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ANIMAL RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS
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An Endless Variety Of Indignities
Many people don't understand exactly what sort of experiments animals are used for.
This is no accident. Many of those who want animal experiments to continue argue that the experiments are painless and that the animals do not suffer. The truth is very different. I have filing cabinets filled with research papers from universities and institutions around the world and there seems to be no end to the variety of indignities that researchers can think up for the unfortunate animals in their power. Most of these experiments are performed on your behalf and/or with your money.
If you are uncertain about the nature of vivisection then try imagining that you are taking part in a sensitisation test for a new perfume. This is a common and simple experiment.
First, scientists would shave a patch of your skin -- removing every small hair -- so that the perfume would make the best possible contact with your skin. Then they would put a large quantity of concentrated perfume onto your skin and leave it there. A plaster would be put over the test area to make sure that the perfume remained in the closest possible contact with your skin. You would be tied down to make sure that you didn't move about and disturb the experiment. Every few hours or so the test site would be inspected. And more of the concentrated perfume would be added until your skin went red and started to itch.
You would want to scratch but you wouldn't be able to. A thick dressing would be put over the test area and your hands would be tied to stop you interfering with the experiment. The itching would get worse and worse. But the scientists doing the experiment wouldn't give you anything to stop the itching because if they did they would mess up their results.
Even if you cried and begged for mercy they would ignore you. These scientists are trained to ignore such pleas. It is their job to cause suffering -- and to record the consequences.
Gradually, the area of skin under test would become redder and redder. Eventually it would probably begin to blister. Fluids would ooze out of your skin and drip out from underneath your plaster. You would probably notice some blood oozing out as well. Before long your whole body would probably begin to react. You might start to wheeze and to have difficulty in breathing. Your skin would start to burn and to itch and your heart might well start to pound.
The aim of a sensitisation experiment is deliberately to induce an allergy response by giving so much of the test product that the body responds violently. You would feel ill. You would probably feel nauseated and you might start to vomit.
The scientists would refuse to give you any treatment in case it interfered with the test. Instead they would simply write down your symptoms and make notes about the condition of your skin. When they had acquired enough information they would kill you.
That is one of the simplest, commonest and least intrusive experiments vivisectors perform. If you were chosen for a more intrusive experiment scientists might deliberately make you blind by sewing up or removing one or both of your eyes. Or they might drill a hole into your skull, drop chemicals directly into your brain and then make notes about your response.
Well Looked After?
Vivisectors claim that the animals they torture and kill are well looked after before and during experiments. This is, as you might expect from people of this type, another lie.
The truth is that animals are often kept in tiny cages for years -- alone, terrified and able to hear the screams and cries of those creatures ahead of them on the death list.
I've unearthed the official figures for the amount of floor space animals are allowed in laboratories -- and the length of time they could spend in those cages.
You might like to measure out the size of these cages on your living room carpet. And then imagine the horror of your family dog or cat living in a cage like that for years -- without love or companionship, in constant fear and probably in severe pain too. You will note that the amount of space officially allocated to a cat is probably not a good deal more than the amount of space available in the sort of box people use when transporting their cat to the vet or to a cattery.
Too Horrible To Contemplate
Sadly, very few people (even among those who are keen on seeing animal experiments stopped) are keen to read anything detailing what goes on in laboratories.
Animal lovers find books and articles (and photographs) detailing what goes on in laboratories just too horrible to contemplate. And people who don't love animals just don't care anyway.
Over the years I have come to the sad conclusion that writing and publishing books detailing the powerful scientific arguments against vivisection will never change anything.
No one who has read my books Why Animal Experiments Must Stop or Betrayal of Trust (both published by the European Medical Journal) could be in any doubt about the total futility of animal experimentation. The evidence in Betrayal of Trust totally demolishes the argument that vivisection is of value to human beings. But those books have not stopped animal experimentation -- partly because not enough people are willing to read them, and partly because the supporters of vivisection refuse to discuss the main arguments which Betrayal of Trust raises.
Simply For Money
I believe that the majority of the scientists around the world who perform animal experiments do so largely for money. It is what they do for a living.
The vivisectors are committed to defending what they do for two reasons. First, if they admit that vivisection is scientifically invalid and morally wrong then they must also admit that what they have spent their lives doing was scientifically invalid and morally wrong. Second, if vivisection stops they will have to find another way to earn a living. And although vivisectors are an untalented and not terribly bright bunch vivisection does pay very well.
And so the vivisectors stick together. When they do bother to defend what they do (which isn't often) they either nitpick (deliberately confusing and boring the listeners) or they dismiss pro-animal campaigners as emotional individuals who care too much about animals.
They claim that anyone who doesn't agree with them is cranky, ill informed and led by their emotions. They seem to regard the whole subject as their territory and they sneer at anyone whose thinking contradicts theirs. When I wrote a short one page paper opposing vivisection for a major international medical journal the journal published over a dozen pages of indignant rebuttal from vivisection supporters who had been shown my paper in advance of publication. (Needless to say I was not shown their responses or invited to defend myself.)
Deliberately Boring And Confusing The Public
The anti-vivisection movement has been for decades embroiled in a long lasting row with the corrupt and close minded 'scientific' establishment (which supports vivisection for clear financial reasons rather than for scientific reasons). Passion and fact have been overtaken by nit picking and a seemingly endless game of table tennis style arguments which have bored and confused the public and left the fundamental issues sunk in a sea of trivia. This is, of course, a deliberate policy by the vivisectionists.
It is important to remember that the establishment opposes pro-animal policies and the media protects the establishment. This is much easier to do with a scientific argument than with a moral argument.
Your Animal In Their Hands
The world's vivisectors -- the evil, barbaric intellectually bereft individuals who perform allegedly scientific experiments on animals -- torture and kill countless millions of animals every year.
Every thirty seconds these Mengele think alike pseudo intellectual thugs get through around one thousand cats, dogs, puppies, guinea pigs, baboons, chimpanzees, rabbits, hamsters, mice, rats and kittens.
They obviously need a constant supply of animals to satisfy their depraved needs.
They often obtain monkeys and other animals from countries where these animals breed naturally. In some countries animals of this type are treated like vermin and can be hunted, captured and sold with no restrictions.
Mice needed for experiments are often specially bred.
But finding enough dogs and cats can be difficult.
In America where there isn't quite as much secrecy about these things it is now known that vivisectors regularly torture and kill former family pets.
Amazingly, around two million pets are stolen every year in the US. In one part of New York over 10,000 dogs were reported missing in a single nine month period. One bereaved 'owner' searched for his missing dog and found him inside a research laboratory.
Vivisectors prefer working with family dogs and cats because they are tame and trusting -- and less likely to bite or scratch.
I firmly believe that petnapping goes on in Britain too. Tragically, I believe if your dog or cat goes out at night there is a real risk that he or she could be captured and sold to a laboratory. If a family animal has ever mysteriously disappeared it could have ended up in a vivisector's laboratory.
I believe that because family dogs, cats and other animals are stolen to feed the apparently never ending demands for more laboratory fodder animal lovers who have lost pets should have the right to enter laboratories at any time to search for missing animals.
You Don't Need To Torture A Cat To Help A Cat
(Any More Than You Need To Torture A Human Being To Help A Human Being)
Those who breed animals for experiments sometimes claim that the animals they breed and sell are used in experiments -- for example to develop vaccines -- which will eventually help other animals. I have, for example, heard it argued that cats which are bred for vivisection are used in experiments to help prepare vaccines which will help other cats.
This argument is often put forward by otherwise intelligent and thoughtful individuals as a reason why animal breeding centres should be allowed to remain in business.
The truth is, of course, that even if vaccines for cats are necessary and useful there is no need to breed cats in cages in order to do the experimental work that will help put the vaccines on the market. There are many vaccines on the market for human beings but as far as I am aware there are, as yet, no special farms in existence where human beings are bred and kept in cages so that they can be used in vaccine development.
If vaccines for humans can be prepared without experimental humans it is reasonable to assume that vaccines for cats can be prepared without experimental cats. (In order to keep this argument simple I have deliberately ignored the question of whether or not vaccines are of any value. I have dealt with this issue in other books.)
The Hidden Danger of Animal Experimentation
There is growing evidence to support the contention that many of today's new and most threatening viral epidemics have been generated by medical scientists working with animals.
For example, during the 1960s and 1970s, encouraged by animal studies which they believed suggested that the sort of viruses they were working with were responsible for the development of cancer, researchers were trying to find an anti-cancer vaccine.
They combined viruses which were known to cause cancer in animals in an attempt to create new viruses which they hoped would give them some clues about how viruses caused cancer.
At the same time other researchers working for the military were trying to develop viral weapons with which opponents could be killed (and countries destabilised) en masse. Cancer researchers and scientists working for the military on the development of death bugs were, it is claimed, developing HIV like viruses in laboratories.
I believe it may have been through incompetence (a common fault among the mass of second-rate scientists around the world who routinely perform experiments on animals) that the newly created AIDS viruses were inadvertently spread by contaminated vaccines.
Attempts have on several occasions been made to bring together vivisectionists and their opponents in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the whole question of animal experimentation.
In my view these attempts have been tricks on the part of the vivisectionists: tricks which enable them to take the position that they are being conciliatory and trying to find a solution to a problem which they recognise they exists.
There can be no compromise with the vivisectors. Animal experiments are scientifically worthless, morally repugnant and ethically inexcusable and they must be stopped.
The only solution I will accept is for vivisectors to stop their evil and pointless work. I will never negotiate with them because there can be no compromise on this issue. To look for a compromise with vivisectors would be like negotiating with gas chamber operatives during the Second World War in a search for a compromise over the holocaust.
Vivisection: Winning The Medical And Scientific Arguments
Many supporters of the anti-vivisection movement are concerned that they do not know what to say when vivisectors make specific claims about the value of the work they do.
This section is designed to explain some of the false arguments put forward (often with apparent scientific logic) by the vivisectors and those who defend vivisection.
The vivisectors say: Those who are opposed to animal experiments should not accept drugs that have been produced after animal testing was done.
The truth is: It is difficult, probably impossible, for patients to take drugs that haven't been tested on animals because just about all drugs are, at some time, tested on animals. But just because drugs have been tested on animals doesn't mean that the tests were relevant, useful or valid. The fact is that those drugs would have been produced more speedily and more safely without animal tests. Clinical developments may have followed animal experiments but that does not mean that there is any connection between the two. Medical progress continues despite -- and definitely not because of -- animal research.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are useful because they enable scientists to check out observations made by clinicians.
The truth is: Animal experiments delay progress unnecessarily. After doctors had observed that people who smoked tobacco seemed prone to developing cancer animal experimenters spent years making dogs and monkeys smoke cigarettes in an attempt to establish a link between tobacco and cancer in animals. Much to the commercial profit of the tobacco companies this link turned out to be extremely difficult to prove. As a result doctors and politicians were discouraged from providing warnings about the dangers of smoking tobacco for many years and millions of people may have died unnecessarily.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments must continue until we hat effective and reliable alternatives.
The truth is: Animal experiments are neither effective nor reliable. Indeed, animal experiments are so unpredictable and unreliable that continuing with them does great harm to people as well as animals. Human patients would be better off if drug companies did no tests on animals at all. Those who argue that animal tests are necessary because suitable alternatives are not yet available are missing the point. Animal experiments are not just useless -- they are dangerously misleading. Remember: a few years ago the big cosmetic companies were all saying that they couldn't manage without performing animal experiments but today more and more international cosmetic companies are publicly boasting that they no longer test their products on animals.
The vivisectors say: New processes such as cell and tissue cultures are all very well but the whole living organism is essential for proper tests.
The truth is: Cell cultures have been available for over a century. In organ cultures small pieces of whole organs can be kept alive and enzyme and support systems maintained. It is true that whole organisms are necessary before conclusions about the efficacy and safety of a treatment can be reached but this requires human patients not animals.
The vivisectors say: Many drugs which have been tested on animals are useful. This proves that animal tests are essential.
The truth is: Just because scientists perform experiments with animals that does not mean that animal experiments are essential or even useful. Most experimenters wear white coats and drink coffee. But that doesn't mean that scientists have to wear white coats and drink coffee in order to make useful discoveries.
The vivisectors say: Animal tests can be misleading so we should be doing more not less animal tests.
The truth is: More tests would simply mean more unreliable results, more confusion and more unnecessary deaths. Many useful drugs cause problems in some animals but not in others. It is impossible for anyone to know which tests to take notice of and which to ignore.
The vivisectors say: Drug companies have to do animal tests to defend themselves against possible charges of negligence.
The truth is: When one drug company was taken to court because of advertisement claims for a drug, the company was asked to produce the evidence for this claim. The only evidence produced was from experimental studies on two animal tissues. Even the expert witnesses called by the company testified that data from animal experiments could not be extrapolated safely to patients.
After an American girl suffered eye damage when she had used a shampoo she tried to claim damages from the company involved on the basis that the drug also proved to be an irritant when tested on animals. However, the court ruled in favour of the company on the grounds that there was no evidence to show that tests done on rabbits could be used to predict what would be likely to happen to humans.
When a woman took a major international drug company to court because the drug she had been given had damaged her sight and paralysed her, she produced evidence showing that the company had known for twenty years that in experiments the drug had damaged the eyesight of rabbits, had blinded and killed calves and grown cattle and had killed or paralysed dogs. The drug company denied negligence, saying that they knew of no evidence that the drug had adverse effects on human beings and apparently dismissing the animal research as irrelevant.
The vivisectors say: Alternatives to animals are expensive and would put up the price of products.
The truth is: It might be more expensive to begin with -- because laboratories would have to be altered, animal cages would have to be dismantled and scientists would have to be made redundant or retrained. But in the long run the alternatives would be far cheaper than using animals.
The vivisectors say: Vivisection is backed by 1000 scientists from around the world who have signed a petition declaring that animal experiments are essential and should continue.
The truth is: Many of the scientists who support vivisection earn their living doing animal experiments. They stand to lose everything -- including income and reputation -- if animal experiments are stopped. Even so there are 20,000 scientists with licences to perform animal experiments in Britain alone. Why do the other 19,000 not support animal experiments? Despite the position of the medical establishment the majority of practising doctors who have expressed any views on this subject regard animal experiments as misleading and are wholeheartedly opposed to vivisection.
The vivisectors say: Vast amounts of money are being spent on looking for effective non-animal ways to test drugs and medical treatments.
The truth is: Comparatively very little money is being spent on looking for alternatives.
The vivisectors say: Drug companies will never dare agree that animal experiments are pointless because if they do they will expose themselves to massive lawsuits from patients who have been disabled by inadequately tested drugs.
The truth is: It would be possible to introduce a moratorium on past liabilities to encourage companies to stop using animals.
The vivisectors say: Very few animal experiments are performed each year.
The truth is: The people around the world who use and authorise the use of animals in laboratory experiments do not care enough to count the animals used and so no one knows for sure how many animals are tortured and killed in laboratory experiments but informed estimates put the world-wide figure at around 250 million a year. This works out at between 100,000 and 125,000 an hour. Or, approximately 2,000 animals a minute.
The vivisectors say: Vivisection is a very small business.
The truth is: Vivisection is a multi-billion dollar business. Apart from the grants, fat salaries and expense accounts received by the scientists who actually do animal experiments there are many large and profitable industries supplying animals, cages and restraints. Individual mice can cost $100 each. Monkeys usually cost tens of thousands of dollars each because they have to be captured in the wild. (The cost is pushed higher because many die while being shipped over to the laboratories.)
The vivisectors say: Since there are not enough non-animal tests available to enable us to assess all the existing carcinogens in our environment we should allow scientists to carry on doing experiments with animals until more tests become available .
The truth is: Animal tests used to assess possible carcinogenic substances are misleading. They are based on inaccurate ideas about how cancer develops and about the degree to which data gained from experiments performed with high doses of chemicals can reveal anything about the effects of low doses of chemicals. The original theory was that if substances damage the DNA then they will cause cancer. But in some tests cancer can develop because the high doses of chemicals kill cells, provoking cell division which then produces the risk of cancer. According to animal tests, coffee, tomato puree, peanut butter and alcoholic drinks all appear to be stuffed with naturally occurring carcinogens -- up to 200 times as dangerous as the carcinogens in some banned chemicals. The most absurd evidence of the futility of animal tests is surely the fact that tobacco smoke has been cleared of causing cancer in standard tests on rats. Rats can consume vast quantities of alcohol without suffering any liver damage. Only seven out of 19 known carcinogens were properly identified using the standard National Cancer Institute animal testing protocol in the USA. Non-animal testing is more sensitive, more accurate and less expensive.
The vivisectors say: One advantage of using animals is that the age and sex of the animals used does not matter.
The truth is: The age and sex of humans matter a lot when drugs are being used. Some drugs produce a much more dangerous reaction when given to older patients. The age and sex of animals matter a lot too. Old rats are far more likely to get cancer than young ones and there are many other vital differences in the way members of the same species react. Female rats are usually more sensitive to toxicity than are male rats. I wonder how many of the researchers who realise this deliberately choose to use young male rats when testing a new drug hoping to find out that it is safe. Another example of variations within a species is given by chimpanzees. Experiments on chimps invariably use chimps of differing ages despite the fact that there are enormous differences between immature and mature animals in physiological, anatomical, psychological and sexual terms.
The vivisectors say: The subject of vivisection should be confined to discussion between the experts. The experts know best.
The truth is: The experts are only discussing this problem at all because of pressure from the general public.
The vivisectors say: Several Nobel prize winners have expressed their support for animal experimentation. This means that animal experiments must be continued.
The truth is: Many Nobel prize winners are, inevitably, members of the scientific establishment. It is hardly surprising that a few Nobel prize winners support animal experiments. I am far more convinced by the fact that a majority of practising doctors believe that animal experiments can be misleading because of anatomical and physiological differences between animals and human beings. A recent survey of British doctors showed that 88% agree that animal experiments can be misleading.
The vivisectors say: Why would vivisectors carry on doing animal experiments if the evidence showed so clear ly that animal experiments were pointless and misleading?
The truth is: The vivisectors are committed to carrying on with what they do because when they change their minds they will have to admit that they were wrong. This means that they would expose themselves to some ridicule and contempt, they could expose themselves to widespread lawsuits and they would have to admit that all the work they had done in the past had been useless. Thousands of drugs which were launched on the basis of animal tests would have to be withdrawn and re-tested. Many would then be banned. The animal researchers would find that their modest skills were worthless and their vast departments and huge drug industry pay offs would be lost. Their apparent achievements would be devalued and it would be clear that they had wasted their lives. I am not surprised that they are fighting hard. Meanwhile, animal experiments are quick and easy to do. It is possible to prove just about anything by using animals and animal experiments lead to a steady supply of scientific papers.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments have led to many important discoveries.
The truth is: Vivisectors and their supporters certainly try to claim the credit for just about every scientific discovery ever made. Whenever animals are used in research vivisectors claim that it was their work which made the breakthrough possible. Since animal experiments are so widespread vivisectors are able to claim responsibility for almost all advances in biomedical sciences. The claims made for vivisection are so absurd that I wouldn't be surprised to hear vivisectors claim that animal experiments had led to the development of the motor car, television set and pop up toaster.
The vivisectors say: Many vivisectors are now introducing codes to ensure that animals are well looked after.
The truth is: You can't have a code for vivisection any more than you have a code for rape. ("It's OK to rape a woman if you buy her dinner beforehand and make sure that the room is warm and that there is plenty of straw on the floor.")
The vivisectors say: Those of us who oppose vivisection would change our minds if we were ill or if we had sick relatives.
The truth is: We would not change our minds because we know that animal experiments would not help us and would, indeed, delay useful developments in the world of medicine.
The vivisectors say: The drugs developed by drug companies are often of great use to animals.
The truth is: This is the favourite fall back argument of people who do experiments on animals. One of the big tobacco companies recently argued in court that it was exposing mice to tobacco smoke so that it could learn more about how to help mice. Some observers were sceptical. The argument is, in any case, irrelevant. It seems absurd to argue that it is acceptable to sew up the eyelids of perfectly healthy kittens or to deliberately try to make monkeys depressed in order to treat another animal. What sort of logic is there in torturing and killing animals to find treatments for animals? Most veterinary research is designed to increase farm profits rather than cure animals. It is possible that by treating sick cats experimenters could learn enough to help other cats. But you don't have to torture and kill animals in order to find ways to treat them.
The vivisectors say: Genetic experiments on animals are likely to lead to tremendous advances in medicine.
The truth is: Three of the first 'developments' produced by genetic engineers were: a form of pest resistant tobacco plant, a type of calf so big that it needed to be delivered by caesarean section and a hybrid goat-sheep. Slick, boy wonder scientists with little common sense, a greatly enhanced sense of self importance and a dangerous sense of their own infallibility are endangering the very future of our world. I do not believe there is any evidence to suggest that these experiments will prove to be of value.
