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Selected articles from Arkangel No.5
Spring 1991

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Some Lessons From Our Loss

by Ronnie Lee

With the recent deaths of Mike Hill, Sue Merrikin and Davy Barr the movement has lost three important and committed activists and the animals three of their dearest friends. It is indeed a tragedy for the struggle against animal persecution that these three good people should all have died within such a short space of time and that sadness is redoubled for those of us who knew personally one or more of them. Their lives were not in vain however, as each of them made a significant contribution to the battle for animal liberation and if we can learn something from their deaths then neither will those have been in vain.

At Their Peril

The killing of Mike Hill should cause us to think immediately as to the reasons why that tragic event took place. What was it that caused the huntsman to speed away so rapidly, so putting the lives of the hunt saboteurs in such danger? Without doubt it was because he felt confident that he would get away with it. To my mind Mike's tragic death is yet another example of where the widespread philosophy of "non-violence" is putting the lives of animal rights activists in danger. One only needs to have a brief understanding of the psychology of animal abusers to see how this is the case. A person who abuses defenceless animals (whether that person be a hunter, a vivisector, a circus thug or whatever) is obviously a bully {and therefore also a coward). The non-violence of the animals does not prevent such people carrying out attacks on them and indeed their violence is encouraged by the defencelessness of the victim, just as a school bully will tend to pick on the weakest member of the class. Therefore if members and supporters of the hunt believe that hunt saboteurs are "non-violent" and unable to stand up for themselves they will actually feel encouraged to carry out attacks against the sabs or to put their lives in danger.

The best way for us all in the movement to prevent a repetition of what happened to Mike Hill and to reduce the escalating number of attacks carried out against hunt saboteurs and other animal rights campaigners is for us to scrap the non-violence nonsense and to create a situation where all animal abusers know that if they attack us it will be at their peril. Just a couple of days after Mike's death a group of A/R activists attacked and badly damaged the house of the huntsman who ran over him. This obviously would act as a deterrent to any other hunter wishing to behave violently towards hunt saboteurs, but what I am advocating in this article is a perfectly legal solution.

One has the right in law to defend oneself and others, using reasonable force, from any act of aggression and therefore I am urging that all A/R campaigners (especially hunt saboteurs) take up self defence training. In most areas one can find evening classes which teach self-defence and I would urge that all local A/R and hunt sab groups attend them as a group of in order to learn the knowledge, skills and attitude of mind required. One can also get books on self-defence techniques which would form a useful addition to such classes. This would all probably demand a couple of hours of one's time each week, but it would be time well spent if it leads to people being able to defend themselves properly from animal-abuser aggression and to bring about a change of image in the movement which would deter such aggression from occurring in the first place.

The intention is not for A/R campaigners to violently attack animal abusers, but for the animal abusers to know that if they violently attack any of us they will rapidly get their come-uppance. Thus with hunt thugs etc. being too frightened to attack, the amount of violence on hunts (and at such things as anti-circus demonstrations) will be considerably reduced. I'm well aware this is the philosophy of deterrent but when you are dealing with bullies and cowards it is the only thing that works. A knowledge of self-defence would not have prevented Mike from being tragically run over, but a knowledge that the A/R movement could and would stand up for itself may well have prevented the huntsman from behaving dangerously in the first place. It's time to change the image of "wimps in sandals" to "people you don't mess with or you get what for!"

Fit for the Fight

The tragedy of Sue's death was that she was only 45 with so much more living to enjoy and battles to fight for the animals. But for many years she had been a heavy smoker and drinker and there is really no doubt that this is what led to her early death. From this we can all draw a lesson, however, for having known Sue as a good friend I know she would wish no other animal liberationist to go down the same road to an early grave. It horrifies me how many A/R campaigners smoke, drink to excess and even take harmful drugs and how many of them get little or no exercise to keep themselves fit. Quite apart from how concerned I am for those people in a personal level it is obvious to me that as the movement is a collection of individuals, so the fitness of those individuals for the struggle IS of vital importance to our success. If someone makes them self ill through abusing their body or by neglecting their fitness, the contribution they can make to the movement becomes considerably reduced and there is nothing worse than an unhealthy, unfit vegan or vegetarian for persuading people to carry on eating meat.

