Or: What REALLY Happened in the Churchyard
Steve Best and Jason Miller with Joan Court, Janet Tomlinson, and Lynn Sawyer
Anyone who follows the animal rights movement in England knows that the direct action element has become increasingly powerful and controversial. By abandoning what they see to be futile efforts to persuade a government beholden to corporate interests and speciesist ideology to respect the rights of animals, a growing number of activists have taken the fight directly to the animal exploiters themselves. Over the last few decades, groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), SPEAK (originally named Stop Primate Experiments at Cambridge), and Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) have developed highly effective campaigns against all facets of the vivisection industry. While the ALF is an underground network of activists engaged in “criminal” actions involving sabotage, arson, and break-ins, other direct action groups such as SHAC and SPEAK are aboveground organizations and employ legal approaches.
Whereas campaigns against factory farming dominate animal advocacy in the US, in England a major activist focus is on vivisection. In the last decade, animal rights activists have mounted intense protests against the vivisection industry, attacking it in the countryside and cities, village farms and university laboratories alike. In the last decade, animal liberationists have closed down numerous vivisection breeders and thwarted plans for major experiment labs at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Militant anti-vivisectionists have captured the social spotlight and pose a serious threat to an industry of huge economic importance.
The militant direct action (MDA) element emerged in the 1960s with hunt saboteur groups who used various tactics to confuse hunting dogs and place themselves in the path between the hunters and the hunted. In 1974, the Band of Mercy emerged as a more militant sabotage-oriented movement that attacked hunting and vivisection until its leaders Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman were captured and jailed for a year. Goodman turned police informer, but in 1976, after his release, Ronnie Lee began a new and more militant underground organization, aptly named the Animal Liberation Front (see Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, “Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals”).
A New Wave of MDA
A second wave of direct action began with attacks on vivisection suppliers in England. In September 1996, activists began a campaign against Consort Kennels, a major dog breeder for vivisection labs. After months of applying intense pressure, they closed the kennel in July 1997 and adopted 170 beagles to loving homes. In a September 1999, victory, activists targeted Hillgrove Farm which bred cats for experimentation. The same tactics proved effective and Hillgrove closed in August 1999. Over 800 cats were rescued and re-homed. In 2000, activists suit down Shamrock Monkey Farm and Regal Rabbits (rescuing over 1000 rabbits).
Emboldened by the effectiveness of the new direct action approach, Greg Avery and Heather James founded SHAC in 1999. SHACtivists in the UK, US, and elsewhere have waged an aggressive direct action campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), an insidious animal testing company notorious for extreme animal abuse (torturing and killing 500 animals a day) and manipulated research data. SHAC combines a shrewd knowledge of the law, no nonsense direct action tactics, and a singular focus on one corporation that represents the evils of the entire vivisection industry.
For 30 years, the Chris and John Hall family living in the Staffordshire village of Newchurch has bred guinea pigs for animal research. One of their favored clients was HLS, where the animals were used to test sweeteners. Guinea pigs bred by the Halls also were used to test breast implant materials and had industrial cleaning chemicals applied to their backs in a Scottish contract research lab. Various universities tested their nerve response to painful stimuli and forced them to breathe noxious chemicals for prolonged periods of time. Government institutions conducted brain experiments on them. In a September 6, 1999 raid, the ALF rescued 600 guinea pigs and documented the squalid conditions in which the animals lived, in cramped cages littered with the partially eaten bodies of dead and dying babies. The horrors revealed inside the Halls’ sheds provoked widespread disgust and anger, and spawned groups such as Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) which were dedicated to one goal – shutting down the Darley Oaks breeding farm.
Since 1999, activists protested outside the farm every week. As ever more guinea pigs were bred for torture and death, anonymous activists turned up the heat and deployed tactics of harassment, including hate mail, death threats, bomb hoaxes, excrement packages, cutting telephone lines, bricks thrown through windows and other forms of property destruction, arson, character assassination, and detonating explosive devices placed near employee homes on four occasions. Activists also adopted SHAC tactics of targeting suppliers, forcing many to sever ties with the Hall family. To pressure others to treat them as lepers, they vandalized the golf course the Halls played on and threatened the owner of the Red Lion pub with an arson attack if he continued to serve them spirits. The elderly woman who supplied them with diesel and heating fuel eventually stopped delivering to them. A contractor who harvested corn on their farm quit when saboteurs planted metal rods in the ground to destroy his combine harvester. After the tanker firm that collected their milk had its vehicles attacked, the Halls had to sell their dairy herd and close their turkey farm. Even newspaper deliverers were threatened with actions should they continue to cater to the Halls in any manner.
Buoyed by support from Tony Blair and other members of government, the Hall family vowed not to give in to the activists. In its zealous effort to protect the profits of the vivisection and pharmaceutical industries, the British state has demonized animal rights activists as “criminals” and “terrorists.” The Home Office barred prominent US activists from ever again entering the UK as they went to work criminalizing homegrown effective activism. Since 9/11 and the 7/7 bombing, the government drafted increasingly repressive legislation to stop legal forms of protest and rights to free speech, drafting into law measures such as the Public Order Act, the Anti-Social Behavior Orders, the Protection from Harassment Act, the Malicious Communications Act, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, and the Anti-Terrorism and Security Act.
Due to these sundry laws and numerous injunctions, aboveground activists found that they were told where they could protest, for how long, with how many people, and what they could and could not say. Home demonstrations were prohibited, and the state placed increasingly severe restrictions on activist use of Internet sites, as those arrested for the crime of MDA have received hefty jail sentences. As just one of numerous unfortunate examples, in March 2008 the government slapped the founders of SHAC UK with ten year prison sentences.
