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I recall an incident a few years ago when an animal rights activist filmed a non-target species caught and struggling in an illegal, self-locking snare. This gruesome footage was much prized by some of those who are campaigning to ban legal snares. But I remember thinking, at the time, that if the activist in question had really cared about the plight of the poor animal, why had he simply stood there, filming? Indeed, I suspect it was his close presence that was actually causing the animal to struggle and injure itself. Didn?t he really care about the animal?

Last year, an anti group released a video aimed at demonising shooters. The voiceover was deeply misleading at several points. In one incident, a shot partridge was shown twitching on the ground, and the voiceover informed the viewers that the bird was in agony. Yet, if that was really the case (which many would dispute) then why didn?t the people filming the incident takeimmediate action to put the poor bird out of its supposed misery?

In both these cases it seems reasonable to assume that the campaigners were more interested in the emotional impact of their misleading propaganda than in the plight of any individual animal. No doubt they would justify their cold-hearted attitude on the grounds that an individual may have to suffer in order for a greater good to be achieved. This, of course, is exactly how wonderfully humane people such as Stalin rationalised some of their own behaviour.

On a similar theme, I noticed an interesting snippet on DEFRA?s website, under the category Myth busters. It reads as follows: The myth: Animal Aid has used undercover filming to show abuse at a slaughterhouse, and is criticising DEFRA for not seeking a prosecution ? implying that the department does not care about animal welfare.
The truth: This is not true. Animal cruelty is completely unacceptable, and we vigorously pursue action wherever we can. But as DEFRA found in a previous prosecution based on an Animal Aid video, if the evidence has been obtained unlawfully through trespass there is little prospect of a conviction.

This DEFRA statement got me thinking about those people who traipse around the countryside fi lming hunts and shoots. In some cases, these self-appointed ?monitors? have been known to film participating children. In many instances, these ?monitors? have been blatantly and deliberately trespassing (see News). In others, where they have been on access ground or public rights of way, they have used specialised equipment to take close-up pictures of people on private property ? in houses, even ? where the victims had a reasonable expectation of privacy. In such cases, the media are supposedly not allowed to use such images. And given the DEFRA statement, we must suppose that such imagery would not normally be conducive to a criminal prosecution (even in the unlikely event that is showed something criminal).

So, what is the true motive of the organisations and people who set themselves up as ?monitors?? In some cases, it seems reasonable to say, it must be because they wish to intimidate, oppress and bully those people taking part in perfectly legal activities on private property.

Ordinary trespass is not, in itself, a crime. It is merely a civil offence. But aggravated trespass ? defi ned as trespassing with the intention of disrupting a legal activity ? most certainly is a criminal offence. In some instances, the behaviour of certain fanatical ?monitors? may also run foul of anti-harassment legislation.

Of course, in the normal run of things, the police are highly unlikely to press charges. Frankly, we all have better things to do with our lives than run around monitoring the ?monitors?. Some of them, no doubt, are genuine about wanting to help animals. But I cannot help thinking that many are in it for little more than the thrill of chasing a human quarry.

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