To be aware of the terrible suffering of the animals can be very stressful and depressing and Some A/R people might argue that they smoke and/or drink to deal with that depression and stress. That is a nonsense argument however, as there are other healthy ways of dealing with such negative feelings. Take exercise for instance. A good bout of exercise produces chemical changes in the body which actually create a feeling of well-being and so helps not only the body but also the mind. One of the ways I have staved off stress and depression in prison is by taking the best part of an hours vigorous exercise almost every day and it is something I intend to continue when I get out, as the time taken up by the exercise is more than made up for by the strength and fitness it gives me (both physically and mentally) to carry on with and to increase my work. To claim one is "too busy" to take exercise is a very false economy indeed. If we can be fitter and healthier than the animal abusers we have yet another advantage over them. so let's make sure we are all of us fit for the fight !

Lives Worth Living

Of the three deaths perhaps Davy Barr's was the most tragic as he took his own life. We will all of us have great empathy with him as I would wager there is not one among us who has not at one time or another contemplated suicide as an escape from a world made almost unbearable by the suffering inflicted upon the animals for whom we care so much. But of course the very worst thing we could do for the animals would be to kill ourselves and so deprive them of those who could fight for their liberation. The persecution of animals can drive us into the depths of unhappiness, but the fight for their freedom can give us back at least some happiness and an important reason for living.

Despite the sadness it brings, to be aware of the evil of animal persecution and to be involved in the battle against it is truly a reason to be alive. What reason for living do ordinary unenlightened people have dragging out their tiny meaningless lives, changing nothing, achieving nothing merely taking up space in an already grossly overcrowded world? As I look out of the window of a train gazing down on a town or city, and see all the rows and rows of houses stretching to the distance my mind recoils in horror with the thought "how can they stand to live?" "How can there be enough within their lives to make it worth the effort?" Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

But for us it is different. To be involved in the most fundamental liberation movement the world has ever known to be part of a struggle which will end aeons of tyranny and usher in a Golden Age when the jackboot of human imperialism will no longer stamp on all the other animals that is indeed a reason for living. To fight and to triumph and to triumph in a victory like no other victory, a victory which liberates all the other creatures of the Earth. There can be no better reason. Davy Barr's short life was dedicated to the animals. He worked for them, fought for them, went to prison for them and he is and will be a part of that great victory. But so much more would he be so were he still alive.


Animal Rights Tunnel Vision

by Paul Gravett

I was quite frankly appalled by a lot of what I read in Arkangel #4.To me it typified what I've come to know as animal rights tunnel vision, the inability of animal rights campaigners to understand the world outside their immediate sphere of interest.

The worst aspect of this is Arkangel's defence of giving a platform to fascists. Simon Russell's argument that this allows them to "damn themselves with their own pens" is simply facile because, as the letter from Patrick Harrington demonstrated, they are now extremely cautious about the way they word their statements. Harrington calls himself a "Nationalist" and says he does not believe one race is superior to another, but how many people read the Third Way's magazine and know they stand for repatriation. That means forcibly removing anyone who does not conform to their ideal of the mythical white Anglo Saxon race. What about racially mixed relationships and marriages? Of course. Hitler and the Nazis originally believed In repatriaton for the Jews until they found out that it was much cheaper to send them to concentration camps and gas chambers - and you can recycle the fat into the soap and make lampshades out of the skin.

I'm afraid if anyone's guilty of putting his boot in his mouth it's Simon Russell, especially when he compares Arkangel to Searchlight. While I'm no real fan of the latter, it doesn't give platforms to fascists to espouse their despicable ideas, it exposes them. I know Simon that fascists won't go away by ignoring them, but no-one's saying Arkangel should be doing that, you should be exposing and fighting them.