Mystery of the Grave Robbers
Police remove from a makeshift grave what they believe are the remains of Gladys Hammond
(photo and caption courtesy of the Telegraph.co.uk)
The struggle was carried to a macabre new level when in October 2004 unknown activists — or perhaps even the police manufacturing an excuse to further demonize and repress the MDA movement — raided the grave of Gladys Hammond, Chris Hall’s mother-in-law and stole most of her remains. The act was condemned as sick, depraved, and despicable by church, police, and some of the public, although of course no one mentioned the exploitation of guinea pigs as all of these things and more. In his statement to the BBC News, a rattled John Hall said: “We are not monsters and none of our staff are monsters, we are just ordinary people doing a job that some people don’t like.”
If the Halls are “just ordinary” people, God help us all. In a second act of brazen hypocrisy, the first of course being to perpetuate barbaric treatment of animals in the name of civilization, John Hall said in a Swedish newspaper interview, “If I could only shoot off about thirty of them it would probably be calm after that … If I could kill a hundred of them, I would be guaranteed to get rid of the problem.” Hall’s statement is far more menacing than anything said by Dr. Jerry Vlasak, the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) representative who has been universally condemned in the media for stating the logical truth that killing vivisectors would affect the vivisection industry. And if a UK animal activist made such a statement, he or she would likely be jailed for it.
Whatever moral reservations one might have of the action (if in fact animal activists did it), the tactic was effective, for in the war of attrition waged against them, the Hall family eventually lost. In August 2005, they announced that they could not take anymore pressure and harassment, and that they would give up breeding guinea pigs in favor of “traditional farming.”
The British Union of Anti-Vivisectionism simply deplored the campaign and reaffirmed their commitment to “non-violent” methods of change. Many activists condemned the action without understanding the complexity of the situation. Some did little more that regurgitate distorted media and police press reports. Among these activists, who dogmatically cling to pacifist principles over effective tactics and who show more sympathy for the Hall family than the guinea pigs – none stand out more glaringly than US writer, lawyer, and “animal advocate,” Lee Hall.
Calling Out Lee Hall
Recently in the pages of Thomas Paine’s Corner, we penned two critiques of Lee Hall’s work and her attacks on the MDA movement in the UK and US (see “Pacifism or Animals: Which Do You Love More?” and “Averting the China Syndrome: Response to Our Critics and the Devotees of Fundamentalist Pacifism”) These essays were meant to counter the uncritical reception of the extreme pacifism in Hall’s work and that of others such as Gary Francione, his legion of followers, and Friends of Animals. We were glad to learn that we had alerted UK activists of her disparaging representation of their work, and some very seasoned activists who were directly involved in the events Hall criticizes wrote us to say they would read her book and write back with critical comments,
And they did. We are therefore happy to feature below the responses of three UK activists to the work of Lee Hall. Whereas Hall can dismiss our critiques easily enough, these responses are much harder to deflect as they come from veteran activists directly involved in what Hall so adeptly mischaracterizes in her book, “Capers in the Churchyard.” While Hall is in no way related to the Hall family described above, it is a serendipitous coincidence, for her own bilious defamations of militant animal liberations could easily have come from the mouth of the Hall brothers, as their rancid anti-liberationist discourse elides into her own diatribes.
We first hear from Joan Court, who directly challenges Hall’s portrayal of her own positions in Capers. In the second letter, Janet Tomlinson takes Hall to task for copying biased press reports rather than doing real research and actually talking to UK activists. In the third and longest response, Lynn Sawyer, also impugns Hall for her absurd caricature of the MDA movement in the UK and finds her guilty of spreading “lies by omission.”
Let us say, finally, that we are honored to feature the words of these courageous women; they are paragons of steadfast resistance to murderous speciesism and a decadent and barbarous Western “civilization.” Let us now enter their words into the historical record and stand as a correction to the distortions of the UK police and corporate media, and fundamentalist pacifists and animal “advocates” such as Lee Hall.
II. UK Activists Speak
1. Joan Court
ATTN. LEE HALL: I “TOTALLY SUPPORT DIRECT ACTION AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE”!
I am Joan Court from Cambridge England, where I have lived for the last 30 years after graduating from the University with a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology. I also have a Master’s degree in social work from Smith’s College Massachusetts. I have been involved with the animal rights movement since 1978 supporting national and local campaigns and have been arrested on several occasions.
Regarding pages 56 and 57 of “Capers in the Churchyard,” I must say that I object to being whitewashed as if I were in opposition to other radical campaigners. The fact of the matter is that I fully support SHAC, SPEAK, the ALF and, when they functioned, SNGP. I have been a crew member on Sea Shepherd and have worked alongside Captain Paul Watson for 10 weeks and respected his total commitment saving the lives of sea mammals.
In regard to the hunger strikes in Oxford it was in fact SPEAK who sponsored me and I raised substantial funds for them.
I support direct action and civil disobedience. Some of those in prison are my friends who I totally support.
Furthermore, regarding page 117 of your book, I would like to ask you which hunger strikers are you referring to, as I am not aware of any other hunger strikers, bar animal rights prisoners in England and Austria. And what is the “terrible conflict within activism” to which you refer? Who are the hunger strikers supposed to despise?
Hunger striking is one of the few tactics left which are not illegal and can be used as a political tool. I am deeply disturbed by the erosion of civil liberties in the UK which affects everyone involved in any radical movement.
I would be glad to have a response to this letter.
2. Janet Tomlinson
FANTASY IN THE CHURCHYARD
I think “Fantasy in the Churchyard” would be a more appropriate title for Lee Hall’s book, “Capers in the Churchyard.” Hall clearly wrote this book to vilify the militant wing of the animal rights movement, and she used distorted UK media accounts to help do the job. Hall obviously has no understanding of right and wrong. While she claims to be an “advocate for animals,” she attacks those who help abused animals and readily accepts the abuse that animals suffer at the hands of cruel, greedy humans who believe animals were created for them to satiate their unnatural urges, or to exploit for money. Does Lee Hall think the degree of abuse sustained by an animal (human or nonhuman) make it more or less acceptable? At the end of the day abuse is abuse and should not be tolerated!
