Hoax bombs planted to disrupt Boxing Day hunt

Animal rights extremists believed to be responsible for attack
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The Independent Online
The Justice Department, an extreme animal rights group, is believed to be responsible for delivering two hoax bombs to the Chiddingfold, Lecconfield and Cowdray hunt in Sussex to prevent yesterday's annual Boxing Day meet.

One bomb was found on Christmas Day inside the hunt kennels in Petsworth, Sussex. The other was discovered near the stables of Nick Fawcett, a hunt member.

An army bomb disposal team carried out controlled explosions on the suspect devices.

Mr Fawcett said the suspect devices were constructed from a biscuit tin, nails, a clock and an easily available substance "which probably looks like an explosive when X-rayed".

A spokesman for the British Field Sports Society, a pressure group which represents hunting, said: "The Chiddingfold hunt has had a lot of trouble in the past.

"Obviously it's going to be an ALF type group, or an offshoot of the hunt sabs [which is responsible]. Hunting is a legal activity and this is just a form of terrorism," he said.

Mr Fawcett said: "I'm certain that the hunt sabs are behind it. When they come out, they play merry hell. I just don't know why they do it."

The Hunt Saboteurs Association, which regularly disrupts the Chiddingfold hunt, denied responsibility, or knowledge of the devices. Paul Gammon, a spokesman for the HSA, said: "We're in the public eye and we're photographed by the police every week, so it would be suicidal for any of our members to be involved. We stay well clear of those kind of actions.

"I think it's just some shady characters hanging around in the background who are doing this kind of thing. They have no connection with us."

Robin Webb, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front, who also acts as a conduit for the Animal Rights Militia and the Justice Department, said the "sophisticated devices sounded like the work of the Justice Department".

The Justice Department rarely claims responsibility for any of its actions, but if it does, the information is conveyed to the ALF. The ALF also has guidelines which inform the group when an action is likely to have been carried out by the Justice Department.

"Because of the seriousness of their actions, they do not often claim responsibility by telephone - they usually do it by post which means there is a delay," Mr Webb said "The Department is so secretive that nobody knew they existed until two months after their first action," he added.

The Justice Department is believed to be organised along the same lines as the ALF and recruit from its membership. However, unlike the ALF, it believes in using violence.

"The Justice Department argues that, if the animals could fight back, then there would be a lot of dead animal abusers already," Mr Webb said.

Since its formation in October 1993, the Justice Department has waged an aggressive campaign, fire-bombing shops and sending explosives and syringes through the post.

Other hunts where protests passed peacefully were the Quorn, in Leicestershire; Warwickshire Beagles,in Bicester, Oxfordshire; Whaddon Chase, in Oxfordshire; and the Fitzwilliam Hunt, at Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

At the East Essex Hunt, in Halstead, Essex, the demonstrators chanted "3 March", referring to a Private Member's Bill due for a second reading in the House of Commons on that date.

The Bill, to be introduced by John McFall, Labour MP for Dumbarton, will provide for "the protection of wild mammals from certain cruel acts, including being taken, killed or injured by the use of dogs and snares".