James Barrington – Countryside Alliance ‘Animal Welfare Consultant’

Just as predictable as badger baiters claiming they were only ‘hunting rabbits’ are the articles and letters by James Barrington regurgitating his past. Playing the part of pantomime victim, Barrington has chosen, once again, to write about his final days at League Against Cruel Sports so we thought it would only be fair to publish John Bryant’s account:

I worked professionally with Barrington for more than a decade at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). He led the staff campaign to rid the League of its previous Executive Director, Richard Course, in Spring of 1988. Course was asked to resign by the League Executive Committee following an enquiry into complaints about Course’s behaviour described in detail and signed by almost all League staff. The final decision was endorsed by the late Lord Soper (LACS President) and Lord Houghton (LACS Vice President). There was no suggestion of Course being anything but totally anti-hunt, but it was his often bizarre behaviour and cavalier attitude to the League’s financial affairs that led to his ‘dismissal’. In view of Course’s undoubted contribution to the anti-hunt cause he was given a £20,000 pay off. However, once he had received his money, Course began to attack, not only the League’s staff and committee, but also the entire idea of outlawing bloodsports – a real propaganda coup for the hunting lobby.

Soon after Course had left, Barrington became the League new Executive Director, having been involved with the organisation since the early 1970s, including management of the League’s sales good department and proving himself an excellent ambassador for the League and its cause. Previously he had also been an active hunt saboteur. When Barrington was appointed as Executive Director I had already been working professionally alongside him since 1984 having been on the League’s payroll as Press Officer and Wildlife Research Officer. I also knew him well prior to 1984 as I had been a member of the League’s elected Committee since 1978. The League did well under Barrington, but it was discovered in 1995 that he had been meeting with leading members of the hunting fraternity without the knowledge of the Executive Committee. He had also been appointing staff who had no obvious connection to the anti-hunt movement – a departure from the League’s recent history. Finally, he walked in one morning and ‘instantly dismissed’ the entire press office consisting of two dedicated, long-term anti-hunt campaigners. As departmental head I had not been given any warning that I would lose my staff and no explanation was given. The office was in uproar. The dismissed staff members immediately sought an industrial tribunal. It was obvious that they would win their case and the League would end up having to reinstate them or pay out huge sums in compensation.

In November 1995, an article appeared in The Field magazine, which comprised of an interview with Barrington in which he suggested that if fox hunters abandoned terrier-work , the League would welcome it. Some people, unfairly it has to be said, started to think that Barrington was suggesting that the League would back off from calling for a hunt ban, if the hunters abandoned terrier-work and digging out. With the internal staff problems of the League already known to many members, and splits within the Committee over how to proceed, by a majority vote Barrington was instructed to retract his remarks in The Field, reinstate the two sacked staff and take a two-month break. Barrington refused, but he and the Chairman of the LACS Committee (Iain Blake-Lawson) did sign a letter sent to the Jonathan Young , the editor of The Field, stating,

… the impression was given that the League would reduce its activities against hunting if terrier work was ended. This is a wrong view and the League will continue its campaign with its current vigour until the hunting of a quarry with hounds is prohibited by law.

Then Shooting Times, November 30 – December 6,1995, reported the League controversy under the title, “League head ‘will not go’.” And quoted Barrington as saying, “I’m confident I’ll be here in 1996 because if I go many others will go too…” Shooting Times reported, ‘Asked if more staff would have to go, he said: “I suppose we’re at a bit of a water-shed. I aim to remove them”.

Meanwhile Barrington was writing to concerned members, (for instance to Mr Grimwood of Ashbourne, Derbyshire on 11th December 1995) explaining,

I have been accused of suggesting that hunting could continue in a new and modified way. Let me say again for the record, this is not my view. I have been involved with the League for 24 years and I am not going to change my views now … May I state for the record, once again, that I have not changed my views and that I wish to see all hunting of a live quarry by dogs to be prohibited by law as does the League.

Four days later, Barrington resigned, and using Hunt lawyer Matthew Knight, served a notice on the League (right in the middle of a League publicity event at the House of Commons) for an action for ‘constructive dismissal’. The League’s lawyers advised the LACS Committee to offer a settlement of £20,000 because win or lose, fighting the claim would cost the League much more than that in legal costs. Thus Barrington walked away with £20,000 plus his company car.

All the above evidence proves that both before and even after he had ‘resigned’ (or been ‘constructively dismissed’) Barrington supported a total ban on hunting and that he had wanted to stay at the League to campaign for that ban in accordance with his 24 year long and never-doubted opinion that hunting was cruel and should be banned.

