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Selected articles from Arkangel No.1.
 Winter 1989

 

 

Contents:

 

Internal Feuding

by Ronnie Lee

The animal rights movement can so easily become a closed society and, when one is very active within it, it is so easy to forget about the nature of the outside world. Being forced to live, for several years, with people who by and large care about nothing except themselves, has made me appreciate, much more, other people within our movement, even if I don't happen to agree with them on every issue.

So often animal rights people, because of relatively minor differences of opinion or some small personal dispute, appear to hate each other more than they do apathetic outsiders or even the animal abusers themselves. Two people can be both committed vegans, both vehemently opposed to all animal exploitation, both have houses full of rescued cats and dogs and yet despise each other absolutely because of some minor disagreement. Surely this is nothing less than a crazy situation?

One of the reasons these internal feuds arise is because our movement has largely the wrong attitude towards the struggle for animal liberation. We would do far better to consider it as a war. In a war the people fighting on one side become united and are prepared to sink their differences for the common good. By "war" I am not necessarily advocating violence. A war can be defined as "a strong effort to combat evil" and so a person who spends their time giving out leaflets can consider themselves just as much a warrior as one who engages in direct action. It is an attitude of mind.

This unity for the war effort does not mean that all A/R campaigners must always have exactly the same opinions. Indeed the movement would soon stagnate if that were to be the case.What it does mean, though, is that those disagreements should be expressed within a climate of mutual respect. They should be discussed sensibly and rationally without insults or rhetoric and if the disagreement still persists we should agree to differ and carryon working together in those large areas where there is still accord. Vis-a-vis the animal abusers and other hostile elements of society we must always present a broad united front.

Our enemies really don't have to make much of an effort to destroy our movement when we're so very good at doing that ourselves. The whole history of our struggle just seems to be one of self-inflicted wounds. Words such as "infiltrators", "traitors", "maniacs", "terrorists" have been bandied about without any thought as to the deep hurt and divisions they may cause. There is probably not one of us who is not to blame.

It is not too late, however, to set forth on the road towards reconciliation. For societies, groups and individuals to put behind them the hurtful disputes of the past and to begin working together with care and respect for each other. It may give a strange satisfaction to insult somebody in the movement whom you feel has insulted you, but what good can that do for the cause of animal liberation ?

In Arkangel we have done our utmost not to insult other campaigners with whom we have some disagreement. We may criticize their attitudes and some of the things they've said, but that is within the context of respect for them as fellow animal rights campaigners and appreciation of the considerable contribution they have all made towards the cause. It hurts and angers me to hear genuine, caring people described as "terrorists" and "loonies", but what possible good would it do to use insulting words against the campaigners who have made those remarks? All that would do is just exacerbate the divisions and ill-feeling within the movement. Somebody, somewhere, has to call a halt to the succession of mutually inflicted injuries.

The animal rights movement is a group of caring people in a still largely cruel and apathetic world. We are all of us very special, and it is important that we are all of us special to each other. One People united in One Struggle until the victory is ours.

RONNIE LEE


Controversial Actions - Hysterical Reactions

by Ronnie Lee

Over the past year several actions by animal liberationists have caused controversy, and what I "Would describe as an hysterical reaction, within the movement because they have involved a danger to life. The following articles constitute a discussion of various aspects of this situation.

Beyond Non-Violence

More and more often we hear animal rights repre-sentatives condemning the actions of the ALF etc on the grounds that they are "violent". But is the dividing line between violence and non-violence (wherever that may be) really the dividing line between right and wrong?

First it might help to define "violence". According to my dictionary itis something which involves "great force or strength or intensity" and thus it can cover a great many situations. In animal rights terms, however, "violence" is normally used to refer to actions where property is damaged or where the lives of others are harmed or threatened.

This inevitably leads to some confusion because, in moral terms, actions which only damage property are surely different to those which harm or threaten life. It is, therefore, really not helpful for people in the movement to describe them both as "violence". "Property damage" would be a far better term to describe the first kind.

