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-- Interview January 2007
An Interview with Arkangel - First Published in Arkangel
R. Thanks very much for agreeing to
this interview. Can I explain about the magazine? It was
started in the late 80s by Ronnie Lee to provide a forum
for people within the movement to voice their views. Were
continuing with this tradition, but we'd also like to
reach a wider audience. .
C. It's always
frustrating when you're in animal rights. You end up
talking to each other about it, you just feel like it's
such a waste. It's like Hollywood films recouping the
money to put it back into the industry. So for animal
rights where's that going?
R. Exactly. There's
no point in preaching to the converted. WE know what
it's about; we need to reach the general public.
How do you get to them? My god! They really don't want
you to get to them
R. Do you try to get the word
out about animal rights when you're working with people
in the entertainment industry? Are they open to ideas or
are they quite negative?
C. I keep my eye open for
people who seem sympatico to high profile groups like
PETA, who I think are the real geniuses, and that's all
down to Ingrid Newkirk who started the group. She is
this English woman, who was raised in India, I
personally think she's a genius- I mean she started with
a typewriter in a basement, but there are no lengths
that she wont go to, so I put it down to her.
Name calling is not the way of getting through to the
general public. Do you feel that Peta campaigns would
actually work in this country? Obviously Americans have
a very different mind-set to the English.
C. I don't
know if it would work in this country. The thing is in
America they are so conservative, and they have no sense
of irony at all and are so easily offended. So the fact
that Peta uses the kind of tactics that they do, I
think, is the reason that they get away with it. Why I
use the term "get away with it", is because anyone else
would be crucified; they're reviled. They do things like
put a picture of New York's Mayor, who had prostate
cancer, and say something like anyone for milk? whilst
they are trying to publicise that dairy products have
strong links to cancer. I mean they could've been
lynched, but they don't care. Once in a while Ingrid
Newkirk will issue a statement saying yeah, well that
went a little too far and we apologise, but the reason
we did it is...
And then she will underline all the
R. Do you feel that your celebrity
status has given you the power to influence people?
C. Well of course it has, it would for anyone. In our culture, celebrities have replaced God! Most
people look up to celebrities and think I want her nose,
I want her boobs or I want her hair. You know people are
natural born followers and most of them don't have any
sense of self, or a centre. So they have to copy someone
else. Most of the celebrities I've met are ordinary
people. You only once in a while find an extraordinary
personality, particularly intelligent or conscious, but
as you can expect most of them are dumb-asses! Believe
me I've met them they're not the most animal friendly
mob are they, actors?
R. I suppose it's a way of
trying to get to people as effectively as possible
whilst staying within the boundaries of the law - if
you're that way inclined
C. Well you kind of have to
stay within the law up to a point. If you've tried
everything within the law and then you break the law
there is nothing wrong with that because we are breaking
laws that we think go against the natural law. If its
not against the law to kill animals then we're gonna
break the law that protects those who are killing
animals! Who is making the laws here? To me, tampering
with animals is against nature. You break the natural
law then you deal with us.
R. Do you think there
seems to be some embarrassment around the issue of meat
eating: fewer people stating I eat meat, and I'm proud
C. I think you're dreaming a little bit
there. I talked to some people lately, because I was
dusted off over this whole foot and mouth thing
R. What I meant about embarrassment is is
there a different mindset here compared to America or
C. The young people in this country are
trying to be non-PC; its kind of hip to be un-PC- if you
are PC, its considered boring. I recently met some people
when I talked on a programme for Channel 5. They were
asking me about my views on animal rights and
vegetarianism in general. I asked the guys if they were
meat eaters. The cameraman was 27 and I'm always shocked
to meet anyone who is a meat eater, especially when they
are young, I think they'd know better. Anyhow, I
realised that I was surrounded by meat eaters and they
were all probably thinking that I was a bit of a joke!
