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Selected articles from Arkangel No.2
Spring, 1990


Animal Liberation But Not Too Much?

by Ronnie Lee

You will notice that in the National and Local sections of Arkangel I have included information about environmental organisations (Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth etc.) as well as the more usual animal rights/protection ones. I feel this is very important as, although these environmental groups do not operate from a strictly "animal rights" standpoint, their work has a very important part to play in the achievement of animal liberation.

Too often animal rights campaigners, heavily involved in their constant battle against vivisection, factory farming, the fur trade etc, ignore the extent to which animals are persecuted by the destruction of the environment. Vivisection labs and factory farms may well be the concentration camps of the human Reich, but they are, in a sense, only the tip of the iceberg of animal persecution and getting rid of them would only go part of the way to giving the animals back their freedom. More animal suffering and oppression probably arises from environmental destruction than from any other single cause.

It would do well for us to speak of human imperialism. Not content with just having its fair share of the planet, the human species has everywhere invaded and despoiled territories which rightfully belong to other creatures. Perhaps the worst words ever spoken (if, indeed, they were) were "Go forth and multiply". A call for a human occupation of the world similar to that of the Nazis for "Lebensraum". Thus the end of vivisection labs, of factory farms, will never be enough because it still leaves behind the injustice and oppression of the original "enemy" occupation. True animal liberation will not come merely through the destruction of the Dachaus and Buchenwalds that the occupiers have built for their victims, but demands nothing less than the driving back of the human species to pre-invasion boundaries.

So, in practical terms, what does this mean? It means the end of environmental pollution and the industrial society which causes it. The end of such things as the private car. The end of methods of agriculture relying on pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other poisons. The end of cities and vast urban conurbations, which are like deserts to most wild animal species. The end of large-scale farming which provides little habitat for them either. And perhaps above all, a drastic cut in the number of the human species. The radical American environmental group Earth First! has estimated that the right level of human population world wide should be about 50 million.Today more than that number live just in Britain.

Thus true animal liberation doesn't just require a tinkering with the worst excesses of human oppression but widespread and radical changes in the very way we live. The only form of human society conducive to the just treatment of other creatures is one which is decentralized with people living in small communities rather than towns or cities, de-industrialized, employing small scale organic (veganic), methods of farming and with a vast reductIon in human numbers (by humane methods of course).

Sadly this may all be too much for many "animal protectionists" who still want their jobs their cars their umpteen kids, their domestic appliances. But half a liberation is no liberation. Animal rights campaigning needs to extend itself to other areas which hitherto it has hardly touched on. To fighting against pollution, industrialization and habitat destruction.

Thus we have to work hand in hand with Green and environmental organisations, not just (as is their motive) to create a better world for "our children and our children's children", but to give freedom, Justice and life itself to other animals and theirs.

Beyond Non-Violence

by John F. Robins, Organising Secretary - Animal Concern (Scotland)

Thanks for the copy of Arkangel 1 it was interesting, informative and thought provoking. I hope it keeps going and that before long Ronnie is able to work on it without his current restrictions.

I would, of course, like to comment on Ronnie's piece 'Beyond Nonviolence'. Only a fool would deny the tremendous advances won for animals by the work of Ronnie and other direct action activists but I do think Ronnie is being naive over the issue of incendiaries, bombs and contamination of 'food' stuffs. All the philosophy and soul searching in the world cannot justify setting in action situations over which there can be no control, and which put at risk firefighters, security/cleaning staff, bystanders and animals which live in or on targeted premises.

To live a cruelty-free life style people look for alternatives. Are there lower risks (to life if not to capture) alternative methods for causing economic damage? On that all I can say is that I have never condemned activists who have physically caused damage to research, fur or farming establishments without resorting to uncontrolled tactics such as fire. Actions which released animals or damning information, even when causing considerable, physical damage to property, were effective in causing economic damage to exploiters and in opening the eyes of the public to the horrors of the exploitation. Fires and bombs add to the vivisectors and furriers own smokescreen of secrecy and turn liberators into terrorists and exploiters into victims. This was recognised by the Economic League who stated that if the violence died down the exploiters better start getting some good PR together because they would have to justify their case.