Moral arguments concerning damage to property are really rather straightforward. If such damage directly saves animals from death or suffering, or if it does so indirectly by helping to drive animal abusers out of busi,ness, it would seem very difficult to raise convincing arguments against it. After all, life must be held to be more valuable than mere inanimate objects.

The real difficulty comes when the "violence" harms or threatens life. In the next section "Endangering Lives", I intend to deal with situations where life is unintentionally, or perhaps recklessly, endangered. Here I will deal with actions that are deliberately intended to cause injury or death.

Firstly, though, I'd like to expose some of the hypocrisy which surrounds the condemnation of "violence". Many animal rights campaigners purport to be non-violent and vociferously criticize the "violent" actions of others in the movement. But if one is to stake claim to non-violence one must be consistently opposed to violence, and with many "non-violent" campaign-ers this seems not at all to be the case.

To begin with, what is the position of such people regarding violence used for human liberation? Would they have opposed the use of force by the slaves who fought in the West Indies for their own emancipation or the use of weapons and explosives by the French Resistance? Today, would they oppose the violence of the ANC or that used by the people of Nicaragua to defend themselves against the contras? If the answer to any of them is "no", then there is speciesism afoot, for it surely must be speciesist to oppose violence for animal liberation, but not to oppose it when used for the liberation of humans.

Secondly, how many of these lovers of non-violence campaign for strong legislation to outlaw particular forms of animal persecution ? Most of them, I'd bet, and there's nothing wrong with that, except that those who do so cannot claim to be non-violent. If such legislation is passed, what will happen in the final analysis to the abusers of animals? Well, the answer is they will be put in, prison. And isn't imprisonment just another form of violence? I certainly know what I'd choose between a prison sentence and a punch on the nose!

Bryant of the LACS rejoiced (quite rightly) over the jailing of a couple of fox-torturers and then talks about his "abhorrence of violence". His abhorrence apparently does not cover the violence of the state and concerns itself only with the violence of animal rights campaigners. Like that of many others, his is a hypocritical position. Whether carried out by the state or by the individual, violence is violence is violence.

Therefore it would seem wrong to condemn actions merely because they are "violent". After all, there are some violent actions, such as the jailing of animal abusers, which almost all of us would support. Thus it makes no sense to use "violence" as the dividing line between right and wrong.

But what of the deliberate killing or injuring of others by animal liberation campaigners or attempts to do such things? Nobody ever has been killed or seriously injured and such attempts are few and far between, but this is still an important question for discussion.

It is a very strong tenet of the animal rights movement that the end doesn't justify the means. Thus we hold it wrong to carry out painful experiments on animals no matter what would be the benefit to humankind (if indeed there be a benefit, and many would argue that there isn't). By the same token it must be wrong to deliberately kill or injure an innocent human (or other animal) as part of a campaign for animal liberation.

A problem arises, however, when we are not dealing with innocent victims. Let's take the following imaginary situation :-

We live in a society where the torturing of babies is perfectly legal. I discover the location of a baby torture chamber. I could campaign for baby-torture to be outlawed, but that will do nothing to save babies from being tortured today or tomorrow or for many months, even years, in the future. I could smash up the torture chamber, but I know the torturer is determined and will soon set up another one. I do not have the facilities to imprison the torturer. Therefore I kill him. Is my action to be condemned?

If not, then it is very hard to condemn the Animal Rights Militia for making attempts on the lives of vivisectors without being guilty of gross speciesism. One can criticize them for not taking sufficient care not to endanger innocent life (if ordinary people are put at risk} , but how can one find fault with the main intention of the act? If vivisectors are not to be disposed of then neither is the imaginery baby-torturer.

I am not advocating here the execution of animal abusers, for in that imaginery society it may also be wrong to kill the torturers of babies. What I am trying to point out is that things are not really as clear-cut as they may first of all seem. Should people in that imaginary society show understanding and compassion for those whose concern for the helpless and the innocent leads them to kill the baby-torturers, or should they condemn them with the same vitriol that many in our movement have used against the ARM?


