Chapter 5: The Battle of Flamingo Land
On Spring Bank holiday 1991 we arranged three days of pickets at the zoo. On the Saturday, I was to bicycle from Windsor Safar Park to Flamingo Land, a distance of nearly 300 miles in a day. I had a support team of three women in a van, Pam, Vee and Andre. We left Windsor Park at 2.00am. During the ride a couple of funny things happened, like, wrong navigation by my team, which increased the distance! On another occasion, I stopped for a ten minute break and told my team to give me a ten minute start then catch up. One hour letter I was spluttering expletives to myself as there was no sign of them. When they did eventually arrive, they explained the delay was due to them becoming engaged in a heated debate amongst themselves about the ethics of horse riding!
We arrived at Flamingo Land at 11pm, a ride of 286 miles in 21hours. I was buzzing and was tempted to go on for another 3 hours to see how far I could go in 24hours. Previously, in 1987, I had completed a 24hour 'meat-out ride' to publicise vegetarianism. I managed 303 miles, so had I continued for three hours more I would easily have beaten that, however common sense prevailed and we stopped. A small contingent of people had been picketing the entrance and we learnt that they had been physically assaulted by zoo staff and Robert Gibb the owner. The dozen or so people who had been attacked put telephone calls out to other animal rights people and what happened the next day was reported in the press as 'the battle of Flamingo Land'.
The next day around fifty animal rights people gathered at the main gates of the zoo. Our campaign, outside of the national demonstrations, had never seen anything like this number. Normally we expected up to 10 people to be outside the entrance with banners, placards and leaflets, encouraging motorists to boycott the place.
We agreed amongst ourselves to put the filtering barriers at the entrance across both the entrance and exit, thus stopping cars getting in or out. As soon as we did this the few security at the entrance were quickly on their walkie- talkies and I saw lots of them in their red t-shirts coming running out of the park towards the entrance and us. They tried to tear the barriers away from our grasp and in the medley punches were thrown, and if anything they were coming off worse. At one point, they all raced away from us, back towards the park. I found out later that one of our number had got hold of a walkie-talkie and put out the message "come quick, they are trying to get the dolphins out of the pool".
The fighting lasted for a good few minutes before the police finally arrived. It was certainly serious public disorder and the police made several arrests. Subsequently only John Mcguinness was found guilty and fined. Yet not one of the staff at the zoo were arrested and charged for the assault on the pickets the previous day, even though the police were supplied with video evidence of Flamingo Land staff assaulting pickets, as were Yorkshire television which did at least broadcast the film to give a fairer account of events leading up to the 'Battle of Flamingo Land'.
At the time I was worried, I thought Flamingo Land staff might try and set me up as the organiser of the disturbance and also point me out as a figure in the fighting. Strangely that never happened.
After my committal hearing in March 1991 to Crown trial my name was in the public domain, via newspapers. I was receiving lots of junk mail and some nights, silent phone calls. I put these down to either Flamingo Land staff or Waber. What particularly upset me one-day was when two young girls in the street I lived, asked me if I molested young children. I expect they had heard their parents saying something similar. It was quite common for young boys to shout out dolphin shagger or something like it. It was hard at first not to retort, but as it became almost a daily occurrence, I had to shrug it off.