Regarding Hall’s book, I have only read the parts pertaining to the alleged grave-theft of Gladys Hammond and am amazed. If the rest of the book is written in the same vein, it’s a wonder that she hasn’t been sued by the UK press for plagiarism.
I was involved from the outset of the campaign to close Darley Oaks, the guinea-pig breeding farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire UK, and have invited Lee Hall to discuss with me the factual inaccuracies she has irresponsibly included in her work. However she has not had the courtesy to answer my letter and I therefore question her motives for writing such rubbish. She has merely copied press reports without checking as to whether they were factual or not. She has done no research whatsoever regarding Gladys Hammond or she would seriously question the authenticity of her alleged theft from Yoxall cemetery.
She drones on about violence being perpetrated on the Hall family and associates yet fails to mention that out of approximately 200 protesters being arrested at Darley Oaks not one was charged with causing physical harm to an animal abuser. Nor does she mention how many protesters were assaulted by the police, the Hall family, their farm hands, and security guards or how much damage has been done to protesters’ property. Had she watched the ALF video of the horrific conditions in which the Hall family kept the guinea-pigs and watched Chris Hall breaking the necks of 1500 guinea-pigs after the ALF liberated the 600, she would have seen true violence.
Her selective use of press copies is striking, especially the absence of the following report in “The Times” (May 4th 2006): “Police were unable to prove who had physically disinterred Mrs. Hammond’s body; they charged the four extremists with conspiracy which covered the entire campaign, after realizing that one-off prosecutions for more minor offences such as harassment or criminal damage were failing to stop attacks by activists.” This says it all, doesn’t it?
Of the 200 arrested only a handful went to court. Cases were thrown out as a result of the animal abusers’ and police lies. When Harry Ireland (Staffordshire’s Chief Crown Prosecutor) was asked why the liars had not been charged with perjury he replied “They hadn’t lied, it was just their perception of the event.” But of course the animal abusers and police lied; the Hall’s illegal and cruel activities had been exposed and the so-called “police” were voluntary bully boys who would probably shop their mothers for a bonus.
A Darley Oaks protestor and, above right, a photo of Gladys Hammond
Like governments, the police, the vivisection industry, and animal abusers in general, Lee Hall has an apparent hatred for militant animal rights campaigners. She states in her book (which reads like a “fantasy” devoid of factual substance) that protesters were imprisoned for the grave-theft of Gladys Hammond. In fact no protester was charged, convicted, or imprisoned for stealing Gladys Hammond simply because there is no categorical proof that protesters were responsible. Probably those in prison did use the grave-theft to help animals whilst Lee Hall used the grave-theft simply to make money off her book! Activists’ use of Gladys Hammond, a fold up spade, a few letters, and an informative web site seems to be the extent of the evidence against them.
It is not because they are violent that animal rights campaigners are imprisoned; it is because governments fear and fail to control the compassion campaigners feel towards animals, and stupidly believe that if they imprison some it will deter others. Henry David Thoreau wrote; “If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”
Had it not been for other pressure groups that used questionable methods to change bad laws, we would still be slave trading and women would not be allowed a vote. Does Lee Hall condemn their direct action? Had governments followed Gandhi’s suggestion that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated, the more helpless the creature the more entitled it is to protection by man from cruelty of man,” and thereby morally progressed instead of supporting animal abuse, there would be no need for animal rights campaigners.
As a propagandist herself, Hall should surely recognize propaganda when she sees it. The demo she refers to as a “victory parade” was arranged weeks before anyone knew the farm was closing. In fact, the police were the ones who dubbed it the “victory parade,” no doubt to incite the public. And while there was a few boos, the majority of the public smiled and waved their support, much to the irritation of the police. Mind you it was a victory, for a cruel and greedy family who had amassed their wealth by intensive “farming” of mink, poultry, and guinea-pigs were finally ending their sordid businesses after the six year campaign against them.
Lee Hall babbles on about how the Archdeacon of Walsall knelt on bended knee beside Gladys Hammond’s desecrated grave, but she fails to mention that the Rev. Jenny Lister vicar of Yoxall, who falsely accused an innocent protester, also bends her knee at what appears to be the wrong grave. Lee Hall claims that “locals pelted the parade with eggs and bacon,” but I recall this as an isolated incident involving one man — a local drunkard who more than likely would have pelted Elizabeth II with anything at hand had she unwittingly interrupted his drinking session.
If we followed Lee Hall’s extreme pacifist philosophy, we would stand by and allow all manner of cruelty to be inflicted on animals. Her book is a nasty piece of fiction and propaganda, and she should be embarrassed for writing such drivel. Morris Dee’s description of the “novel” as a “beautifully written book” and Steve Sapontzis’ description of it as being “informative” and “eloquent” shows that their level of intelligence is zero and along with Lee Hall they should be ashamed for promoting animal abuse.
Hall’s time would be better spent asking campaigners questions such as: Why do you find it necessary to go to the lengths you do? Why do governments insist on allowing the flawed and fraudulent science of vivisection to continue when they are aware of how many humans taking drugs tested on animals are killed every year? How do governments morally justify the violence (she is so concerned about) meted out to sentient creatures, purely for profit? And why does England sponsor an industry which keeps us a sickly nation, and which disease has the use of drugs tested on animals totally eradicated?
If Lee Hall’s account of the alleged grave-theft of Gladys Hammond is representative of her overall depiction of militant direct action, then the entire book is fraudulent propaganda and rubbish that the animal rights movement should dismiss as such. I have to conclude with the view of Steve Best and Jason Miller that she is a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome, given that she expresses far more hostility to militant animal rights activists than she does to the industries and individuals who breed, confine, torture, and slaughter animals for profit.