The vivisectors say: Animals have poorly developed intellects when compared to human beings and can therefore be used in experiments without any fear.
The truth is: A one year old year cat is more rational and sensible than a six week old baby.
The vivisectors say: Animals are very similar to human beings. And so they are suitable for experiments.
The truth is: If animals are very similar to human beings why are we doing experiments on them? Surely such experiments must be ethically indefensible?
The vivisectors say: Many doctors perform animal experiments.
The truth is: They don't. Very few medically qualified doctors perform animal experiments. The majority of doctors who have expressed any opinion agree with me that animal experiments are useless.
The vivisectors say: If practising doctors disapproved of animal experiments they would say so more publicly.
The truth is: Many doctors are afraid of annoying the big drug companies or the medical establishment (which is controlled by the big drug companies). But more and more doctors are speaking out.
The vivisectors say: Anti-vivisection groups have frequently used information that has been obtained by activists breaking into laboratories.
The truth is: Laboratories are usually very secretive and do not allow the public to see what they are doing (even though public money is often being used). As a result the only way that the public can find out what is happening is when break-ins occur. Many dishonest, incompetent and illegal practices have been exposed in this way.
The vivisectors say: Without animal experiments surgery would not have progressed as far as it has.
The truth is: That is absolute nonsense. I believe that surgical experiments on animals may be enormously misleading. Consider psychosurgery for example. The first leucotomies were performed in the 1930s when it was thought that the frontal lobes were the source of delusions in mental patients. American workers removed the frontal lobes of chimpanzees in 1935 and thought that the animals were more contented afterwards. Since then, on the basis of those animal experiments, thousands of patients have had their frontal lobes cut out and the operation has been performed for a wide range of conditions including schizophrenia, depression, obsessional neurosis, anxiety, hysteria, eczema, asthma, chronic rheumatism, anorexia nervosa, ulcerative colitis, tuberculosis, hypertension, angina, cancer pain and drug side effects.
It is also worth remembering that it was Galen's work on pigs two thousand years ago which misled surgeons for centuries. Galen based his writings and lectures on experiments he had conducted on pigs. It is now generally agreed among medical historians that Galen's work held back medical progress for centuries until religious restrictions were withdrawn and doctors were able to cut up human cadavers. Only then did doctors discover that there are enormous differences between the anatomy of the pig and the anatomy of the human being.
The vivisectors say: Surgeons need to practice on animals to learn their skills.
The truth is: Surgeons in most countries -- Britain for example -- learn all their skills on human patients and not on animals. Even the law recognises the absurdity of practising surgery on animals and British surgeons must practise their skills on people. Many vivisectors are unqualified to perform human surgery. The basic techniques used in surgery are remarkably simple and can be quickly and easily learned in the operating theatre by assisting a more skilled surgeon. Differences in anatomy mean that operations performed on animals are of no value to surgeons and may encourage a false sense of confidence or carelessness.
The vivisectors say: Animal experimenters get personal pleasure from their work and should be allowed to continue with it.
The truth is: Putting aside the obvious moral and ethical arguments about whether or not scientists have the right to use animals for their own pleasure there is another issue here. There is now clear evidence that people who perform animal experiments are exposing themselves to danger. A recent report described an outbreak of lymphocytic choriomeningitis among laboratory workers handling mice or mice tissues. Another survey showed an increase in the number of deaths from cancers of the bone and pancreas among laboratory workers. And a third report listed malignant melanomas and cancers of the blood as being hazards to which laboratory staff who work with animals are exposed. There is also an increased risk of cancers of the brain and nervous system and stomach. Those who want to stop animal experiments also care about people -- and want to protect laboratory staff from being exposed to unnecessary and unacceptable hazards.
The vivisectors say: Without proper drug tests performed on animals pregnant women would be at risk.
The truth is: We need to encourage doctors and drug companies to watch for, report and take note of side effects in order to protect patients properly. I believe that if proper drug surveillance techniques had been available in the 1960s the thalidomide problem would have been picked up much earlier.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are necessary so that vivisectors can inject cancer cells into animals to see what happens.
The truth is: When human cancer cells are injected into animals the cancers produced are biologically different to the ones that occur in humans. Animal experiments have no value whatsoever in the search for treatments for cancer. Indeed, animal experiments have wasted money and resources, have misled researchers and doctors and have led to the development of treatments which have caused serious problems when given to human patients. Much of the cancer research done by the world's massive cancer industry is of little value. Around 80% of all cancers can be prevented but very little effort it put into teaching people about methods of prevention -- largely, I suspect, because there is little profit to be made out of telling people how not to fall ill.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments help them assess the effectiveness of new drugs designed for the treatment of mental illness.
The truth is: Animals do not noticeably suffer from the same mental disorders as human beings. How can researchers possibly know whether or not animals are suffering from delusions or hallucinations? Mice have been provoked into fighting by being given electric shocks and then calmed with tranquillisers -- but what is the point of this? Animal experiments also fail to produce any evidence of addiction. For example, when the benzodiazepines were first being tested on animals researchers reported that the drug tamed monkeys, dogs, lions and tigers. These tests were used to help encourage doctors to prescribe the benzodiazepine drugs for vast numbers of patients. But these tests did not indicate that the benzodiazepines would turn out to be among the most addictive of all modem drugs.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are very useful in the laboratory since they enable the researcher to obtain results relatively quickly.
The truth is: It is very easy to do research and to get it published by using animals. All you have to do is to change the animals and do different things to them. It is much easier to do experiments with animals than with people. There are fewer rules to obey and when things go wrong there is less likely to be any trouble. (Also most researchers are not medically qualified and do not have access to human patients.) Most university departments are ruled by a quest for grants rather than a quest for knowledge and the validity of the research done is of minor significance. The only things that really matter are the number of papers published and the perceived value of the published material.
The vivisectors say: Basic research will help human patients in the long term though it is never possible to say how or when research will prove valuable.
The truth is: If research is going to be useful then it has to be properly planned and relevant and it has to be reliably performed. But most modern research is so poorly planned and executed, and so many researchers 'fiddle' their results, that no one will ever benefit. Modern scientific papers are so badly written that 99% are invalid. Scientists rely on the fact that very few people will question their work. Amazingly, 85% of medical procedures have never been properly tested. We should be spending a greater proportion of our limited resources on assessing existing therapies.
The vivisectors say: Animals are kept in good conditions.
The truth is: Animals are not kept in good conditions. Time and time again evidence becomes available that animals are kept in deplorable conditions. These poor conditions make the results the researchers obtain even more unreliable than they would otherwise be. Most of the committees and organisations which theoretically exist to ensure that researchers look after the animals they use are manned by researchers or by people who support animal experiments. This is like allowing criminals to police our streets.
The vivisectors say: Animals are inferior to us and therefore it is perfectly acceptable to do anything we like to them.
The truth is: This is the same sort of argument used by racists, sexists and others. If we experiment on animals because they are less well endowed intellectually (a doubtful argument in many cases) why don't we allow experimentation on the mentally ill and on babies and small children?
The vivisectors say: Animals cannot feel pain or suffer in the same way that human beings can -- therefore animal experiments are justified and justifiable.
The truth is: All the available evidence shows that animals can feel pain and can suffer from stress. The prerequisites for pain reception are a central nervous system, a system of peripheral pain receptors and a series of neural connections between the receptors and the central nervous system. All vertebrate animals possess these three essentials and can undoubtedly feel pain.
The vivisectors say: Animals are very similar to human beings and so tests done on animals are reliable.
The truth is: The drug tamoxifen, currently used as a treatment for women with breast cancer, causes liver tumours in rats. This evidence was regarded as bad news for rats but meaningless for women. My book Betrayal of Trust (published by the European Medical Journal) lists over 50 drugs which are prescribed for human patients but which are known to cause cancer or other serious problems when given to animals. So, if drug companies and drug regulatory authorities can ignore animal tests when it suits them (presumably on the grounds that animals are different to people) what on earth can be the point in doing yet more tests on animals? Not that it is just in the area of drugs that differences exist. Scientists recently reported that: "animal studies have made it clear that there are considerable differences in the effects of vasectomy among species. Which, if any of these models applies to man is not known."
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments help in the fight against cancer.
The truth is: Because animal tests can be misleading there is a risk that such experiments may hold back medical progress. Some experts claim that trying to find out if chemicals cause cancer by testing them on animals is less efficient than tossing a coin. An American toxicologist has shown that a test which is used on rats gives results which can be applied accurately to human beings just 38% of the time. Put another way, that means that 62% of the time the results produced by that test are wrong. Tossing a coin would at least give a 50% chance of success. Animal experiments are inaccurate for the simple reason that animals used in laboratory experiments are different from people.
According to one expert, giving evidence to the United States Congress: "conflicting animal results have often delayed and hampered the war on cancer, they have never produced a single substantial advance either in the prevention or treatment of human cancer."
An extremely eminent academic concluded, after a long study of cancer experiments: "It has fallen to my lot to have to make a general survey of cancer in all its aspects and I do not believe that anyone who does this with an open mind can come to any other conclusion than that to search for the cause or cure of cancer by means of experiments on lower animals is useless. Time and money are spent in vain." America's Food and Drug Administration has now produced a 'test bed' made of human muscle tissue cells which can be used reliably to test anti-cancer drugs.
What would you prefer to take: a drug tested on mice or one tested on cells exactly similar to the ones in your own body?
The links between chemicals, X rays, foods and asbestos on the one hand and different types of cancer on the other were obtained after doctors had studied human patients -- not cats, dogs or rabbits. Many experts believe that instead of helping, animal experiments have slowed down the speed with which these essential discoveries have been accepted.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are essential if we are ever to find a cure for AIDS.
The truth is: Despite enormous expenditure on AIDS research scientists have failed in all their attempts to give AIDS to animals. In view of the differences in the immune systems of animals and humans this is hardly surprising. (I now believe that AIDS may have been produced in an experiment with laboratory animals.) Although no animal has ever been infected with HIV animals under test are regarded as dangerous and infected when being tested and are therefore deprived of all human and animal contact.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments led to the development of the polio vaccine which has saved thousands if not millions of lives.
The truth is: An early breakthrough in the development of a polio vaccine was made in 1949 using a human tissue culture. Monkey kidney tissue was used in the 1950s because it was standard laboratory practice but no one realised that one of the viruses commonly found in monkey kidney cells could cause cancer in human beings. If human cells had been used to prepare the vaccine the original polio vaccine would not have been as disastrous as it was. It is also worth remembering that the number of deaths from polio had fallen dramatically long before the first polio vaccine was introduced. The incidence of polio had dropped as better sanitation, better housing, cleaner water and better food was introduced in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some scientists claim that the polio vaccine is still tested with animals. It shouldn't be. Over ten years ago the World Health Organisation recommended that animal tests are unnecessary when human cells are used to produce the vaccine.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments are helping doctors treat high blood pressure.
The truth is: The animals used in laboratory experiments do not normally suffer from high blood pressure. Researchers can only give the animals high blood pressure by tying off brood vessels, by removing kidneys or by interfering with the animal's normal physiology or anatomy so much that any resemblance to normality is lost. Advances in the treatment of high blood pressure have come from clinical experiences.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments have helped in the treatment of arthritis.
The truth is: Laboratory animals do not normally suffer from arthritis. To test new drugs researchers inject the joints of animals with irritating chemicals in order to produce some inflammation at the ends of the bones. But the disease they create artificially is still not real arthritis. Trying to find dietary answers for arthritis by giving animals different foodstuffs is even more absurd because people don't eat the same type of diet as animals.
The vivisectors say: Animal experiments have helped in the treatment of diabetes.
The truth is: The first link between the pancreas gland and diabetes was established in 1788 -- without any animal experiments. Back in 1766 a physician showed that the urine of diabetics is loaded with sugar. Animal experiments merely delayed the time when diabetic patients could be treated.
Profits From Animal Abuse And The Cost Of Caring
"If before the eyes and in the mind of each individual who sits unconcernedly down to a parsleyed steak could rise the facts in the biography of that 'steak' -- the happy heifer on the far western meadows, the fateful day when she is forced by the drover's whip from her home, the arduous 'drive' to the village and her baffled efforts to escape, the crowding into cars and the long, painful journey, the silent heartaches and the low, pitiful moans, the terrible hunger and thirst and cold, her arrival, bruised and bewildered, in the city, her dazed mingling with others, the great murder-house, the prods and bellowings, the trecherous crash of the brain-axe, the death drop and shudder, the butcher's knife, the gush of blood from her pretty throat, and the glassy gaze of her dead but beautiful eyes -- there would be, in spite of the inherent hardness of the human heart, a great drawing back from those acts which render such fearful things necessary. "
J.Howard Moore (The Universal Kinship 1906)
The animal abusers and their supporters will inevitably claim that if we stop using animals -- and start treating them with respect -- the effect on our economy will be disastrous. This is, of course, exactly the same argument which was used to support slavery. Black people in the US were told that their slavery was an 'economic necessity'. In Australia the aborigines were deprived of their birthright for economic reasons. In South Africa apartheid was considered necessary if the country was going to get richer. In all these instances, of course, the black people were not the beneficiaries.
It is perfectly true that if we stop abusing animals then many companies will make less money -- and lots of individuals will lose their jobs. In the 1980s the Conservative government pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry in the UK employed 67,500 people and that the industry made "a big contribution to our balance of payments". The Conservatives pointed out that: "In devising new controls (on animal experimentation) it is very important not to put industry at risk unnecessarily". The pharmaceutical industry in Britain employs more than 300,000 people. Drug companies export over £5 billion worth of medicines every year and produce a trade surplus of £2 billion -- one of the biggest trade surpluses in Britain. The pharmaceutical industry funds half of all post-graduate training for GPs and pays £100 million a year to universities. Politicians who refuse to put morals and ethics (not to mention people an animals) above profits and tax revenues feel that this is an industry they just cannot afford to annoy
The Labour Party of the 1990s has also allied itself strongly with powerful business interests. It, too, does not want to do anything (and will not do anything) which puts industry at risk.
Animals don't vote. They don't pay taxes. They cannot buy support. They don't employ lobbyists to work on their behalf. And they have too few supporters who are prepared to make their welfare a priority.
Poverty of the spirit, the true end result of animal abuse, is not a problem which concerns politicians.
For hunters, farmers and others to claim that their own particular form of animal abuse should be allowed to continue so that they can keep their jobs is an audacious example of self interest. It is exactly as though Nazi gas chamber operatives had claimed that they should be allowed to keep killing Jews so that they could keep their jobs.
But, although the financial argument is regarded as a powerful one by politicians, the fact is that it is not true that the human race must inevitably suffer enormous hardships if we stop using animals in the brutal and primitive way that we do now.
Since human needs and wants (for food, clothing, medicines and so on) will not disappear the lacunae created by the disappearance of existing food, clothing and medical firms will quickly be replaced by other industries. Jobs lost will be replaced as new companies are born and grow.
It may be true that for a while we will all be slightly poorer and have a slightly lower standard of living if we stop abusing animals. But do we really want to be rich if being rich means that our wealth is built upon the immoral abuse of other species?
Before they were elected to power Labour Party politicians claimed to have strong pro-animal policies. They appeared to care passionately about animal issues. Many Labour parliamentary candidates spoke out and portrayed themselves as lovers of animals and keen opponents of brutality to animals.
But after they were elected the Labour Party abandoned those promises and betrayed the voters who had trusted for them. Even on an issue as clear cut as hunting, where Labour's pre-election promises had been extremely precise, where every poll showed that the vast majority of the electorate were united in their wish to see hunting banned and where a vast majority of MPs had responded to public opinion and voted against hunting, the Labour government succeeded in defying democracy in a most extraordinary manner, presumably in order to satisfy some behind the scenes power brokers.
So, why did the Labour Party make promises and then break them?
I can only think of two possible explanations for what happened: either the Labour Party cynically, deliberately and dishonestly made promises they had no intention of keeping, but which they made because they felt they would win them valuable votes, or else, after the election, the Labour Party politicians were put under pressure to change their minds.
I do not, of course, have any way of knowing which of these two explanations is the true one although it may be significant to report that no one has yet resigned from the Labour Party because of these broken promises (although a good many Labour candidates gained a great deal of public support through their outspoken support of animal issues before the election).
In a way, of course, it doesn't really matter why the Labour Party reneged on the deal it made with voters. After all, the end result is the same.
But I have no doubt that the Labour Party was put under a tremendous amount of pressure not to make any changes to the way that animals are treated when it came to power.
Changing the status quo is always difficult, partly because change often makes people feel uncomfortable but also because change often means that people are exposed to a real personal, financial cost.
And I find it impossible to think of any change to the status quo that would cost as much in raw financial terms, or prove as painful to the economy, as changing the way that animals are treated.
The simple fact is that much of our society's wealth has always been built upon the exploitation of the weak.
For centuries many fortunes have been built upon the exploitation of weaker and less well educated nations. In America the immigrant whites took cruel advantage of the native Americans and the black slaves who were brought in to perform heavy manual labour. In Africa the immigrant whites took cruel advantage of the native Africans. In Australia the immigrant whites took cruel advantage of the native Australians. And, of course, the European nations succeeded in colonising much of the world; extracting and stealing the natural resources and exploiting and killing the local inhabitants.
We like to think that this is all part of history and that we have stopped exploiting weaker peoples but we haven't, of course.
The big drug companies exploit poorer nations by selling them drugs which are out of date or too dangerous to be accepted in so called civilised countries. Food companies exploit poorer nations by selling them prepackaged food (such as dried milk for babies) which is neither necessary nor good for them. Tobacco companies exploit poorer nations by encouraging their citizens to start smoking. At the same time as they are paying out huge amounts of compensation to smokers in 'developed' countries the tobacco companies are advertising and promoting tobacco consumption in undeveloped countries -- often by encouraging the citizens of those countries to associate cigarette smoking with the comfort and wealth which is usually associated with the west. Our scientists enabled us to turn relatively harmless local products (such as the opium poppy and the coca leaf) into potentially lethal products (morphine, heroin and cocaine) for our own western consumption. When it became clear that the consumption of these drugs could become a threat to economic growth (by destabilising work forces) we declared war on the countries where those raw products were grown and began to bomb and burn their farms so that we could destroy their natural crops.
Exploitation Of Animals
But it is animals which we now exploit most cruelly and most consistently. Animals do not have a vote. No animals are represented at the United Nations. And it is not difficult to see why the Labour Party politicians were put under pressure not to introduce pro-animal legislation.
The truth is that when officially authorised and approved animal abuse is finally stopped (and although I sadly but naturally recognise that it will never be possible to stop all cruelty to animals -- any more than it will be possible to stop all cruelty to human beings -- I believe that in any society which calls itself civilised, organised, legalised animal cruelty must be stopped) the financial cost to some industries will be deadly. It really isn't difficult to see why the authorities are terrified of pro-animal campaigners.
When it looked for a while as though the Labour Party might stick to its bold and clear pre election promise to ban hunting the pro hunting lobby turned out in force to protest at the destruction of a rural industry and the potential loss of jobs. The amount of money involved, and the number of jobs threatened, was relatively small. But it seems that even this modest cost may have been too much for the Labour Party to bear. There are many who believe that it was this potential financial cost which contributed to the Labour Party's decision to roll over and abandon both principles and promises.
(The argument that if hunting were banned a good many people would be put out of work was, and is, a nonsensical argument. Most of those involved in hunting would have been able to find work if the hunters had been prepared to abandon their unacceptable and blood thirsty pursuit and take up drag hunting instead. There would have still been a need for people to look after the horses and the dogs and hardly any jobs would have been lost. The refusal to take the idea of drag hunting seriously proved that what hunters really enjoy is the blood and the killing.)
If all animal abuse and exploitation were stopped many industries would cease to exist and others would have to alter themselves quite radically.
The huge, powerful and immensely profitable international pharmaceutical industry, which depends very much upon the use of animal experiments to launch new and otherwise untested products, would be virtually destroyed. High street pharmacies would have to change and many would go out of business. The medical profession, which currently depends very much upon the pharmaceutical industry for finance, would find itself in dire straits. Many universities and charities which are accustomed to receiving vast amounts of money from drug companies would have to cut back or close.
The strength and power of the industries which abuse animals for a living (and the strength of the pro-animal argument) can perhaps be best judged by the fact that one of the Labour Party's most convincing pre-election pledges -- and one which won it a great many votes -- was its promise to set up a Royal Commission to investigate the scientific value of animal experimentation. The Labour Party did not, of course, promise that the Royal Commission would find that animal experiments are of no value. It did not have to. Everyone who knows anything about animal experimentation knows that if a truly independent Royal Commission was set up it would have no alternative but to conclude that animal experiments are pointless and counter productive -- as well as being barbaric, unethical and immoral. The scientific evidence shows quite clearly that tests on animals are a hazard to human health -- and not a benefit.
