The Keith Mann Interview
By Claudette Vaughan
Keith Mann is known in the movement, is loved in the movement and has made many sacrifices for total animal liberation. Here he speaks with Claudette Vaughan
Abolitionist: When I think of your activism I think of a soldier of war. You have maintained your position through out regardless of consequences, circumstances or differences of opinion. You have never compromised your stance and you have been in and out of prison for large periods of time for animal liberation. How do you, yourself, describe your activism Keith?
Keith Mann: Risky, pleasurable, essential, and all encompassing. It's a way of life; long since convinced it's what I'm here to do. Knowing what I know I couldn't do anything else.
Abolitionist: For people who aren't aware of who you are can you provide some background information about yourself please? How you got started and what fuels you to continue etc?
Keith Mann: I focussed my attention on the really important things in life soon after breaking free from the shackles of our education system which forgets to mention certain things. A slaughterhouse was an experience I wasn't primed for and a very rude awakening. It was that which took away any desire for meat and animal abuse in general that led me to dedicate my life to fighting all aspects of it. It's animal abuse that fuels my drive aided in no small part by every new activist I hear of doing likewise. I believe that the human being will only be truly evolved once it shows unreserved compassion for the weakest and most vulnerable in its care, this is a trait an increasing number of humans are showing and that encourages me greatly. I do believe we have the power to change the world if we work together and believe in our strength as individuals and a movement.
Abolitionist: Three years ago you broke into a lab and freed six hundred mice that were going to be used to test the drug Botox. In a recent TV interview you said that animal experimenters are leading us up the wrong path. They are putting billions of pounds into experimenting on animals and ignoring humans. Can you expand your thoughts out for us here Keith?
Keith Mann: I've spent more time than I care to recall in prison cells with people whose core belief is that any amount of violence is acceptable as long as there's something in it for them, quite vile people more often than not. The same kind of people defend the use of extreme violence against animals in vivisection laboratories and clearly care little for the damage done to people as a consequence of that violence. I would still oppose such savagery whether there was something in it for me but the grim reality is that there is neither anything in it for me nor any benefit to wider society, indeed the opposite is true and our lives and well being are put at risk because of some insane belief in animal experiments. All this information came as something of a relief as an instinctive moral objector to vivisection but how grim is it that all that suffering animals go through is not just in vane but in fact dangerous for us! They spend billions on the cause of animal testing while hospitals are closed!
Animal experiments teach us nothing about human health and can never be relied on. Were there a good model for the human they wouldn't have needed to carry out a billion tests on as many animals, there would be cures for all or ills and drugs such as Seroxat and Vioxx would not keep on killing people.
Abolitionist: What are your true thoughts on people like Colin Blakemore and Brian Cass?
Keith Mann: Heartless monsters who hold back human evolution. They are cowards who lie for a living.
Abolitionist: Brian Cass said recently that the SHAC campaign footage of beagle dogs being beaten up by staff is 10 years old now and we all "should move on because the culture has moved on'" What do you say to that?
Keith Mann: Vivisection is built on a lie and those who commit such crimes are well known for lying about it. It was George Bernard Shaw who observed: "Those who don't hesitate to vivisect won't hesitate to lie about it" And how right he was. We have exposed the lie about stolen pets being used, about the duplication of experiments, about there being no cruelty. When I broke into Wickham's contract testing labs the lie about a ban on cosmetic testing and the eradication of the LD50 test was blown out of the water and as for there being no unnecessary testing going on, instead all of it 'essential to medical research', there is very little could be further from the truth!
Every single time outsiders have made an incursion into a vivisection laboratory either 'invited' as undercover workers or through the roof in the dark of night the same story of institutionalised cruelty, neglect and futile quest emerges and it's no good them blaming a few bad apples and isolated incidents while hiding behind a wall of secrets and lies and against such a barrage of examples. Huntingdon Life Sciences is a willing employment prospect for morons. I speak with some authority having met many of them at the gates and on the streets. They care not a jot for the animals they are torturing to death, obviously! Nice people don't do nasty things to animals so no matter what the soul-less Mr Cass says, and as with all of his ilk that can usually be the reverse of the truth, there is nothing nice or necessary going on inside his top security compound where 500 animals every single day are tortured and dissected.
Abolitionist: Animal activists such as yourself that many would say have made the ultimate sacrifice for animals by going to prison for years on end are now under intense scrutiny and have been severely criticised for your views. Why is the establishment so threatened by a man who has never killed anybody? Is it because of your ability to influence and impact other animal activists do you think?