These are not just my words of condemnation nor the words of the media but the reaction felt from the public on the street. The public often react in support of what they see as the underdog and will feel sympathy for a vivisector who finds a device under her car before they would even bother to think of the beagles under her scalpel. In December 1989 a woman had a fur coat torn from her back in the street. It didn't hurt her and I doubt if it even caused her as much stress as two minutes in the cages of the coats real owners would have done. Within days the press were full of comments and letters supporting the woman with little reference to the real victims. We must avoid turning the exploiter into the exploited.

When incidents like the Bristol bomb or Edinburgh fires occur the media contact the contactable for comment. If I said "I understand why people do this" I would be lying. I don't understand why people take uncontrolled action which risks innocent life. I've been inside factory farms, vivisection laboratories, fur farms and slaughterhouses. I know where hell is. I also know you cannot close these hellish places down by giving the authorities the excuse to further protect the exploiters and persecute the liberators. If on the other hand I refused to comment then that would be taken as silent support for such actions. I should also like to mention that in some of the live broadcasts I was able to discuss animal exploitation and make it clear my condemnation was directed at those using fire or explosives, not at liberators. However, as expected, recorded and written pieces edited out most of that. I did not slag the ALF as a whole, I have too much respect for what they have achieved to do that. All my condemnation has been directed at the individuals concerned in specific actions.

Ronnie suggests that condemnation by myself and the many others who have done so of such actions as, bombing or arson is counter productive. I would suggest that it is those actions themselves which are counter-productive and condemnation limits the damage to our cause as a whole. It is only a very small minority who carry out such actions and it must be made clear that such acts do not have the support of the movement as a whole. The. fact that condemnation has come in volume from so very many diverse areas within the movement must surely make those responsible open their minds to the possibility that their tactics may be wrong?

During my time with Mobilisation for Animals there were many voices telling us we were wrong in the way we were tackling the proposals for new legislation. I wish we had listened. We were wrong and wasted time, effort and resources. I appeal to those involved in bombing or incendiary actions to at least listen to their critics. If, as Ronnie suggests, those involved are genuine animal rights campaigners then I apologise for calling them scum. I still think they are very, very wrong and misguided, and causing more damage to our cause than that of the exploiters.

On the subject of whether or not such people are as much our enemies as exploiters I think they are. By giving the exploiters public sympathy and added security they, albeit not deliberately, are causing the movement harm. Perhaps a better comparison would be with someone in a liberationist cell who downs a few pints and starts talking about actions in the pub.

I would ask you to think about the Fran Trutt case in the USA. The opposition realised how effective it would be for their cause to encourage her into violence and even supplied her with the tools. Had the infiltrators not been uncovered they could easily have turned the mask of liberation in America into the helmet of terrorism.

Finally I would suggest that we must all be prepared to admit our mistakes. We must also be prepared to listen to the voices of our colleagues in the struggle. I've had what I thought were terrific ideas for successful campaign tactics but have had to put them aside when few people agreed with me. When everyone seems to be telling you that, you are wrong, human nature often brings your ego to the fore, urging you to march on regardless. Perhaps that was why mistakes were made with Mobilisation? if we are a movement and try to accept each other as part of that movement despite differences of opinion then surely we can also learn from each others mistakes?


by Andrew Fenton

As Ronnie Lee very ably explains, "violence" against property and against "guilty" people is justified. Unless we are to adopt a hypocritical and therefore speciesist stance with regard to violence we must realise that morally there will always be circumstances where violence is justified. Let look at an imaginary (though not unlikely) situation: A person who is physically incapable of defending him/herself is being violently attacked in the street. Is there one of us who would not use whatever force was necessary to prevent the attacker from causing his victim further suffering? Somehow I doubt it. How is it then logically possible to condemn the actions of a person who attacks a vivisector in a laboratory? The two situations are hardly dissimilar. As animal liberationists we are unable to draw a line between the pain of a human and the pain of an animal. That is what makes us the way we are.

Ronnie Lee also raised the question of endangering lives (human and animal) in incendiary attacks and hunt sabotage and compares this to the possibility of people being injured by speeding police cars or ambulances. Again, this argument (that the risk of harming life is so small as to be worth taking) is faultless in its logic. What we as a movement must consider, however, is not simply whether violence is justified, but whether it is valid as an effective campaigning tactic. We are all involved in the animal rights movement because we want to bring an end to the abuse and exploitation of animals. Therefore we surely have a duty to do what will be most effective in bringing about animal liberation. The fact that a bombing or other violent act is morally justifiable does not mean that we, as a movement , should necessarily indulge in such acts. We have to do what is best for the cause and what will most quickly bring about a situation where animal abuse comes to an end.