However, within months of getting into power the Labour government, again showing its total contempt for the notion of democratic accountability, confirmed that it had decided that a Royal Commission wasn't necessary after all.
One Home Office Minister, Alun Michael MP, wrote and told me that the Labour Party had never said when the Royal Commission would be introduced. This, it seems to me, is the political equivalent of the child saying: "I had my fingers crossed so the lie doesn't count". Mr Michael MP presumably saw nothing wrong with the statement. It seemed to me to be the sort of wheedling "she had sex with me but I didn't have sex with her" legal chicanery which so discredited Bill Clinton's presidency. The Labour Party has become for me a modern synonym for shiftiness and cynicism.
If the Labour Party genuinely intended to set up a Royal Commission before it was elected then the only possible explanation I can think of for this abrupt and total change of heart is that the Labour Party was told by civil servants what would happen if a Royal Commission was set up and the result was a ban on animal experiments. I doubt if the drugs industry had to bother putting pressure on the government by threatening to move its highly profitable tax paying factories and employees to another country.
A Widespread Dramatic Downturn Expected
If Exploitation Halted
Quite a number of industries would suffer a dramatic downturn if animal abuse and exploitation were halted.
Zoos and circuses would have to close, of course, as would furriers and fur shops. The meat trade (including farmers, abattoirs, butchers shops, sausage and pie makers, animal feed suppliers and so on) would come to an abrupt end. Vets would take quite a financial hammering. The drug industry would lose out yet again because of a dramatic fall in the sales of antibiotics and other drugs given to animals. The food industry would have to change dramatically in order to survive. The leather goods industry (including shoe manufacturers) would also have to change in order to stay in business.
The meat industry is a vast consumer of transport vehicles. There would be no demand for lorries in which to transport animals if there was no animal trade.
There would be a temporary but massive rise in unemployment (although most of this unemployment would disappear as new industries arose and grew to satisfy the still existing needs of the community for food, clothing and entertainment). And, of course, governments everywhere would face a dramatic cut in tax revenues.
Did the Labour Party know that they would find it difficult to stick to their pre-election promises if they got into power? Of course they did. Did they know that they would find it difficult to overrule the powerful forces which protect the status quo? I suspect that they knew that too.
Did the Labour Party ever genuinely intend to take on the animal abusers and stick to its promises? I don't honestly think they did.
My guess is that their promises were inspired by some good intentions but that they knew that they would never have the courage or the strength to stick by those promises. (The Labour Party has even found it hard to stand up to the quarantine industry. The argument for ending quarantine immediately and introducing a 'pet passport' system is overwhelming. The quarantine system which Britain has favoured for decades is pointless and utterly discredited. It exists solely because a small industry depends upon it.)
A real man -- and a real woman -- is prepared to do the right thing whatever the cost.
Isn't it about time that we were led by real men and real women -- instead of insignificant cardboard cut-outs?
How the Labour Party Turned Trust Into Votes, Won An Election, Tricked the Electorate And Betrayed Those Who Voted For It
" Slaves have been treated by the law upon the same footing as in England, for example, the animals are still. The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognised, that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for the abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But the suppose the case were otherwise, would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? "
Jeremy Bentham, 1789
"What Do You Want Us To Promise Before You'll Vote For Us?"
"No timescale was ever promised for the establishment of a Royal Commission on animal use in scientific procedures. "
Alun Michael MP, Home Officer Minister, August 1998
In its desperate desire to win votes -- and a forthcoming election -- the Labour Party made numerous promises. Enthusiastic but gullible voters, tired of Conservative insensitivity, deceit and corruption, believed the Labour Party's promises and gave Tony Blair's government a chance to show what they were really made of.
As the 1997 May election approached it became clear that most rational, breathing human beings had dismissed the Conservative Party from their list of serious runners. Most people would have found it difficult to describe the Conservative government of the last few years without using the words "inept', 'incompetent' and 'dishonest' a great deal.
As I wrote in late 1996, the Labour Party would have had to work really hard if they wanted to lose the 1997 election.
Months before the 1997 election I felt that there were two reasons not to vote Labour.
First, was the fact that I found Mister-Blair-The-Double-Glazing-Salesman even more obnoxious than his opposite number John Major. I just couldn't stand the sparkly eyes and the fluorescent smile he switched on every time he saw a camera. He seemed to me to have all the depth and sincerity of a TV quiz show host.
More important, by far was the fact that the Labour Party did not seem to have any real policies or passions.
As the election approached I wrote that Britain needed a revolution but that the Labour Party seemed to be offering a light service; a quick flick with an oily rag. I forecast that with the Labour Party in charge Britain would drift, aimless and rudderless, through half a decade of political shilly shallying. I was not convinced by the Labour Party -- which seemed to me to be just another tribe of that new breed of telegenic and articulate politicians who manage to appear to promise much without actually saying or promising anything.
I dismissed the Liberal Democrats as the traditional home for dithering voters who could not make up their minds about anything (the sort of people who think beige is a colour) but nevertheless begged everyone to vote and to tell the big political parties how fed up they were with their passionless, purposeless, corrupt, inane posturing by voting for an independent candidate or for one of the fringe parties.
There were, I argued, two reasons for this.
First, I felt that if the previously ignored 'fringe' candidates received a decent number of votes then maybe, just maybe, the big time politicians would get the message and realise how much they were despised and loathed by the voters.
Second, it was my belief that if a sizeable portion of the population voted for fringe candidates the Labour Party would be less likely to get the huge majority the pollsters were predicting.
I wrote in the winter of 1996-7 that in my view any party which got a huge majority would inevitably completely ignore the wishes of the electorate.
I warned that if Labour got a big majority they would be unbearable -- and would ignore important issues and the wishes of the people. I warned that only a Parliament with a small minority would offer anything approaching honesty and justice.
A Future Full Of Hope
As the 1997 election approached many people in Britain were filled with hope and enthusiasm. After years of Conservative misrule, during which both people and animals had been treated with a mixture of disdain and contempt, the prospect of a caring Labour government seemed almost too good to be true. Millions felt that Labour offered the only chance of a future full of hope.
Pro-animal campaigners were particularly enthusiastic about a Labour government.
During their long period in power the Tories had done nothing for animals. They had bowed before the might of the farming lobby, the massive, international pharmaceutical industry (the main supporters of vivisection) and the politically and economically powerful pro-hunting lobby.
But the Labour Party promised a great deal.
The Labour Party marketing experts had identified animal issues as a great vote catcher. For five years just about every MP I had spoken to had reported getting more mail about animal issues than any other subject -- including health, education and defence.
Riding To Power On The Crest Of A Wave
The Labour Party came to power in May 1997 encouraged by thousands of flag waving well wishers who apparently believed that the Labour Party offered hope for the future. As a veteran cynic I remember wondering just how many of those apparently spontaneous demonstrations of loyalty, support and enthusiasm had been organised by the Labour Party's image manipulators.
The Labour Party came to power at a time when Britain desperately needed strong, morally sound, ethically driven passionate leadership.
A growing number of voters had become aware that the food sold in our shops was contaminated with poisons and often richer in carcinogens than nutrients; that our atmosphere and seas were polluted, that our drinking water frequently unfit to drink and that people and animals were treated with contempt by bureaucrats, civil servants and administrators.
As the Labour Party came to power patients with cancer were being thrown out into the street because the hospitals which were supposed to look after them didn't have enough beds. Our roads were crumbling and our cities were full of a strange mixture of old ruins and hideous, poorly designed eyesores.
Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, which we thought we had conquered, were making a comeback and around the world millions of children in underdeveloped countries were dying of starvation.
An early sign of the way the Labour government would go came when one of their first actions was to decide to allow Grand Prix motor racing to retain its tobacco sponsorship. (This decision was, for many people, explained when it became clear that the boss of Formula One Grand Prix motor racing had donated £1,000,000 to the Labour Party prior to the election. The allegedly unrelated decision by the Labour Party not to ban tobacco advertising on Grand Prix cars was said to have been made on the rather curious grounds that this extremely small but exceedingly rich branch of the motor industry would suffer financially if it were not allowed to accept sponsorship from tobacco companies.)
The Labour party lost more fans by confirming the decision to spend the best part of £1,000,000,000 on building a dome-ins-search-of-a-purpose in London to celebrate the start of a new millennium -- a hideous and pointless bubble that might last 25 years (probably less than the expected lifespan of a decent garden shed).
It quickly became apparent that the Labour Party (which liked to be known as New Labour to separate itself from the old, traditional, socialist Labour Party) was going to be about as passionate, honest, exciting, invigorating and promising as the Old Tory Party.
No one expected much of John Major but Tony Blair and the Labour Party had come into power with cheers, waving flags, kisses, cuddles and a wave of euphoria probably not seen since the First Coming two millennia ago.
It didn't take long for disillusionment to set in.
"Promises? What Promises? We Never Said That! And If We Did We Didn't Mean It. And If We Did Mean It We Didn't Say When."
"Hunting and fishing for sport are so plainly and unexcusably cruel as to excite abhorrence in the mind of any person endowed with the instincts of common sense and humanity."
J. Howard Moore
In the autumn of 1997 it was widely believed that the future of hunting in Britain would be decided by a House of Commons vote on November 28th 1997. Countless thousands of animal lovers who had voted Labour -- and who had supported Labour's pre-election campaign with cash or by street campaigning -- felt that they were about to be rewarded.
But the idea that the House of Commons was going to decide the future of hunting was always a myth.
I don't think anyone -- even the most rabid, blood dribbling supporter of hunting -- actually believed that there was any doubt about the outcome of the Commons vote.
There was always going to be a huge majority of MPs voting in favour of Michael Foster's bill to ban all hunting with hounds. Bloodthirsty, psychopathic, booze sodden hunt supporting MPs were always going to be in a cornered minority.
But the Parliamentary vote was never destined to decide whether or not hunting continued.
Anyone who thought that we live in a democracy where the elected representatives of the people make the decisions that matter was wrong.
The anti-hunting bill was a private members bill with a limited amount of parliamentary time available. Pro-hunting MPs could easily make sure that it ran out of time unless the government made sure that the bill got the time it needed.
And so the future of hunting in Britain was always going to be decided by Prime Minister, Tony Blair and his cronies.
In December 1996 I had published details of a letter I had received from Elliot Morley MP, who was at the time Labour spokesman on animal issues.
Written on Blair's behalf the letter from Morley promised that if a vote to ban hunting was carried in the House of Commons: "Labour would ensure that a bill to ban these activities would have the necessary parliamentary time."
"...the bill," Morley promised, "would get the time it needs to become law. There will also be no compromise with the Lords on this issue."
In another letter, written to Tony Banks MP, (later Minister of Sport) the Prime Minister had said: "Our policy is to have a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned by legislation. If such a vote is passed it will be a decision made by parliament and parliamentary time will be made available for appropriate legislation to progress in the normal way."
When it began to look as though the Labour government might renege on these crucial promises I published extracts from those letters in my newspaper column and I personally sent out 4,000 copies -- to all MPs, animal rights groups, newspapers and TV and radio stations so that there could be no doubt about the Prime Minister's pre-election commitment.
I received many letters of support from MPs (many of whom were concerned about the fact that the Labour leaders seemed to be changing their minds about supporting animal issues which had won them many votes) but most of the media ignored the Blair promises -- either because they regarded a politician's promise as irrelevant or insignificant or (in my view more likely) because they had been told not to write anything rude about the new Labour government. (The Labour government had, before the election done a number of 'deals' with media owners. The media owners had promised to support the Labour government and the Labour government had promised a variety of business perks.)
The TV Debate
The media blackout over Blair's pre-election promises seemed to me to be extremely alarming. But the virtual media blackout wasn't the end of the story.
On 17th October 1997 Central TV invited me to appear on a network television debate on hunting, to be broadcast live on Wednesday 26th November 1997 -- two days before Parliament was due to debate the Bill to stop hunting.
"We would like to invite you to take part," wrote Central TV, "preferably as one of a limited number of key speakers...I very much hope you will be with us on the night."
I immediately decided to come out of retirement and break my self imposed five year old ban on appearing on television. (I had stopped appearing on TV on the grounds that most British TV is wimpy, self indulgent and superficial, and that most broadcasters are slightly beneath the invertebrates in the evolutionary hierarch. I have a low opinion of TV producers in Britain. It seems to me that although they are often willing to get tough with small time crooks they are invariably unwilling to take on big issues or powerful corporations. Genuine radicalism, dissent and original thinking are rejected in favour of a desperate attempt to satisfy the lowest common viewer's hunger for superficial sensationalism.)
I sent a message to Central TV accepting the invitation. I had to cancel important speaking engagements -- including a trip abroad -- to make arrangements to appear on the programme.
I intended to produce for the TV cameras two vital pieces of irrefutable evidence showing that before the election the Labour party had promised that any bill to stop hunting would receive all the parliamentary time it needed.
First, I intended to produce the letter from Elliot Morley MP. Second, I was going to produce a copy of the letter written, just before the election, by Tony Blair and addressed to Tony Banks MP. The TV company knew of my plans. They seemed to agree with me that the letters were extremely significant.
A few days later I had lunch with the Editor of The People newspaper (which was, at that time, running my weekly column in the UK). At that lunch meeting I predicted that Central TV would withdraw their invitation.
My prediction came true on Friday 31st October. A Central TV employee telephoned my office to say that because the programme was likely to be busy they couldn't promise me much air time and so didn't want to drag me all the way to the studios in Nottingham in order to appear on the programme.
I responded to what I regarded as a rather curious excuse by sending back a message saying that since the programme was live I was prepared to take my chances. (I have appeared on hundreds of TV programmes over the last few decades but I have never before come across such apparent consideration on the part of a TV company).
Central's response was to try again to encourage me to withdraw from the programme.
I telephoned the show's producer and told him that I was happy to go on the programme.
He didn't disagree when I told him that the vote itself was of secondary importance to the question of whether or not the government decided to stick to its promise to give an anti-hunting bill the time it needed to become law.
Nor did he disagree when I pointed out I was the only person who had published the vital evidence showing that the government had promised to give an anti-hunting bill all the time it needed.
But he made it clear that they didn't want me on the programme.
On the 17th October I had been invited onto the programme as a "key speaker'. A fortnight later they didn't want me in the studio at all. It seemed to me strange that Central TV was planning to make a programme dealing with the parliamentary debate about hunting apparently without discussing the Labour Party's promise to give the bill time to become law -- a promise which was crucial to whether or not the bill succeeded.
On the 10th November (after I had protested rather vigorously at this about turn) the TV company wrote inviting me to interview Lord Williams of Mostyn, the Labour Minister responsible for animal issues including hunting.
On the 16th November they wrote to tell me that I would not be in the debate.
After another letter from me and a 'chat' with Carlton TV boss Mike Morley I was again told that I could interview Lord Williams of Mostyn, and ask him why the government was backing down on its pre-election promise.
Moreover, TV boss Morley, told me that if Lord Williams refused to appear I would be allowed to discuss the vital letter from Labour Minister Elliot Morley which contains the Labour Party's pre-election promises on hunting.
Morley (the TV boss variety) wrote: "If Lord Williams doesn't show then I still intend covering the content of your letters with you -- this will be in the final section of the programme."
Not surprisingly, given my scepticism about British television, things did not work out quite according to plan.
When I arrived at the TV studios on Wednesday evening 26th November I was told that I would have five minutes at the end of the programme.
I spent a major part of the programme -- which seemed to me to have all the political fire and relevance of an hour of prime time Home Shopping Channel -- sitting in an almost empty reception room used before the programme by anti-hunt campaigners.
(With extraordinary tactlessness the TV company had supplied vegan and vegetarian anti-hunt campaigners with a wide variety of snacks containing bits and pieces of dead animal.)
During the final ad break I was ushered into the studio.
However, despite Mike Morley's letter, I was immediately silenced by the presenter when I tried to read from Elliot Morley's vital letter.
The presenter, who, as far as I was aware, didn't even mention that Lord Williams had refused to be interviewed by me on the programme (you could have knocked me down with a horse box when I heard that he wasn't going to turn up), turned away and spoke to TV astronomer Patrick Moore.
At the end it seemed to me that there was a certain unreliability about letters from people called Morley.
The Anti-Hunting Bill Fails
Mike Foster's anti hunting bill was passed by the House of Commons, and supported by an overwhelming majority of the British people but it did not become law. It did not become law for the simple reason that the Labour government refused to do what they had promised to do before the election. No private members bill had ever become law without government support. And Foster's bill was no exception.
When I realised that the Labour government was planning to break its promises I felt as ashamed of Britain under the feeble minded hypocrites of Labour as I had been of Britain under the Tories.
I also felt ashamed of the British media.
I don't know why the makers of the TV programme didn't allow me to discuss the embarrassing promise packed Elliot Morley letter.
Did they really not think it important -- despite the promise made by Mike Morley?
No one would, of course, suggest that either the Labour government or the TV station could possibly have been involved in any improper behind-the- scenes deal.
But why was there no TV programme prepared to air the truth about the way that Blair and his colleagues reneged on a clear promise and betrayed the voters who put them into power?
When Tony Blair's Labour politicians roared into power they did so promising to bring trust and honesty back into politics. Gone, they said, were the Tory days of sleaze and corruption.
Millions of voters believed the rhetoric; relieved and delighted and ready to believe that the country would be, at last, in the hands of decent men and women.
But it was a trick.
The 'new' Labour government turned out to be no better than the government provided by the old Tory party. If an honest man truly is the noblest work of God then the Labour Party showed that it was a largely ignoble creation.
Both before and after the 1997 election the Labour government consistently claimed that it was offering a new, honest, trustworthy alternative. On the 2nd July 1997, speaking in the House of Commons, Tony Blair said: "When we make promises we will keep them."
In the end the success or failure of the anti-hunting bill wasn't about hunting or even animal rights. It was about integrity, honesty, trust and truth -- all values which seemed to mean nothing to a Labour government which seemed to have 'hypocrisy' as its watchword.
I hated Margaret Thatcher's government. But at least we knew where we stood with her.
The failure to take the opportunity to ban hunting was not the only way in which the Labour government betrayed voters and animals.
In a pre-election leaflet entitled 'New Labour, New Britain', Tony Blair MP, the Labour leader, and Elliot Morley MP, claimed that theirs was the only party with firm policies on animal issues.
"Labour has consistently shown itself as the only part to trust on issues of animal welfare," they cried.
In the leaflet Blair and Morley claimed that they would support a Royal Commission "to review the effectiveness and justification of animal experiments, and to examine alternatives".
When the Labour Party was desperate to win votes, Elliot Morley, the Labour Party's Spokesman for Animal Welfare, writing on behalf of Tony Blair, told me that the Labour Party was "proposing a Royal Commission to investigate the claims that animals need to be used and to recommend on alternatives".
Morley told me that the Labour Party was committed to seeing an end to animal experiments.
Now it seems to me that was just a cynical ploy from the Labour Party to get votes.
A few months after Labour took power The Lord Williams of Mostyn, the Labour Party's Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, told me that he did not believe that a Royal Commission into the use of animals in experiments was necessary. (It was shortly afterwards that another Labour Minister, Alun Michael MP, taking a slightly different approach, told me that the Labour party had never said when a Royal Commission would be introduced.)
Blair and his chums quickly proved themselves to be as contemptible as any Tory politicians in recent history.
Before the election the Labour Party had warned the electors that the Tories were planning to take money from pensioners. Within weeks of gaining power the Labour Party had grabbed millions from tomorrow's pensioners -- skilfully removing around 18% from the incomes of future pensioners. It was a massive smash and grab raid on pensions which was designed to pay for cheap voter pleasing gimmicks.
Before the election I warned that I did not trust Blair and his cronies. But even I felt sick at heart at the way they callously threw aside the promises they made. It seemed to me that to the Labour government 'trust' was just a meaningless five letter word that could be converted into 'votes'.
The Labour Party claimed to be better and more honest than the Tories. But at least the Tories never made promises on animal issues which they didn't intend to keep.
When I asked John Major's Conservative government to tell me what they would do for animals if they won the election I received a reply from Douglas Hogg, Minister of Agriculture which was brutally honest.
"We recognise the enormous economic contribution...that field sports make to rural economy," said Hogg.
No vote catching promises there. The Tories didn't offer animal lovers anything much. But at least pro-animal campaigners knew where they stood.
Blair and his Labour Party cronies cynically made great promises which they rightly believed would help them win power.
And after winning the election they ignored those promises.
Yet More Betrayals
The betrayals have continued. Hunting and animal experiments were by no means the only area where the Labour government reneged on pre-election promises.
In the pro-animal leaflet designed to recruit support for the Labour Party before the election Tony Blair and Elliot Morley promised voters that, if elected, they would "put an immediate stop to badger culling". No perhaps. No maybe. No get outs. A straight promise.
