshaw’s case made the same mistake they have made repeatedly in dealing with animal rights violence — not acting quickly and decisively enough to squash it. For example, take the man who assaulted Bradshaw causing him to receive a cut. His punishment? Police arrested the man, but then let him go with a verbal warning.
They did this at the direction of Bradshaw himself, to be sure, but this sort of laissez-faire attitude to what should be treated as an assault simply encourages this sort of violence and its eventual escalation. Bradshaw could have been seriously injured and should have urged the man to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of British law, if not for himself then for the other members of the government who may face such assaults.
The animal rights extremists show what happens when a violent movement is allowed to get away with a slap on the wrist for an extended period of time. The last thing Great Britain needs now is equally nutty pro-hunt extremists feeling they can break the law with impunity.
Pro-hunting extremists issue death threat to MP. Valerie Elliott, Times Online, March 7, 2005.
Offal thrower receives a caution. The BBC, March 23, 2005.
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