A Hartlepool man has had his lawfully-owned firearms seized after animal rights campaigners seized on a Facebook picture of a severed fox’s head on a stick.
According to the Hartlepool Mail, Mark Lowery, a 44-yr-old who “regularly carries out pest control work for local farmers”, cut off the dead animal’s head before he “put its head on a stick above an abusive note to animal cruelty protesters, and then photographed it before uploading it to Facebook.”
Lowery told the Mail he wanted to “antagonise them and carry out a social experiment which worked, as it has shown the anti-hunt campaigners to be the nasty, horrible people that they are”.
He says he has since received death threats to himself, his family and his own pets, which prompted him to alert the police. Lowery added to the newspaper: “I’ve had credible threats of violence and death threats and I phoned the police about it on Tuesday afternoon. They have taken my guns for my own safe-keeping until the situation calms down.”
“The fox was road kill,” he added. “It was dead and had been dead for at least 24 hours because I could tell by the feel of its body. I’ve handled dead animals since I was about 11 years old, and from doing work in an abattoir, in commercial butchery.”
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Inquiries are continuing. Officers have seized a number of legally-held firearms from a 44-year-old male and we are looking into his suitability to continue as a firearms licence holder. No arrests have been made.”
Previous reports in the Hartlepool Mail and the Northern Echo indicate that Lowery seems to have posted the picture of the fox head along with a sign, in the same photo, reading “Dear anti c*nts. You were warned!” Lowery is previously said to have posted the statement “I keep my promises, 1 ban = 1 fox” after apparently having his Facebook account suspended after animal rights activists misused a ‘report spam’ style function to trigger an automatic ban.
The RSPCA has also become involved in the case. It is not known what, if anything, they intend to do to Lowery.
Lowery’s actions seem to have been provoked by a Facebook campaign against him by animal rights campaigners. Exactly what happened between him and them in the runup to this picture being posted isn’t exactly clear – but seems to have involved a fair degree of tit-for-tat online exchanges.
Posting the picture of the fox’s head on Facebook along with the taunting message doesn’t help Lowery’s case. In your correspondent’s personal view, it’s crass, to use a mild term of condemnation. It’s one thing to be passionate about your sport or livelihood and to defend it against the attacks of hunt saboteurs and their fellow travellers – but quite another to start figuratively waving dead animal parts under their noses. You aren’t going to win people over to the cause by antagonising them.
Regarding the police involvement, it seems Lowery called the police when the online threats escalated and spread to involve his family, friends and pets. Animal rights extremists have form when it comes to threats – even going to the point of digging up people’s dead grandmothers and stealing their remains from graveyards. It’s not entirely surprising, therefore, that Cleveland Police “seized” his firearms. Whether Lowery handed his firearms over voluntarily, was coerced into doing so by the police or whether they obtained a court warrant is not known.
The pragmatic side of me hopes the police statements about investigating Lowery’s suitability to own firearms are just paying lip service, intended to calm the animal rights mob down. The realistic side of me thinks he may have jeopardised his firearm certificate by calling the police. On the flip side, it hardly bears thinking about the consequences if animal rights extremists turned up mob-handed at Lowery’s home, broke in and secured access to his gun cabinet.