"Labour," they boasted, "is the only party with carefully researched policies and the political will to carry them out." When, in August 1997, I asked Morley if they had stopped badger culling he wrote back and told me: "all badger removal operations in new areas have been suspended since the election".
(Note the phrase 'badger removal operations' instead of the simpler and more accurate 'badger killing'. I was amazed how quickly the Labour government had slipped into the glib gobbledegook bureauspeak of Orwell's 1984. They manage to make it sound as though they were moving the badgers to better accommodation -- rather than killing them.)
I immediately wrote back and asked Morley to define the phrase: 'new areas'.
Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State at the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, told me that the Labour Party had: "suspended the start of any new badger removal operations in areas where these have not taken place in recent years...this policy...will remain in place until Professor Krebs has completed his review."
Professor John Krebs was appointed by the Conservative government to "undertake an independent scientific review into bovine TV in cattle and badgers."
The Labour Party hadn't just broken yet another direct promise (to stop killing badgers) but they were trying to cover it up with governmentspeak. What they were saying was that they had stopped killing badgers except in places where they were already killing badgers!
In their pre-election leaflet -- designed to win votes -- the Labour Party had clearly promised: "We will, furthermore, conduct a full review of the question of badgers and bovine TB and put an immediate stop to badger culling pending the outcome of that review."
Note the words "immediate stop to badger culling". No mention of "new areas" when they were trying to get votes.
I also asked Morley to comment on a report I had received that it cost the taxpayer £2,900 to kill each badger. It seemed fair to say that the state organised mass murder of harmless and beautiful creatures was extraordinarily expensive as well as brutal and pointless.
Morley didn't comment on this figure but in two letters to me he moaned that: "no government has given such high priority to animal welfare" and claimed that Labour will be: "publishing a consultation paper on options for change".
No one in the Labour government seemed to understand that the voters did not want consultation papers, new promises, sweet talk or more Labour Party rhetoric. They just wanted the Labour Party to stick to the promises they had made before the election -- promises which were abandoned as soon as the Labour Party acquired their Ministerial seats, cars and salaries.
Here is a summary of the pre-election promises which the Labour government has broken:
Before the election Labour promised that they would ensure that an anti-hunting bill would get all the Parliamentary time it needed to become law. After the election they changed their minds.
- Before the election Labour said they would hold a Royal Commission into animal experimentation. After the election they decided that a Royal Commission wasn't necessary.
- Before the election Labour said they would immediately suspend licences for hunting on Forestry Commission. After the election they said they'd hold a review.
- Before the election Labour promised an immediate stop to official badger killing. After the election they said they would allow it to carry on. In 1998 it became known that the Labour government had authorised the killing of badgers on a scale never before known in Britain. The Labour government decided to kill all the badgers in whole areas of British countryside.
- Before the election Labour announced itself totally opposed to fur farming and promised to take action to end it. After the Election Labour extended the licensing of fur farms for a further three years.
The Labour Party seems to believe it can ruthlessly and callously ignore its pre-election promises on animals because there aren't enough voters who really care about animals.
But there is also something else at stake here.
If the Labour Party is prepared to ignore its promises about animals simply because it thinks it can get away with it isn't it likely that it may also ignore its promises about the NHS, education and other issues that affect humans more directly?
Denials and Defences
Voters did not trust the Conservatives in 1997. Years of abuse of power, corruption, deceit and arrogance had alienated the electorate. But, largely perhaps because they knew relatively little about them, they did trust the Labour Party.
However, in the months which followed their victory in 1997 Labour Party politicians worked hard to distance themselves from the vote catching pre-election promises they had made -- and which, because they had been believed, had undoubtedly helped them gain power.
When, in the months following their victory, I began to put pressure on the Labour Party to stick to those pre-election promises I was startled when I found that instead of being embarrassed about their broken promises the Labour Party was actually trying to deny that the promises had ever been made at all!
When a reader protested to Elliot Morley about Labour's broken promises Morley wrote: "I'm afraid you have been misinformed. Labour is implementing all its election pledges concerning animals. I never said at any time to Vernon Coleman that Labour could stop all animal experiments."
(In a pre-election letter to me Morley said that the Labour Party was committed to an "end to animal experiments". And, of course, the Labour Party had promised to support an anti-hunting bill.)
"You should be aware that Vernon Coleman seems more interested in attacking the Labour government than promoting the welfare of animals," wrote Morley.
"I assume it was for that reason he recently circulated a private letter I sent him before the election to pro-blood sports Tory MPs..."
(The letter to which Morley refers was sent to me as a newspaper columnist. It was, I assume, intended to help recruit support for the Labour Party. It was certainly not a 'private' letter. And as Morley knew I sent copies to all MPs.)
"He (VC) has also mislead [sic] you and you need to be very wary about anything he says," says the brass nerved Morley, presumably following the philosophy that the best form of defence is attack.
Many months, and many broken promises later, Labour were still at it. "Ministers who are dealing with animal welfare issues have demonstrated the will to put into practice in government the principles which we promoted in Opposition," wrote Home Office Minister Alun Michael MP in a letter to me dated 30th September 1998.
Even now, after re-reading the letter many times I still find it difficult that any one, presumably claiming to be sane, could possibly make such a statement.
Does Alun Michael seriously believe what he wrote?
And did he expect me to believe it?
The Greatest Modern Sin
Millions of people believe that we cannot have a kind and decent society until we are kind to all those -- including animals -- who are weaker than us and who are dependent upon us.
Millions believe that animal abuse is the greatest and most common modern sin in our society. Like me they believe that human power, wisdom and strength come with responsibilities, and that when we abdicate from those responsibilities we demean ourselves.
Thousands of people who voted for Tony Blair -- and who did so because they believed they could trust him -- were shell-shocked. Within the first few year of Labour taking office I received sackfuls of letters from voters who were angry, confused, bewildered and bitter. Many left the Labour Party. Thousands swore that they would never vote for Blair or the Labour Party again.
The Labour Party offered many people hope that politicians might once again prove to be honest and trustworthy people. Blair was idealised as the man who would lift Excalibur and lead Britain on into the twenty first century with pride and hope and passion.
But the Labour Party will go down in history as just another pack of politicians prepared to do anything necessary to obtain power. 'New Labour New Lies' would seem to be an appropriate slogan for the Labour Party in future.
I believe that historians will look back upon the Labour Party of the late 1990s as the party which finally destroyed public trust in politicians; the politicians who established for ever that politicians' promises have no value whatsoever; the politicians who finally proved that truth has no place in politics.
Tony Blair did to the voters who trusted him almost exactly what Bill Clinton is alleged to have done to Monica Lewinsky.
Many now believe that the Labour government has turned completely against those who believe in animal issues. "We're no worse than the Tories," say Labour politicians, clearly failing to understand that this is rather akin to a bank robber trying to excuse what he has done by pointing to someone else who has robbed a bank.
Free Speech Denied
In the summer of 1998, in an astonishing denial of free speech, the Labour government banned a rally where I intended to describe the government's broken promises on animal issues. I was stopped from attending the rally by a government authorised police road block.
"Blair and Labour betrayed us," said one animal lover. "They will betray everyone. No one should ever trust Blair or Labour again."
"You can't trust Tony Blair," chanted protestors at a rally in Trafalgar Square in the summer of 1998.
Labour And The Rich
When the Labour Party broke its pre-election promise to ban hunting there was much criticism of the fact that some members of the Labour Party were known to be close to Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles -- both of whom were known to be enthusiastic supporters of hunting.
But these were not the only notable links between the Labour Party and the rich.
Within eighteen months of first taking office it slowly becoming clear just how much the Labour Party had become dependent upon, and beholden to, rich donors. It also became clear that the Labour Party had deliberately set out to woo new donors (and to obtain their money) by flattering them and asking for policy advice.
Many of the Labour Party's financial backers had, it emerged, been given key government roles. Fighting a media intensive general election had cost the Labour Party £26 million and had left it with a massive debt of over £3.6 million.
On 1st September 1998 I wrote to Tony Blair, leader of the Labour government, saying: "I was interested to read about the number of businessmen who have given money to the government and who have subsequently been given key government roles. I would like to have a key government role in the area of animal welfare, so that I can play a more active part in encouraging the government to stick to its clear pre-election promises on issues such as hunting and animal experimentation. What size of donation would you consider appropriate? I very much look forward to hearing from you."
Sadly, I did not receive a reply.
Perhaps I was not subtle enough. Perhaps I should have just popped round to Downing Street with a paper bag full of used £20 notes.
How And Why Animal Abusers Are Winning The Battle
"You're not on your way to success until the newspapers call you nuts, cranks and liars. "
Control Of The Media
The government does not want pro-animal campaigners to win and to threaten the status quo. It will do everything it can to make sure that pro-animal campaigns fail. By controlling the media, using force (through the police), using techniques such as marginalisation and, when necessary, simply removing the right to free speech, the government is determined to keep the upper hand.
Traditional forms of protest (such as marching in the streets with banners) are now no longer effective, unless the turn out is so huge that the government begins to worry about lost votes. (The pro-hunting rally held in London in 1997 is believed to have been big enough to influence the government.) Power is no longer about physical property, or even about wealth. It is more about how much media attention can be controlled.
It seems to me to be very clear that a government which is prepared to spend millions of pounds making sure that there is a huge police presence at every animal rights event (to make it clear to the world at large that pro-animal protestors are a dangerous bunch, to intimidate those who can be intimidated and to physically prevent some people reaching or speaking at protest sites) will spend public money suppressing the public's legal right to protest and will put a great deal of effort into controlling the media.
No Time For Values Or Policies
Political 'spin' is not a new concept. Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, was an early mass-media manipulator and image manager who would have found easy employment with the Labour Party in Britain today. Goebbels understood that the spin doctor's job is not just to create a positive image for his client but also to avoid unfavourable publicity. Damage limitation through news management is vital -- particularly when image is all there is. The Labour Party is the first political party in Britain to be built like a Hollywood film sets -- all front and no substance.
Tony Blair and his Labour Party colleagues were the first political leaders in Britain to really understand how power can be obtained and retained through media manipulation. It was, I believe, because of this understanding that the Labour government has worshipped so dutifully at the Church of St Rupert of Murdoch; the new twentieth century Sun King.
The Labour Party has very successfully controlled the media in Britain -- partly through a series of headline catching promises, partly through judicious leaking of image boosting information, partly through using the old Nazi trick of distracting attention from one story by providing another story (Goebbels successfully drew attention away from the Holocaust by beginning a media campaign drawing attention to British atrocities in India and Palestine) and partly through doing financial deals with the media barons. ("Print good stuff about us and we'll make sure you don't have to worry about the Monopolies and Mergers Commission").
The Labour Party has recognised that journalists need crises to dramatise the news (and to sell newspapers or attract viewers) while politicians need to seem to be responding to crises. Neither politicians nor journalists really care about whether or not the crises are solved. They are interested solely in the short term. Problems are not worth reporting until they become crises which can be dramatised. And politicians only react when a crisis has already developed. (Politicians often use crises to further extend their own power. When terrorists set off a bomb politicians often respond to the crisis by introducing rapidly drafted new laws which give them more power.)
Naturally, a government which only acts in a crisis never has time to study values or to make any meaningful public policies. Modern politicians, as exemplified by the Labour Party, always react and respond rather than lead.
It is true that money talks -- the problem is that it doesn't always tell the truth.
Modern politicians often do deals with media magnates who are far more likely to have links with animal abusers than with pro-animal campaigners. The proprietor of the Daily Whatsit may not actually have a potted meat factory in the basement but he is quite likely to have financial links with companies which are dependent upon animal abuse. There is no real money to be made out of campaigning for animals and so there is no chance of a proprietor being manipulated or persuaded by any such link.
Politicians want publicity which draws attention towards their promises, and their apparent good intentions, and away from their failures and their broken promises. Journalists and their editors want eye catching headlines. The relationship between politicians and the media bosses is a symbiotic one: everyone involved benefits.
A Nation Of Couch Potatoes
Most modern homes have more media related equipment today than a major news room would have had less than a decade ago. It is not uncommon to find a suburban home with a satellite dish, computer, modem, fax machine, photocopier and mobile telephone.
But those who control the media still control the world because most people are entirely passive -- they are 'couch potatoes'; they do not take an active part in the media revolution. Most people simply stare at the television unquestioningly. They rarely even listen to what is said. (Media specialists who advise people on how to use television will warn that it is only possible to get across one thought in a single programme. They therefore encourage their clients to repeat the same notion for as long as they are on the air -- and to ignore the questions of the interviewer.)
Most people simply sit back and allow themselves to be fed information and views that their corporate and political masters wish them to be fed.
Sadly, it is difficult to underestimate the intelligence of the average human being. A recent survey in the US showed that nearly half of all Americans think that human beings were created by god within the last 10,000 years. (They probably also think that god was American, a burger-eating, country & western fan and lived in Texas.) Whether you favour the theory of evolution or the idea of creation this shows a remarkable lack of knowledge of history and is, I suspect, symptomatic of an equally remarkable lack of curiosity. (Even more extraordinary is the fact that a quarter of American college graduates -- who, one might have assumed to be a little better educated -- believe that humans were created by god within the last 10,000 years.)
Children have, it is true, learned to interact with the media technology but, on the whole, they restrict their interacting to playing computer games or surfing the net in search of pornography.
The Court Of Power
We have to fight our battle in what Marshall McLuhan described as "the real court of power, the media". That is, of course, the court of power which the establishment uses. They know that perception is everything and that the myth is often the reality.
Most people trustingly believe everything they read in their daily newspaper or see on television. This demonstrates an innocence which no doubt delights the authorities. The truth is that everything which appears in newspapers or on television has been carefully edited to satisfy the prejudices of the owners and their political allies.
I truly believe that the best and most honest, sources of information these days are small independent publishers and privately published newsletters which do not have any exclusive or close links with outside commercial companies. Such publications may contain bias and prejudices but at least the bias and the prejudices belong to the authors and publishers rather than to some outside source. The ordinary reader is today most likely to obtain access to the genuine, underlying realities behind the 'news' through privately published newsletters and small presses.
Television: The Low Point
Television is probably the worst offender in the media.
Have you ever wondered how news crews so often happen to be in the right place at the right time when something newsworthy happens?
There are two explanations for this apparently inexplicable anomaly.
First, television stations are frequently given advance notice of events which politicians or others regard as newsworthy. News shows on television frequently broadcast pre-packaged interviews which they have been given by companies or political parties. Interviewers are told to toe the line and to be polite if they want to get any exclusive interviews in the future.
Second, if an impromptu event is missed the news crew can always recreate it. It is not unknown for TV producers to recreate news items they have missed or been unable to film.
Goebbels believed that Nazi media campaigns did not have to stand up to close examination as long as they were superficially convincing. This is, of course, exactly the same philosophy which is espoused both by the supporters of vivisection (who use the technique of intellectual terrorism to persuade people that animal experiments are essential and potentially life saving) and politicians (who simply make new promises when it becomes apparent that the public no longer believes their old promises, rightly assuming that most people are trusting and do not believe that even politicians could possibly dare to lie all the time).
Goebbels believed that primitive arguments were the most effective and that non rational techniques of persuasion were of vital importance.
As I have already pointed out I believe that the Labour government did a number of secret deals with significant parts of the British media before the last election ("you be nice to us and we'll be nice to you") and so it is hardly surprising that most parts of the British media have been enormously sympathetic, understanding, forgiving and loyal to a party which has broken promises like most people breathe air. I believe it is the existence of the secret deals which explains why the media has largely failed to report or comment on or criticise those broken promises.
To a certain extent this has not made a great deal of difference as far as animal issues are concerned. Broadsheet newspapers, TV stations and radio stations have obeyed commercial dictates and followed a strictly pro-animal abuse agenda for many years.
Even the language used in broadsheet newspapers seems designed to affect the way in which readers respond to what they read. While writing this book, for example, I read about mink kept four to a cage in a farm where mink are bred to be turned into fur coats. The journalist who wrote the article described the caged mink as 'snuggling' up to one another in their tiny cages. The word 'snuggling' suggests cosy and comfortable informality. The reality is that the mink probably didn't much have choice about whether they 'snuggled' up to one another or not.
It is rare indeed for any broadsheet newspaper to publish any pro-animal sentiments.
Ignorance And Misinformation
Most people say nothing about cruelty to animals for three reasons.
First, they often don't know what goes on in laboratories, in abattoirs and on farms and in other centres of animal abuse.
Second, they don't believe that animals are capable of suffering.
Third, they do believe that using animals -- even if unpleasant -- is essential. They falsely believe that without eating meat they will die. They falsely believe that if experiments are not performed on animals then their children will die slow and painful deaths.
The key factor here is, of course, ignorance. But the ignorance is compounded by misinformation.
Keep On Taking The Tabloids
Over the years tabloid newspapers have always been far more willing to publish pro-animal campaign stories. This is for two reasons. First, the so called redtop tabloid newspapers, having much larger circulations, are less dependent on advertising revenue and can take a tougher line with big, powerful corporations. Second, the popular newspapers (which have a large readership) are more likely to publish stories which their editors feel might appeal to their readers rather than their advertisers.
This revelation may come as something of a surprise to many of those pro-animal campaigners who routinely buy and read broadsheet newspapers in the mistaken belief that they are more likely to provide an honest and fair interpretation of the news than tabloid newspapers.
Broadsheet newspapers -- having smaller budgets and more space to fill, as well as a smaller inclination to upset powerful commercial advertisers -- are far more likely to publish pre-packaged press releases and one sided articles glorifying animal research, genetic engineering or some other wonder of science than are the tabloids.
Broadsheets, although often vapid, bland and unimaginative, are even more likely to bend, spin and manipulate the news for their own purposes than are the tabloids.
Tabloids are often regarded as being unbelievable compared to the mainstream media, but if the same story appears in a tabloid and a broadsheet newspaper, and there are factual differences between the two stories, then it is safe to assume that the story in the tabloid is the accurate one.
I am not suggesting that tabloids always tell the truth. But they certainly tell the truth more often than the broadsheets (or 'unpopulars' as they are sometimes known). There is, indeed, a strong argument to be made that real journalism (including investigative journalism) now only exists in the tabloid newspapers.
I first learned the truth about the broadsheets a couple of decades or so ago when I was invited to write an article about 24 hours in the life of a hospital casualty department for a weekly magazine published by a broadsheet newspaper. The 24 hours I spent in the hospital casualty department was relatively quiet and the article I wrote described the air of expectation, the boredom, and the waiting rather than the excitement, the violence, the fear, the blood and the death that the editors had obviously expected.
Disappointed by the lack of action the magazine editor told me to go back, spend more time in the casualty department and wait for something exciting to happen. He wanted me to 'create' an exciting but 'fake' 24 hour period. In my innocence I was horrified and refused to do as he asked. Naturally, the article never appeared in print. What I did not realise then was that this was normal. Reality is often just not exciting enough.
What many readers forget is that the sole function of the modern media is to make money; it will do this more easily by amusing and diverting readers and viewers than by providing them with genuine information.
Broadsheets pretend to be eager to provide their readers with the truth but in reality they often stagger from day to day alternately scaring and then reassuring their readers. Scientific research is regularly and widely misused in order to help corporations and politicians to fulfil their objectives. Many people still believe that the words 'scientific research' guarantee the quality and provenance of the information which accompanies it. Sadly this simply isn't true. Large companies know that they can obtain whatever scientific results they want merely by hiring the right scientists. Scientific fraud is commonplace even in academic circles and so it is hardly surprising that when a company tells its highly paid scientists to find evidence proving that its new product is safe the scientists will find a way to do what they are told. Nearly all published and promoted scientific research these days is patently self-serving.
Surveys and polls are another easy way to manipulate the media. Ask the right questions and you can get exactly the results you want. Concocted and inaccurate surveys taint our perceptions of the truth and distort public debates. Once a survey has found its way into the public consciousness it is exceedingly difficult (or even impossible) to remove it.
And so vivisectionists will conduct surveys proving that scientists, doctors and members of the public all think that animal experiments are essential. They do this by asking the right questions.
For example, if you ask the question: "Do you agree that experiments on rats should be continued so that doctors can find new treatments to help save the lives of children with leukaemia?" the majority of the people being questioned will respond as the questioner wants them to respond.
The broadsheet papers are written largely by pro-establishment conservatives and they are written for people with many well-established, traditional prejudices. These people have, of course, already been taken in by the 'let's keep abusing animals' arguments. (Indeed, they often have a personal financial interest in maintaining and spreading these arguments. For example, many medical and science journalists do additional -- and frequently well paid work -- for magazines and newspapers which obtain financial support from the drug industry.)
The broadsheets trivialise arguments just as much as the tabloids but they tend to do it less skilfully, with less flair and with less fairness. The tabloids may appear to be hysterical but they are more likely to be independent and they are, therefore, more likely to publish material which is sympathetic to the pro-animal cause.
