In 1875 the first Bands of Mercy (groups promoting kindness towards non-human animals) were formed in the UK and some took part in actions such as destroying equipment for grouse shoots. In 1882 the RSPCA took on responsility for organising Bands of Mercy and their puplications, with the Animal Liberation Front also being born from such Bands.
In 1891 The Humanitarian League was formed, closing down in 1920. Its aims were to enforce the idea that the infliction of avoidable suffering on any sentient being was wrong. They opposed corporal and capital punishment, hunting as a sport and vivisection.
In December 1893 a case called Harrison v Duke of Rutland was brought to court and related to an incident where Mr. Harrison had used a public highway to enter land owned by the Duke in order to disrupt grouse shooting taking place and was subsequently restrained aggressively by the landowner’s servants as a trespasser. He received 5 shillings in compensation.
1924 saw the formation of The League Against Cruel Sports, founded by members of the RSPCA who were frustrated as the society’s lack of action against hunting. They investigated hunts, gathering evidence of cruelty and purchased land which could then be protected from hunting, acting as sanctuaries for animals. The League’s campaigns now inclulde those against dog-fighting, snaring, shooting, racing and bullfighting. They continue to monitor hunts both overtly and covertly, also attempting to strengthen legislation.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association was formed in 1963 with activists wanting to use more direct action to sabotage hunting activities, confusing the hounds and helping the fox to escape. Open sabotage as well as “sabotage by stealth” activities continued to take place by local groups around the country until today.
Other groups, such as Protect Our Wild Animals (POWA) which was formed by ex-League staff in 1998, have set up independently and take part in the monitoring of hunts as well as campaigning to strengthen the Hunting Act 2004.
Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs was set up in 2012 after Coventry Hunt Sabs decided to form two new groups – 3C and West Midlands Hunt Sabs. Many individuals over the years have also done a huge amount of work independently of larger groups and organisations.
As a little bit of extra information, in Mesapotamian mythology a Sumerian called Enkidu (who appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh and lived around 4000 BC) was known to have been created 1/3 man and 2/3 non-human animal. In one story he was claimed to have filled in pits and destroyed snares and traps set by a hunter, infuriating him. Until Enkidu was ‘civilised’ and became more human, he lived with, and protected, wild animals. It would seem that ‘sabbing’ has a long history…