Trouble flares at mink hunt
By David Lennard and Ted JeoryPOLICE officers from two counties were called to a farming estate as animal rights protesters tried to stop efforts to control the numbers of mink that had escaped into the countryside.
By David Lennard and Ted Jeory
POLICE officers from two counties were called to a farming estate as animal rights protesters tried to stop efforts to control the numbers of mink that had escaped into the countryside.
The demonstrators arrived at the estate in Ditchingham, near Bungay, on Saturday morning and there were confrontations with workers.
A spokesman for the hunt saboteurs claimed they had entered the Ditchingham Hall estate legally and blamed the confrontations on the estate workers.
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Police were called in at about 11.15am from north Suffolk and south Norfolk as the fear of further disturbances escalated and remained at the scene well into the evening.
A spokesman for Norfolk police said the incident had tied up officers for much of the day and he added: "I would like to apologise to the people of south Norfolk and other areas who did not receive their normal police service.
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"We had to divert officers from their normal duties from a wide area to send them to Ditchingham to ensure there were no breaches of the peace."
A police helicopter also hovered over the scene for several hours, filming the disturbances, and the crew were also able to advise their colleagues on the ground.
It is thought that about 20 animal rights protesters took part in the attempt to prevent the mink being destroyed. Many of those who arrived at Ditchingham Hall wore camouflage clothing and balaclava-type masks.
Norfolk police were made aware of possible trouble when the animal rights protesters were spotted by Suffolk officers as they drove through the county.
There were no reports of any serious injuries during the confrontation, but one estate worker and a female protester were slightly hurt and at one time during the day an ambulance was called to the scene.
Norfolk police confirmed its officers had made a "handful" of arrests, mainly for public order offences.
A spokesman for the group from Suffolk and Essex Saboteurs said 15 protesters - eight men and seven women from Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk - had taken part in the demonstration to protest against the Eastern Counties Mink Hounds Hunt.
Workers on the Ditchingham estate had planned to humanely destroy any mink they could capture as the animals were causing havoc to the natural wildlife.
The mink are not natural to this country and either escaped or were set free from fur farms. The ferocious animals were imported to this country from the USA and bred in fur farms.
However, since their appearance in the British countryside they have been devastating the native wildlife, including the endangered water vole and other mammals and birds.
The situation is so serious that organisations such as the Suffolk Wildlife Trust have set up operations to capture and humanely destroy any mink found on nature reserves in an attempt to protect other animals and birds.
No-one from the Ditchingham estate was available yesterday to discuss the incident.