3. Lynn Sawyer
CAPERS OF DISINFORMATION AND LIES OF OMISSION
Lee Hall’s book, “Capers in the Churchyard,” came to my attention only when other US activists Steve Best and Jason Miller challenged it in their essays “Pacifism or Animals: Which Do You Love More?” and “Averting the China Syndrome: Response to Our Critics and the Devotees of Fundamentalist Pacifism.” Best and Miller should be thanked for bringing Hall’s book to the attention of people like me who until now have remained blissfully ignorant of this attack on particular on British activists by an American and the ongoing aggrandisement of her ideas in the United States. Much of her argument is based upon state propaganda of incidents which are supposed to have happened in the UK. She misleads not only by what she says, but also by omission.
Intrigued by what Best and Miller called a “bad” and “dangerous” (in its potential to mislead people about the character and nature of the militant direct action movement) book, I sent off for a copy and I have to say after reading it twice I personally found it irritating beyond belief. It is poorly researched, arrogant, simplistic, patronising, smug, and quite frankly the worst book I have ever read by another animal rights activist. This may sound harsh but Lee has to be challenged regarding her attacks on other activists.
According to Hall, people such as Michelle Rokke, who exposed HLS atrocities in an undercover investigation, and the ALF activists who rescued Britches (a baby macaque monkey who had his eyelids sewn together) are nothing more than a liability and “violent” because they upset the poor vivisectors. Hall seems to sneer at those who work 18 hour days in sanctuaries as nothing more than welfarists. Activists who are punched, kicked, imprisoned, and assaulted are not only architects of their own oppression but the oppression of everyone else!
It is important to question Hall because many activists in the USA appear to venerate her book, which is apparently is based on a pile of corporate lies. I was going to respond line-by-tedious-line, but life is far too short. Instead I will just do my best to counter what I know to be wrong with her conclusions and stress the fact that if we do not write our own history, people like Lee Hall will do it for us. Thank goodness for Keith Mann, whose book From “Dusk ‘til Dawn” (not to be confused with the George Clooney vampire flick) chronicles the history of the animal liberation movement.
I have no wish to criticize Lee Hall as a person, as I do not know her. But I am sure that she cares a great deal about the movement. First, let me say that there are some aspects of her book I partially agree with (for example I think that we should be professional on demonstrations and more approachable and that persuading people to be vegan is vital). In addition I completely agree with her abolitionist approach: we have no right to use animals at all and should leave wild animals be and stop domestic animal breeding to the point of extinction. But then this is the essence of animal rights believed by all animal rights activists, hardly a new idea. Even in a vegan utopia I think we should give assistance to wild animals who need it — a beached whale, for example, a bird with a broken wing, or a merciful end to a deer with a broken and gangrenous leg. From what I understand, Hall would disapprove of these acts. I think as we are (whether we like it or not) part of the natural world we have to interact with our fellow travelers. After all, whales, turtles, and dolphins have saved the lives of mariners.
However, enough people are praising Hall’s book, and they are right to do so concerning maybe 10 of the 140 odd pages. But they probably have no idea of the omissions made in its creation, which I am in a good position to address. Thus, my task here is to challenge Lee on those omissions and her edicts on how activists should behave on pain of expulsion from the movement. Steve and Jason have done an excellent job on countering Hall’s pacifist dogmas, but I wish to add some additional points.
1. Violence. Hall is opposed to violence that is very clear and this is the issue her US critics are most concerned with. But what is “violence” or “force”? Hall does not enlighten us much, but she does include shouting, breaking the law, and upsetting those who wear fur or destroy forests. This is her opinion and she is entitled to it but it appears to come from an ivory tower far away from the reality of the streets and the fields. She seems to assume that the police/courts are always fair, that those who eat meat just need a few recipes to persuade them to become vegan, and that it is only animal rights militants who are ever violent. It would appear that she lives in a different realm than other activists because we always seem to encounter some mad fucker called Jethro who is 6ft 6 (tall and wide) carrying a Chainsaw and a shotgun, whose favourite uncle is Chief Constable and head of the masons, along with all his mates …who all know where we live. Yes, Lee, you persuade Jethro that his unappealing habit with badgers and sheep is wrong by giving him a recipe on vegan fruitcake; we will continue to rely on the fact that the only reason he hasn’t murdered us in our beds is because he thinks that we will invoke calamity and woe on him and his inbred clan if he tries it.
I have just started reading Mark Thomas’s book “Belching out the devil, global adventures with Coca-Cola.” For nothing more than profit, people, Thomas shows, are prepared to murder and torture trade unionists. This is what we are up against. If a gang of thugs can go around in Columbia torturing and killing without being brought to justice (and all over the globe), the only thing that will stop them is extreme violence — NOT a vegan recipe! Would I cry if one of these vermin (who also infest Burma, Zimbabwe, China, etc. etc.) got shot dead by a would-be victim, errr…. NO!. With human rights we have much to achieve–slavery actual (as in a human being “owned” by another) and virtual (as in working in appalling conditions or facing starvation) still exist, women are stoned to death, and gay people are hanged. Torture is endemic. Where legal remedy and all else fails, violence against the perpetrators of human rights abusers is a very good option, and I think Hall might have a tough job convincing those who have saved their lives and those of their family through no other recourse than by killing a potential murderer/murderers that it isn’t.
Then we come to nonhuman victims where there is no universal declaration of rights or universally accepted recognition of suffering. If humans are treated like pieces of shit, other animals in their billions are even more at risk. Ordinary folk who are not animal rights activists do use violence to protect other species and if, for example, a group of drunken louts are torturing a dog in the park, what might stop them are several things: getting arrested (which potentially involves violence), talking to them to make them stop, or hitting them as hard as it takes — and it would not take an animal rights person to do this. What would not work is trying to persuade them to be vegan or talking to them without them feeling that they would face serious consequences if they did not stop and hand over the dog. I would want such people to fear me when I approached them, as much for self preservation as anything else. They are quite frankly scum who will only understand violence. Yes they may change. I did. I stopped hunting, became vegan, and joined the animal rights movement because it made sense, because I knew in my heart what I was doing was wrong, and because of the robust challenge to hunting made by hunt saboteurs. These sabs by the way, and those who have done ALF actions, were not horrible to me. When they saw that I was serious about changing, they were kind and supportive; they were not interested in retribution but just in stopping people like me abusing animals. And they succeeded in my case.