Bristol Ravers

by Anon

"We are sick and tired of a tiny bunch of half-witted pseudo-terrorists undermining the work done by Animal Aid. . . . . We condemn whole-heartedly this cowardly, stupid and dangerous act". (Animal Aid statement quoted to TV and newspapers)

"We will suffer incalculable damage from those who planted the Bristol device. Terrorist actions are negative and destroy the image of a positive campaign". (Steve McIvor, BUAV, quoted in The Times)

Very few people in the movement will be unaware of the explosion that damaged the Senate House at Bristol University earlier this year. According to the media, the attack was first of all claimed by a previously unknown group called The Animal Abused Society. Later a man purporting to represent the ALF telephoned the press with a claim of responsibility, but the police had doubts about its authenticity because of inaccuracies that it contained. Animal rights campaigners have been protesting against cruel experiments carried out at Bristol University for many years. The above quotes are utterances which came from certain sections of the animal rights movement following the incident and the first two, at least, are typical of several statements that were made.

I don't intend here to discuss the pros and cons of the Bristol explosion. Another article which covers that appears earlier. What I do intend to do is to discuss the statements. For it is my contention that they are inaccurate, unjust and actually compound any harm to the movement that the Bristol explosion may have done.

You will note, first of all, that I use the word "explosion" rather than "bomb" or "bombing" to describe the incident. The latter terms are highly emotive and I believe get in the way of any rational discussion. When demolition workers blow up a condemned building, that is an explosion. When quarry workers blast out rock, that too is an explosion. Yet when pro-animal campaigners damage a building at a cruel university, that is referred to as a "bombing". Our terminology is somewhat strange.

Before turning to the quotes it would be a good idea to consider the question of whether those responsible for the Bristol explosion were genuine animal-rights campaigners or people from the other side, bent on discrediting the movement, as has been suggested or claimed in some quarters. The simple truth of the matter is that there is no evidence that they weren't "genuine" people, so unless any such evidence comes to light, we have to assume that they were. It seems to have become something of a habit within the animal rights movement to claim that other campaigners, whose ideas or actions one disagrees with, are somehow "infiltrators" or secret members of the opposition. This is yet another attitude that hinders sensible debate.

So were the people who caused the explosion really "terrorists"? Was their attack on Bristol University an act of "Terror"? The French Resistance, for instance, quite frequently used explosives in their campaign against Nazi oppression. Sometimes their actions endangered, even killed, innocent life. But, even if we weren't totally happy about everything they did, would we call them "terrorists"? If not is it really correct to apply that term to people who, rightly or wrongly, use explosives in the fight against the holocaust of animal persecution (especial where there is no evidence of an intention injure anyone)? Do different standards apply to the use of explosives for human freedom al their use for animal liberation? If so, why is that other than another manifestation of speciesism?

Secondly, is it fair to call the Bristol action "cowardly"? One must remember that if those responsible ever get caught they are likely face many years in prison for an act intended to further the cause of animal liberation. Is such an act (whether it be right or wrong) really therefore, the action of a coward. Possibly the aspect of imprisonment doesn't occur to those who sit behind desks and make press statements.

Are quotes like those above going to have any effect in changing the attitudes and actions of the people responsible for the explosion? The answer is obviously no. They will only serve to put their backs up and make them unreceptive to any sensible argument that those quoted may wish to come up with. Opponents of such incidents as the Bristol action would serve their own cause better by putting forward calm and rational arguments in animal rights publications, rather than by diatribes in the public media.

Finally, is it really true that the Bristol explosion undermined "the work done by Anim really "terrorists"? Was their attack on Bristol Aid", caused "incalculable damage" to the BUAV or destroyed "the image of a positive campaign"? Well, people in the movement will have varying opinions. But the one thing that does seem to be the case is that quotes like those from Animal Aid and Steve McIvor serve only to add to any damage that may have been done. If the gutter press has led the public to think of animal rights campaigners as "terrorists" the further use of the word can only serve to reinforce that opinion.