They were asking me what do you say to someone who
claims well we've always done it this way and we like
it. I said its the same thing I would say to a
paedophile. And, y'know, they were all shocked. They may
have thought I was saying that to get a response, but I
was saying that because I believe that.
thing about being PC the hunting fraternity and the
countryside alliance claim a ban on country sports is
against their civil liberties.
C. Maybe that's a
freedom of choice thing, but as I said earlier, when it
comes to killing then someone has to step in and put a
stop to it. The hunting issue is not my big issue
because I'm American, even though I've lived here almost
thirty years. I'm aware of the fact that people are
gonna say f..k off Yanko, y'know, Yankee go home. It's
the same if I'm in Spain I don't really talk about
bullfighting. Hunting is also a class issue here and I'm
an outsider. I don't have to be involved in everything.
R. I totally agree. The hunting fraternity and
the countryside alliance would say that the people who
are against hunting in this country are townies, so if
you came on the scene and said that you are against
hunting, they would say what do you know about it you're
C. I'm against killing animals for
pleasure that's what I know about it. But then that's
getting on to well what do we do with the hounds and it
goes on and on and on. It's not one of the debates that
I'll get drawn into, although I would do but top of the
agenda to me is what you eat. That seems to me the
number one fundamental thing and then under that comes
fur and hunting and all those things. They're all part
of the same thing, of course they are. But when people
accost someone on the street for wearing a fur coat then
obviously it's tempting and easy to do. But it would
seem to me if you do that, you should be just charging
into restaurants and insulting people. I mean I'm not
really one to confront people in public as such because
I don't want to embarrass people. I mean I know a lot of
people who really do want to embarrass people but I'm
not really sure that is the way forward. At least a fur
coat is going to last fifty years whereas a steak dinner
R. I suppose that's one way of looking at
C. You have to learn where you draw your own
R. Yes, sure, but each to their own in how
we decide to campaign.
C. Yes, valid point. I like
what you added. Each to their own- not when it comes to
child abuse or battering, or killing animals you know
all of these issues they're all part of it and I'm not
saying ones more important than the other.
Yes animal abuse is animal abuse.
C. The interesting
thing about animal rights people and people involved-
what I call the animal people- they all have their own
personal reasons why they're into it and what they
thinks important about it and what they think its about.
The one thing they all have in common in general (there
are always exceptions to the rule) is they aren't
racist, they're not homophobic, they're not sexist- you
know they don't have all the other agendas which to me
are a lot further out there- you know the real pinnacle
of the issues and once they have that right everything
else seems to follow suit. They don't have a problem with
other things, though people will say well what about
human rights?, as if we're not paying attention to
these. This is the first rung of the ladder and if you
don't get this right you're gonna f..k everything else
up. My personal take on animal rights is it's not really
about animals so much - its about people. It's about how
human beings relate to their environment and the world
they live in. Because the animals are not the problem -
they're just fine - people are the ones that are fuc...g
it up and it's peoples behaviour that has to be
liberated, not the animals. So I do see it as: there are
human issues - there are human rights issues, it's more
like instead of human rights: Humans can you get it
right? You know because you are really, really fu...d up
if you're thinking these animals are there for you to
exploit and to use, because when you kill them you kill
R. That's a good viewpoint to come at
it. Do you actually ever feel daunted by the enormity of
the task ahead? You've been vegetarian 30 years- have
you seen peoples views changing?
C. Do I find it
daunting? No I don't. I don't know- what's enormity? You
know you just have your own philosophy, the way that you
do things and your beliefs and then the rest of the
world can be big or small around it, that's irrelevant.
R. In this country where do you start? Do you
ever get depressed about the situation?
C. No never.
I think it's up to the individual. You know anyone can
put a dish of food on the table for a stray cat. Anyone
can take an animal to be neutered, anyone can go to a
rescue centre and give a dog a home, anyone can stop
eating meat-there is a big list of things we can
actively be doing and if you're actively doing something
I find that you don't get depressed. There is no point
getting depressed over things that just are - that's just
being fu...ng silly!
