The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


Hunting vicar in church clash

A vicar called in the police to help eject anti-hunt demonstrators who interfered with his church service yesterday.

A group of more than 50 members of the Hunt Saboteurs moved in on Steeple Bumpstead, Essex, where the vicar, the Rev. Eric Wheeler, 69, is a member of the Puckeridge and Thurlow Hunt.

The demonstrators carried placards attacking the vicar for his hunting activities, and crowded round the church gates as the congregation of between 30 and 40 villagers went in for the Mothering Sunday service.

About 20 of the saboteurs joined the congregation and sat quietly for about 15 minutes. But when the vicar was about to read the first lesson, they started singing , "All Things Bright and Beautiful."

'Out you go'

Mr Wheeler stepped out and told the group: "Out you go. I will not have anybody in my church interfering with Divine Worship. You have no right, coming in here and causing a disturbance."

The vicar called in two police officers and asked them to clear the church of the demonstrators. When they had left, he told the congregation: "I am sorry our service was interrupted because of me. I am thankful and appreciate your support this morning."

No influence

Mr. Wheeler, who has hunted for over 25 years, said he may now have to give it up, but because of arthritis and not the saboteurs. "What happened here today has had no influence on me whatsoever. When they try and compare hunting and Christian teaching they are talking about two different worlds."

The police led the vicar away down the church path to the boos and jeers and the blasts of hunting horns.

Saboteurs' leader, Mr Tom Halliday, of Cambridge, said: "We can't see how a man can kill animals one day and next day preach about love and goodness. We hope the church will put some pressure on this vicar."

From the Daily Telegraph dated 21 March, 1977

With thanks to Mike Huskisson and Animal Welfare Information Service:

See 'Hunting Parsons' .

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