Visitor:


Selected articles from Arkangel No.3
Summer 1990

click to enlarge

Contents:


Beyond The Pale

by Val Graham

I am sure you will receive other letters like this over the days ahead. I have been an admirer and supporter of the ALF since its early days, taking every opportunity to speak out in defence of previous direct action, in public meetings, in print and radio debates. This brought me quite a lot of criticism during the ten years I was involved with a national society, but to do otherwise would have been hypocritical. It has always exasperated me that most animal welfare spokesmen will take any opportunity to slag off the ALF in the media, refusing to give the slightest credit for the vast increase in public awareness (and media interest} that has been generated by them. Equally annoying are those who publicly condemn, whilst privately admitting some sneaking admiration!

My standard response to those who call the activists thugs or terrorists has been "Can you tell me of one single person or animal that has been injured during an ALF action'!" What am I going to say from now on? It would be comforting to think that the recent car bombs have been a devilish plot by vivisectors hoping to totally discredit the animal rights movement, but 1 fear that would be clutching at straws. Nor, given the obvious planning and technical expertise needed, can we assume those involved were total morons. This leaves the chilling conclusion that they realised perfectly well that innocent bystanders could be hurt (maybe a vegan AR supporter out walking a dog?) and did not care.

If I have never been mealy-mouthed in my praise of those who risk their liberty to help animals, I cannot stay silent now. The recent bombings were sick, indefensible and crassly stupid - rather like vivisection in fact. Those who carried them out have put themselves way beyond the pale, parting company with the many decent, intelligent people who accept that bad laws sometimes need to be defied, even if this involves some force being used. Instead they have sunk to the same level as the arrogant vivisector who distorts the truth to justify the means used.

I have always been opposed to capital punishment (although I don't think I'm a bleeding hearts liberal) even for the vilest crime. It could be argued that those who torture animals are of no use to the world, and I would not disagree. However, I also think that people like Myra Hindley are a total waste of space, but would not wish to see her hanged. I can well understand the desire to hurt and punish those who abuse animals, to give them a taste of the pain and fear they inflict on helpless creatures, but in the end it will achieve nothing but public outrage. I drew the line when the bomb hurt the baby. Can we now expect those responsible to go the whole hog, and start strapping explosives to dogs? After all, what are a few animals lives when you are fighting for your principles?

At a time when more and more people are sympathetic to the plight of animals (partly thanks to the ALF) this stupid action may well turn the clock back years. What wonderful ammunition it will have given animal abusers who are probably rubbing their blood stained hands together with glee at this own goal, also wonder what kind of psychos, gun fanatics and violent misfits will now be drawn to animal liberation. Meanwhile, non-violent campaigns will no doubt be harassed and treated with even more suspicion by the police when collecting money and leafleting. I doubt if those prisoners hoping for parole will get a fair hearing either. Try as I might, I can't think of a single good thing to weigh against all the harm caused. The vivisectors involved are now heroes and a little baby and his parents have been caused great pain and fear.

lf the comments attributed to Ronnie Lee in the Sunday Correspondent are correct, I'm deeply disappointed that he appears to condone - or at any rate does not openly condemn - these actions. Neither he nor John Curtin appeared to express any genuine sympathy for the injured baby, though John did say he now felt bombings were immoral. I can only hope that the group or individual involved are as horrified at the outcome as most of us, and that they will return to the kind of activities that have won animal liberationists money and support in this country, and the respect of animal groups all over the world.