I believe that, at the moment, most violent acts are counter productive. The only thing which will, in the long run, bring about animal liberation is a massive change in the way people view animals. When the majority of people see things our way then, perhaps, violence could be used as a campaign tactic to hammer the last nail into the coffin. This situation has already occurred with the campaign against the fur trade. The majority of people agree with our views on fur and when a furrier's window gets smashed the media generally use the label "animal rights activists" or, at worst. "extremists". There is no mention of loonies, maniacs or terrorists. Behind this media reaction must be a subliminal approval of the attack, or at least a disapproval of the fur trade. I also believe that the public are not alienated by such attacks simply because the majority of them, like us, want to see the fur trade dead and buried.

If, however, violent attacks are carried out on medical research laboratories, cancer research shops etc. we will be labelled by the media as cranks, loonies, terrorists etc. etc. The way the public and the media react to violent acts depends more or less totally on how they view the victim of the violence. Imagine this situation: Someone rapes and murders Mother Theresa of Calcutta. On the following day someone does the same to Myra Hindley. Public and media reactions would obviously be vastly different. One murder would be widely condemned, the other would, more than likely, be seen as some kind of poetic justice.

The ALF should be aware that just because violence is morally justifiable, it is not necessarily acceptable to carry out such acts due to their possibly negative effects on the progress of our movement. I believe that some acts of violence are acceptable now. Setting fire to the local hunt's hound van or smashing a furrier's window puts pressure on those animal abusers and these sort of attacks have, without doubt, saved the lives of many animals. What is equally important is that these sort of attacks don't alienate the public. How many people are bothered that the hunt has folded or that the furrier has closed down? Equally the destruction of equipment used for testing cosmetics on animals would probably be widely, though perhaps not vociferously, supported. It must be realised that where the public feels their own lifestyles and/or well being are being threatened, violent acts will almost always be counter-productive. Attacks on factory farms, medical research labs etc. will only lead to alienation. When people share our views on the barbarity and senselessness of vivisection and animal farming, then acts of violence against property (though never against people) will be wide1y supported and worthwhile. If we are to gain any credibility as a humanitarian movement we must reject personal violence as an offensive tactic now and forever.

As regards the rantings of various parts of the movement in response to certain acts (particularly the Bristol explosion) I have to agree with almost everything Ronnie Lee says. Surely we have all felt the anger and frustration which must have been behind the planting of the Bristol bomb and other more extreme actions. And let's not kid ourselves, it was a bomb and no amount of wordplay can, or indeed should attempt to disguise the fact. Whether or not we agree with such acts, the only way to deal with much of the outrage surrounding them is to attempt to explain the deep feelings which motivate people to commit these acts.

Frustrating though it is, there are no short cuts along the road to animal liberation. Ours will be a long, long fight, but we owe it to our fe1low animals to consider very carefully exactly what we are doing in their name and how we are going to do it. There is no room for acts of self-indulgence, for doing anything just so we feel as if we've done something. Their freedom is more important than our self gratification.


by David Lane

A friend once asked me why the animal rights movement are anti-fur but not anti-leather. He said he couldn't understand why we, are violently opposed to the use of fur, yet seem unconcerned by the use of leather. He argued that they are basically the same, thing animal skins. My friend isn't particularly sympathetic to our aims and the question was a thinly disguised accusation of double standards. But it troubled me because I couldn't give a satisfactory answer. It's quite true, we have ignored the leather issue and it is time we woke up to the fact. Have you ever wondered why our towns are full of shops selling leather while everywhere fur shops and fur departments are closing down? Or wondered why there is no "leather" equivalent of Lynx? Or why so many people in the animal rights movement actually wear the stuff?

The By-product Myth

There are severa1 answers to these questions but the most popular one invariably involves the term "by-product", as in "animals are killed for their flesh, not their skin, so leather is a by-product of the meat industry" and if leather is only a by-product then we might as well use it because it would only be thrown away otherwise and anyway, not using it does nothing to save the lives of animals or that is how the reasoning goes.