2. What violence? Hall refers to the incident when Brian Cass ended up with a head injury, and to be fair to her and to Cass, I do not know about the facts surrounding the case other than what is in the press. I do not trust the press to tell the truth any more than I trust Alistair Darling to steer us out of our economic recession. I can find no other example of actual violence from animal rights activists.
Hall refers to letters, stuff on “Bite Back,” and property damage all as violent. She never really refers to those who abuse animals as violent, or those who terrorise native Amazonian peoples, or the police or the prisons as violent. No, just her fellow activists are violent. Suppose someone got injured from a tree which was spiked; this is sad, but just maybe the corporation were to blame: why were they cutting up spiked trees and destroying our collective future? Some whalers got some foam on them from Sea Shepherd’s foam gun; are we supposed to be horrified by this more than the fact that whalers are lobbing explosive harpoons at sentient beings, including Paul Watson? A woman wearing fur gets sworn at; what on earth would she expect, certainly in the UK, where everyone is aware of the obscene cruelty involved in making fur? It is not as though an animal rights activist has read Michael Tobias’ novel, “Rage and Reason” (a book in which the hero Felham visits the exact same violence on people as they inflict on their victims, chefs are boiled to death, vivisectors mashed, the police face anti aircraft missiles, etc.), and then decides to chop off the fur wearer’s hands and feet before skinning her alive, a grotesque fate which she has inflicted on others, and knows she has inflicted on others, and is proud of that fact. No one would ever do such a heinous act apart from fiction.
Hall writes (page 38): “To agree with animal rights mean, at essence, to repudiate violence.” Does it? When exactly did the entire international animal rights movement reach a consensus on this definition of animal rights? I believe in women’s rights the fact that we are all equal regardless of gender, if someone tries to rape me do I not have the right to kick him in the goolies? The same applies if I come across a gay man being hounded because of his sexuality. I have no problem with calling the police to use violence on his behalf, and if they do not respond that leaves me with no choice but to do my best to help, which does not preclude the use of force. Presumably, on Hall’s outlook, I should just allow myself to be raped or just walk past another sentient being getting beaten (be that being a dog or an old person, etc.). What choice is there if someone is holding a knife to a child’s throat? If I call for police assistance and they act to protect someone they will use violence to the extent of killing someone, does it matter if they apply the force rather than I?
[From Animal Liberation Front.com: Jill’s death was not a pleasant one. Animal Friends Croatia, who shared Jill’s story with me, recalled, “On 1 February 1995 she was killed under the wheels of a truck when she tried, flailing her arms, to prevent it from taking veal calves into certain death from an airport in Coventry (Baginton). The truck driver didn’t share her opinion, so he took to death not only the veal calves but also Jill Phipps.”]
Hall omits all mention of animal rights activists being subjected to violence with the exception of Steve Christmas (a sab who nearly died after being repeatedly run over, back and forth, by a land rover). No mention of the murdered William Sweet (League Against Cruel Sports) who was shot, of Fernando Pereira (Greenpeace) who was blown up by the French secret service, of Mike Hill (Hunt Saboteur) who was crushed by a hunt vehicle aged 18, of Tom Worby who was crushed by another hunt vehicle aged 15, or of Jill Phipps crushed by a lorry exporting calves to the continent, to name just some of those now dead for fighting human supremacy. Even though Hall’s book supposedly centres around the campaigns against Darley Oaks farm in Newchurch and against Huntingdon Life Sciences, she deliberately misleads by omitting any mention of attacks on peaceful protestors by the Hall family (and their employees), attacks sometimes severe enough as to cause some activists to need their heads stitched back together.
Nor does she mention the attack on me personally, in which I sustained a smashed face and femur in a protest against HLS. Nor do we find mention of the threats, taunts, unlawful arrests, criminal damage, etc., against SHAC activists and hunt saboteurs. She does not bother to mention the fact that peaceful protestors have successfully sued the police for unlawfully abusing us by using strip searches, beatings, and arrests as “punishments” without any legal foundation. Hall clearly could not be bothered to talk to any English or Welsh lawyers (NB: Scottish law is VERY different), let alone activists, about recent events, all of which astonished me.
3. Gladys Hammond. This annoyed me more than anything as the title of the book and the cover refer to the incident concerning Mrs. Hammond’s remains appear to be the lynchpin, the main outrage, on which her argument hinges. Even if we accept everything the police and press say on the matter, Mrs. Hammond was not killed by animal rights activists, nor was she harmed. She was dead and had been for many years, the corpse was not Gladys, she is hopefully in a far better place than 6 feet under. Entire graveyards are dug up by corporations and the bodies of the dead from tombs overseas are displayed in museums, so please let us get this into perspective, though for the record, common decency prohibits to my mind any tinkering with those who are still mourned for. The way Hall writes about Gladys Hammond, anyone would think that this was the worst single outrage that had ever happened, above and beyond violence meted out against any living creature.
As such out of sheer courtesy I would have expected Hall to have contacted Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) and spoken to those who conducted THE TOTALLY LEGAL CAMPAIGN against the Darley Oaks guinea pig farm. But Hall could not be bothered and instead relied on a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) press release and mainstream media press cuttings.