Not A Game Of Cricket

by Catherine Spicer

As the father of a young lad and someone who is active in the movement, the explosion under the car of a Bristol vivisector initially focused my attention on two aspects, the possible repercussions for the movement and whether there were any permanent injuries to the child (fortunately there were none). In retrospect I realised I showed no concern whatsoever for the fate of the vivisector. I did, however, feel for the activists - they too, I'm sure, were gutted by the outcome of their action. It also has to be said that we should dispel this notion, media and opposition based, that the activists should be branded cowards. If we placed ourselves in their position of actually assembling one of these devices, transporting them and physically planting them, we can see, we are talking about people who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice only a utilitarian person can make, risk life and limb for others, people with courage and conviction. The tactics involved, though, are perhaps worth looking at. On the one hand we still cannot be absolutely sure that they intended to kill the vivisectors, though it appears likely. The problem lies in the method and possibility of injury to others. If people use such methods it is, at the end of the day, down to them and it is not up to anyone else sitting in the comfort of their armchair to tell them what they should and should not do. Rather, we can, in the strongest manner possible, draw to their attention our concern about methods that brought about what happened in Bristol. For those with an intimate knowledge of how things work in the movement, we can be sure they are people in the movement. That no one seems to know who they are is probably down to the fact that there is a growing tendency, as regards damage actions, for groups to consist of just two people, who keep to themselves and do not gossip about their work. We can be equally sure that they are not ALF activists, but people who have bypassed the ALF, presumably because they feel that the present methods being employed to fight vivisection are not quite enough to end animal abuse within the foreseeable future.

It is all too easy to become complacent about the abject misery and pain animals suffer before their untimely deaths at the hands of vivisectors, factory farmers, hunters etc: Do we wait another hundred years for the law to be changed on vivisection, only to get another vivisectors charter? As one commentator put it, the fight for animal rights "is not a game of cricket".

I have to be honest and say with experience of all aspects of the movement that it is inevitable that people within the movement will not be bound by the present limitations placed on them by the national animal rights organizations wish to campaign through the usual procedures for reforms, or the ALF policy of not carrying out actions against the abusers personally for tactical reasons.

It may be helpful to new people in the movement if we look closely at the difference between the national groups and the ALF, so we can see how dissimilar this third emerging force is. The national organisations are political reform organisations hoping to gain reforms where possible on the way to the abolition of animal abuse at some stage in the future, whenever that may be. The problem is that after over a hundred years of campaigning to have vivisection abolished, when the law was finally changed in the eighties, not even cosmetic experiments were banned, despite public opinion polls showing a clear majority in favour of a ban. What we ended up with was a vivisectors charter. If we look at hunting, for example, and a bill to abolish live hare coursing it was passed by the Commons in November 1975 with a majority of 117. When it went to the Lords in 1976 some of them organised against it and threw the bill out. As a result wild hares are still torn to pieces today, despite public opinion polls consistently showing a large majority against this barbaric practice. After the failure of this particular bill many people began to wonder if democracy was working for animals in this country. If we turn to factory farming and the House of Commons Select Committee on Agriculture, Report on Animal Welfare in Poultry and Pig Production a group of MPs investigated factory farming and caused considerable controversy when their report was published in 1981. They condemned the factory farming of pigs and recommended a five year run-down programme leading to a permanent ban on battery cages for hens. Their proposals were rejected by the Government. A more recent example concerns the proposed reform by a Minister to have labels placed in fur coats that are made from wild animals caught in leg-hold traps, clearly showing that the coat is made from wild trapped animals, presumably the idea is that people will choose a coat made from fur bearing animals bred and reared in a factory farm). Even this supposed reform has been blocked by the Government, even though it was one of its own Ministers that proposed it. Not content with that, Britain is now trying to block this reform being adopted by the EEC.

Is it any wonder there is an ALF? Activists in their literature say that they are as pleased as anyone when reforms are granted - anything that helps the animals is welcome. While the Draize Eye Test may go and the LD5O may be replaced, perhaps other reforms may follow in the next fifty years. Battery cages for hens, piglets, mink, foxes {and soon lambs} may be made four or five inches longer/wider, hunting may be banned on a Wednesday, but activists say they are not prepared to wait another hundred years for possible abolition of this abuse to sentient creatures. Activists act out of concern for animals that are suffering today and want to see animals helped today and the abuse centres closed now, not at some time in the future, whatever that means. However, activists say they take the view that both the reform organisations and the activists compliment each other, that the activists have such wide-spread support because many people in and out of the movement realise that activists are not only helping the animals in the here and now but provide that hard edge so necessary to many liberation movements. They do not see animal exploitation ending merely by sending letters and petitions to the businesses involved or indeed to politicians of whatever party (the parliamentary advisor for the fur trade is a Labour: MP who receives a few thousand pounds a year to represent the interests of this vile trade). Nor do they see words like illegal and criminal, which they were taught in early childhood, as concepts signifying something bad or unjustified. They regard a person who "steals" battery hens and places them in a good home as doing something morally right and good, both for the hens and themselves. The activists have re-evaluated such words and their meaning and associations in their minds and frames of reference.

