Activists to bait Britain's anglers

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The Independent Online
HOW MANY ways can you think of to annoy an angler? Here are a few. You could stand behind him so he cannot whisk back his rod to cast. You could talk to him in a loud voice to scare the fish away. You could hire a canoe to churn up the waters or even use extended bamboo canes to remove bait from his hook.

Perhaps you can think of a few more. If so the Fishing Saboteurs would like to hear from you. They are a group of animal rights activists who - having failed to ignite even the slightest flicker of enthusiasm in our anti-fox hunting government for a ban on the nation's most popular sport - have decided to resort to direct action.

The fish-lovers have begun their campaign now because yesterday marked the start of National Fishing Week. They hope to persuade four million anglers that their sport is as cruel to fish as hunting with dogs is to foxes and deer. The saboteurs insist that fishing is not only harmful to our finny friends but that birds and other animals are also injured by discarded hooks, line and lures.

The ideas for disruptive tactics have been published in a leaflet drawn up by the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling, although its co-ordinator, Max Gastone, denied his members would, as rumoured, resort to pushing fishermen into the water. He insisted that his organisation was opposed to violent action. "That's just a scare story put around by fishermen. We don't condone breaking the law - that's down to individual choice."

The anglers agree on that at least. "Studies show that fish don't suffer pain the same way," said Mark Sutcliffe, deputy news editor of Angling News. But fishermen clearly do. "Some of our members are rather formidable," said the chairman of a fishing association who did not want to be identified for fear of sparking a confrontation. "If a saboteur comes anywhere near disturbing their day then it's going to be them rather than the angler who ends up in the water."