NW’s Response to “Protecting People from Animal Rights Extremists”

Our response to “Protecting People from Animal Rights Extremists”

Our first objection to the Government’s document “Protecting people from animal rights extremists” is the first 2 pages which basically defend vivisection and confuses the issue somewhat by the assumption that those who are opposed to animal experimentation are also opposed to medical progress.

Nothing is further from the truth. Those who campaign for animal rights are compassionate people who also care deeply about the human animal. Animal rights philosophy is based upon the premise that it is repugnant to torture, maim, kill and otherwise abuse other individuals and that neither race, ethnic origin, gender, sexuality, religion or species should allow one group to viciously exploit another, weaker group.

Animal rights is a matter of extending consideration to other sentient individuals especially when billions of them are killed in horrific circumstances often on a human whim and not to save human lives.

Needless to say animal rights people do care about the sick and the exploitation of the population by drug companies. We care about those who died after taking Baycol (a cholesterol lowering drug) and Zyban (an anti smoking drug), about the children born without eyes after Benlate (a pesticide) was released on the market. We want medical research which does not presume that a mouse is a miniature human, well funded hospitals, the elderly to be well cared for (as opposed to being left to freeze to death), those with severe mental illness to be sent to hospital or supported rather than imprisoned or left to wander the streets and a proper campaign to improve public health by via diet, exercise, breastfeeding, etc.

It is often assumed that opponents of vivisection are fit and well and have not been in contact with illness and death. Well, animal rights people do get ill and die (especially if attacked by police and animal abusers) and also have close friends and relatives who get ill and die and therefore also want treatment and medical research. Those who are pro-vivisection do not have a monopoly on being seriously ill and should stop pretending that they do. Animal rights people also work within the NHS, Social Services, education, for human rights/welfare charities and research.

The difference of opinion we have with Tony Blair is that we do not agree that animals should be used in experiments firstly because we believe this is morally wrong and secondly because extrapolating the results of animal tests and applying them to humans is putting human lives at risk. We also question why experiments in the UK are allowed for the testing of cosmetic botox, food colourings, pesticides, paints, plastics, factory farming procedures and other such trivia which could never be considered to be lifesaving “medical” research. It may be the case that, “the UK has the strictest regime in the world for licensing animal experiments”, but even if this is the case it is still grossly inadequate as every expose by horrified laboratory staff, undercover activists and journalists has shown repeatedly.

What is also of great concern is the fact that the Government almost states as a matter of fact that the merits of animal experimentation are unquestionable and implies that only an “extremist” could possibly be opposed to the practice. This is very dangerous, imagine if we are entering a culture whereby it is assumed that opinions against the war in Iraq or to the proposed nuclear plants are regarded as “extreme” by the state. In a democracy the people should be allowed to question government policy regardless of how inconvenient or uneconomic that may be, if not then we do not live in a democratic country which is illustrated on the final page of the document.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 apparently “strengthened the police’s ability to deal more effectively with the intimidatory tactics employed by animal rights extremists”. So what exactly have the police been doing with their new powers that the Government is so keen to support?

Well there have been 3 arrests for peaceful protest and then 16 more by West Mercia police. In May 11 of the 16 had homes raided and were arrested under SOCPA, phones, computers, sticky tape, personal papers, leaflets, banners, etc were all taken. Activists were questioned on their political views and if they had held banners or handed out leaflets and about the organisers of legal campaigns. Now, August 2006, 3 months later the police still have no evidence to charge even one of those 16 activists all of who have been bailed to attend police stations in October.

The police have also been given, “additional powers to deal with harassment and intimidation of people in their homes”. This has been interpreted by some police forces as meaning that the occupant/s of ANY dwelling in the “vicinity” of a demonstration no matter how peaceful that demonstration may be, are likely to be “harassed” and that they can therefore stop ALL demonstrations in any area where a home, (be it house, tent, yacht, houseboat, caravan) might be. Furthermore “vicinity” is not defined and so unless a demonstration is held at sea or up a mountain and provided no one living in a tent or ship is nearby it can become somewhat difficult to legally protest when the law is so open to interpretation.

People have been arrested for being merely present on demonstrations outside laboratories because houses have been across the main road and up long driveways opposite said laboratory. The fact that the inhabitants have not even known about the demonstration has not curbed the enthusiasm of the police in arresting and bailing activists away.