So the line is clearly drawn. People in the animal rights movement either campaign in the national animal rights political reform organizations, hoping the politicians and vivisectors, factory farmers, hunters etc. will occasionally concede a reform and also hoping that within the next hundred years vivisection etc will be abolished, or people join the activists to stop exploitation within their own lifetimes by rescuing animals now {the number depending on the availability of good homes) and by closing down the abuse centres one by one in the here and now with a policy of economic sabotage. For example, there are no longer department stores with fur departments. Some people are involved in both strands of work in the movement.

With the devices recently being planted under the Porton Down vet's vehicle and the Bristol vivisector's vehicle, is a third force emerging?


Unjustifiable Explosions

by Ronnie Lee

There is little doubt that the June "car bomb" attacks against vivisectors in Wiltshire and Bristol were both tactically and morally wrong. Whether or not it is right to attempt to kill a vivisector is a question for debate, but actions such as "car bombs", that put passers by (which could be animals as well as people) at such a high risk of death or serious injury can surely not be justified. Even if personal attacks on animal abusers can be justified, it is surely possible for such, actions to be carried out without putting innocent life in serious danger.

In the past there have been animal rights actions (such as the ALF incendiary campaign against department stores selling fur coats) which have posed some threat to innocent life, even though that was not the intention. Such actions have been the subject of a great deal of controversy, but it could be argued that the level of risk was sufficiently low as to enable it to be acceptable. It surely cannot be acceptable, however, to put innocent life at the very high level of risk involved in "car bomb" explosions. It is to be hoped, especially following the injury to the little boy in the second explosion, that those responsible will seriously reconsider their use of such a tactic.

Another little unjustifiable explosion occurred a little later however, and that was the explosion of hysteria in the media, in the aftermath of the "car bombs". One can expect such a reaction from the gutter press and from journalists not sympathetic to the cause of animal liberation, but once again (as at the time of last year's Bristol University explosion) we had to witness the spectacle of animal rights "representatives" adding to the hysteria, with unjust and harmful statements.

Once again, those who caused the explosions were termed "lunatics", "terrorists" and "maniacs" by various spokespersons for national animal protection societies, some of whom even called for animal rights campaigners to help the police "put away" the people responsible. One does not have to agree with "car bombs" to see how this sort of reaction is unjust. If during the war, partisans had tried to blow up Dr. Mengele (who carried out cruel experiments on the Jews) and the explosion had injured an innocent passer by, would it have been correct to refer to those resistance fighters as "lunatics" and "terrorists" and to call for them to be handed over to the authorities? If not, how can it be right to react in such a way towards animal rights activists who try to get rid of animal torturers by the same method? Only those who fail to understand animal rights theory would attempt to argue a distinction and if people cannot comprehend the basic concept of speciesism, one wonders what they are doing as media spokespeople for the movement. As I've stated before, the French Resistance killed and injured many innocent people in their campaign. No matter how unjustifiable those deaths and injuries may have been, it is interesting to note that it was only the Nazis and their puppets who used the word "terrorists" to describe the partisans.

As somebody who opposes the use of "car bombs"(because of the high risk to innocent life) and wishes to see that particular campaign come to an end, it exasperates me to see animal rights "representatives" using words which will do nothing to stop the "car bombs" and which may even ensure that their use continues. By referring to those who caused the explosions as "terrorists" and "maniacs", movement "spokes people" can rest assured that the planters of the "car bombs" will turn a deaf ear to anything sensible they may have to say as to why such actions are morally and tactically wrong. One only has to have a basic knowledge of human psychology to understand that if you insult people they will not be willing to listen to your views. These latest "car bomb" attacks may well have their roots in the hysterical reaction of many movement "representatives" to last year's Bristol University explosion.

My own view is that the "car bombers" are neither "terrorists", "maniacs" nor "loonies" but basically decent, caring people who have become so enraged and upset by the horrors of vivisection that they have tried to wipe out some of the perpetrators of that evil crime without proper regard as to the consequences of their actions. I believe they did not properly foresee the level of risk to passers by and that they were as saddened as any of us by the injury to the little boy. I hope now that they will reconsider their tactics so as to never put innocent life at such serious risk again.

