Published: 20:00, 21 November 2020
| Updated: 12:37, 23 November 2020
This is the moment animal rights activists were left suspended in the air after rivals used a JCB to hoist their Land Rover off the ground.
One hunt saboteur was assaulted as the driver and navigator’s “lives were put at risk”, it is alleged - but the landowner, James Attwood, says drastic action was necessary to avoid damage or injury.
The clash which happened yesterday
The incident happened on land at Minster on the Isle of Sheppey at about 5pm yesterday after South Coast Hunt Saboteurs received a tip off wildfowl were being shot.
A member of the group told KentOnline their six-strong gang discovered a dead swan on the land and, before protesting, birds began “falling from the sky” around them.
Spokesman Nick Moon alleges one Sab was pushed into a ditch and cameras were broken.
"The driver and navigator, who were trapped inside had to make an emergency call to the police,” he added.
Mr Moon admitted Saboteurs trespass onto private property but only for the “greater good of animal welfare” and protest peacefully.
He said he believed the shooting party were attempting to kill ducks, geese and that marsh harriers were being put at risk - something Mr Attwood denies.
Marsh harriers are on the Amber list of UK species of conservation concern and legally protected. However, shooting wildfowl on your own property, or on private land with permission, is legal outside the closed season, so long as they are on a list of permitted species, such as various ducks and geese.
Mr Attwood, a shooting champion, said: "I was out wildfowling for ducks and geese on my own farm so I never organised an illegal hunt or shoot, it is total fabrication regarding the marsh harriers as they are an endangered and protected species and if these spurious accusations continue we will take the perpetrators to court."
Mr Attwood insists his team does "a great deal of conservation work" on the marshland, next to Elmley Nature Reserve, and is proud of its efforts to create a habitat for breeding waders, which are in decline, and other wildlife.
He added: "Around our boundary there were approximately 10 breeding pairs of marsh harriers which all successfully brought off broods, and at times 20 harriers can be seen working in the air at one time. It is probably the most densely populated area of harriers in the South East."
He explained how masked saboteurs were intercepted by his employees and asked to leave but re-entered the land via an adjacent farm.
He continued: "I met five of the saboteurs on foot and again asked them to leave which they did not want to, they were very rude, aggressive and trying to provoke me after a short time when we had called the police they decided they wanted to leave."
Mr Attwood claims his dog was kicked and gates were left open on fields with livestock in, prompting concerns animals could escape on to the nearby A249.
He claimed the saboteurs tried to ram their way out, injuring a member of his staff and damaging one of his all terrain vehicles.
He added: "Fearing for the safety of our staff we had no choice but to stop any further movement of their vehicle so we lifted it up – we then politely asked them to hang around until the police arrived."
Meanwhile, The Countryside Alliance, which supports all forms of legal hunting has condemned the saboteur organisation.
It says there have been more than 250,000 hunts since the ban in 2004 - the overwhelming majority of which it says have been lawful.
More than 400 people were convicted in the 16 years after the Hunting Act came into force, according to Ministry of Justice statistics. But the Countryside Alliance claims only 24 of those were involved with “registered" hunts.
It has long maintained continuous law-breaking by hunts is unfounded.
Asked if it was right to trespass in a bid to prevent hunts Mr Moon said: "People are entitled to their opinion but the greater moral good is paramount and if the hunting community want to bang on about the law then the foxhunting community have been breaking the law for years and they can bleat as much as they like."
Kent Police confirmed it was called at 4.50pm to a disturbance.
A spokesman said: "Officers attended and it was reported that a Land Rover and a quad bike had been damaged and a man had been assaulted.
"No serious injuries were reported and enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident are ongoing."