Animal rights groups engage in intimidation to achieve 'meatless, petless' society, seminar told


CIRCUSES, BUTCHERS, furriers and restaurateurs are being intimidated and bullied by militant animal rights activists, a seminar on the growth of the animal rights movement was told yesterday.

The seminar, Consumer Intimidation, the Vegan/Animal Rights Agenda, was organised by Gavin Duffy of the Hunting Association of Ireland, in response to what he says are increasingly intimidatory protests by animal rights activists.

Irish Farmers' Association president Padraig Walshe had been listed as a speaker in the seminar brochure issued to delegates, but the day before the seminar he issued a statement saying that he had never agreed to attend.

Speaking at the conference yesterday, Mr Duffy said Mr Walshe had been "scared off" by publicity surrounding the event. About 30 animal rights protesters held a demonstration outside the seminar in the Ballsbridge Court (formerly the Berkeley Court) Hotel in Ballsbridge yesterday.

Mark McFerran of Duffy's Circus said between six and eight protesters gathered outside the circus each time it was held in Dublin.

"We only get them in Dublin, around six or eight of them, but they are targeting children, blocking their path as they walk in. Our customers have not stopped coming because of them and people wouldn't come if they thought we were treating animals badly," he said.

Desmond Crofton of the National Association of Regional Game Councils said the Government had turned to his organisation to manage the protection of endangered birds such as the grey partridge and the tern, yet the locks of his office had been glued, his e-mail system tampered with and he had even received bomb threats from animal rights groups.

"The people outside may be small in number, but they are very very vocal," he said.

The seminar's principal speaker, Lieut Col Dennis J Foster, master of the Foxhounds Association of America, said militant animal rights groups were using children to push their agenda of a meatless, petless society. "The animal rights movement is based on hate, fear, emotion and deception . . . They equate holocaust victims with animals going to slaughter - they distribute leaflets saying 'your mommy kills animals'."

Irish Farmers Journal editor Matt Dempsey said he had printed letters from farmers complaining about the way hunters behaved on their land, but he said he did not publish letters from animal rights groups.

"If we get letters from professional activists they go in the bin," he said. "Hunting for me is simply a natural extension of a normal farming way of life."

Laura Broxson of the National Animal Rights Association said the seminar was "disgusting".

"We think these people are horrible. Everything we do is a legitimate protest and if they think we are being intimidating, well then that's a mark of our success."

Bernie Wright of the Association of Hunt Saboteurs said her organisation did follow people into restaurants and protest outside businesses, but said their actions were always peaceful. "This is just a load of hype from the hunters."