Section 42 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 is being used to stop PEACEFUL protest and activists are having to suffer arrest and a night in the cells in order to challenge this abuse of power. This is a disgrace and we think unlawful we are awaiting the decision of the courts.

Of course it is the individual police officers who will face complaints and Chief Constables who will be prosecuted in the civil courts by activists, the Government appears to have escaped all criticism although we endeavour to bring them to account for their actions.

“Since July 2005 it is a serious offence to target any scientist, research facility or company in the supply chain with a campaign of unlawful acts including criminal damage, trespass, blackmail and libel”. First of all why are only those opposed to vivisection targeted?

In the UK Nazi groups and sympathisers, for example, are far more violent, they have been known to kill people. Secondly SOCPA relies on the police officer on the ground to decide what is libellous and what is trespass often depending on the “victim’s” account. The McLibel trial which focused on one leaflet lasted for 2 and a half years in the High Court with the end result of the 2 defendants being exonerated on several counts and McDonalds humiliated. It will be interesting to see what happens when a PC decides a leaflet is “libellous”, arrests someone and the matter is heard in Crown Court with expert witnesses called from both sides to ascertain whether something is true or not.

A simple statement on a leaflet such as, “The dogs at Cruellagrove farm are bred for pointless and cruel experiments” could lead to a very interesting few months in court! In theory if found guilty of handing out such a leaflet an activist could face 5 years in prison, many rapists and child abusers get far less. In Blair’s new world handing out a leaflet is a worse crime than violating another human being.

Next.., “similarly, it is a serious offence to intimidate persons connected with an animal research organisation”. What exactly does “intimidate” mean? It is our experience that those who work in labs are a delicate bunch who are intimidated by banners, leaflets, being filmed when they film protestors, activists actually breathing and so forth. If a police officer decides that one of them is intimidated just because they say they are then an arrest could be made.

Why on earth those who work within the field of vivisection are more important than anyone else escapes us as does the fact that when they threaten to kill and maim and actually attack protestors they do not appear to be subject to the same laws as everyone else!

Further into the Government document is a reference to NETCU working with companies “targeted by the extremists”, VERY closely indeed. So much so that a Cambridgeshire police officer who had arrested many activists (even raiding their homes) ended up as a security guard at HLS on retiring, so closely that T/Superintendant Pearl is oft seen in the High Court at various injunction hearings advising HLS and others on various matters, so closely that any pretence at impartiality was abandoned years ago.

Incestuous is not a strong enough word to describe the relationship between NETCU (who still have links on their website to vivisection lobby groups) and the vivisection industry.

Interestingly we then read that NETCU, “has helped local frontline police to deal with extremist tactics from letter campaigns to pop-up demonstrations”. In other words “letter campaigns” means writing polite letters to companies asking them to desist from hurting animals, pop-up demonstrations are peaceful demonstrations which are not known about by the police beforehand. Neither tactic is illegal although the Government implies that both are for some reason.

It should be of great concern to the public that the Government is referring to peaceful and legal campaigning whilst using the “extreme” label. Finally they announce their next objective, “to remove the ARE threat” and “the Government is determined to achieve a sustained removal of the extremist threat”. Furthermore the Government intends to disrupt “funding and communications” which means that they wish to interfere with lawful campaigns. Well they can try but they will not get anywhere near stopping animal rights activists without dismantling the democratic process and they really do not seem to care.

They even go on to say that arresting those who have just leafleted and held banners is not going far enough pledging to “identify and address any remaining gaps in the legislation”. In the USA the vivisection industry (and other animal abuse concerns) have been baying for the blood of activists, literally in the case of a bunch of rednecks who actually lobbied for the death penalty, so maybe this is what Blair has in mind, well they are “working with governments and law enforcement agencies overseas in a concerted international effort”.

It is really clear to us that the animal rights movement is being really effective and that this is terrifying the establishment.

No one has yet been convicted under these draconian new laws, as yet there have been no High Court trials under the Protection from Harassment Act the only injunctions are interim or temporary.

Furthermore the police are often caught behaving illegally and have been sued on many occasions. No matter how many resources Blair diverts from ordinary people to defending animal abuse, no matter how corrupt the police are and no matter how much of a dictatorship the UK becomes there will always be those who will risk life, limb and liberty to protect the Earth and our brothers and sisters who share her with us.

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