The broadsheet newspapers are, I believe, more likely to be edited by pro-hunting animal abusers and it is important to remember that, because they do not pay as well as the tabloids, they may be staffed by second-rate journalists, writers and columnists who are far less intelligent than their tabloid counterparts.
News Into Drama
Boring political news was first turned into dramatic and exciting and readable material by Joseph Pulitzer in the US. In 1883 he bought the New York World and started turning straight news stories into drama. He gave dull stories plots and turned dull characters into actors in the dramas. He introduced conflict and ensured that his stories were packed with colourful details. He made his stories even more dramatic by giving them loud, clever, irresistible headlines, illustrating them with photographs and adding graphics too. He (and his newspaper) turned institutional minutiae into emotional, sensational and immediate news.
In recent decades the growth of television (and, in particular, of 24 hour news television) has increased the need for drama in the news. And since camera crews can't be everywhere at once it has meant that the news has become steadily more and more stage managed. Lobbyists, special interest groups and big business PR departments have all learned the way to play the game -- and have all learned how to put forward their own versions of reality.
Image makers for big corporations use a vast armoury of tricks to deflect criticism, and to improve the public perception of their products and their companies. Most big corporations will go along with whichever politicians are in power. Opposing governments has never been a good way to get (or stay) rich.
The press is used to promote public illusions and to help maintain private privilege. Appearance and reality are today further apart than at any time in history.
The media today has, by its willingness to take part in this gross deceit, corrupted democracy, enabled politicians to lie and survive, and cheated the public.
Newspapers, radio and television disseminate the news they are given but they do not disseminate the truth. The propaganda is spread faithfully but the substance is ignored. Real, underlying conflict is glossed over.
Subtleties Are Important
The way in which the news is presented can have a tremendous impact on the way it is received. Apparently small, subtle changes can make a huge difference to the way readers and viewers form their opinions.
For example, people who read a headline which says "Animal experiments are worthless" are less likely to believe that animal experiments are worthless than are people who read a headline which says "Are animal experiments worthless?"
And, curiously, research has shown that a denial in a headline doesn't make much difference to the way in which those who read it will perceive it.
So, for example, most people who read the headline "Vivisectors deny that animal experiments are useless" will, nevertheless, believe that animal experiments are useless.
People tend to believe what they read in a headline wherever they read it. Even if they see it in a newspaper for which they have little or no respect the chances are high that they will still believe it. People who read the underlying story are unlikely to be convinced by the facts if they have already read a headline. And people who only read the headline will, of course, go away with the headline's message firmly implanted in their minds.
Many people say that they do not read newspapers at all. Or that they ignore certain classes of newspaper. Unless they never go into newsagents shops those people are deluding themselves. Research done in the US has shown that people who read (or glance at) headlines, but don't read the stories accompanying those headlines, will believe the messages in the headlines. Mass, subliminal messages can easily be spread through newspaper headlines.
It Is Essential To Make People Think
In order to produce change it is necessary to create phrases which make people think.
People tend to listen to, take note of, and to remember rhetoric and promises rather than facts. To ignore these sad facts is to say 'no' to the possibility of power.
One of the most effective ways to have an impact is to take two words which don't normally go together (for example the words 'smart' and 'drugs') and then use them to make a phrase. The phrase 'smart drugs' is eye and mind catching because the combination of these two words is thought provoking.
My own favourite phrase is 'intellectual terrorism'. I coined this phrase some years ago and use it to describe the actions of the animal abusers when they try to frighten people into accepting that vivisection is essential by telling them that if animal experiments are stopped their children may die of terrible diseases.
By accusing those who use this argument of 'intellectual terrorism' we quickly and easily put them on the defensive. Even more important is the fact that such phrases, once used, tend to stick in the listener's brain. Once there they are difficult to remove.
The phrase 'animal abuser', which I have used throughout this book to describe anyone who opposes animal rights, also has a powerful impact and should, I believe, be used widely by those who want to further the rights of animals. Anyone who opposes animal rights can safely and accurately be described as an animal abuser.
Some time ago I was surprised when I received a furious telephone call from an editor who had on his desk something I had written. The item which had made him so upset was a short piece in which I made the point that butchers shops which display skinless corpses are offensive to large parts of the community. The editor's complaint was about the entirely accurate phrase 'skinless corpse' which he said he found deeply offensive.
The lesson here is simple: we should use the phrase 'skinless corpse' as often as possible since it reminds meat eaters that what they are eating was once a living, sentient being.
(The long established comments "I don't eat anything with eyes" and "I don't eat my friends" are provocative and useful. I also like to tell people that "I don't eat humans or animals".)
We Have To Shock
We have to be more prepared to shock if we are to combat the media manipulators who are controlling our lives (and enabling the animal abusers to stay in business).
For example, it is widely believed by the British people that Princess Diana was murdered. Polls show that around 98% of the British population believe that she was killed by the British secret service. Tony Blair was Prime Minister when Diana died and the Labour Party was in power. That's all we have to say. We can safely let people draw their own conclusions.
Many pro-animal campaigners try to be tactful when complaining about the way other nations treat animals. The time for tact has gone. Diplomacy has got us nowhere. The Spanish people claim to be the most religious in Europe. And yet they treat animals in a way that makes it clear that they are still barbarians. They honour their matadors as heroes. We should not be shy about describing matadors (and others involved in the bullfight business) as little more than cowardly and overpaid abattoir workers. The Spanish depend very much on the income they gain from British tourists. Let us try to persuade holidaymakers to boycott Spain. A similar, tough approach can be used against other nations where cruelty to animals is endemic.
Use New Techniques To Spread Messages
If you bring together two images which are not usually thought of as being associated with one another then the brain of the person who is fed the resultant composite image will be shocked. The owner of the brain will find it difficult to get rid of the image. This can be useful because shocking and surprising images often make the reader think carefully. Research has shown that images which do not fit the norm require the creation of special new neural pathways just to be evaluated. And so shocking and startling images often last for a long time -- as well as making the reader more vulnerable and open to other new ideas.
It was for this reason that in my book Fighting for Animals (published by the European Medical Journal) I used beautiful pictures of animals in serene surroundings to illustrate hideous quotes from vivisection research papers.
When talking or writing about important issues it can also help to try putting a vision within a vision. ("I was in my car, driving from London to Birmingham, when I found myself thinking back to a time when, in 1987 I...") This is an extremely effective way to imprint messages on the listeners brain when telling them something you want them to remember. (But beware -- this technique is extremely effective. US President Reagan is reported to have once tried using this technique but ended up putting himself into a trance and losing his train of thought completely.)
We have to be prepared to manage the news more effectively.
The myth about AIDS and heterosexuals was devised because gay activists realised that they would get nowhere if AIDS remained a gay disease. I remember doing a radio broadcast with a gay activist after I had written a number of articles arguing that since AIDS is primarily a blood borne disease it is far more likely to be transmitted via sexual activities (such as anal intercourse) which result in bleeding than it is to be transmitted by other forms of sexual intercourse. After the broadcast the campaigner agreed with me that I was absolutely right and told me that he and other gays had agreed that in order to get funding for AIDS research they had to turn AIDS into a disease which was perceived as being a threat to heterosexuals as well as a threat to homosexuals.
The 'AIDS kills heterosexuals' campaign was so convincing and so effective (despite the absence of supporting scientific evidence) that most journalists and politicians ended up believing it. For several years I was widely vilified in the press and on TV for having dared to tell the truth about the disease. (Many TV producers allegedly making open-minded programmes about AIDS refused to let me onto their programmes unless I promised not to discuss the possibility that AIDS might not be a major threat to heterosexuals. The result was, of course, that the myth was strengthened still further.) I can understand why gay activists did what they did. And it was an extremely effective manipulation.
Pro-animal campaigners also have to learn how to manage the news.
Vivisectionists will frequently argue that animal experiments save patients lives. They will refer to individual cases of patients alleged to have been saved by animal experimentation. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. No animal experiment has ever been responsible for saving or even helping to save a patient's life. We have to counter these absurd (but often believed) claims by referring to individual patients who have been killed or injured by misleading animal experimentation. This isn't difficult to do. (Readers will find case histories of patients who were killed by animal experimentation in my book How To Stop Your Doctor Killing You, published by the European Medical Journal).
Meat trade promoters sell their product by warning consumers that without meat and meat products they will become vitamin or mineral deficient.
We have to counter this absurd lie with the truth: that eating meat is unhealthy and that those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet are much less likely to become deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.
Perception Or Truth
As any student of history will confirm the reality is that the truth is far less important than the reader's perception of the truth. Naturally, the media manipulators take full advantage of this. They know that headline readers tend to believe a headline whatever the underlying facts may be.
So, when politicians and cosmetic companies agreed to a modest reduction in the number of animals used in experiments headlines appeared which suggested that animal experiments were being stopped altogether. In reality the change meant that the millions of animals being tortured and killed would be reduced by between 250 and 300 a year but that wasn't the impression given when the story appeared in the newspapers.
The story as it was run benefited three groups of people. The cosmetics companies looked good. The Labour party politicians managed to grab the glory and look good (and they succeeded in distracting attention away from the fact that they had failed to create a Royal Commission to investigate the scientific value of vivisection -- as they had promised to do before they were elected to power). And editors had a grabby headline which helped them sell newspapers. Very few readers who saw the headlines realised that hardly anything had changed.
This was a perfect example of perception winning over truth -- and an excellent example of how the Labour Party manages its affairs. Everyone involved knew that the headlines were self aggrandising manipulations -- created simply for the way they would benefit businesses and politicians and distract attention from the real issues and the real truths -- but no one cared about that.
The Labour Party has created a culture of deceit, trickery and lying and the media has been a willing helper.
It is a grave mistake to assume that truth alone is enough to enable us to win on behalf of the animals. Sadly, many aspects of the truth are irrelevant. You may or may not agree with it, but in political terms the important thing in this world is perception -- not truth. (Though, of course, if the truth is widely publicised it can have an important effect on perception.)
The fact is that reality has not helped us win freedom and respect for animals. For centuries now pro-animal campaigners have been relying solely on the truth -- and getting nowhere. One problem is that the truth is often unpleasant and unpalatable. Many people do not want -- and cannot cope with -- the truth.
For example, pro-animal campaigners have often published horrific photographs of animals in distress. Many books and leaflets have been published showing pictures of animals in cages or laboratories. But sensitive and caring individuals find such photographs too awful to look at. And, by definition, insensitive and uncaring individuals simply do not care.
Pro-animal campaigners have published books and numerous articles proving that meat causes cancer, and that animal experiments are not just worthless but are actually a hazard to human health. But time and time again the truth has been defeated by perception. The lies told by the animal abusers have consistently defeated the truths told by the pro-animal campaigners.
Historians know well that history is all about myths and perceptions and has very little to do with the real truth. We have to be aware that although the truth is important, and will eventually bring light to the darkest corner, perception is often more important than truth when we are trying to change the present and improve the future.
The Rope A Dope Technique
If you are attacked by a vivisectionist or other animal abuser then you should try not to attack back. You should make yourself the underdog. You should try not to rise to the bait. Remain dignified.
I remember doing a morning radio programme with a presenter called Melvyn Bragg some years ago. I was invited onto the programme to put the anti vivisection case but Bragg (who later became 'famous' among pro-animal campaigners for expressing the, in my view, bizarre argument that since animals are not sentient creatures we can happily hunt them) gave me a really hard time.
I refused to get angry or to walk off the programme (although the temptation was great) and afterwards the BBC was almost submerged with mail attacking Bragg for not letting me speak and put my case. A few days later a BBC programme based upon listeners letters was devoted almost entirely to protests.
I call this the 'rope a dope' technique after the technique used by Muhammed Ali when fighting George Foreman for the world heavyweight boxing crown. The fight took place in very hot conditions. Ali stayed on the ropes for several rounds allowing Foreman to attack him and use up all his energy. Then, when Foreman was exhausted and had thrown all his punches, Ali struck back. (In my case, of course, it was the listeners -- not me -- who struck back.)
It is important to remember that the attacking interviewer wants you to respond by losing your temper. What sort of programme would an investigative TV reporter make if the crooks he chased talked to him calmly, defended themselves, denied his allegations and then slowly walking away?
Would modern India exist if Gandhi had hit out at the people who vilified him?
We Have To Work Together
The real tragedy is that those human beings who protest on behalf of animals would have probably won battle victories some years ago (and maybe even a victory in the major war against animal cruelty) if they had worked together.
But pro-animal campaigners fight one another even more fiercely than they fight the animal abusers.
During the years in which I have been fighting for animals I have lost count of the number of lies which have been told about me by people who describe themselves as caring about animals. There are some individuals, allegedly members of the animal rights movement, who are apparently driven by little other than vanity, and who spend most of their time (and the money they can raise from others) vilifying those who put their heart and soul into fighting for animals. (One of the many absurd examples of this concerned my Fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine. I had remained a Fellow of the RSM because I felt that it added extra credibility when I was debating the issue of vivisection with those who supported animal experimentation. But at one point I was being challenged by the Royal Society of Medicine because a publisher had mentioned my Fellowship on the cover of a book I had written, while at the same time I was being attacked mercilessly by alleged pro-animal campaigners for being a Fellow of an organisation which was deemed to be part of the medical establishment.)
The individuals who snipe and whinge and back stab always attack any new attempt to defeat animal abuse (though they are themselves always slow to come forward when leaflets have to be handed out, envelopes stuffed or print bills paid). They always seem quick to identify difficulties and they always concentrate on the problems not the possibilities.
But what have the sceptics got to offer which is better?
Maybe they are content with the thought that the animal abusers are a dying breed. Maybe they comfort themselves with the thought that since the animal abusers usually eat meat they will die younger of cancer, heart disease and other serious disorders. Maybe they are content to trust in the hope that vegetarians and vegans will live longer, be stronger and will eventually take over the world.
I find it impossible to take such a relaxed attitude about the cruelty which exists in our world.
Every day vivisectors around the world torture and kill one thousand animals every thirty seconds. Countless millions of animals live short miserable lives in terrible conditions so that they can be slaughtered and turned into harmburgers. Our streets are decorated with skinless corpses, hanging inside and outside butchers shops and apparently causing little or no revulsion among the nearby shoppers. Ruthless farmers, who would do anything for money, cram wild animals into tiny cages so that rich women can wander through the streets (past the butchers shops where the skinless corpses are displayed) in fur coats.
Andrew Tyler, of the organisation Animal Aid, recently reported that when two women were running an animal rights stall in London a policeman ordered them to remove a poster showing a cow on a slaughter line. "Shackled and suspended upside down by a back leg, her throat had just been stabbed by the slaughterman and blood was oozing from the wound: the daily reality in hundreds of UK killing plants. The officer said the image was 'offensive' to the public and it had to come down."
"But just along the road," Tyler reports one of the women as saying to the policeman, "there's a butcher's shop with decapitated pigs hanging on a hook in the window. All their feet have been broken and half hacked off. I find that offensive and upsetting."
The policeman did not change his mind. His mind, reported Tyler, was closed to the subject.
It is, surely, that sort of inbuilt, long-standing, prejudice; that blindness; which we should be fighting.
How much longer are we going to allow the in-fighting to continue?
Organisations such as Greenpeace have for many years been aware that good stunts which attract media attention can, and often do, have a dramatic effect on public opinion and may instigate more discussion and more debate than legal protests made through more traditional channels.
Unfortunately, media stunts may sometimes be used by, and to the advantage of, the people they were originally designed to embarrass. Political and corporate media manipulators never sleep. If they see something in a newspaper which displeases them they will talk to the editor before the next edition is printed -- and they will make sure that the story is spun to their advantage. Most big companies (and most political departments) regard communication as being just as important as policy. Many of the stories which appear in broadsheet newspapers, and on television and radio, are fed to the media by skilful public relations experts. Communications managers and public affairs directors (they used to be known as public relations people) constantly monitor everything that appears about their paymasters. If an unfavourable story appears on a TV news programme the communications manager will be on the telephone to the newsdesk in time to have the story 'corrected' for the next news broadcast.
It is worthwhile noting, incidentally, that modern journalists are often easy to push around because they rarely research their stories themselves. They often print what they have gleaned from a press release and so if the originator of the press release doesn't like their interpretation of the story they are not in a good position to resist requests for alterations. (If a gentle request for a more favourable rewrite doesn't work a lawyer will telephone or fax with a thinly veiled threat of litigation.)
In August 1998 pro-animal campaigners marched through London to a rally in Trafalgar Square held to protest about the Labour Party's failure to fulfil its pre-election promises. Several thousand angry voters joined the march and attended the demonstration and were, inevitably, joined by a small army of policemen and women (The Metropolitan Police refused to give me the numbers but my guess is that there were between 750 and 1000 police officers present and that the whole police operation, including vehicles, helicopters and so on must have cost considerably in excess of £100,000. I would be surprised if more than one arrest was made that day.)
On the same day a group of undoubtedly frustrated animal rights activists released 6,000 mink from a mink farm in the New Forest. (It seems safe to assume that, in view of the timing, one aim of the release may have been to draw attention to the Labour Party's failure to fulfil its pre-election promises on animal issues.)
The demonstration and the rally received hardly any national news coverage but the release of the mink attracted massive national coverage for several days.
The stories this action attracted (even the alleged news stories) seemed to me to be almost universally prejudiced, unbalanced and quite unfairly anti-animal.
They were used largely as an excuse to drag out hoary old pseudologic such as 'animals take no responsibilities and cannot therefore expect to be given any rights'. (I have dealt with this absurd and easily demolished claim earlier in this book).
The mink farmers and their supporters were forced into public discussion of their work (phrases such as 'the mink are harvested by gassing' may not have gone down too well with some members of the public) and the releasing of the mink did attract attention to one Labour Party broken promise (its failure to halt fur farming).
But the coverage was quickly manipulated to suit the purposes of the animal abusers. The released mink were reported to be attacking babies and family pets and to be killing wildlife. These reports, created by pro-animal abusers desperate to minimise the damage that might be done by the fact that attention had been drawn to mink farming (and the Labour Party) were designed to gain the support of animal lovers as well as everyone else.
For the animals the real tragedy is, perhaps, the fact that too many pro-animal groups seem quick to criticise and to support the animal abusers' carefully planned line of attack.
So, when the mink were released into the countryside and the animal abusers set out to limit the media damage that was likely to be done, they obtained support from animal welfare groups -- thereby dividing the pro-animal lobby very effectively.
(Just about every pro-animal demonstration I have ever attended has been condemned by one or more allegedly pro-animal groups.)
Stunts may help us win minor victories, they may make us feel that we are doing something useful but they will not help us win. Stunts are merely skirmishes in a great war. Nevertheless, it is clear that simple stunts which are genuinely newsworthy, and irresistible to the media, do attract publicity (and sometimes subsequent discussion of the relevant issues) whereas attempts to obtain discussion of those same issues through properly organised public protests are more easily ignored.
In the past civil disobedience often attracted attention and, historically, it has often resulted in action and change. Today, however, I do not believe that civil disobedience (or any form of violence) works as effectively as it used to. This is largely because of the effectiveness of the technique of marginalisation which is used by modern politicians, who are, generally speaking, much more repressive and manipulative than their predecessors.
Media stunts are much more likely to be effective than civil disobedience.
We have to develop media stunts which target the culture in which we live. For example, we could argue that the whole concept of human superiority is the ultimate form of racism in that it puts the human race above other species. A series of formal complaints to the Race Relations Board might or might not produce a useful result -- but they would certainly provoke some thought.
The Press Complaints Commission
In an article, in which I attacked hunting and animal experimentation, I warned readers that meat causes cancer. I wrote, quite accurately, that there is: "now 22 carat gold evidence available to show that people who eat meat are far more likely to get cancer and die young".
I wasn't particularly surprised when the Meat and Livestock Commission complained to Britain's Press Complaints Commission (PCC) saying: "The claims made in the article are both damaging to the industry and could be greatly disturbing to the public...".
The PCC asked for evidence supporting my statement that: "young people who eat meat are far more likely to get cancer and die young."
I sent several pages of scientific references, including a seven year study of 35,460 people, published in the journal Cancer Research. The scientists who wrote that report concluded:"it is quite clear that these results are supportive of the hypothesis that beef, meat and saturated fat or fat in general are etiologically related to colon cancer."
There isn't room here to list all the scientific references I sent in support of my claim. But the Press Complaints Commission found in favour of the Meat and Livestock Commission. They reported that the MLC: "denied that there was any evidence to link the consumption of meat with the cause of cancer".
I asked the PCC what medical or scientific proof the MLC had provided to support their claim that meat does not cause cancer.
I asked if any members of the PCC had medical qualifications.
And I asked if the PCC had hired any medical or scientific experts to look at the references I sent supporting my statement that meat does cause cancer.
I also sent the PCC photocopies of more journal articles proving that meat causes cancer.
