Dave Wetton

Dave Wetton

Former Hunt Sabateurs Leader

I was born in December 1943 during World War 2. I had no brothers or sisters or cousins. I grew up in a terrace house in Tooting, south London with my mum and gran and went to a grammar school in Tooting Bec where I got 8 ‘O’ levels in two attempts but didn’t go to university. I became a Quantity Surveyor. I married on Midsummer’s Day 1969 (it’ll be our 50th this year). We don’t have kids by choice but we have had numerous cats who’ve adopted us.

Whilst at school I helped form a pop group with fellow student Tony McPhee who went on to form the renown blues group The Groundhogs. Tony was a vegetarian and he influenced me to become one at the age of 17. My gran was convinced I would die.

By the age of 18 I’d joined the RSPCA and was getting involved with demos at circuses, shops selling battery eggs and a Boxing Day meet of a north London foxhunt. The coach for the latter was organised by the League Against Cruel Sports and the demo only lasted until the hunt moved off. There had to be more. Fortunately there was.

Just as I turned 20 the Hunt Saboteurs Association was formed in Brixham, south Devon, in December 1963 just a few days after the assassination of President Jack Kennedy and the first episode of Doctor Who. I joined in April 1964, became an active member of the Weybridge group and within a year had become leader of the London group. We travelled miles in all directions to hit fox, hare and otter hunts. Following the collapse of the Brixham group after a court case we took over joint control of the national organisation with the Bristol group for a while but eventually our group took full control nationally.

In August 1966, aged 22, I left the rock band I was with, arranged interim management for the HSA and, together with 5 others, including two other London committee members, went off on a 6 month trip in a van to Spain, North Africa, Italy & Yugoslavia. Whilst in Spain we stayed for a while with a Catholic centre for the poor where we had good religious arguments and helped build a two room shack for a prostitute and her sister and 10 kids whose mill house was collapsing. We also had Christmas dinner at the British Consulate in Tunis – veg only for us veggies of course. Back home it was a case of taking over the HSA Secretaryship again, joining a soul band and meeting my wife to be who fortunately had radical views and came to share my commitment to animal rights. However, in September 1971, we did commit to a seven month trip in a converted furniture van with another couple and their 3 year old son. This time we got well into the Sahara desert before being forced to turn round. We had 2 American draft dodgers from the Vietnam War on board for a while in Morocco.

The HSA had been left in the very capable hands of the renown Sue Smith and the London group and I wasted no time getting back on board, soon taking over as national Secretary again during the summer of 1972. A new breed of member was now coming in, many with a much more hard line approach to the concept of animal rights generally. Nothing was sacred, not even hunting vicars or the Queen. The radicalism was to lead on to the formation of the Animal Liberation Front. Dairy free was taking over from vegetarianism within the ranks and I finally went vegan in my early 30s – cheese had always been my weakness.

We recruited more members with a half page article in The Guardian on an otter hunt sab and in 1975 I helped to get us a 20 minute spot on BBC TV’s Open Door programme. We had 3,000 responses and soon had groups set up in every part of the UK.

I stepped down from the role in 1980 after receiving an ABH conviction for hitting a huntswoman with a stave after she’d ridden me down. But I stayed on as Membership Secretary and carried on sabbing and I joined the League Against Cruel Sports committee whose constant aim was to achieve anti hunt legislation. It was a laborious process with many ups and downs until we finally got the Hunting Act through in 2004.

Throughout the whole period we’d been successfully working on radicalising the RSPCA because of their influence on legislative matters. We actually got them to adopt a Declaration of Animal Rights for many years.

With the Hunting Act being continuously breached by hunts the HSA has been forced to carry on as before. Strengthening of the Act is vital but will only come about when a sympathetic government gets back into power.

My wife and I still monitor our local pack and are volunteers for Folly Wildlife Rescue and the Fox Project. Being so close to these animals makes you appreciate just how vulnerable they are and all the more determined to fight their tormentors.

I have great faith in today’s young generation. Their involvement in the promotion of veganism as a respect worthy lifestyle choice and a financially rewarding one for businesses and their political involvement against climate change have both been particularly remarkable. The fight goes on and that’s good for us old timers to know.


The Original Hunt Sabs

Dave Wetton started sabbing back in 1964, and he’s remained an animal activist ever since. Dave shares a few stories from back in the day, plus some tips for up-and-coming activists.

Vegan Activists Hub full timetable

12:00pm - 12:45pm

‘Sofa, So Good’ with Karin & Mike (Part 1)

Presenter Karin Ridgers and comedian Mike Kelson are joined by some famous vegan faces as well as brilliant comedians and musicians for TV show style sessions throughout the weekend.
Come and hear what the celebs have to say about their favourite subject – veganism – and join in with some laughs too.
Have some fun and be entertained!

Performance & Panels full timetable