In case anyone is saying "What has all this got to do with animal rights anyway?" I'll explain. Does anyone seriously believe that a tiny bunch of crackpot, flag-waving neo-Nazis will do anything to bring animal liberation closer. All they will do is cause untold damage to the movement because they will alienate from us precisely the sort of people we need on our side. Animal Liberation will not occur unless society is radically transformed, so we should be appealing to the most deprived and dispossessed sections in it, because they are the only ones who have an interest in bringing about real change. That means the poor, ethnic minorities who suffer from racism, gays who suffer from homophobia, etc. Now, I ask you, what would any black or gay person think of the animal rights movement if they read Arkangel #4 and saw articles by people from organisations that questioned their right to even exist?

It's time that some people in the animal rights movement realised what the world outside is really like. Life for many black and gay people in this country isn't much better than that of oppressed animals. The number of racial crimes has risen dramatically in recent years, and many black and Asian people are now virtual prisoners in their homes, too afraid of going out in case they are attacked. In the last four years at least 15 gay men have been murdered because of their sexuality, victims of "queerbashers". None of their attackers have ever been caught since the police are too busy harassing gay men and lesbians for consenting and victimless behaviour. Poverty and homelessness have increased dramatically in recent years too. This unfortunately is the state of the society we live in.

Sometimes animal rights campaigners tend to forget that there is a great deal of human oppression in our society. If the movement never forges links with the truly oppressed people who share a common cause with the animals - then how can we bring about animal liberation? I do not believe it will come through writing letters to MPs; parliament doesn't exist to represent the wishes of ordinary people but to protect the power and profits of the ruling class. It also won't happen because we all start using cruelty-free products, because that underestimates the flexibility of capitalism in adapting to new trends whilst remaining essentially exploitative (eg. the new vegetarian wonder food Quorn, which is produced by a subsidiary of ICI and underwent animal testing for years).

There is a huge potential for building bridges with other oppressed sections of society. Recently my local group organised a meeting entitled "Animal Rights and Gay Politics" one of the best attended we've held. The speaker was Peter Tatchell, a leading gay rights activist, who has written articles in the gay press condemning the use of animals in AIDS experiments. Another encouraging development is the recent formation of a group called the Black Environmental Network, which tries to combat the all-too prevalent racism in the green movement. Above all we have to understand that the working class has nothing to gain from the exploitation of animals, it is only those who control and profit from the vast animal abuse industries that we should be fighting.

Unfortunately one often finds an undercurrent of misanthropy in the movement, the idea that all people are evil and if only they could be done away with in some way everything would be all right. This is implicit in Ronnie Lee's opinion that the human population of this planet has to be reduced to 50 million (how?) or in the "Leave out the political comment" article by Paul in Arkangel #4. Anyone who like Paul believes that fascists should be welcome in the movement has to ask themselves one question: could I work alongside someone who I knew was attacking black or gay people? Could any compassionate person really do that?

Sylvia Noble's attack on ritual slaughter contains a fatal flaw which people like her often make, she assumes that "humane killing" is really humane. Anyone who has examined factory farming and the slaughtering of animals for even a short time will see that in fact "humane slaughter" is a myth designed to assuage the consciences of the vast British meat eating public. It has been estimated that about one third of the animals killed in the so-called "humane" way are not adequately pre-stunned at all. That adds up to 250-300 million animals per year. Ritual slaughter should be criticised, yes, but not on the basis of it being more cruel than "humane" methods (which don't work). It should be condemned because to kill animals to eat however they are slaughtered is wrong. Phrases that Sylvia Noble uses such as "powerful Jewish lobby", "powerful Muslim and Jewish lobbies and their vociferous supporters" and above all, "I am proud that people of my own race cared sufficiently to introduce a method of rendering animals unconscious before they are bled to death and am disgusted that British Governments give Jews and Muslims living in Britain the right to disregard the law and slaughter animals by stone-age customs" strongly suggest that she has racist motives.

 
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