The copies included one published in the British Medical Jour nal which stated: "previous studies...have shown a reduction in all cause, cancer and cardiovascular mortality among people who do not eat meat".
I also sent papers from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute ("animal fat, especially from red meat, is associated with an elevated risk of advanced prostate cancer"); the New England Journal of Medicine ("animal fat was positively associated with the risk of colon cancer") and the International Journal of Cancer ("frequent consumption of...red meat is a risk factor for colo-rectal cancer").
In its judgement the PCC complained that my article contained: "no acknowledgement of any opposing view".
I found that rather surprising. My original comments had been made in a newspaper column. I was hired, and paid, to present my personal opinions to my readers. It was perfectly clear that the column was not intended to offer a balanced viewpoint.
Drama critics, book reviewers, sports reporters and political commentators are not expected to acknowledge opposing views in their articles. Cookery writers who publish meat recipes are not instructed to include vegetarian recipes for vegetarians. But, according to the Press Complaints Commission, if I write an article about meat I am not allowed to state my view that meat is dangerous without reminding readers that the Meat and Livestock Commission does not agree with me. I am supposed to remember that the meat industry might suffer financial loss if I attack it. (The PCC seemed to ignore the fact that if I make statements which are false I can be sued for libel.)
It is my view that by upholding the meat industry protest the Press Complaints Commission may (if it has any influence at all) have helped to delay the dissemination of the truth and to dissuade other writers from repeating the well established fact that meat causes cancer. How many unnecessary deaths do the PCC members now have on their conscience?
(It is, incidentally, interesting to note that in a full page advertisement in the Financial Times in November 1998 it was reported that advertising bought for the Meat & Livestock Commission had won an award as one of 1998's most effective advertising campaigns. The FT advertisement included this citation: "Advertising from 1994-97 supported the meat market from a barrage of social, ethical and economic factors and the biggest ever health scare to hit any food market -- BSE. Advertising reduced the impact of these factors, slowed the rate of decline in red meat eating and in 1997 restored the market to year-on-year growth. A total media spend in the period of £36.2 million resulted in additional red meat sales of £739 million, a return of nearly 18 to 1.")
Misled, Lied To And Manipulated
The public is constantly being misled, lied to and manipulated. Most branches of the news media are unfair, inaccurate, contentious and under the control of powerful institutions which adhere faithfully to well hidden agendas.
Generally speaking, the editors of broadsheet newspapers and the producers of radio programmes and television programmes can be considered to be pro-establishment, pro status quo and pro-animal abuse. If a pro-animal campaigner is quoted on animal issues (such as vivisection) his remarks will invariably either be accompanied by some patronising or disparaging note or by disapproving comments by an alleged expert who holds an opposing (pro-animal abuse) viewpoint. On the other hand when a pro-animal abuse individual is quoted the remarks will invariably be quoted without comment, criticism or qualification.
The animal abusers have so successfully established the belief that animals are here to be used that most allegedly independent commentators find it difficult to accept that there can possibly be any alternative to animal abuse. When, on a rare radio interview I opposed the intellectual terrorism of vivisection and calmly and quietly explained why vivisection is not, never has been and never can be of any value to human beings, the allegedly independent presenter, who was perhaps aggrieved because he had been unable to destroy my arguments, ended the interview by describing me as 'controversial' and reminding the listeners that I had been 'expressing a personal view'.
Quality Of Reporting Set To Decline Still Further
I wish our news media could be forced to identify the source and sponsor of every piece of news they print. A news story which had the source of the press release printed at the bottom of it would be far more honest than the present system.
That won't happen. It would not be in the interests of the media and it would not be in the interests of the sources of the stories.
Nor will our media ever become more responsible or deliberate than they are at the moment. Speed is the very essence of the newsroom and the demand for more new information is constant and insatiable. As the number of television channels, radio stations and publications increases so the demand for more information (and for 'exclusives' or 'scoops') will also increase. Ethics and moral values will take even more of a back seat. The quality of reporting is set to decline a good deal further in the coming years.
Animal Abusers Control The Media
The animal abusers and their supporters (and I include politicians among those supporters) have successfully taken overall control of the media. If those of us who campaign on behalf of animals are to win the war against animal abuse then we have to do something non-violent but dramatic. We have to prove to the politicians, and the business leaders who approve of animal abuse, that pro-animal campaigners can no longer be ignored.
In our present climate the directions of change are managed by those who are most skilful at feeding the media with the news it needs -- and who are most skilful in manipulating whatever crises develop to their own advantage. Propagandists and lobbyists ultimately rule our world because they control both the media and the politicians.
Pro-animal campaigners constantly lose these battles because of a failure to understand how to control all aspects of the modern game. The animal abusers are more skilful at managing crises and manipulating the media and they generally win these exchanges.
Intellectual And Emotional Terrorism
One of the classic false arguments used by animal abusers is to warn anyone thinking of joining or supporting the animal rights movement in general, and the anti-vivisection campaign in particular, that if they oppose animal experiments (and are successful in calling for an end to animal experiments) they will, inevitably, be exposing themselves and their families to the risk that when they fall ill they will be deprived of life saving treatments which would have been available had scientists been allowed to continue performing animal experiments.
"Of course we all love animals," the hypocritical animal abusers will claim. "We all wish that animal experiments weren't necessary. But the sad fact is that animal experiments are essential if we are to find a cure for (and here the animal abuser will insert a popular or fashionable disease or the name of the disease of which he knows the listener is frightened or the name of the disease which he knows already affects the listener or a member of his family) then animal experiments simply must continue."
This technique, which I describe as 'intellectual terrorism', works well for the animal abusers. It frightens ordinary people who may not have access to the facts and it undoubtedly frightens many who are simply so afraid of disease and death that they will cling to any hope which is offered.
A commonly used extension of this technique is to tell anti-vivisection campaigners that if they are going to be true to their beliefs, and not take advantage of the experiments on animals which have been done, then they (and their families) have to refuse to accept any modern medical treatment.
This despicable and utterly ruthless trick, which I consider to be cruel and brutal as well as thoroughly dishonest, frightens many and puts many more off the idea of opposing animal experimentation.
In 1998 vivisectionists started to issue something which called 'Animal Research Abolition Cards'. The cards contained the following message: "To honour my belief that animal research should be abolished, I hereby pledge that: In the event of accident or emergency, I will refuse all medical treatments developed or tested on animals, including but not limited to: blood tranfusions, anaesthetics, anticoagulants, antibiotics, sutures, open heart and other types of surgery. If my child suffers from a genetic illness or other serious condition, I will not allow them to have life saving treatment developed through animal research. None of my pets shall receive any veterinary vaccine or medicine that has been developed or tested on animals."
These cards were sent to those who oppose animal experimentation suggesting that they sign them.
As I believe vivisectionists ought to know perfectly well, the evidence shows quite clearly that animal experiments are without value to doctors or patients. (Two vivisectionists once appeared on a TV programme with me where the whole issue was debated -- at the end of the programme, when viewers were asked to vote on the issue, I, who had argued that animal experiments are of no value, have never been of value and never will be of value, received 84% of the vote.)
But the creator of this card had avoided this slight technical problem by including the phrase "developed or tested on animals', thereby neatly side stepping the issue of whether animal experiments had been of any value whatsoever.
I am appalled by this specialised type of what I consider to be intellectual terrorism.
Many caring and active anti-vivisectionists have died prematurely because they have been encouraged, quite falsely, to believe that all modern medical treatments have been developed as a result of animal experimentation. Many people who care about animals do refuse essential treatment, do suffer unnecessarily (and probably do die prematurely) because they have believed this piece of nonsensical and mischievous animal abuse propaganda. For example, in December 1998 comedian and author Spike Milligan reported that his wife had died from cancer, having refused to use any known medicines that had been used in animal experimentation. "It wasn't easy for her," wrote Mr Milligan, "but she died with a clear conscience."
I have, over the years, received numerous letters from readers suffering from serious health problems telling me that they are refusing to take drugs which have been tested on animals. I usually try to write back to such correspondents and point out that my view is that since animal experiments are entirely pointless there is absolutely no need for any animal lover to refuse to take a drug which may have a beneficial effect on his or her health.
I also point out that if someone who cares about animals dies prematurely (for no good reason) then animals will be losing another champion.
I believe that those who are guilty of originating and perpetuating this type of intellectual terrorism are directly responsible for many deaths.
Deceit And Trickery
This cruel variety of pro-vivisection propaganda is based on a hypothesis that has been proved to be entirely false. All the available evidence shows (quite conclusively and, I believe, beyond argument or dispute) that animal experiments are not, never have been and never will be, of any value whatsoever to doctors or patients. I have for years successfully argued that no vivisector has ever produced any evidence which is of value. (No vivisectionist has ever beaten me in debate on this issue and these days they are so tired of defeat -- and embarrassed at having no evidence to support their outrageous contentions -- that they refuse to debate with me.)
Indeed, on the contrary, the evidence shows that the drug industry's reliance on animal experimentation when developing and testing new drugs is one of the main reasons why one in six patients in hospital are there because they have been made ill by doctors; why forty per cent of people who are given prescription drugs suffer notable and sometimes lethal side effects and why, if a patient who is receiving orthodox medical treatment develops new symptoms, the chances are that the new symptoms are caused by the treatment for the original symptoms.
Animal abusers use other types of of intellectual terrorism.
For example, a favourite trick which is often used by hunt supporters and zoo owners, is to warn that if they are forced to go out of business they will kill all the animals in their care.
"If you stop us hunting," the hunters will say, "we will have to kill all our horses and dogs."
"If you make us close down our zoo," the zoo keepers will argue, "we will have to kill the lions, the tigers, the monkeys, the elephants and all the other animals."
The animal abusers usually expose their own sense of brutality by adding an extra vicious twist to their cruelty and claiming that all this means that the pro-animal campaigners will be directly responsible for the deaths of any animals which are killed.
"We don't want to kill our animals," the hunters and zoo keepers will claim. "We love our animals," they will claim. "And if you force us to kill them their blood will be on your hands."
This is, of course, all a total nonsense.
If and when hunts and zoos are closed down it will not be necessary to kill any animals.
Control Of The Police And The Courts, Manipulation Of Justice And The End Of Freedom Of Speech
"Information is the currency of democracy "
Much unhappiness and frustration is caused by the fact that in our society the law is commonly confused with justice, liberty, freedom and equality.
In truth the law has very little to do with these fundamental moral principles. The law exists to help society defend itself; it is used by those who represent society as a weapon with which to dominate and discriminate against individual powers and freedoms. The law is man's inadequate attempt to turn justice -- an abstract theoretically concept -- into practical reality. Sadly, it is invariably inspired more by the prejudices and self interest of the law makers than by respect or concern for the rights of innocent individuals.
These misconceptions about the purpose of our law lead to much disappointment. And these misconceptions help to create a considerable amount of underlying stress.
No society has ever had as many laws as we have and yet few societies can have ever had less justice.
Many of the laws which exist today were created not to protect individuals or communities but to protect the system. It is because such crimes threaten the security and sanctity of the system that theft and fraud often attract harsher sentences than crimes such as rape and murder which affect individuals. Crimes against the individual are seen as less important than crimes against society because the rights of the individual are seen (by society) as being of less significance than the rights of society.
The irony is that although the law was originally introduced to protect individuals the law has itself become a tyrant. Today, few individuals can afford to take advantage of the protection offered by the law. The law oppresses the weak, the poor and the powerless and sustains itself and the powers which preserve it. The enormous costs of litigation mean that there is one law for the rich and no law at all for the poor. The result is that the law threatens and reduces the rights of the weak and strengthens and augments the rights of the powerful.
Things are made worse by the fact that the people employed by society to uphold and administer the law on behalf of ordinary people too often take advantage of their positions to abuse their powers. The interpretation of the law is so often at the discretion of those who are paid to uphold it that those who have been hired by society become the law itself.
Too often society allows officers of the courts to abuse their power to satisfy their own personal ambitions, grievances and prejudices. In return society, in its broadest and most undemocratic and domineering sense, is protected by the people who benefit from its patronage. It is the worst sort of symbiotic relationship. (A worrying side issue is the prevalence of freemasons within the police and on the court benches. In November 1998 it was disclosed that up to one in five male magistrates in England and Wales could be Freemasons. It is on the record that many judges are Freemasons too.)
The final irony is that as respect for the law (and those hired to uphold it) diminishes so the divide between the law and justice grows ever wider.
When people who are given the power to protect society disapprove of something which threatens their status they introduce a new law. As political parties come and go so we accumulate layer after layer of new laws. It doesn't matter if the new laws conflict with the old laws as long as all the laws help to strengthen the status of the state.
Meanwhile, as the oppression of individuals continues, lawlessness (and disrespect for the law) grows among officials and those in power. Brutality, arrogance, corruption and hypocrisy have all damaged public faith in the law but the only response from society has been to create new laws to outlaw disapproval. Society's primary interest is to protect itself and society is not concerned with justice, freedom or equality since those are values which are appreciated only by individuals. Those who have power are concerned only with their own survival and with perpetuating their power. The simple truth is that we live in a corrupt society which takes little or no account of the needs or the rights of ordinary people.
In a strange way all this should provide us with some comfort. When the oppressive forces of a society try to suppress information and free speech it invariably means that they are worried. Ridicule is usually the first weapon used by cruel oppressors. Violence, imprisonment and the suppression of free speech usually only come when the establishment is fighting a rearguard action.
The Greatest Threat To Liberty
We like to think that the Germans who worked in the concentration camps were exceptionally evil individuals. But every nation contains thousands of pustulant thugs who will obey orders as long as they're paid well, given heaps of authority and provided with smart uniforms.
If the British government decided to exterminate beggars or jews they would find it easy to recruit staff. Most of those who satisfy the requirements for gas chamber attendants are currently working as lawyers, policemen and traffic wardens. And in their hands this island is rapidly becoming a police state.
For years politicians and lawyers (two words which, I feel, go together like 'vomit' and 'floorcloth') have been doing their efficient best to take away all your rights.
Today, the greatest threat to your liberty comes not from criminals but from the legal system. New laws now mean that you're guilty if the police say you're guilty. Human rights have been replaced by police rights. I know of parents who do not like their children going out at night -- not because they are frightened of thugs and muggers because they are frightened that their children will be beaten up by the police. Many policemen seem to feel that they have to be confrontational. Instead of simply being there, holding back, or even backing away from trouble, the police seem inclined to provoke trouble and to exacerbate difficult situations. I suspect that this may, to a large extent, be a consequence of bad management and bad training. The Police Service Statement of Common Purpose and Values states that the police must: "...strive to reduce the fears of the public and, so far as we can, to reflect their priorities in the action we take" and that policemen and policewomen should be: "...compassionate, courteous and patient, acting without fear or favour or prejudice to the rights of others."
Those paid to run the legal system have forgotten that the law was invented to protect the ordinary citizen. (They also seem to have forgotten that they are giving more and more power to a bunch of people who are often largely little more than corrupt, racist thugs.) Even former Conservative Home Office Minister David Mellor has warned that: "giving the police extensive power could be bad for decent folk as well as criminals."
Too Many Laws And Not Enough Justice
Recent governments have passed endless oppressive and unjust laws and in consequence the prison population is rising so fast that it won't be long before prisoners will have to come outside and law abiding citizens will have to go inside.
Ring up and complain that you've been robbed, mugged or raped and a snotty, supercilious, patronising, overpaid individual with an 'I'm-far-too-busy-and-important-to-be-dealing-with-your-piddling-little-problem' voice will reluctantly take down your details before explaining that they're far too busy to do anything about your problem.
But leave your car outside the police station while you go inside to complain that you've been assaulted and when you get back to it you'll find that someone has found the time to give you a ticket.
Motorists are easy targets. Most ordinary citizens have an in-built fear of authority and a long established respect for the law. It's far easier to make the crime statistics look good by catching a few generally law abiding middle class motorists than it is to try and catch potentially troublesome criminals.
Vandalism is now so commonplace that churches are installing video cameras. They are, presumably, worried that they'll turn up one morning and find the church gone and the spire propped up on bricks.
One grocer abandoned his business and shut up shop after being burgled and robbed 90 times in just 18 months.
A Reputation For Brutality And Cruelty
The police are rapidly and widely acquiring a fearsome reputation for brutality and cruelty. It seems to me that a large proportion of the men (and women) in the police force today would be criminals if they weren't in the police force. Joining up and wearing a police uniform is, today, an excuse for legalised thuggery. Most ordinary people today would feel more secure if we had fewer police and more justice
Police sprayed a four year old girl with CS gas which they were aiming at two men wanted in connection with motoring offenses.
Police gassed a man who had forgotten his own front door keys. Then, after the householder had been identified by his wife, they took him away, locked him up for 18 hours and charged him with a public order offence.
An accountant who chased after two boys who threw eggs at a disabled man's shop, and accidentally injured them, was quickly arrested. A court ordered him to pay £500 in compensation to each of the two boys and £642 in costs. The judge allowed that he had not meant to injure the boys.
Or consider the case of a citizen and his family who were terrorised by local louts for 14 years. The louts ripped up the man's vegetables and burnt down barn. The police did not stop the raids and so the smallholder, presumably acting out of a sense of anger and frustration, set up a shotgun booby trap which grazed the next intruder in the hand. The unfortunate but desperate and frustrated smallholder was arrested, convicted of attempted murder and sent to prison for seven years.
According to the Police Service Statement of Common Purpose and Values the aim of the police is: "...to protect, help and reassure the community: and to be seen to do all this with integrity, common sense and sound judgement."
The Public Order Act
Police commonly use sections 2,3,4 and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 when dealing with demonstrators.
Section 2 (1) of the Act states: "Where 3 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using or threatening unlawful violence is guilty of violent disorder."
Section 2 (2) of the same act states that: "It is immaterial whether or not the 3 or more use or threaten unlawful violence simultaneously.
Section 2 (3) states that: "No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.
Section 2 (4) states that: "violent disorder may be committed in private as well as in public places'.
And Section 2 (5) states: "A person guilty of violent disorder is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or a fine or both..."
So, presumably, if three people are sitting together in their living room and Tony Blair appears, smiling smarmily and uninvited, on their TV set and one of the people watching the television announces to the others that he would like to force the grotesque Blair person to eat all his broken promises all three could be sent to prison for five years.
I have to confess that like much modern legislation the Public Order Act 1986 reminds me more of something penned by Lewis Carroll in one of his more imaginative moments than of any sort of legal document.
In the summer of 1998 Home Office Minister Alun Michael MP told me that 142 arrests had been made at Hillgrove Farm near Oxford in connection with protests and demonstrations involving animal rights campaigners. (Pro-animal campaigners were justifiably protesting about the breeding of cats for vivisection laboratories at Hillgrove Farm). Of these 142 arrests no less than 116 were for offenses under sections 2,3,4 or 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. The Minister was unable to give me details of the number of demonstrators who were injured or who required hospital treatment. I am not aware of any police officers being injured by demonstrators at Hillgrove Farm though I rather suspect that if any policemen or policewomen had been injured the government would have made this information available to me.
Considering the number of police involved, the number of demonstrators, the type of offences which with demonstrators had been charged, the cost of the whole exercise -- considerably in excess of £1 million -- and the length of time for which regular demonstrations had been taking place at Hillgrove Farm, the number of arrests seems to me to be remarkably low and a considerable tribute to the patience of the demonstrators.)
Harassment And Distress
I have met and talked to photographers in different parts of the United Kingdom whose homes have been raided by the police looking for photographs which could be used to help them arrest demonstrators. (The police did not have warrants). Press photographers have had their film seized -- and have been jailed. In addition I have been told that it is not unknown for the police to demand film taken by press cameramen at animal rights demonstrations.
A videocameraman working for reported in the autumn of 1998 that he has been arrested six times in two years while trying to do his job as a video journalist. "Problems began," he reported, "two years ago when I was arrested at a hunt, for causing "alarm, harassment and distress -- I had pointed my camera at a huntsman."
"After talking to colleagues," he continued, "it transpires that I am not alone. Journalists from all sections of the print and broadcast media who report on direct-action protests involving the police are systematically being bullied, harassed, assaulted and arrested."
The police are, it seems, using the new Protection from Harassment Act (which was originally intended to protect women from stalkers) to control photographers and cameramen who try to report the way that the police deal with demonstrators.
A photographer who took pictures of the eviction of protestors from Manchester Airport in 1997 reported that he was arrested for obstruction and had his equipment and film confiscated -- even though he claimed that he had cooperated fully with the demands of bailiffs and had shown his press card. He was put in prison for 14 hours and later convicted in court of obstruction of bailiffs, with a conditional discharge.
There are stories of police officers arresting camera operators, removing tape and then denying that there was ever tape in the camera in the first place. At least one video cameraman now has a colleague filming him while he films the action so that he has some evidence about exactly what has happened. One cameraman has evidence that the police actively erased taped footage which they didn't want to be shown. Another cameraman was arrested for filming protestors destroying crops from a genetics test site. He was locked up for 24 hours and police then obtained authorisation to hold him for another 12 hours (something usually only granted in cases of terrorism). All his clothes were taken from him and he was forced to wear a paper suit.