And if the public are really unable to distinguish between Animal Aid, the BUAV and those responsible for the Bristol explosion, then the use of the word "terrorist", is only going to further encourage the application of the term to all of them. Extreme language like "terrorists", "cowardly" and "stupid" inevitably becomes the focus of media attention and this often leaves no room for the facts about animal abuse to be pointed out. Far better to explain calmly how the horrors of animal persecution can sometimes drive people to take what some might consider to be "extreme" actions, and then go on to outline what those horrors are and what ordinary people can do to end them.

If people are going to appear in the media as representatives of the movement, we must be able to expect something better from them than unconstructive raving.


The Bristol Bomb Revisited

by Barry Maycock

Now that the furore over the Bristol University explosion has long died down it should be possible to step back and look more dispassionately at the implications of that puzzling event . Many animal rights campaigners were surprised by it, mainly because it didn't fit in with certain known patterns of recent direct action campaigns for example, the one which has targeted the big department stores .selling furs. In addition, the group which is supposed to have claimed responsibility the "Animal Abused Society" - was surely named for the one occasion, and no statement was issued to shed light on its existence. Much more predictable were the reactions, not only of the politicians and their media lackeys, but also of the usual self-appointed few who claim to represent the animal rights movement in all its ragged diversity. The inelegant haste by which they rushed to distance themselves, not just from this event, but from direct action as a whole, suggested that there was more at stake here than initially appeared.

For example, if there is one thing our experience has taught us it is the necessity for caution, so as not to prejudge an issue before the facts are fully known. But at recent events (eg. The Dingles fire at Plymouth) animal rights "leaders" were accusing the ALF before the police themselves had stated any conclusions. Wild utterances also followed the Bristol bomb: hardly had the dust settled before Animal Aid announced that the explosion had ruined "years of peaceful work" - implying an achievement so fragile that one event had blown it away! This sort of nonsense is a positive inducement for a lunatic with a grudge to plant a bomb, or (a more likely scenario) for a Special Branch "dirty tricks" squad to arrange such an "incident" to discredit the movement, or to frame particular individuals. The police have done this sort of thing in the past, and will do so again - to the extent of committing murder if necessary.

Consistent in all these reactions has been the kind of language used: in a Guardian letter, one Animal Aid member attacked "the handful of idiots who prefer bombs to rational argument" while disposing of "rational argument" in favour of mere abuse ("lunatic extremists", "idiots", "nutcases"). Similar phrases were used in AA's April "Outrage" ("half-witted pseudo-terrorists") and in a recent CAW statement ("stupid and mindless act of terrorism"). But when certain words ("violence", "terrorism") are simply flung around like this, "rational argument" becomes impossible, and the key problem here - the vexed question of campaigning tactics - is never discussed. The CAW reaction is more understandable, as this Bristol group became the target of police "investigation", ie. the" usual harassment. But all these groups, particularly the national societies, could actually approach the matter in a different way: they could dissociate themselves from direct action (if that is their policy) while using the publicity to turn the spotlight onto the horrors of animal abuse. As it is, the various statements suggest, not just the usual political ineptitude, but a deeply felt, very personal anger.

What are we to make of this? One obvious explanation is that direct action (of any kind} runs counter to the kind of policies that the national societies are pursuing, and the kind of movement they wish to create. In this respect the campaigns of autonomous groups, indeed their very "autonomy", create a problem, because they remain outside the control of the big societies, a possible source of future conflict. But the real danger is this: that the national societies simply end up performing the function within society of a "Joyal opposition ", cultivated by the state in order to control and contain protest, absorb genuine unrest, and isolate "extremists" thus monopolising the framework within which dissent is articulated. Events like the Bristol bomb become opportunities, not to expose animal abuse, but to proclaim the "respectability" of certain organisations, and gain credibility with those who shape public opinion.