One journalist called Nicola Woodcock (NOT Woolcock!) from “The Times” (NOT the London Times) is especially relied on as a “reference” and as many UK activists know Nicola was part of the juggernaut of litigation against PEACEFUL protest. For example in 2004-5 HLS were VERY keen to get hold of my house. This was spiteful and unnecessary, as I had virtually left the SHAC campaign, I was recovering from a third operation on my femur (smashed by a police officer), and I was physically and emotionally very vulnerable and was working as a midwife. They chose to put the boot in by a serious attempt to make me homeless and forced me off the wards, thereby leaving my colleagues short staffed (temporarily).
Other activists came to help and to minimise potential damage; the house was remortgaged to the hilt PRIOR to any order made on it. Nicola Woodcock engineered a story about me defrauding HLS after phoning me at home saying that the fraud squad were after me. They were not, and a High Court judge did not look on HLS very favourably, as they failed to gain possession of my house. For Hall to quote Nicola as an impartial source is laughable. But she does. However, Nicola Woodcock at least had the common courtesy to ask my opinion before she slated me, unlike Lee Hall who did not bother to contact any UK activists to my knowledge.
Hall indicates that the point of SNGP was to stop the supply of Guinea pigs to HLS. She omits the fact that SNGP was in existence prior to SHAC and that the point was to close down the operation regardless of who they supplied to, which is why we demonstrated at Safepharm (another contract testing laboratory). Quite why she misleads in this way is beyond me. Of course all animal rights campaigns in the UK, from SHAC to CAFT (Campaign for the Abolition of the Fur Trade), have at their core the belief that other species are NOT for human usage. We are abolitionists although again Hall for some reason tries to persuade her audience that we are only concerned with animal welfare, apparently only those who agree with her are proper vegans and liberationists.
Hall also is scathing about the “victory” parade in Burton on Trent missing the point that first of all the demonstration was already booked and that of course vivisection had hardly been abolished by the closure of Darley Oaks. The fight still goes on. A couple of pissed blokes coming out of the pub and yelling abuse before going back in to finish their pints is translated by Hall as, “locals pelted the parade with bacon and eggs.”
She then says: “And so it was that four protestors were soon charged with conspiring to blackmail the Hall family with grave desecration.” NO, Lee, if you had bothered to actually contact UK activists, instead of relying on corporate media accounts, you would have found that the 4 activists were charged with “conspiracy to blackmail” and that every single unlawful act against the Halls regarding the guinea pig operation was neatly attributed to the 4 through the “conspiracy” bit. By being part of a LEGAL campaign they were linked to “persons unknown” even if they did not know them or even approve of their actions. They were used as scapegoats and are regarded by the state as worse than rapists and murderers simply for being activists!
Let those of us who ventured up to Darley Oaks farm remember that these lovely people who Hall is so concerned about were more than happy to try and run people over with tractors and send them off to A and E with head injuries. One of the Hall brothers even talked of shooting a few activists which Lee fails to mention [see the quote above]. None of their side were ever physically harmed. Once I found a dead mouse sent to SNGP in the post. The Halls and their sympathisers were not such the innocents Lee Hall would have her readers believe. Before guinea pig farming they farmed mink. She criticises UK campaigners for not campaigning against the Hall’s dairy farming. Well there’s an idea….Dear NETCU (National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit): just remember if anyone tries it, Lee Hall incited them!
4. (Mis)Using Joan Court. Joan is an outstanding activist and has spent her life campaigning for women, children, and animals. She was a midwife in India, Pakistan, and the USA and once worked with Gandhi. I first met her outside HLS at camp Rena before the Huntingdon Death Sciences campaign evolved into SHAC. She was outside the gates of HLS to show solidarity with the 7 activists imprisoned in January 2009 and though approaching 90 is still active. Joan does not have a problem with the sort of things Lee Hall has a problem with. Quite why Hall has portrayed Joan as some sort of paragon of virtue to which her followers should aspire is very odd. Joan supported SPEAK (one of the campaigns Lee does not seem to like and whose founder Mel Broughton has just been framed by the police with a 10 year prison sentence for arson) with a hunger strike and is not adverse to being arrested. She has responded to Hall via a letter [included above] and we hope that Hall can answer her questions.
Joan does not want to be the goody to the ALF activist baddy. She is embarrassed by being solely attributed by Lee for the decision not to build a primate lab’ at Girton Cambridge, as many activists were involved and many activists did not stay on the legal path. Again if Hall had done her homework she would know what partly helped win the day was SHAC activists, including Greg Avery and myself, pledging to be very naughty indeed (quoting tripods, tunnels, logistics and stuff) if they tried to build it. Many activists gave such evidence to the planning enquiry, and the police, led by Steve Pearl, said they would not be able to cope, and the planning application was dropped, like a hot brick. We have our uses in this movement.
One of the most sinister passages in Hall’s book occurs on page. 117: “And what would unfold more clearly than ever before, was the terrible conflict within activism, between the hunger strikers and the body snatchers. The latter had become what they despised.”
The only hunger strikers to my knowledge, Joan’s knowledge, and the knowledge of any other UK activist with whom we’ve spoken are Joan in support of the Oxford Lab and animal rights prisoners (mainly to show solidarity with Barry Horne or against oppression as in the 2008 case of the Austrian 10), and most notably Barry Horne himself, who starved to death, betrayed by a Labour government that refused to honour its election pledge for laboratory animals. No “body snatchers” have ever been identified, so what is Lee Hall trying to do? Imply that there is a huge split in the UK and that some “good” activists “despise” the illegal direct actions of those “bad” activists who do it? This is either ignorance, laziness, or an attempt to mislead her readers regarding the UK animal rights movement. She does so with many other matters, but I am not at liberty to divulge the nature of all of her apparent attempts to manipulate the facts. I dare say others will pick up on other areas of falsehood in Capers in the Churchyard.
5. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The SHAC Hall criticises is not the SHAC I know. I cannot comment on SHAC USA, except to say that I know Kevin Jonas well, and he is a lovely, kind, and intelligent person. I also know his co-defendant, Josh Harper, and would say the same of him. Hall describes the USA SHAC7 as “youths,” which I found very patronising as they are all in their 20s and more than capable of making their own choices. She portrays them as adolescents trying to rebel rather than as thoughtful, adult activists (many of them college graduates) running what amounted to peaceful demos and a website. Other people in their twenties are surgeons, lawyers, soldiers, police officers, nurses, accountants, electricians, and the like; should they too be dismissed as “youths”? Apparently the evil duo Jerry Vlasak and Steve Best (Jerry once bought me a curry so really please leave him alone!) are corrupting youth and they are responsible for anyone under the age of 40 getting nicked! To dismiss the energy and courage of so many activists as nothing more than hanging around with a “ready made” group of friends, having lots of piercings and listening to crappy music is despicable. Just because they are not under Lee Hall’s leadership does not make them bad activists.
On page 13, Hall says: “It is only Huntingdon that the campaign means to disable.” Oh really? So why on every SHAC stall were there leaflets on veganism, the fur trade, recipes, and so on? Why did we include with every anti-HLS information pack material on veganism as well? Why are SHAC activists involved with other campaigns, from the fur trade to global warming? Why is it that across the globe in India and Russia activists are fighting against the oppression of other animals which SHAC has played a part in? Apparently all SHAC activists do is send threats and glue up cash machines. Well, wrong.
SHAC is not responsible for illegal activity; activists make their own decisions and act accordingly. SHAC is a campaign which deals with petitions, informing the public, organising legal demonstrations, and nothing else. The point of a focused campaign is not only to close down HLS but to draw attention to the horror of vivisection wherever it takes place and to challenge the assumption that other animals are ours to use. For Hall’s information, part of the remit of HLS is to get the most profit from animals used and abused in the meat, egg, and dairy industries. HLS in the UK even offered to induce mastitis in cows. HLS is enmeshed in all manner of abuse, counting amongst their customers, friends, and allies noted human and environment abusers Union Carbide (Bhopal), Shell (Ken Saro Wiwa), Bayer (mates with Hitler, GM, lethal pesticides etc), and Monsanto (lots of dead farmers in India thanks to that corporation’s efforts to monopolise world food production). The list reads like a who’s who of genocidal, corporate maniacs. SHAC has targeted them all. SO WHAT?
6. Depersonalising animal abusers. I agree with Hall here. Black and white scenarios are simplistic; there are so many shades of grey. Demonising workers at HLS, for example, ignores the fact that they are all complex individuals, some of them (like me) who have looked around at their surroundings and what they are doing, and stopped. Some brave individuals have told SHAC about the animal abuse within the razor wire of HLS compounds, and others have left, tormented by what they have seen. One man told me that his daughter, an HLS worker, once liberated an entire box of rats. More workers are likely to question what they are doing if people are outside the gates with placards, which is why in 2003 when SHAC held whistleblower demonstrations asking workers to spill the beans on illegal and immoral practices at HLS, banners and leaflets were grabbed by police and confiscated.
This demo seemed to concern the authorities more than any other demonstration. Activists were threatened with arrest under the Data Protection Act! Good people do go to work in abattoirs and laboratories; they become desensitised or they leave. Whilst they do that work though, they are our enemy, although we should be approachable to those who want to talk and discuss things. HLS workers did ring the whistleblower number looking for a way to express their revulsion at what they had seen. Some HLS workers, notably Sarah Kite, Michelle Rokke, and the NAVS investigator are in fact animal rights activists; another, Zoe Broughton, is an investigative journalist (the groundbreaking “It’s a dog’s life”), and none of them are scum.
On the other hand, it is just as simplistic to assume that “militants” are nasty, violent thugs. It is the “militants” who I remember sabbing hunts and helping save the lives of hunt supporters on several occasions. It was sabs who ran to rescue injured hunt supporters when an elderly man had a cardiac arrest whilst driving and ploughed into them at the Cambridgeshire fox hunt in the early 90s. When it comes to protecting life, even of those who abuse animals, even “militants” have done so.
7. Legal matters. Sean Kirtley is in prison. When he completes his 4 ½ year sentence and probation stops he is then constrained by a 5 year super ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order), all-in-all a 9 ½ year sentence. To be fair to Lee when she wrote (page 94), “There is nothing illegal about activists pressuring a corporation through emails and phone calls,” SOCPA (Serious Organised Crime and Police Act) was not in use, and Sean had not been arrested. Her comment as far as the UK is concerned is now out of date. Sean did not go as far as contacting contract testing laboratory Sequani by email or phone call. He held a banner outside and updated a website, both of which are legal; he also spoke on the phone to other vegans who became his co-defendants (they were raided and terrorized, but finally acquitted). An unknown person sent a polite fax though, and Sean was found guilty of “conspiring” with that person. Presumably Sean deserves his fate and what he did is worse than rape or bludgeoning someone to death? Well, the state believes so.
It is not just animal rights activists who find themselves imprisoned for the actions of others. Famously in 2000 Ruth Wyner was imprisoned with a co-defendant who was equally innocent of any wrongdoing. Her crime? She was the director of a charity which helped homeless people and unbeknownst to her — despite a strong anti drugs policy at the shelter in which she worked, and despite the fact that police officers were present when the “offence” happened — some people quietly traded dugs behind her back. Her offence was to “allow” drug dealing, just as prison officers, teachers, social workers, and police officers “allow” drug dealing all the time. You see there are those who hate the homeless, Ruth campaigned to help them, and she became a target. Are we seriously supposed to respect Cambridgeshire police, or the courts, or the law when such a thing is possible? It is POWER, not justice, which motivates the legal system in the UK, and to pretend otherwise is naive at best. There are many examples of gross injustice (e.g., involving the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six) which would fill several books.