A freelance reporter was charged with breach of the peace while covering a secret conference of senior politicians and businessmen. He was held for several hours after he had knocked on neighbouring doors to see if residents had seen anything.
Citizens Fight Back
More and more citizens are sueing the police for wrongful arrest, for assault and for other breaches of the law. In 1998 it was reported that the Manchester police had paid out £10,593,573.90 in damages and costs in one case alone. In 1996-7 Scotland Yard paid out more than £2.4 million in damages to settle claims, including assault and false imprisonment. In December 1998 The Times reported that: "The government faces a bill of up to £50 million in costs and compensation for miscarriages of justice uncovered by corruption investigators. The estimate was based on the possibility that 200 cases being investigated would all result in quashed convictions. The Times reported that: "Many of the allegations involve the fabrication of evidence, such as planting weapons, and in at least one case tampering with scientific evidence."
Planting weapons and tampering with scientific evidence can hardly be described as anything but dishonest and yet it is extremely rare for police officers to be sent to prison -- even when convictions which have been obtained falsely have been reversed. Members of the public might wonder why.
Another question which needs to be asked is: "Why are damages awarded against the police, or because of police incompetence or dishonesty, paid out of public money?" The average police officer would surely be far more careful -- and far less likely to fabricate evidence -- if he knew that he was going to have to pay any damages awarded against him. It is difficult to see why police officers should not be held personally responsible for their own actions. If a doctor or accountant is found guilty of some wrongdoing then he will be held responsible for whatever financial costs may result. When a doctor is sued for making a mistake, or for some dishonest action, the taxpayer does not have to pay the bill. Why should the taxpayer have to pay when a police officer is found guilty of making a serious mistake -- or, worse still, of corruption?
The present system ensures that the public suffer constantly. Members of the public pay the wages of the police officer who beats up members of the public and then members of the public pay the legal costs and damages awarded against the errant police officer.
Incidentally, policemen and traffic wardens are quick to grovel if they think they're dealing with someone whom they regard as important. A few years ago I acquired a large and impressive looking Buckingham Palace car park pass for the windscreen of my car. I quickly discovered that once they saw the sticker traffic wardens treated me very reverentially. For example, when on a book promotion tour I could find nowhere to leave my car I parked inside a shopping arcade. When I returned to the vehicle I found a traffic warden waiting for me. But he didn't give me a ticket. Instead he stopped the traffic while I reversed out of the arcade. He then saluted while I drove away, leaving him enveloped in blue exhaust smoke.
When I lost my sticker I had a flag made. In the place where the queen's car flies a royal standard I fly a skull and crossbones. I regularly get saluted by officials in uniform.
It is now a mistake to confuse the law with justice, liberty, freedom and equality. Today's law has very little to do with these fundamental moral principles. As H. L .Mencken wrote: "All governments, of course, are against liberty."
The Self Interest Of The Law-Makers
The law, man's inadequate attempt to turn justice into practical reality, is inspired more by the self interest of the lawmakers than by respect or concern for human rights.
This is why protest with a purpose attracts far more attention than mindless vandalism. And animal rights protests certainly do seem to attract more than their fair share of police attention.
If animal rights activists do £50 worth of damage to a building where evil people are doing indefensible and unspeakable things to animals the whole area will turn blue with policemen looking for clues. On the other hand, on several occasions when vandals did hundreds of pounds worth of damage to my office we were not visited by police officers until a few days after the incidents.
When a pro-animal campaigner did several thousand pounds worth of damage to vehicles belonging to a butcher he was arrested, taken to court and sent to prison for longer than the average murderer or rapist would expect to get. When £10,000 worth of damage was done to my car the police would not even bother to come and inspect the damage -- let alone look for a culprit.
When a pro-animal campaigner threw a stone while attending a demonstration at a site where animals were being abused she was arrested and told to expect a five year jail sentence. (No one had been injured by the stone). When a fisherman repeatedly threw stones at me (I had been standing near the river in which he was fishing and was, he claimed, alerting the fish by my presence) I telephoned the local constabulary to report the incident. The police refused to attend on the grounds that I had not been injured by any of the thrown stones.
When vivisectors receive threats (however mild) these are invariably treated extremely seriously by the police. When I received and reported a written death threat (the writer claimed that he and his friends had hired a hit man to kill me because of my opposition to hunting) the police dealt with the matter (quite slowly) through the mail. I was never offered any form of protection.
And, of course, there are always thousands of highly paid policemen and policewomen available to protect lorries transporting animals, or to protect establishments where animals are being tortured and killed or reared for torturing and killing. In the north of England a small demonstration of less than 50 animal rights protestors was met with a police 'army' estimated to consist of 200 officers, including 20 on horseback.
The use of vast numbers of police officers to control protests organised by animal rights campaigners is even more remarkable considering the fact that, as far as I am aware, no one has yet been killed or injured by an animal rights protestor. (I think it is fair to say that this shows great reserve, good sense, compassion and patience on the side of the animal rights supporters.)
Those who oppose demonstrations held outside animal breeding centres, where animals are bred for vivisection, torture and death, argue that even if all the animal breeding farms in Britain were closed down the vivisectors would simply import animals from foreign breeding farms. This is akin to arguing that there is no point at all in Britain having rules about child labour or racism or the exploitation of the mentally retarded because even if we stop these outrages here they will still continue in other countries.
If we don't set a good example who will? If we don't start the tide of public opinion against animal abuse in Britain where will it start? If Germany has gas chambers for killing jews does that mean that we have to have them too?
The Law Oppresses The Weak
Laws were originally introduced to protect individuals but 'the law' has itself become one of modern society's greatest tyrants. The law now oppresses the weak, the poor and the powerless, and sustains itself and the powers which preserve it. The law threatens and reduces the rights of the weak and strengthens and augments the rights of the powerful. At peaceful pro-animal rallies and demonstrations the police turn up armed with riot shields, full body armour, helmets, batons and CS gas. When one remembers that, as far as I am aware, animal rights campaigners have never killed (or seriously injured) any animal abusers (or police officers) this dramatic overkill seems to me to take on clear political overtones.
As political parties come and go so we accumulate layer after layer of new laws. We are now all living in one huge concentration camp. And as the oppression of individuals continues, lawlessness grows among officials and those in power.
Brutality, arrogance, corruption and hypocrisy have all damaged public faith in the law but the only response from the establishment has been to create new laws to outlaw disapproval.
The primary interest of the legal establishment is, it seems to me, to protect itself. The legal establishment does not appear to be concerned with justice, freedom or equality since those are values which give strength to you and me.
The Injustice of the Law
The law has very little to do with fundamental moral principles. The law exists to help society defend itself; it is used by those who represent society as a weapon with which to dominate and discriminate against individual powers and freedoms. The law is man's inadequate attempt to turn justice -- an abstract theoretically concept -- into practical reality. Sadly, it is invariably inspired more by the prejudices and self interest of the law makers than by respect or concern for the rights of innocent individuals. It is in the interests of the politicians to create new laws because when there are many laws in a society (and so many laws that not even the lawyers know what they all are) then everyone will be bound to be a criminal. When every citizen is a criminal, or a potential criminal, the judiciary and the police, and therefore the politicians, have more power.
As respect for the law (and those hired to uphold it) diminishes so the divide between the law and justice grows ever wider.
Meanwhile, as the oppression of individuals continues, lawlessness (and disrespect for the law) grows among officials and those in power. Brutality, arrogance, corruption and hypocrisy have all damaged public faith in the law but the only response from society has been to create new laws to outlaw disapproval.
Society's primary interest is to protect itself. Those who have power are concerned only with their own survival and with perpetuating their power. The simple truth is that we live in a corrupt society.
The Police: The Enemy Of The People
The police probably do not think of themselves as behaving in an evil and reprehensibly immoral manner. Most of them never question what they have been told -- or what they are told to do. People who join the police forces are probably not the sort of people who usually question authority.
The police who batter and beat up pro-animal campaigners at rallies and demonstrations may have been told that the people they are battering and beating up are all dangerous lunatics who love animals more than people. They have probably been told that without laboratory experiments on cats and dogs their children will all die of terrible diseases.
Many police officers tend to be insensitive folk of modest intellect. (Would a sensitive, intelligent individual want to join the police force these days?). Most probably do not have enquiring minds. They are likely to believe what they are told. They probably do not have the intelligence to realise that the people they are attacking are not only their real employers but are the 'good guys'.
Police Brutality Is A Major Problem
Pro-animal campaigners are not dangerous in the sense the police think they are dangerous. In a purely physical sense pro-animal campaigners are probably far less of a threat than football crowds or hordes of shoppers queuing for a big store sale to open.
I have received many reports of the police attacking and brutalising innocent demonstrators -- many of whom are middle aged or elderly. I have little personal doubt that the police break the law far more often than the citizens they are supposed to be policing.
At one demonstration a girl was arrested for not removing her face mask. She was carried upside down to police vans. The police claimed that the girl was offending the public by wearing the mask, though there were only police and protestors in the area.
A policeman was seen to kick a demonstrator in the back and then stand there, camera in hand, waiting for a response. The same police officer was also alleged to have punched a young woman. I have heard of a policeman at a demonstration attempting to arrest a young woman for wearing a scarf. All this may sound unbelievable. But I believe it is true.
Is it not behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace when several hundred police officers, some on horseback, many dressed in riot gear, surround a peaceful gathering? If a group of military-style demonstrators dressed this way surrounded another group of perfectly innocent citizens, who were exercising their right to meet and listen to speakers, would it not be realistic to describe the military-style demonstrators as guilty of 'behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace'?
Are Pro-Animal Campaigners Targeted By The Police?
Why are so many police used at pro-animal demonstrations? Can it really be that there are not enough murders, rapes, muggings, burglaries and so on to keep them busy?
Of course not.
Politicians have argued that a large police presence is needed at demonstrations because of violence at pro-animal gatherings. It is true that there are always a few arrests at pro-animal demonstrations but it would be surprising if this were not the case when such confrontational tactics are used.
The fact is that (as I have said earlier) I am not aware of any one ever being killed as a direct result of any action initiated by pro-animal campaigners.
Indeed, there is evidence to show that alleged violent actions against animal abusers have been organised either by provocateurs or by animal abusers themselves. (One hunt supporter was jailed for nine months for placing a home made bomb under his own vehicle and then claiming that the bomb was the work of pro-animal activists.)
I have little doubt that the police, undoubtedly under instructions from their political masters, are targeting pro- animal campaigners in a particularly ruthless and inexcusable way.
Readers of mine have reported that they have been searched when travelling to pro-animal demonstrations. And I have also received reports that the police have raided the homes of pro-animal campaigners after they have attended demonstrations. (The police use the photographs they take of people and vehicles to enable them to identify protestors). I have even heard of pro- animal campaigners who have been taken to court simply for reporting animal rights activity.
When police identified a 12 year old girl and a 10 year old boy whom they claimed had allegedly thrown objects during a demonstration they picked up both children.
Detectives travelled some distance to arrest the girl. They called at the family home and intended to pick the girl up at her school until the girl's mother complained. The mother was allowed to pick her daughter up from school herself and to take her to a local police station on condition that the girl's grandmother went with the police to the station. The girl's mother was not allowed in the interview room with her daughter and the girl's grandmother. When a solicitor was requested they were told they would have to wait hours for one. "She was hungry and tired and really wanted to go home so she let them interview her," said the girl's mother.
The 10 year old boy was stopped by police officers as he and his mother were about to board a coach. The boy was grabbed, read his rights and told he was under arrest. He was told that he was under arrest because there was video evidence of him throwing a stone at an animal rights demonstration. He and his mother were put into a police van and held in a cell for seven hours before the boy was interviewed, fingerprinted, photographed and formally cautioned. "I don't know whether he threw a stone," his mother is reported to have said. "He admitted it during the interview but any child would have admitted to anything to get out of there."
It seems surprising to me that the police should have taken so much trouble over children alleged to have thrown stones (but not as far as I am aware, to have injured anyone or caused any damage). Is it now official police policy to arrest every child in the country who is believed to have thrown a stone? Or are the police only interested in arresting children who throw stones while attending animal rights demonstrations? If there is a difference, why is there a difference?
One animal rights campaigner believes that the police are: "trying to frighten off old aged pensioners and people with children so that they can pigeonhole everyone on demonstrations as young unemployed dreadlocked hippies."
My own feeling is that there is probably a good deal of truth in this allegation. Some law abiding citizens are now wary of attending animal rights protests because they fear for their own safety (they are, I need hardly add, frightened of the police, not of other demonstrators) and they fear that they may be falsely arrested and in consequence lose their jobs. This is, of course, all part of the marginalisation process. One community pillar told me that he didn't dare attend a demonstration because of his responsible post. In fact, of course, his responsible post gave him extra power and made him an even more potent demonstrator than he might otherwise have been.
Of the many readers who have written to me to complain of the heavy handed attitude of the police quite a number have claimed that in their view the police have deliberately started trouble at demonstrations -- sometimes using provocateurs dressed up as protestors and sometimes merely behaving in a provocative manner.
Here is what one reader told me:
"I was stood by a gate watching the throngs of animal rights protestors milling about, waving banners and chanting when without any warning I was suddenly blinded and my face was burning. Also my hand had been hit with what I imagine was a baton. After the idiotic police started behaving like this the crowd became incensed. We are innocent and a threat to nobody. I and my partner suffered the effects of the CS gas well into the night and even the next day. I have seen statements from members of the police force which are fabrications, lies and massive exaggerations."
This reader told me that the CS gas was sprayed less than three feet away from where he was standing, that no warning was given, there was no danger to anyone's life and that no after care was offered.
At pro-animal demonstrations I have attended there have invariably been a large number of police cameramen in attendance -- some equipped with video cameras and some with still cameras.
(I understand that there is still some question about whether or not the police are entitled to video and photograph innocent citizens -- and to then make copies of the video tapes they record and the photographs they take. According to Liberty of the National Council for Civil Liberties, the organisation which protects civil liberties and promotes human rights, the police have to destroy fingerprints taken of people who have been arrested but subsequently not charged with a criminal offence but there is no provision for the destruction of video tapes.)
In my experience the police are too often arrogant and most unlike public servants. Two senior officers both refused to give me their badge numbers when I asked for this information. From the evidence I have seen I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the police cause most (if not all) of the trouble at animal rights demonstrations. And I have absolutely no doubt that police officers regularly lie when giving evidence to the courts.
(It is may or may not be material and relevant but for the sake of completeness I should perhaps point out that when I worked as a general practitioner in the 1970s I also worked as a police surgeon.)
Who pays for all this? Who pays for the massive police turn out, the helicopters, the vehicles, the horses and the cameras? I find it difficult to believe that local police forces can afford this massive expenditure out of their own budgets. I suspect that the money comes from some special Home Office budget.
If several hundred police officers surrounded a Parent Teacher's Association meeting there would undoubtedly be some conflict. If five hundred police in riot gear walked onto a railway station platform or a seaside beach there would be trouble. If a thousand police officers surrounded a meeting of a Women's Institute group, or turned up at village cricket match, there would be some arrests. The current policy is self perpetuating. The police turn up and push demonstrators around. The police are, quite unnecessarily in my view, issued with full body armour and all police horses are fitted with visors. (This, despite the fact that I have no knowledge of any police officer or police horse ever being attacked). The police push and hassle and arrest any demonstrators who protest or try to protect themselves and thereby give themselves an excuse for a massive police presence at the next demonstration. The arrests enable the police to justify their actions and help them to further marginalise the pro-animal campaigners.
If they must attend demonstrations in such vast numbers, in order to satisfy their political masters and their commercial string pullers, the police, in their own best interests, really should learn to be a little more sensitive and to stay calm.
However, it is probably a lot easier for bully boy police officers to take on law abiding pro-animal campaigners than it would be for them to try to stop a crowd of young, fit, strong, belligerent football fans. Or, indeed, for them to try to arrest dangerous burglars who might be armed and ready to fight back. Bullies are invariably also cowards.
Policing a pro-animal demonstration -- attended by gentle, kindly, law abiding citizens -- seems to give the police a good opportunity for truncheon and boot swinging exercises -- with little risk to themselves. Several eyewitnesses have told me that in their view the police seemed to enjoy brutalising the weak and the defenceless.
Here is how one pro-animal campaigner described how the police treated her and other demonstrations at one protest:
" ...after linking arms they proceeded to push everyone along the road. If you were too slow or got caught up behind other people, dogs etc you were shoved very roughly in your back to make you move forward, the further we walked the quicker they wanted us to move. When there are a large number of people and the police decide to close in from the back and sides you do not have much of an option on where to go. What I found to be totally unacceptable was the bullying behaviour, intimidation, bad language and total disregard for our well-being. I was brought up to respect our police force for the difficult job they do and the way they handle it -- not any more. We were herded along like common criminals, pushed and shoved so roughly that some of us fell down on the road and you were not able to escape out of it (if you wanted to get out of the way or were pushed on to the side of the pavement where other police were, they simply shoved you back in the road). "
"It seemed as if the police use their own provocative actions to try and cause trouble and retaliation so that they can justify their huge numbers and expense. Why else, when the protestors entered the town square were there so many police; mounted police, police in riot gear and police dogs, was this to show the people how dangerous we are, so need to be controlled? "
And here is an extract from another letter I received from an animal lover who attended a pro-animal demonstration:
"I adore animals and have four rescue cats and have done numerous voluntary jobs working with rescue animals but I had never ever in my entire life attended any demonstrations before....I was totally horrified at the amount of police that was there, also the helicopter, video cameras, police on police horses...what this must have cost I dread to think. Most of all I was sickened to see the way the police treated the demonstrators and also the dreadful abuse that all of us were encountering from the onlookers. "
" It started, my personal experience with the police, after the speeches. As you know we all marched through the town to go to the farm and we were all cut off at a certain point so we could get no where near it, obviously. On our return back from the cut off point to return to our minibus my daughter, fiance and I were at the tail end of the demonstrators to return when four policemen/women on horses suddenly were pushing all of us to one side with their batons and horses so as a car could come by, which it did. Then another car wanted to come by ten minutes after the previous one, so the same thing happened again, the police on the horses pushing us to one side. However the car was coming a little faster than the previous one. I just managed to push my daughter to one side and managed to get my body out of the way but did not get my foot away in time when the car went over my right foot. It was the front wheel, the passengers side. At the same time one of the policemen on the horses gripped hold of my left wrist, yanked my arm up and started to kick me endlessly with his foot and stirrup and then hitting me extremely hard endlessly with his baton even after the car had gone and my foot released. He finally let me go, laughing away to himself and his colleagues and some of the demonstrators got hold of me quickly and were hugging me and pulling me away quick in case he returned. I was in so much pain with my arm and also with my foot. I was also in total shock as this was a serious assault that he did and for no reason whatsoever. By this time I was sobbing violently and I was also wondering why I was being led away so quick by the demonstrators. They told me when I asked that they were trying to lose me in the crowd because the policeman might return for more. I was absolutely shocked. When I returned to the bus the pain in my foot had gone but my arm was paining me too much, the pain was unbearable so I looked at it and showed the 14 others that were on my bus. It was dreadful, the whole of my upper arm was swollen and was getting bluer and blacker by the minute and I had to take pain killers. "
"Dr Coleman this has not put me off at all. This is the beginning for me. I will be attending the next demonstration. Dr Coleman how can human beings do these things? I just can't stop thinking about all this. Most nights I lie awake just sobbing until I fall asleep. Please excuse my writing etc...I am still in a state."