This policy is often justified in terms of the growing "maturation" of the animal rights movement. The reasoning is as follows: that as the movement matures politically it needs to move away from "direct action", which may have been necessary in an earlier phase, but which has now become an impediment to progress. This viewpoint is a convenient one, for it enables groups to praise earlier actions, and make use of them in various ways, while condemning present activity. But it also forgets history: that direct action was taken up as a response to the FAILURE of earlier campaigning, which had few real results to show for over a century of "peaceful persuasion". To go "beyond" direct action could well mean a return to the unhappy situation that existed before, repeating the same old mistakes. It is this predictable trajectory that has, over the past few years, been conveniently forgotten .

Certainly the current policies of the nationals give little indication of growing "maturity". There is far too much emphasis on consumer campaigns, on "cruelty-free living", even though the limitations of "lifestyle politics" have been exposed so often; and campaigns that concentrate on "soft" issues (eg: cosmetics testing} are too cautious to have much impact. They will enjoy a small measure of success because they go with the grain of public opinion; but the very publicity they generate is itself a trap, distracting attention from the one real demand that the movement should always be making the immediate abolition of ALL animal experimentation. The debate on this issue has still not been won indeed it is as if we are even encouraged to put our energies into a peripheral skirmish, while the real battle lies elsewhere. These tiny victories (with respect to cosmetics testing) do not necessarily save any lives, or prevent any suffering - the animals simply get shifted, as it were, to another part of the laboratory, according to one of the Iron Laws of Animal Abuse (which states that animal experiments - and animal products - will continue to expand to use up the growing supply of animals available).

These campaigns depend for their justification on so many unsupported assumptions and bland assertions, relying on the illusion that the so called "free-market" really does bring "freedom of choice", and that the consumer does possess the necessary power to effect change: this is a view that needs to be argued (though it rarely is), not simply assumed. In actual fact, of course rand how many times does this have to be stated and re-stated?) the "market" is rigged and the "choices" are trivial and utterly bogus, like the choice between ten brands of soap powder or ten brands of margarine, all basically the same and produced by the same vast conglomerate ie. Unilever). "Lifestyle politics" is the kind that Capitalism positively encourages, not only shifting us away from activism to "lifestyle", but actually prompting us to consume and extend the range of choices available. A lifestyle can be bought like any other commodity, and usually at somebody's expense; the more some of us can "live without cruelty", the more others will have to live with it: "cruelty", like other unwanted products, can be dumped on the world's poor. To me the movement from "animal liberation" to "living without cruelty" is a backward step away from the bars of the cage, as it were, and into the nice local wholefood shop. All this is risk-free and painless, and "alternatives" and "substitutes" are continually being manufactured in order to ensure that it will be.

Even those much proclaimed signs of progress (eg. the spread of vegetarianism) need only indicate certain changing consumption patterns within a narrow band of the "aware" middle class, mainly in the U.S. and Europe: in any case vegetarianism can continue to grow alongside increased animal consumption, indeed that is exactly what is happening (eg. there can be more vegetarians along with people eating more and more meat-based foods). Furthermore, vegetarianism can spread throughout the West while new markets for animal products can be opened up in the rest of the world, into areas that have been, for varied reasons, primarily "vegetarian" in the past. The national societies, in their apparent belief in "consumerism", are merely proclaiming a liberalism that does not speak its name - and thus leave little room for radical Greens, anarchists, socialists, etc, who do not share that particular political perspective.

The weakness of all these campaigns stem therefore from this narrowness of perspective, made even narrower by the rejection of direct action and groups (often the most energetic and committed) from which it springs. It is a stance which colludes with the policies of the state with its attempt to isolate the ALF and deprive it of the "oxygen of publicity" by suppressing the Supporters Group - so that ALF actions appear to make very little sense, to spring out of desperation and blind fanaticism rather than careful thought and intelligent planning. The gulf that separates the national societies and so many passionate activists will continue to provoke the very actions that are so disliked, as long as the latter are denied support and legitimacy, and deprived of any real voice except the one provided by direct action.

