FAMILY UNDER SIEGE
|Peaceful protestors like these aren't the problem|
What happens when peaceful protest becomes a hate campaign? Inside Out has the exclusive story of a family under siege at Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch.
It's a familiar scene - animal rights protestors lined up and voicing their opinions on the farming practices they deem unacceptable.
But unlike this protest, matters in this village have gone further than expected - with the desecration of a family grave.
82-year-old Gladys Hammond's remains were removed from her resting place in Staffordshire by what are thought to be radical animal rights protestors, who have embarked on a tireless terror campaign against the Hall family.
John Hall and his brother Chris breed guinea pigs for medical research at their farm which has outraged animal rights protestors who are against vivisection.
Gladys Hammond was Chris Halls mother in law.
A tireless campaign
The desecration of Gladys Hammond's grave is the most recent in a long history of threatening action against the Hall family, who live under siege at their farmland home.
So far, the Halls have been subject to property damage, harassment and even death threats from radical activists, who operate anonymously, usually in the dead of night.
While most animal rights protestors prefer to demonstrate peacefully and avoid violence, it is clear that there are some who take a more drastic approach.
In fact, things have got so bad that the Halls have had to take some extreme security measures to ensure their personal safety.
John says, "We've had to erect a security fence and there are dogs running free.
"We also have some CCTV and employ private security to ensure that we can get some sleep at night.
"It is unpleasant but it just has to be because we can't get the protection we require from other sources - the police can't sit there 24 hours a day in case something happens."
The effects of the terror campaign are far-reaching - John Hall's daughter was even tracked down and subjected to abuse.
"My daughter, who has never worked in the industry and was living in her own home away from here - they found her, intimidated her company into making her leave and trashed the works car that she had been provided with.
"I think it goes beyond just protest - some of their actions are terrorism and need to be dealt with as such."
The ripple effect
And it's not just the Hall family who have been targeted - whoever is behind the terror campaign is also after anyone the family do business with.
Simon Turner works as a driver for the Halls, delivering guinea pigs from the farm to the laboratories.
|"I would class them as terrorists, their tactics are no different." |
Simon told us, "We've had windows broken, paint thrown at the shutters, and a package was left on the doorstep had to be dealt with by the bomb squad.
"I've had numerous death threats - they reckon they're watching us 24/7.
"We can't sleep in bed at night without fear of somebody coming and doing something to the house.
"I think these people are prepared to go all the way."
But Simon is not the only one to be targeted.
Rod Harvey runs a small fuel delivery service. His work takes him to Darley Oaks but he has never even seen the guinea pigs.
That didn't stop Rod becoming a victim of the extended harassment campaign.
"I was out driving when my wife rang and said 'I've got the police here, there's a letter going around that you're a paedophile.' I said 'you're joking.'"
Both Rod and his wife Dot were in no doubt where the letter had come from, but it seems there's very little they can do.
Dot has been left shell shocked and has had to install extra security measures to ensure that she feels safe.
"I don't trust anybody, I'm very nervous of noises and sudden movement - I'm terrified."
"You get them looking through the windows, shouting through the letterbox, banging on the door - it's just horrific.
|Rod's wife Dot points out their new security measures|
"You just have to sit it out and hope they don't get any further than the front of your property - if they got to the back I wouldn't have a cat in hell's chance.
"You think you are not going to give in to these people but when it comes to the crunch and it's hit one of your family, enough is enough, you can't take it any more."
Even the police are shocked by the actions of the protesters.
Inspector David Bird of the Staffordshire Police told us, "These people hide behind the legitimate protest and quite frankly they are cowards for doing so.
"I've been a police officer for 18 years and this is one of the most sinister campaigns of harassment I've ever investigated."
But John is determined not to give in to the activists.
"We're not monsters, we're just ordinary people doing a job, admittedly a job that some people don't like, but it is legal and until it isn't we'll carry on."