R. As regards the future,
do you actually see the human species as being capable
of living in harmony with other species?
C. Yes of
course. I think that's their inherent standing. That's
how it's meant to be that's how they are.
a recent article in the Mail on Sunday, you talked about
your reasons for becoming a vegetarian. You seemed
passionate and angry at times. Do you think your own
anger has increased over the years?
C. I'm not
R. You're not?
C. Maybe I was. Maybe
that's a thing of youth. Angry over what though? People
R. Not necessarily people who eat
meat. A few years back you mentioned the use of |Direct
Action against the MacDonalds chain - that seemed angry
- maybe angry is too strong a word, shall we say
C. It's all the same anger or passion.
These fast food chains they are an environmental
disaster. Ultimately it's not the fast food diet or the
chemicals they use; it is the fact that they are making
a profit out of killing animals. They all
unconditionally have to go! MacDonalds and all of these
fast food chains, I believe, in my lifetime they will
all be out of business. I really do think that. For
years I used to say it just to let people know that
maybe it was possible even though in my heart I didn't
think it was possible, but I do now.
C. Yeah well I suppose. Hey you
heard it here first!
R. You were recently
arrested in New York at a demo against Gap stores.
C. Oh yes.
R. Against the use of leather of
the sacred boneback cows of India. What were the motives
behind you actions and what do you think was achieved?
C. We definitely achieved something
it because of your celebrity status?
absolutely. I know its very silly, but thats how it
works. Basically I lent myself to them. I was touring
America and I had a couple of days off in Vancouver so I
called Dan and said Hey, I'm gonna be in Vancouver so
either come up and hang or think of something for us to
do. So he came up and we organised an impromptu protest
outside the Gap because they were using Indian leather
from a black market trade. You can say any leather is
objectionable, true, but if we're going to go legal and
get people where it hurts we start at the place were its
illegal. We did that protest and it got tons of
publicity around Canada. So then we just started .
Whenever we were in a place like Boston, Chicago, you
know, somewhere where there was a big Gap, we did a
protest that was all pretty low key and didnt get a lot
of attention. So we planned a protest in New York. It
was one of my last shows in America and I had a show the
next day. Dan said Oh whatever happens, you're only be
in the clinker for two hours, so dont worry about it.
What we did was go in the store and buy a jacket that
said Made in India then we would buy it with the Peta
credit card, go out in the streets, do the protest, then
take the jacket back and say we wanted our money back.
We did it in nearly ever Gap store but this particular
time when we returned the jacket, instead of leaving the
shop we got into the window and stayed there until they
arrested us. The manager of the Gap was not happy that
the police were coming to arrest us because they really
didnt want this publicity, so they kept holding the
police back. So we had to start tearing stuff up and
trashing their displays. The police finally said that
they had to arrest us and they pushed the manager aside
and said come on you're coming with us. Well it worked
if you dont mind a bit of public humiliation. I was
chained to a railing for 7 hours while they
fingerprinted us and this that and the other then we had
to go down town for the night. I didnt get out until 5
in the morning, still with a show to do, but I dont
think anyone who saw the show knew any different.
R. And it certainly got good publicity for the
C. Ingrid was thrilled beyond words, she
said it could have taken them 3 years for Peta to get
that far. Because the Gap finally conceded and said they
were not using the leather anymore. So now Peta can
start pressuring all the smaller companies and say You
saw what we did with the Gap, you're next.
Which is a bit like the campaign that is going on in
this country- Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty- and
Shamrock farm- and Hillgrove- pin-pointing particular
establishments as you did and working your way through.
C. You go to the top and you work your way down, you
get the big boys and then the little ones, thats the way
it has to be.