Keith Mann: It's nothing personal. They're attacking a large movement of people. It's what we do to the status quo that they fear so much and not whether anyone gets hurt. In prison I met people who'd done nasty things to innocent people for their own gain yet were serving half as long! Those who abuse animals serve even lesser a sentence for their preferred violence. We have awakened powerful people with a lot of money to lose if the vivisection gravy train comes off the rails and it does provide employment for otherwise unemployable workers, nearly a thousand at HLS, so its little surprise we aren't courted!
Abolitionist: In all your break-ins for animals what have you seen that can't be forgotten?
Keith Mann: Usually just opening the door! And an undercover police team waiting to ambush me once! That had a lasting impact on me. I find the abject boredom every single animal has to deal with one of the saddest things of all and no matter how clean the place is or how healthy the animals are, of course an essential ingredient of the vivisection pie, the animals are always bored out of their minds.
Abolitionist: What matters to you?
Keith Mann: I hate cruelty and bullying. I love food. I am therefore vegan. Addressing all that matters greatly to me and takes up the majority of my time. I have a deep-rooted desire to see the Palestinian people liberated. I do as much as I possibly can to lessen my impact on Earth.
Abolitionist: Where are you at now with your activism?
Keith Mann: I recently came out of tagging after my sentence for the Wickham raid and finding my feet. Always busy. I have to be busy with something, usually more than I can cope with! Went on a SHAC march in the City of London yesterday to be pushed off the pavement by one copper and threatened with arrest by two others for handing out leaflets. They spent ages changing their minds about whether to allow it or not.
I am finalising a long overdue book on the movement - A Historical Look at the Animal Liberation Movement from Pythagoras & Plutarch to the Animal Liberation Front & Justice Department - and working on a number of other projects. I am taking pre orders for the book now to get an idea of interest so anyone wanting to reserve a copy please contact me c/o email@example.com It should be published within a few weeks.
Abolitionist: The government in the UK are now out-lawing peaceful open protests. There's a wide spread crackdown on dissent of any nature. Keith Whitburn, John Ablewhite and John Smith were told by Judge Pert to expect terms of up to 12 years in prison for a campaign against the Hall Family, farm breeders of guinea pigs which they consequentially received. What are your views on that?
Keith Mann: I think we live in exciting times and should not fear the backlash. The people you mention are dear friends as are others who are spending years in prison for their compassion so it is hard to be so dismissive of their plight but the reality is that we are victims of our own success. Were they not attacking us so viciously we would have no real idea of the effect of our actions.
Abolitionist: You have been quoted as saying "Huntingdon is the big one. When Huntingdon falls, there are all these pharmaceutical companies saying they will pull out and operate abroad - "the industry will start to crumble". Should the movements' priority continue with Huntington alone or spread itself further a field do you think?
Keith Mann: An essential ingredient in what we are creating is the ability to focus our attention. There is an instinctive desire to visit modern ideas on all the evildoers but of course they are many. A small number of people have proven highly efficient at having a big impact on some big issues. We are all capable of this if only we allow ourselves to believe it and, rather than make excuses, try.
Abolitionist: I think you once said "Don't be afraid of jail." How hard is jail to endure? Did you talk to other in-mates about being a vegan/animal rights activist or did you keep to yourself? What was it like being around people that didn't give a toss about animal rights?
Keith Mann: I have preferred to keep myself to myself and being selective about who I have as friends. It's how I behave out here. There were ample opportunities to discuss the issues and converts were made but prison isn't really the ideal place to canvas sympathy for others. An ALF prisoner is something of a novelty in the average nick and everyone wants to be able to say they met one! I remember being asked endlessly when I was first locked up years ago how much I got paid for my 'bit of work' and the looks of derision when I told them I did it because it was the right thing to do. Over the weeks this attitude dried up as my mail bag continued to bulge while their contact with the outside world faded to memories.
Prison is nothing to fear. If we fear the consequences of our actions then we do a disservice to the animals. Like with most things in life the fear is worse than the reality and if we were all able to overcome that fear of prison, of sacrificing our liberty for the greater cause they would be unable to stop us achieving animal liberation.
Sadly we have to put ourselves through some discomfort in order to make a difference, its how it is. Having to live so close to so many people who care little for animals is made easier by the enormous support animal liberators get from the wider movement. This is something else we can be proud of.