The political "maturation" process consists of reaching out to them, of communication not rejection. It means building up the movement in a solid and lasting way - beginning perhaps with the public meeting at which the local group is formed, with leafletting and canvassing, with an intelligent and continuing input into the political life of the community. It means raising the profile of the whole issue, especially on a local level, with campaigns against specific targets closer to home, in order to touch people's lives directly. Within such campaigns direct action will have an honourable place - it doesn't have to be synonymous with bombs! It can mean pickets and occupations, blockades, distactics of every kind. The momentum of such a movement, however, is actually impeded by the arrival of the BUAV bus, or by an obligation to take part in these ever-increasing "national days of action" throughout the year.

The movement needs a really big push, because so far there has been no breakthrough politically on the issue of animal rights - there are too many vested interests, too much power and money involved. But there is also a deeper reason for this: animal abuse is like the guilty secret haunting the edges of our daily lives, the knowledge of which is unbearable to us because it exposes the hypocrisy deep within a "compassionate" society, the cruelty at its very core. (A few other issues are taboo in a similar way - eg. child abuse). It is worth noting that .. throughout the media reports of the Bristol explosion, animal liberationists were portrayed either as misanthropic sentimentalists, or misty eyed fantasists dreaming of a vegan future, or looking back to a non-existent "golden age". But the exact opposite is true: animal liberationists are realists in the truest sense, they have uncovered an animal "holocaust" at the heart of our society, and have been so touched by it that they cannot forget, nor can they turn away, nor can they ever rest until they have acted, in however small a way, to lessen the weight of that terrible suffering. No wonder there is so much frustration: a whole range of related (so-called "Green") issues are being taken up by politicians, and on so many of them (eg. On the plight of the rainforests, acid rain) it is no longer necessary to shout so loudly - indeed the noise from the media is almost deafening!

But there is no such voice yet for animal rights, nothing yet has really moved; until it does it remains a sad fact of life that it often takes a bomb to seize public attention, to wake people up.


Who Are They Kidding?

by Brendan McNally

Along with the Green movement, animal liberation has. it seems. now ceased to be seen as a cranky side issue and, to use the current phrase. gained "respectability". The number of vegans and veggies continues to grow and certain forms of animal abuse are becoming socially unacceptable, such as the wearing of fur and cosmetic testing. No one should pretend that these are anything but small steps. but they are indications that years of struggle and sacrifice are paying off and that. despite the difficulties, the movement is in the right direction.

Sadly, the logical price of this new found "respectability" is a sudden crop of "respectable" groups and individuals. falling over each other to try to distance themselves from the activists. who they now slag off as "lunatics" and "criminals" who discredit the "legitimate" campaigners. Who are they kidding?

Twelve years ago the majority of the population never gave a thought for the plight of animals in laboratories or factory farms. Most people were simply ignorant. or refused to believe the horror stories told by the small. scattered bands of animal lib "fanatics" out leafletting town centres on Saturday afternoons. It was only when a large amount of groups of activists began to take direct action that the public and the media began to take notice. Establishments were raided. animals were rescued. documentary evidence of horrifying going-on was obtained and economic war was waged against the perpetrators.

Gradually, using the evidence and publicity, the hitherto largely dormant national animal rights groups began to attract more and more members and support.

Since then the use of direct action has snow-balled, and the fortunes of the national groups have likewise improved. They have never been shy of using "illegally" gained photographs and documents, or benefiting from publicity to increase their membership. The Pennsylvania Primates video is just one of many examples.

How two-faced of these groups then, to now condemn the very activists who have risked everything and without whom such evidence would never have been obtained. Can they really believe that the evil fur trade is on the retreat because of peaceful negotiations? It is a result of a relentless campaign of economic warfare by groups of activists, as was admitted by a leading police officer in a recent Guardian article.

What a bloody cheek for these groups and their spokespeople to cynically use the capitalist media to protect their status quo and their jobs, by distancing themselves from genuine activists, who are still continuing the real struggle. (The recent literature of some of these groups resembles something from Saatchi & Saatchi, rather than animal liberation literature.)

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