R. Are you actually a supporter of
direct action or do you have certain reservations about
some forms of direct action. Do you think it alienates
C. I dont care if it alienates the
public, this is war. How fuc..ng alienated do I feel
when I'm the minority and the rest of the public are
meat-eaters? Im already alienated from that - so they
can be alienated from me! I think the best thing is not
to polarise people but mobilise them. Its 2001 and
people are still eating in Burger Chef so go f..k
yourself pal and do it today! If you find that
offensive, go f..k yourself twice!! Y'know I've spent
thirty years trying to play Mr. Nice guy and no-ones
buying it. They need to have the slaughter house right
in their face before they even say Oh is that what goes
on its the parents of my generation, they seem to have
done the worst job of raising their kids, I'm so shocked
and disappointed in the so-called 60's hippies. The
radical generation- and now all their kids are
R. So what do you feel about the
people who eat meat, who say that bringing up a child
vegetarian is brainwashing your child?
full of sh.t, thats what I think, they're not
instructing their kids, they're not telling them the
truth. Its just bad parenting and I regret that my kids
ate dairy products but I made a conscious effort. Im not
fundamentally against dairy products if the animals are
treated properly, i.e. in certain places in India. That
would be how I go about my diet, but you dont buy from
the dairy industry-which is the meat industry. Because
my kids were in a state school and hanging out with
ordinary kids- they never went to my shows or
anything-they just had their own life. I figured they
were already going to be singled out and called tree
huggers by their schoolmates. Again their parents didnt
teach them anything, but at least y'know they werent
vegan-and like I said I do regret this now-I wish they
had been on a vegan diet all those years. I had thought
that maybe to relax and make it not seem as radical and
extreme to other kids at school. Because I didnt want my
kids to start being y'know-being the odd one out is not
nice for a child, so it means it can have an ice cream
or a bar of milk chocolate.
R. Do you think
animal rights people such as yourself are stereotyped by
C. Yes of course! They're ignorant.
Journalists and media people are really bad, because
they recycle useless information thats swimming around
their heads and y'know, theyre mesmerised by whats
They're thinking about Geri Halliwell for
chrissakes, or y'know they're thinking about stuff thats
just so irrelevant and so not of any significance at
all. They're so caught up in what people are wearing!
R. You obviously know from personal experience
that what you see in the press is a load of rubbish.
C. Oh well yeah, I dont want to go out and do
anything for the whole animal issue if I didnt think
that its going to be effective. You cant do everything
and you cant do it all the time, because it kind of
waters it down. You do it when- for example, when I did
that Peta thing in America. I was doing tours, so the
reason I was there was bigger than little protests. Yet
in the end the protest turned out to have a lot more
publicity than the tour. There is a certain way that you
do it to make it effective.
R. How do you
reach a larger public audience, do you actually in you
tours bring animal rights into your concerts?
Yeah, To the dismay of my band! My shock phrase of my
last tour. I've gotta get over it. Its a sort of a form
of tourettes syndrome- you get on stage and all of a
sudden you can't stop yourself. I would just
unconditionally tell any meat-eaters in the audience to
go f..k themselves, and to do it today! I had to watch
people in Texas heading for the exit. I would taunt the
Texans, Id say If you dont want me to talk any more-
you've all got guns- come on and shoot me. You want me
to shut up, shoot me! and I could see my band going to
the sides of the stage and as far from me as they could.
R. Probably a dangerous thing to do in America!
C. Oh f..k it! If they want you they want you. And
yeah there were definitely some times where I would say:
I want to thank the defenders of farm animals for
helping us tonight and I'm not talking about some of the
ladies in the front of the audience here and that really
jumped the audience. But you know, I'm on stage, I'm in
a rock band, I'm paid to be obnoxious - I can't help
myself. But I'm also aware that you have them. I always
got an arm around my shoulder saying, You're alienating
people you know, I've heard that for many years.
R. Do you think you are?
C. I get more
people coming up to me in the parking lot saying, Too
fu...ng right, nice one.
R. You're not going too
ever please everyone all of the time are you.
you're not. Absolutely not. But the message is one of
compassion, one of peace, you know the message is a good
message. Nobody wants the message, so thats why you have
to kick it a little forcefully. Because we're not asking
for people for their opinions or paid for their input.