Another reader wrote to me to say:
"A friend and I were on the pavement, to our left were a group of four people when out of the blue an unmarked police car came onto the pavement, two police officers got out, one of them was so out of order, he decided he was going to make an arrest no matter what and chose to pick on the young man in the group of four. The officer's manner was offensive, to say the least, and when I asked why he was acting this way I was told to mind my own business. As his manner became more offensive by the minute I asked him for his number and was told in no uncertain manner that he did not have to give his number to the "likes of me'. What he meant by that is a puzzle as I am just a middle aged housewife, with a deep love of all animals, who has spent the last ten years rescuing sick and abandoned cats from the streets of London. "
Here is another extract from a letter from an animal lover:
"I can't understand why police always take such an aggressive attitude towards those who want to prevent animal abuse. Speaking as someone who has had cracked ribs, bruising etc because of the police's heavy handedness towards those demonstrating against cruelty, I am very wary whenever a policeman comes near me. "
I believe that by causing as much inconvenience as possible to local people the police are trying to further marginalise pro-animal campaigners. I suspect that this backfires quite often. Here is what one letter writer had to say: "Returning back to my car after the march I noticed an elderly lady looking quite distressed behind her garden wall. I went up to her and apologised for so many people being in her lovely village on a Sunday afternoon and asked her if she knew why. She immediately said that she had known for years about the disgusting (local farm where animals are bred for vivisection experiments) and the only people she objected to were all the police milling about and not caring where they parked their vehicles. "
This letter writer went on to say:
"I was threatened with arrest for standing observing how four policemen might treat one young man they had on the ground, shirt pulled down to his arms to immobilise him, knee in the back etc. I was ordered to "join the rest of them'. I asked why I should move. The policeman threatened me with arrest...The attitude of the government, police etc make me all the more determined to continue with my fight against animal abuse. "
Here is another letter from a pro-animal campaigner:
"I was suddenly jumped on by a policeman disguised as an activist. I struggled and swore and he got very heavy. I ended up in handcuffs and received some nasty bruises from the encounter. He told me that he enjoyed hurting me. I was kept in the cells for ages, like they always do. I was done for section 5 of the public order act and received a conditional discharge and £30 costs. A very small case -- after all, I took no action -- but that policeman was unnecessarily violent. I'd like to point out that I'm 51 years old and 5 foot tall. "
A reader wrote to tell me about an experience she had when standing on a kerb opposite a farm where week old calves were being sent abroad for veal crates. She was, she wrote, hemmed in by the police standing in the gutter in front of her and by a high hedge behind her.
"I was standing near the edge of the pavement holding a cardboard placard when my foot slipped off the pavement. The police officer standing in front of me pulled me across the road to a police van. When he was asked what was happening he angrily shouted that I had assaulted him with the placard. "
"I was taken to a police station, searched and put into a cell. After an hour or so I was questioned by the arresting officer. At around 11.00 pm I was handed back my handbag and told I would be released. After the police officer had checked with the inspector I was informed I was to be charged. They took my finger prints and photograph. I left the police station at about midnight for a one and a half hour drive home. "
"There were always arrests at this animal trader's farm. Often (sometimes if there were only twenty protestors there) there would be six police horses and two or three large white police vans. One police officer was heard to remark one evening: "We'll get them one by one'. There was a policeman there posing as a protestor."
" The man w ho runs the farm has been fined many times for animal cruelty. "
"I was acquitted when the case came to court and all my witnesses had their expenses paid."
Two readers of mine visited a farm with a third friend, intending to demonstrate peacefully, and stood opposite the property for two minutes. They were then approached by a Chief Inspector and two constables and shown an official police document which stated: "You are gathered at the venue of a private dwelling. You, by your presence in a crowd of demonstrators may be committing an offence under the Protection From Harrassment [sic] Act 1997. I require you to leave this area forthwith as your continued presence may intimidate the occupiers. If you fail now to leave, I will have no option but to exercise a power of arrest. You may then face criminal proceedings. I ask that you quietly leave the area now. "
(It is surprising -- and, indeed, rather disturbing -- that an official police document should mis-spell an Act of Parliament.)
One of these readers told me that she did not have an opportunity to walk away but was told that if she did so (i.e. she did what the police wanted her to do) she would be arrested. She was then asked for her name and address. When she queried the necessity for this she was told that she would be arrested if she did not comply. (I understsand that members of the public do not have to give their names and addresses unless arrested or suspected of committing a crime.) She was, therefore, threatened with arrest on two separate occasions within a short space of time -- despite the fact that she does not seem to have broken any law. And she was forced to give her name and address though it is difficult to see why this was necessary. The other reader pointed out that there were only three of them present and that this could hardly be described as a 'crowd'. She also wondered (in her letter to me) why the police were waiting at a farm where no demonstration was planned.
A pro-animal campaigner who suffers from kidney failure and who has to use a dialysis machine four times a day, was arrested when approaching a pro-animal demonstration because he had his dialysis equipment with him. A policeman is alleged to have demanded to know what the dialysis boxes in the back of his car were for and to have then arrested the pro-animal demonstrator for 'going equipped'.
This campaigner has so far been convicted eight times of obstructing a public highway. On one occasion he was arrested and convicted for handing out leaflets.
(Handing out leaflets can be an expensive business these days. In some areas of the country campaigners who want to hand out leaflets complaining about cruelty to animals now have to pay a fee of up to £100 for the privilege of enjoying their freedom to campaign).
It would certainly appear to me, from the mail I have received, that enormous amounts of public money are being spent on using the police to protect animal abusers -- and to harass pro-animal campaigners.
A number of pro-animal campaigners have written to tell me that they have taken legal action against the police after being assaulted.
"My arm was broken," wrote one pro-animal campaigner. "I had three witnesses who were prepared to help me. During the proceedings, when my expenses reached £2,218, I began to get worried because I was sueing the Chief Constable and if it went his way I could have lost my home because I did not get legal aid. I settled out of court and received £3,500. I nearly took them back to court because for a long time they would not pay my costs. "
"We are both currently sueing the police for brutality," wrote one pro-animal campaigner on behalf of himself and his girlfriend. "I had my hand broken and we were both sprayed at point blank range with CS gas....I have seen their eyes and many of them are really not in control...Time and time again I have seen badly trained, moronic policemen and women totally overreacting and making the situation ten times worse. "
Surprise And Indignation
I have quoted so many of these letters (a small fraction of the total number of similar letters I have received on this subject) because I think this issue is important -- and the tone of these letters accurately portrays the surprise and indignation honest, tax paying, law abiding citizens feel when they come to face with the police under these circumstances.
(In view of the fact that important documents have mysteriously disappeared from my possession in the past I should perhaps point out that the original letters I have received are in a secure place and several copies of all the letters have been made and placed in secure places too.)
Time and time again people have written to tell me that the actions of the police have merely made them even more determined to fight on for animals. Many readers who were caught up in demonstrations by accident (or because they were merely accompanying an enthusiastic pro-animal campaigner) have told me that the actions of the police alerted them to the fact that this is a truly significant issue. The politicians, and the police, will no doubt be disappointed to learn that many of these people -- who were not committed pro-animal campaigners when they witnessed police actions -- have been converted into pro-animal campaigners by the actions of the police in harassing, assaulting and arresting perfectly innocent protestors.
Every pro-animal demonstration is filmed by the police (sometimes, I am assured by genuine press photographers, by police photographers in plain clothes who are mixing with press photographers). They use still and video cameras. Helicopters hover overhead and it does not seem unrealistic to assume that they too are equipped with cameras.
From the evidence I have received it seems that the police will sometimes use the information they obtain by photographing (and identifying) individuals and vehicles to harass innocent members of the public who have dared to protest in favour of animal causes.
One woman wrote to me saying: "My son was photographed driving a van near a demonstration. His house has been turned over by seven policemen."
This campaigner, like many others, is banned from going within ten miles of some animal abuse centres -- even though he has never been convicted of anything.
I sometimes want to weep at the way justice is administered in this country. It seems to me that the word 'justice' doesn't really have anything to do with our legal processes any more. Property is regularly considered far more important than human or animal life.
Recently, for example, a pro-animal campaigner was convicted of setting fire to shops as a protest about the way animals are treated in our society.
The judge told the animal rights activist: "I do accept you did not intend an attack on human life." He then sent the activist to prison for 18 years for presumably assaulting tampons, electric kettles and bottles of aspirin -- or whatever else was in the targeted shops.
On the same day a gang of five youths, who called themselves The Young Mafia and who were found guilty of a "long and depraved" gang rape of a 16 year old virgin, were sentenced.
"Some days I feel it would be better if I just went," said the girl, who was previously described as bright and outgoing but was said (not surprisingly) to have become withdrawn and moody. "It would be easier on my family and I would not have to face it any more."
Three of the five gang members received sentences of five years. The other two received 18 month sentences.
Oddly enough, the collected sentences of these five gang members -- who wrecked a young girl's life -- added up to the same sentence given to the single animal rights supporter who damaged some shops.
A circus worker who was convicted of using an iron bar to give an elephant a vicious and sustained beating was sentenced to four months imprisonment. But a pro-animal campaigner who pleaded guilty to beating a metal fence with a wooden stick, outside a farm where animals were bred for animal experiments, was sent to prison for a year.
What sort of society values a fence more highly than an elephant?
Prisoners Of The System
Men and women who have been sent to prison for caring for animals can expect a rough ride.
Here, for example, a letter I received from the mother of an animal rights prisoner in the summer of 1998.
"On Wednesday...after 9 pm, six black clad riot squad officers armed with batons and shields kicked open X's cell door and ordered him to "Get up and follow us'. Dressed only in under shorts he asked if he might put on a shirt. This was refused and he was ordered not to speak but "follow in our footsteps' . He was taken to the segregation unit (punishment block). He remained there until 6 am on Thursday, still in under shorts. (He was) then given a track suit and taken from A to B and locked in the segregation unit without any of his property which to date remains at A. He is told his property will not be brought to him for a few weeks and so he sits in a punishment block for 23 hours a day without even toiletries, change of clothing or reading material etc. The reason he has been given for his punishment is that his girlfriend who was sexually abused by a female member of staff at A has taken legal advice. Do you understand the mentality of these brutes, Vernon? Although we have sent him money he has no opp ortunity to buy anything like stamps, stationery, food etc as he arrived too late for the prison shop which is open one day each week so he is totally isolated apart from guards with an attitude that would have embarrassed Hitler. "
Using recorded delivery I sent a copy of this letter to the Governor of the prison involved and asked for his comments.
Despite the specific nature of the letter, and the fact that I wrote for information as a columnist on a national newspaper with a readership in excess of six million British voters, the Governor of the prison told me that he was: "not prepared to comment on the individual circumstances of any prisoner".
Huge Police Presence
When I spoke at a rally (to protest about the Labour Party's failure to stand by its pre-election promises) in Trafalgar Square in August 1998 there was a huge police presence.
Immediately before the pro-animal rally at which I spoke there had been a religious rally on exactly the same spot. I didn't see any noticeable police presence for that. Are the authorities really saying that there is no link between religion and violence?
(I mentioned this anomaly, when I spoke in Trafalgar Square, and received a letter telling me off for having dared to suggest that there is any link between religion and violence. I wrote back pointing out that I was personally aware of approximately forty wars currently going on in different parts of the world as a result of religious conflict. I added that as far as I was aware pro-animal campaigners have not been responsible for any wars.)
Power has corrupted our politicians in extraordinary ways in recent years but the Labour government's crude and roughshod ride over our traditional right to freedom of speech is perhaps the most extraordinary and flagrant example of corruption I have yet come across. The Labour Party has accepted the aged and evil trinity of lies, dirty tricks and censorship with open arms.
On July 10th 1998 I travelled to Witney, in Oxfordshire to speak at a protest organised by Save the Hillgrove Cats. (As I have mentioned earlier cats are bred at Hillgrove Farm to be sold to vivisectors). The area's other incidental claim to fame is that the Home Secretary, Jack Straw MP, who is perhaps not widely recognised as an ardent supporter of animal rights, has a home there.
My intention, when I arrived at Witney, was to talk about the Labour Party's failure to fulfil its pre-election promises. But unknown to me the local police had asked for an exclusion zone around the area.
The ban was authorised by Home Office Minister Alun Michael MP on Friday 10th July. The ban, which extended to a five mile radius around a point allegedly marked X on a map (I say allegedly because I couldn't find the point X on the map I was later sent) was made from 8.00 pm on Friday 10th July until 8.00 am on Monday 13th July 1998. But details of the ban were not released until 10 am the following day, Saturday 11th July, the day of the demonstration. This meant that for 14 hours a legal order was in existence without the public being aware of it.
The inevitable result was that thousands of pro-animal campaigners travelled to Oxfordshire unnecessarily. Police road blocks ensured that there were huge traffic jams and thousands of motorists were delayed and inconvenienced.
Why was the ban not announced until Saturday 11th July?
Some pro-animal campaigners have asked if this might have been because the authorities knew that this would maximise the disruption and inconvenience and create anger and confusion. Rightly or wrongly, somehave asked if it could be possible that the police wanted to annoy the public in order to create antagonism towards animal rights campaigners. Justifiably or not some wonder if the police may have suspected that many protestors would not be able to afford to attend a second demonstration.
I could not possibly comment on any of this conjecture but with an unannounced ban in place the organisers of the banned demonstration did, inevitably, have great difficulty in coordinating or controlling the crowds of pro-animal campaigners who arrived in the area. There were, subsequently, a few arrests in Oxford when disappointed campaigners went there to express their anger.
The West Oxfordshire District Council, and the Secretary of State at the Home Office who had made the order, are all elected individuals, acting on behalf of the public who gave them all the power they have. The police, who executed the order, are employed by the public to protect and serve the public. It seemed to me that the delay was both unnecessary and discourteous.
Others shared my view and I found no one who thought that the police had acted fairly or reasonably. Indeed, after hearing from me at least one Member of Parliament went so far as to ask the Home Office to explain why there was a delay between the authorisation of the exclusion zone and the announcement about it.
I issued a summons against Home Secretary Jack Straw for my train fare in my local small claims court. But I was told that I could not sue the Labour Home Secretary (who is apparently above the law) and that the government was applying to a Crown Court judge to have the action struck out.
In the hope and assumption that someone must be available to take responsibility for the decision to delay the announcement of the ban I then used the small claims court scheme to issue a summons against the Chief Constable of the local police force. I issued the summons at Barnstaple County Court because that is the court which is closest to my office. A Legal Adviser to the Thames Valley Police force then wrote to that court saying:
"We anticipate that this matter will now automatically be transferred to the Oxford County Court. We would be most grateful if that Court could be asked to list the matter for a preliminary appointment, in order that the District Judge can consider striking out the action under Order 13 Rule 5. It seems to us that this is a clear case where the particulars of the plaintiff's claim disclose no reasonable course of action. "
On 30th September 1998 I sent this letter to the Court Manager at Oxford County Court: "In support of my case against the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police I enclose the following items of evidence:
a] a copy of a press release from Thames Valley Police, dated 11th July 10 am. This shows that the five mile exclusion zone around Witney was granted by the Home Secretary on Friday July 10th -- the day before the information was made public.
b] Proof of the expense incurred.
(If Thames Valley Police had released details of the five mile exclusion zone on Friday 10th July (when they received them) I would not have travelled to Oxford. It seems to me logical and just that the police be responsible for my train fare. It was their delay which led to my wasted journey. Since this is a small claims court claim I ask the court to consider written evidence in order to minimise costs and expedite a decision. I understand that this is in accordance with the philosophy of the small claims court scheme. I am very happy for this case to be considered by an arbitrator."
I subsequently received a letter from Oxford County Court thanking me for a letter I was not aware I had sent and telling me that the District Judge had directed that "the matter is to stay listed". (This presumably referred to the request from the police that the action be struck out.)
On the 20th October 1998, as instructed by the District Judge, I wrote to the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, explaining my case.
"My complaint, as I think you know, is an extremely simple one." I wrote. "On July 10th 1998 Alun Michael MP (a Minister at the Home Office) granted an application for a five mile exclusion zone around Hillgrove Farm under the Public Order Act. "
"You did not release the information about this ban to the press until 10 am the following day (11th July). (See the enclosed press release -- dated by Thames Valley Police). "
"I travelled to Oxford to speak at the rally about the government's failure to fulfil pre-election promises. The ban meant that my journey was wasted. If I had known on Friday the 10th July that the meeting had been banned I would not have made the journey. My second piece of evidence confirms the details of my travelling expenses. "
"My claim is simple but, I think, important. If you had released the information about the ban when it was available to you I would have not have made a wasted journey. (The release was reported on radio and in newspapers. I have absolutely no doubt that if it had been made public on Friday 10th July I would have heard about it. I study Ceefax/Teletext and listen to news bulletins regularly and even if I had missed the news myself I would have been told about it either by people in Oxford or by the news desk of the national newspaper for which I write a column which knew I was attending the event. I heard about the release on Saturday 11th July (by telephone) within minutes of it being made public even though I had just arrived at the railway station in Oxford at the time. "
"I have received no explanation as to why there was a delay and I cannot think of any such explanation."
The case was heard before District Judge Payne, sitting at Oxford Combined Court Centre in Oxford on 7th December 1998. Judge Payne ordered that my claim be struck out and that I should pay the defendant's costs "in the sum of £150'.
The Judge explained that the Court considered that: "such costs have been occasioned by the Plaintiff's unreasonable conduct in issuing proceedings without any cause of action whatsoever."
In the end it seemed to me that justice, not I, was the loser in this at once both trivial but important case. No one has yet come up with an explanation as to why there was such a lengthy delay between the granting of the exclusion zone and the publicising of the ban.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this minor case was a discovery which I made as a result of my protests.
On 7th October 1998 Liberal MP Nick Harvey wrote to Paul Boeteng MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office at the Home Office, to ask why there had been a delay between the decision to authorise the exclusion zone at Hillgrove Farm and the announcement that this had happened.
Boeteng replied: "the decision as to whether or not to announce that such an Order has been made would be for the district council to make. There is no requirement under the Act for such an announcement to be made."
So, it seems that the police and the politicians have somehow acquired the power to stop British citizens moving freely around their own country -- without any need to tell them that they cannot move around, or what restrictions exist. The police could, it seems to me from Boeteng's letter, quite legally obtain an exclusion Order, not tell anyone about the Order and then arrest any citizen who unwittingly breached the Order. I wonder if I am alone in finding all this rather reminiscent of Kafka's The Trial.
My complaint about what I still perceive to be a lack of courtesy shown to demonstrators is important but obviously not as important as the free speech issue. The unavoidable bottom line is that I was prevented from travelling on a public road, in my own time and at my own expense, to speak in a public place on a subject of public interest to innocent, law abiding citizens who had travelled in their own time and at their own expense to hear me speak.
My words would undoubtedly have embarrassed the government but were intended to help save human and animal lives. I was prevented from travelling to my destination because I am opposed to pointless cruelty to animals and I intended to criticise the government for failing to fulfil its clear, pre-election promises. Motorists travelling to the site of the ban and who did not wish to criticise the government or protest about what happens at Hillgrove Farm were not prevented from travelling on that road or to the same destination.
If all this had happened in Chile or China the broadsheet editorial writers would have exploded with indignation. If it had happened in Russia in the 1960s there would have been much rattling of pens by politicians and academics. But it happened in England in 1998, in the leafy lanes of Oxfordshire, and to its eternal shame the British media was only interested in the fact that when a number of the several thousand people who had made pointless journeys travelled into Oxford there were some arrests.
When I subsequently tried to take legal action against the Home Secretary a press release was sent out by a news agency to every British newspaper. Not one of them printed it. Numerous Members of Parliament wrote to me saying that they agreed that there had been a fundamental breach of civil liberties but no government Minister apologised.
On September 6th 1998 I returned to Witney. This time, as I had suspected, there was no ban. I had written to every MP in Britain to complain about the government banning my attempt to criticise it in public and many MPs had written to the Home Office to complain. I suspect that the government didn't know whether it was more embarrassed by the criticism of its failure to fulfil pre-election promises, or by the fact that its ruthless suppression of my freedom to speak out had become known to MPs of all parties.
But when I spoke at Witney a police helicopter hovered right overhead and, despite an excellent loudspeaker system, the noise made it difficult for those at the back of the crowd to hear what I was saying. Many of those in the audience noticed that the helicopter was not present before I started to speak and that it disappeared shortly after I stopped speaking.
The absurdity of the attitude of the police (and supporting evidence for my contention that politicians are targetting pro-animal campaigners) is in my view well illustrated by the fact that shortly after the Home Office had given the police authority to ban the pro-animal demonstration in Oxfordshire the police in the Midlands did not ban an event, due to take place a few weeks later at Long Marston, Stratford, even though they claimed they knew that a violent attack could happen.
"There is currently a serious and on going feud between Hells Angels and the Outcasts -- a separate motor cycle group -- and elsewhere in the country there have been incidents of murder and discovery of firearms and explosive devices which may be linked to this feud," said the Warwickshire constabulary in a press release. "Very recently information has been received that a violent attack between rival gangs could happen at Bulldog Bash, possibly using explosives."
The police in Warwickshire announced that they were concerned for the safety of the public during the event and had made a formal request to the Hells Angels to cancel the event. The Hells Angels refused to accede to this request and so the event went ahead.
Some might find it difficult to understand how the Home Office could excuse granting a police ban in Oxfordshire -- given that nowhere in the world has anyone ever been killed by an animal rights protestor -- but allow the allegedly potentially dangerous Hells Angels event to go ahead in Warwickshire.
But, of course, I very much doubt if the Hells Angels event was likely to involve active criticism of the government.
"It is the strength of a democracy that an individual can attack the government," admitted Alun Michael MP, the Home Office Minister who gave consent for the Order prohibiting a trespassory assembly at Witney in July 1998. (The Home Office used Section 14A of the Public Order Act 1986, which was introduced by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.)
Human Wrongs continued 3