Lee Hall does not bother to hide her contempt for those imprisoned for their beliefs. It seems that she believes that they deserve to be imprisoned for peaceful protest. Her anger regarding new draconian laws that are destroying what liberties we have is reserved not for those who made the laws but for those who have been imprisoned as a result of them. This is disgraceful. Hall seems to live in a dream world where the corporate nightmare will not harm her if she is non-violent. This is very naïve. Hall comments: “No-one among us can be arrested for buying eggless noodles” (page 127).
WANT TO BET?
For decades, many activists have been promoting a vegan diet in the UK. The Veggies vegan catering campaign is about to celebrate 25 years of supplying vegan nosh and education to all manner of events, demos, and city streets. When they celebrated their 20th anniversary (at a private venue) the police waded in and were very violent. In 2008, when Food not Bombs was arrested for giving free food to homeless people and other passers-by, apparently KFC and McDonalds felt undermined. I have known of parents threatened with social services for bringing children up as vegan by the police and accused of not having food in the house despite a massive SUMA (a whole food wholesaler-distributor) delivery being staked up high in the larder (although this was probably a very empty threat).
I hope that Hall is very successful in her vegan outreach but if she is, I believe that it is unlikely that she will be left to continue her work unmolested by the US police state. The corporations rule, and neither Lee Hall nor anyone should underestimate their power to make new oppressive laws, such as which could include, for example, prohibiting the promotion of a vegan diet to anyone under 18. They would churn out a few doctors who would chunter on about how milk is essential for growing bones, blah blah. Also, how does promoting veganism fit in with “free trade”? If converting people to veganism is successful the state will react in 2 ways: (1) suppress, vilify, and ridicule those with the message, (2) incorporate the message into the corporate nightmare, thereby water down veganism (as indeed vegetarianism and the organic/green movements have been co-opted and diluted). My point is that we should be doing just as Hall says by getting as many vegans as possible, but let us not pretend for a moment that we will not be attacked by our opponents.
In the UK the holy trinity Hugh, Jamie, and Gordon, 3 chefs, have been trying to persuade people to buy “happy” meat. I watched with interest last year on channel 4 as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall tried to persuade the inhabitants of Axminster that factory-farmed chickens were cruelly treated. My reaction was, and remains, that eating chickens is wrong as it means killing a sentient being for no other reason than taste. Furthermore, chicken is a luxury the world population cannot afford. However, I did warm to Hugh and his interest in welfare despite myself. I soon became shocked at the response though.
Whilst many agreed with him, others actually attacked him for daring to say that they should spend a few more pence on birds with slightly better welfare. He was a “guilt tripping,” toffee nose, know-it-all who should sympathise with their pathetic argument that they needed cheap, factory-farmed, antibiotic-ridden corpses for next to nothing! Some of them were even throwing away half the carcass cos they couldn’t be arsed to get all of the meat from it. Hugh is a national celebrity, helped by Essex boy Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey, and with all the power of entire hour slots over several weeks on national prime time TV they did manage to get lots of people to eschew cheap meat, but it is still being sold.
We have a huge task ahead of us with the vegan message if the vitriol thrown at Hugh and Jamie (who only asked that people pay a little bit more for slightly better conditions) is anything to go by. Jamie even got publicly crucified by some because he tried to get rid of junk, additive-laden crap in school dinners. Furthermore as Lee Hall rightly says, there is simply not enough land for everyone who wants meat to have it if it was all “free-range.” Even with factory farming there will not be enough for the entire world population, yet millions want a “Western” diet. The abuse of farm animals is going to rise and rise. Converting Hugh, Jamie, and Gordon to veganism would be a really good coup, and although I have witnessed them doing vegan recipes, they are full on meat-eaters who get all mushy about their sheep, pigs, and chickens, then slit their throats. Weird!
To conclude, as I could go on (and on, and on), but this is quite enough time to spend on one animal rights book, we are not to blame for our own oppression, our opponents are, and “Capers in the Churchyard” lies by omission and relies on media and police propaganda. Activists on the ground need to be free to make their own decisions about how they act. It is not the right of someone sitting at home or in an office to pontificate over activists on a peaceful demonstration who defend themselves against a violent attack.
Joan Court was a midwife in India in the 40s and pioneered birth control in Pakistan. She then practiced in the United States before working for child protection in the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) in the UK. She became an animal rights activist in 1978 and continues to campaign against all cruelty.
Janet Tomlinson is a long-time animal rights activist living in England.
Lynn Sawyer is an animal rights/environmental activist who has been involved in the SHAC, SPEAK, SNGP, and SSAT (Stop Sequani Animal Testing) anti-vivisection campaigns, along with sabbing hunts and anti-fur demos. She became a vegan and an animal rights activist after being a hunt supporter and farm worker. She is also a practicing midwife and a main contributor to the NETCU (National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit) Watch website which critiques oppressive policing.
Dr. Steve Best is TPC’s senior editor of total liberation and animal rights. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.
Jason Miller, Senior Editor and Founder of TPC, is a tenacious forty something straight edge vegan activist who lives in Kansas and who has a boundless passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted to reading and learning, he is mostly an autodidact, but he studied liberal arts and philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City. In early 2005, he founded the radical blog Thomas Paine’s Corner and is now the Senior Blog Editor and Blog Director for the Transformative Studies Institute. An accomplished, prolific essayist on social and political issues, his writings have appeared on hundreds of alternative media websites over the last few years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Truth About Gladys Hammond”
Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs
Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs Campaign Film
Cruelty Footage: Inside HLS
“Response to Reporting on SHAC Sentencing”
“Thoughts on media hysteria post SHAC trial”
“SHAC Interviewed: Greg Avery Speaks Out”
“How Animal Rights Took On the World”
“Introduction to SHAC”
“Trial By Fire: The SHAC7 Trial and the Future of Democracy”
Indymedia SHAC Page
SPEAK: The Voice for Animals
Hunt Saboteurs Association:
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