There is little doubt that the explosion which injured the young boy in Bristol caused some damage to our movement in terms of losing public sympathy for the cause of animal rights. It is, however, the duty of those who represent animal protection societies to attempt to limit their damage, rather than make it worse, which many of them did through their hysterical statements in the media. Unfortunately several spokespersons exaggerated and harped on about the damage caused to public support, thereby undermining the confidence and enthusiasm of local animal rights campaigners, who are the people in vital direct contact with the public.

It is also very unfortunate that at least one representative of an anti-vivisection society appears to have said that "animal research in the past may have done some good". That is the sort of statement, which should never be made by AR spokespersons, who should instead be pointing out the tremendous damage to human health caused through the vivisection method and the fact that an increasing number of doctors and scientists are totally opposed to animal experimentation on scientific grounds.

It is vital that the movement doesn't allow itself to be thrown onto the defensive by events such as the "car bombs", It was a tragedy that an innocent child was injured, but how many innocent animals have been injured (and tortured and slaughtered) by the human race? You couldn't even begin to count them. The horror of what happens to the animals and the evil of such practices as vivisection, should always be emphasised to the public and the media at every opportunity and should be the main focus of any press statements.

Finally it is sad that the Animal Liberation Front was blamed by the media for the "car bombs", because there is no way that they were ALF actions, being totally in breach of the ALF policy of not going out to kill or injure. Just because someone purportedly "claimed responsibility" in the name of the ALF is neither here nor there. Anyone can pick up a telephone and make a claim of responsibility on behalf of any organisation whatsoever. Had the "caller" claimed they were from the RSPCA that wouldn't mean that the RSPCA was responsible for the explosions and the same applies to the ALF.

In fact there is some evidence that whoever made the claim of responsibility was not actually responsible for the "car bombs" at all. At the time of last year's explosion at Bristol university there was a genuine claim of responsibility (because it was made before the event took place) by a group referred to in the press as the "Animal Abused Society". After the explosion received press and TV publicity, somebody made a "claim" on behalf of the ALF, which was viewed by police as doubtful because of its inaccuracy. The same group of people that carried out that explosion may well have been responsible for the more recent "car bombs" because plastic explosive was used in all three attacks and once again we have the ALF "claim" coming only after the events had received widespread publicity.

Why then should someone wish to make the ALF "responsible" for actions which it could not have carried out? It seems to me that there are three possibilities. Firstly, it could be an animal abuser or member of the authorities seeking to cause damage to the animal liberation movement. The ALF campaign to rescue animals from suffering and cause damage to the property of those involved in animal persecution has been a controversial one, but it has achieved considerable success. If people could be deterred from taking part in that campaign by associating the ALF with attempts to blow people up and with the reckless injuring of a young child, that would cause considerable relief both to the abusers of animals and to the powers that be.

Secondly, the "claim" could have come from somebody in the movement who dislikes the ALF and has allowed this personal hatred to out weigh their, concern for the animals. Unfortunately, knowing the irrationality of some people in the movement, this is by no means beyond the bounds of possibility.

Hopefully, events such as the "car bombs" will not occur again, but if they did it is vital that movement "representatives", and indeed the movement as a whole, reacts in a more rational manner. Such occurrences must always be seen against a backdrop of thousands of years of vicious persecution of other creatures by the human species and we must never allow anything to divert our efforts from the vital task of bringing that persecution to an end let us never forget and never cease to insist, that the real terrorists are the animal abusers.

Thirdly, it could be someone who wants ALF activists to set about trying to kill and injure animal abusers and who hopes that the "claim" might somehow push them into doing this. But many ALF campaigners are just not into personal violence and might cease carrying out ALF activities altogether if they thought the ALF was somehow involved in bomb attacks against people. Thus any effort to put the name of the ALF to events like the "car bombs" is likely to have a negative effect on the overall campaign against animal persecution.

(Editor's note - Bristol police investigating the "car bomb" actions, recently stated that there was no claim of responsibility on behalf of the ALF as far as they were aware.)

 
Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin, annxtberlin@gmail.com