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15 Jun 2005
Silly little girls or dangerous terrorists?
By Pihla Tiihonen
The original "fox girls" gave a face in the
Finnish media to the
wave of protest of the whole previous decade. However,
Konttinen feels that it would be a mistake to see all
Mia Salli (left) & Minna Salonen (center) at Helsinki news conference in 1995
In Konttinen�s view, fur auction demonstrations,
boycotts, laboratory animal thefts, and other types of
young people who reacted in a sensitive manner to
aspects of society.
"Animal activists were accused of not caring
about people. In
reality, young people who were interested in animal
rights were also
active in Amnesty International, for instance. Raids
were conducted by
very few. Most of the activity was peaceful", notes
Konttinen, who has
researched the environmental radicalism of the new
"The public image of the activists was in stark
reality. Seeing them as enemies of society and as
an image of the enemy, which was based on a new and
Finnish Fur Farmers in Kaustinen in 1998
Pirita Juppi, who wrote a doctoral thesis on the
handling of the
animal rights movement in newspapers in the 1990s,
says that the
movement was easy to dismiss, because the idea that
might enjoy rights was foreign to politics. In
addition, destruction of
property and operating in secret violated the national
The word "terrorism" was used surprisingly frequently
in the media, in
"In this respect the press was non-analytical.
Terrorism is a
concept that imposes a stark label, and should be
reserved for other
uses. Animal activists do not even approve of using
Journalism researcher Juppi agrees. She says
that it was perhaps
difficult to understand the multiplicity of variations
between traditional organisation work and
because there had been no real political terror in
Finland in decades.
"However, this does not explain why terrorism was used
with the animal rights movement even after September
11th, when there
was widespread media coverage of real terrorism."
Dismissing the activists as "little girls" -
downplaying them on the
basis of their age and gender was, according to Juppi,
common attitude taken toward animal rights activists.
perpetrators of the fur farm raids did not fit the
image of terrorists,
a theory was concocted that they were a naive
misguided flock led by a
dangerous core of radicals.
"Talk about fox girls was a derisive attempt to
rights movement as a bunch of spoiled urban brats
The third-most common view was to label the
activists as ordinary criminals.
"The decisive factor was violating the law, not
the motives of
movement", Juppi explains.
In more recent fur farm raid stories, police
more than they were in older media stories on the
subject. The fur
farmers have also been allowed to have their say more
The novelty of the first fur farm raids worked
partly in the
activists� favour. Mia Salli and Minna Salonen shot to
"When the women tried to attract attention by
holding a press
conference, the journalists focused on Mia�s wig,
instead of writing
about what the women had to say", Juppi notes.
The journalists� opinions could be seen more clearly
in the articles
written on animal rights activism than usually is the
case in the
Finnish media. Negative attitudes, or feelings of
sometimes be detected in stories on the news pages.
"Newspaper editorials tried to evoke a moral
front against the
animal rights movement. The media was not very
successful in promoting
debate on the social questions, because the movement
was excluded from
serious debate. I would like to believe that it would
be possible to
ease conflicts through dialogue."
Too harsh a response can, in Juppi�s view, even
lead to a spiral
"If the media paints a picture of a violent
movement, it can turn
into a reality, when the movement starts to attract
certain types of
people. Fortunately this kind of development has not
been seen in
As a former active member of an animal welfare
has first-hand experience of what it is like to be
"Nevertheless, as I was writing my thesis, I
felt that I
from knowing the movement from the inside as well. I
do not believe
a researcher can live outside society in an ivory
tower. I do not think
that it is even desirable."
Why did the 1990s go down in history as a time of a
movement? Konttinen feels that defending animal rights
surprisingly late. In Sweden, the movement existed
already in the
She explains the delay with this country�s late
urbanisation; a strong
agrarian culture did not take very easily to the idea
of the immorality
of utilising animals.
There was also fertile ground for an animal
rights movement, when
large-scale farming with pigs and poultry being raised
in massive units
became more common in the 1980s.
Juppi feels that Finland is no longer the
country that it was
before the animal rights controversy. She feels that
protest have become more negative, which is reflected
in calls for a
on wearing masks during demonstrations.
Slight cultural changes have happened in the
direction that the
animal welfare movement had hoped for. Fur farming has
turned from a
self-evident acceptable livelihood to a practice that
needs to be
defended. Animal rights have become a part of public
simple animal protection.
"One invisible revolution has been the increase
among young adults. They will probably raise their
vegetarians as well, which means that the lifestyle
will become more
common", Juppi says.