This is a war. You're gonna kill animals, we're gonna
stop you. There's certain principles here and we're
trying to maintain our principles and we're going way,
way, way against the tide here. So you know you're
always gonna get people saying, How could they blow up
that laboratory? People got hurt. It's very easy to push
back the whole movement with one little incident. It
broke my heart when I saw that David Bailey had said in
a recent magazine how pathetic the animal rights people
are and how appalling the pressure groups are. And you
know that just leaves me so sad because I've always seen
David Bailey as- he did that fantastic fur ad for Lynx .
You know this is one of the original bad boy
photographers. He's very droll, he's got a real laddish
sense of humour and reputation and I looked up to him a
lot. I think he's like a really great personality, I
mean when he said that, it pierced my heart. I said to
myself come on Dave, we love you. We want you. Come
back. And I thought someone like that would have found
time for anyone who was going up against the
establishment. But I think that whats happened is that
being politically correct has become so boring and so
unattractive that it's actually made people go that way.
And that's the thing, political correctness. Fashion
dictates everything these days. Like suddenly it's
fashionable to wear fur. Go shop in the right places, if
you dont have the right thing. Its all about image. Its
become so all about image that fashion has become a
R Do you think its always been
like that to a certain extent?
C. Not like it is
R. Do you think it's worse now?
Absolutely. Now there used to be other things like you
might be in a favourable position and successful for a
variety of reasons- one might be because of your
talents, in other words you might be a spectacular
singer, or you might be a great actor- these days no one
gives a f..k about any of that. They only care about
your image. Why else would we be losing endlessly at the
Spice Girls after all this time? And what they're
wearing and when they walk down the street or if they
have fake boobs or not? Why on gods green earth would it
be of interest to anybody?
R. Again its who
makes that happen. People are being manipulated by the
C. People are manipulated by their own
ignorance. I dont just think they're manipulated by the
media, its just people. Women will say Oh the record
company told me to stick my tits out; Bullshit I don't
believe that for one moment. Tell your record company to
go f..k themselves, I've been doing this for thirty
years, no one ever suggested anything like that to me.
R. Do you have friends that are meat-eaters?
C. Kind of.
R. Would you say close, close
C. I would say probably not. I mean I have
a few people that I love dearly, you know that I really
look up to what are meat-eaters and it's just one of
those. I think for the most part they're always older
than me and there're from a generation of hippies. I
dont know what happened. Maybe they're smothered an area
of their consciousness which cant get any air now, I
dont know what it is. I've heard people be just so
boastful about I like my meat, you'll never change me.
Theyre really proud of it because they're kinda going
against the grain; there being a little naughty and a
little bit dangerous now because, well we know its
dangerous but we'll do it anyway, theres that.
what its become like. Its like, Oh I know its dangerous
but you know f..k it. If you've got a life die young and
leave a beautiful corpse, whatever. And thats how the
meat things got. Most people do not want to be
affiliated with cat lovers etc you see I love the image
of animal rights because when I think of it I think of
people in balaclavas storming laboratories.
Yes. Though the image doesnt go down quite so well with
the general public!
C. No. But thats what appeals to
me. I think thats the beautiful side of it. And you know
little old girls who run a donkey sanctuary. You can
always do your little bit and your little bit is as big
as a big bit. Because every little bit is significant.
Its all part of it. So that thing of being overwhelmed:
it doesnt matter if 500,000 animals have just been
cremated and they got a bolt in the head before they
were cut up and the rest of their bodies were exploited
and used for leather and meat, because they were all
gonna get killed anyway. Whats really important is that
you can extend yourself and show something. Today. Just
do it today, even if its just a little thing. As long as
youre actively part of it.
R. Its nice that
you're so down to earth about it all and not thinking:
is what I'm doing ever going to change anything.
Well go pet your cat. And when you feel your cat purring
then you'll know that you're changing something.