My dictionary defines "by-product" as a "substance produced incidentally in the making of something else". But leather is not a by-product of the meat industry, and it is not produced incidentally. Every .part of an animal killed in a slaughterhouse can be sold. Its muscles, fat and most of its internal organs are sold for meat. Its blood goes to make pet food and fertiliser. Its horns, hooves and bones are used to make gelatine. Its eyes may go to a school for dissection. Its hair is used to make brushes and to stuff furniture. Its skin is made into suede, sheepskin or leather. The skin of an animal represents something like 10 per cent of its value at the abattoir. As Peter Singer writes in 'Animal Liberation', "The sale of hides for leather plays a significant role in the profitability of the meat industry". Just as the body of an animal is treated as a raw material to be broken down into a variety of useful products, so crude oil is broken down into petrol, kerosine, bitumen, butane gas and so on. Kerosine accounts for roughly 10 per cent of the value of crude oil. It is used for jet fuel and as paraffin, but kerosine is not a by-product of petrol. Like leather, it is a valuable product in its own right.

The Old Cow Myth

All right, so leather isn't a by-product of meat, but surely the fur trade inflicts far more suffering on animals than the meat and leather industry. After all, doesn't most leather come from old dairy cows who have spent a relatively comfortable life down on the farm?

The myth here is that the production of leather involves significantly less cruelty than the production of fur. Even if it were true it would not excuse the use of leather, since being less cruel doesn't make something acceptable. But it is not true. - The difference in suffering is one of kind not severity. Most of the leather that people buy is soft leather, the softer the better. Soft leather is luxurious leather. Shoe uppers, handbags, wallets, briefcases, sofas, armchairs and jackets are all made from soft leather. But soft leather doesn't come from old cows. It comes from young calves. The very softest, most luxurious leather comes from the unborn calf of a pregnant cow at the slaughterhouse. Many meat-eaters refuse to eat veal because of the blatant cruelty to calves, so why is it that most vegetarians and many animal rights campaigners continue to wear their skins?

A Question of Money?

Is the difference between leather and fur one of money? I hope not, but this possibility has occurred to me. It is a very obvious fact that fur has only ever been available to the privileged few. On the other hand, most people can afford leather goods. I know it sounds cynical, but it's easy to despise an activity that you can't afford to indulge in anyway. Probably some equally cynical person will add that foxhunting seems to attract rather more attention than the far more widespread bloodsport of angling!

It might be argued that it is better to concentrate our efforts on areas where there is a greater chance of success. We are more likely to abolish foxhunting than fishing, and it will be easier to close down the fur trade than the meat and leather trade. Of course that's true, but you don't have to choose between two evils, simply reject both. Don't buy a fur coat, and don't buy a leather coat either!

No Alternative?

There will be many who accept much of what I say about the leather issue, but who continue to use it anyway. They usually claim not to like, wearing leather but say they have no choice. Isn't the "no choice" excuse the one used by vivisectors? Don't they claim that they have to use animals in experiments because there are no alternatives? There are always alternatives to leather, and the alternatives are generally cheaper than the "real thing". How often have you heard the claim that there are no alternatives to meat, eggs, cow's milk and other animal products? Of course no one needs to consume animal products but many people like to. But what people want should never be confused with what people need, and quite clearly nobody needs to use leather.

The Problem Within

Anything that anybody does to reduce animal suffering is a good and positive thing. A meat-eater who cuts down on meat should be praised, and encouraged to eat still less. But anyone claiming to work for animal rights must be prepared to free themselves from any possible charge of hypocrisy. If we are to be successful in our attempts to persuade others to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle, we have to be seen to be doing everything possible to live up to our own aims. How can anybody, wearing leather shoes or a leather jacket hope to persuade another person not to buy a fur coat? They don't have the moral right to even try. It is a sad fact that far too many people in the animal rights movement are not prepared to free themselves from animal abuse. They, like those they hope to influence, prefer to remain ignorant of the cruelty involved in areas such as dairy farming and leather production. They like their milk and their leather shoes and would rather not be asked awkward questions. But the use of animal skins for clothing, luxury goods or furniture involves animal suffering comparable in scale to that caused by any other form of animal abuse. We can't ignore the problem any longer.

Get Informed!

There are two things you can do to help change things. First. do not buy anything made from leather. Second, get informed! The Campaign Against Leather and Fur (CALF!) is a new group which aims to educate both the general public and the animal rights movement about the leather issue. CALF can be contacted at: BM 8889, London WC1N 3XX

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