Like his predecessor Richard Course, once Barrington was in possession of his £20,000, he joined the hunting lobby. In 1997, he and leaders of the Countryside Alliance met with Michael Foster MP to try and persuade him not to proceed with his Private Members Bill to ban hunting. Barrington now fronts the argument that a ban on hunting foxes will lead to more suffering of foxes, an argument he and I dissected, examined and rejected many times in my time with the League, and which interestingly was also promoted by Richard Course after his dismissal from the League. Yet, in a letter to a League member FG Allen, of Rotherham, 7th September 1995, during the final months of his League career, Barrington wrote,

“Much is spoken about the suffering of foxes as a consequence of shooting and yet when one looks at the information which is available with regard to wounded foxes, it is clear that very few are found with evidence of being wounded by shooting … I do feel the argument which is generally put forward by the hunting fraternity is done so to protect the activity of hunting with dogs.”

Barrington now claims: “The outcome [of foxhunting] is all or nothing, the fox either escapes or it is killed. There is no wounding or prolonged suffering. It’s not stressed in the way you or I would be.”

Both Barrington and myself wrote articles in the League journal Wildlife Guardian dismissing the claim that a hunt ban would lead to more suffering, and I attended debates with him in which we easily demolished such nonsense. Now, in the first weeks of 2008, Barrington is fronting a so-called report by ‘experts’ including veterinary surgeons, that claims that foxes can cope with being hunted by dogs because it mirrors natural predation. In the past, Barrington would have laughed this out of court, because even if fox control was necessary (which he would have once disputed), there is nothing ‘natural’ about sending people out at night to block up fox earths and badger setts so that foxes found by the hounds are forced into long exhausting chases and cannot do what comes ‘naturally’ and dive down a hole. Neither is there anything ‘natural’ about sending terriers down any hole to attack a fox that finds a hole missed by the Hunt’s earth-stoppers. Packs of wolves would never have hunted foxes for miles, because expending the energy would not be compensated for by the tiny bit of a fox eaten by each wolf if they caught one: anyway packs of wolves did not keep a miniature wolf to send down fox holes!

I am in possession of Barrington’s letters and hand-written speeches in which he successfully destroyed all these pro-hunt arguments that he and his new hunting pals are now promoting as ‘truth’. The simple fact is, Barrington is a complete fraud. In January 2003 he wrote in the Daily Telegraph, that he had been subjected to ‘a stream of abuse and threats of violence’ from members of the League Against Cruel Sports. I don’t know whether that is true or not, but considering that League members raised at least £250,000 to pay his salary for 13 years, plus his £20,000 pay off when he was ‘dismissed’, only to see him join the wildlife killers, it would be surprising if some people were not very angry.

Legal threat

Barrington to John Bryant: 7th September 2010

“I will not tolerate untruthful statements, which are designed to denigrate me in the eyes of the reader, being circulated, so I am requesting that you do not use that document in the future. If, on the other hand, you are willing to risk moving into the area of defamation, I am sure you will be aware of the problems this can cause.”

John Bryant to Barrington: 7th September 2010

“The evidence is that you were stating in writing to League members that you were still committed to a ban on all hunting of live quarry, only days before you left the League. If you had genuinely changed your mind and had come to the conclusion that setting dogs onto wild animals for sport was good for their welfare, you should have resigned, not sacked anti-hunt staff and telling Shooting Times that you wanted more staff sacked, and then ripping of the League for £20,000…”

“I also remember the many occasions, particularly around the Peachey case, when you said of Matthew Knight that he ‘left a slime trail wherever he went’. And then you went to him for your disgraceful legal action against the League. Hypocrite. Do your worst!”

Barrington’s to John Bryant: 8th September 2010.

“What is it about your obsession with my thinking at the time of leaving the League? Is it that you want to be able to say that I changed my mind after I left? At that time, of course I wanted to keep my job, but I also wanted to see the League take a sensible path. Add in the numerous times the committee were called to meet me to discuss my actions and the constant pressure with which I had to contend, it’s no wonder I wrote in the terms you say.”


The above extracts show that when he was telling League members, the Committee and the media in the days and weeks before he left the League in December 1995, that he was still totally committed to a ‘ban on all hunting of live quarry’ he was, on his own admission, lying, but that he wanted to keep his job as the Executive Director of an organisation which for more than 70 years had been campaigning for the abolition of hunting with dogs. Indeed if he had admitted at that time that he no longer supported the League’s primary policy and objective, i.e to see the hunting of wild animals with dogs for sport banned by law, he would obviously have been sacked on the spot without any financial package, and a claim for constructive dismissal would have been resisted by the Committee and no doubt thrown out by any tribunal.