In recent years the focus has been on undercover police. However, in terms of numbers, informants present the greater problem. A senior Special Branch officer admitted on the BBC documentary True Spies in 2002 that it had upwards of 100 agents in the animal rights movement. The vast majority would have been informants or snitches. Some he said were being paid £10,000 per year.

Informants fall into three categories: 1) professional grasses who enter the movement posing as activists; 2)  Activists pressured by the police into snitching,  such as by being threatened with a heavier sentence, or by doing some sort of plea bargain; 3) Activists whose beliefs change or who fall out with their peers and are then “recruited” by the state.

The first category is the most prevalent, but finding examples who’ve been exposed is uncommon. The ALF Supporters Group Newsletter reported in April 1998 that it had found “four confirmed police agents” and named them as: Mick “Roberts” (real name Michael Suorot Ali); Graham Ennis (aliases Innes, Ellis, Cameron); Ros Loescher and Kristine Sinclair.

Roberts, along with Loescher and Sinclair, helped set up a meeting between an activist and a “contact” who was really an undercover cop. As a result of this sting, two activists spent several months in prison.  The three informants moved to the south coast just as the live exports campaign was taking off and Roberts supplied police with “information which led to a long series of  arrests, imprisonments and court cases”. Sinclair was also taping conversations among activists with a hidden recording device.

Ennis was described as “a long time police informer with high ranking contacts”. One of them was an informant of a different type. Dave Hammond was prominent as a militant activist in the nineties but after falling out with people around him, turned grass. Ennis is quoted as saying: “I’ve been using him (Hammond) as a source of information on various terrorist matters that have been going on inside the animal rights movement, and it’s been very useful.”

The second category  – the ones who name names – is as old as the animal rights movement itself. Cliff Goodman, arrested with Ronnie Lee in 1974, grassed him up. Ten years later Ronnie was a victim again when he and other defendants received long sentences in the Sheffield ALF trial because some of their co-accused did deals with the police. One of the them, Kevin Baldwin, was even allowed to join the local AR group after his release.

Informants have been around a very long time and there’s no reason to think they have gone away. This is an underreported problem yet it is one that shouldn’t be ignored.