Business as Usual

Original article posted on Arkangel 14th May 2007

Despite the arrest and the remanding of the 3 leaders of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) last week campaigning by the group goes on unabated.

If Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) had hoped that the rounding up of 32 supporters of SHAC last week and the remanding in custody of three of its leaders Greg Avery, Natasha Avery and Heather Nicholson would somehow lessen the pressure being put on them by the group then the company’s managing director Brian Cass must be very disappointed that far from depleting the campaign against the company, protests seem to be increasing.

‘Business as Usual’ reads the headlines on the SHAC website http://www.shac.net and it would be difficult to argue against that when one looks at the demo reports on their website that seem to be taking place all over the world as activists the world over show their solidarity. Far from intimidating people into submission, which was presumably what the authorities had wanted, SHAC appear to be coming out fighting. As they say you can’t kill an ideal, and it’s something the authorities would do well to remember. It’s worth remembering that when Huntingdon Life Sciences broke the law, far from throwing Mr. Brian Cass in prison for not having any control of those that work for him; who lest it be forgot were secretly filmed punching beagle puppies, throwing them against the wall and screaming abuse at them, the government bank rolled the company, preventing it from going into receivership. Harsh punishment indeed for the criminals working at HLS.

Not that abusing animals was the only crime that HLS workers were responsible for. The film not only highlighted workers abusing animals it also showed workers falsifying data by not administering the drugs they were suppose to be testing on animals in order to safeguard the humans that may be prescribed those drugs. Of course there’s two ways of looking at it: either the workers know that testing on animals does not safeguard human health, so why bother – and as the film showed full syringes meant to be injected into the beagles were discarded in the trash can, or the workers just couldn’t care less if people died because of their total contempt for life, both human and non human. Whichever way you look at it, HLS doesn’t come out smelling of roses. But of course we must remember the line the government and the vivisection industry take when trying to court public opinion: vivisectors are only going about their lawful business. Well if that’s the law, no wonder most people have lost faith in the British legal system, a system that punishes those that care whilst protecting big business and those that only care about profits, such as companies like HLS.

Operation Achilles was the result of a two-year investigation and involved 700 police, culminating in 32 raids, and has so far led to charges against nine people for conspiracy to blackmail and against a further two for blackmail. One has to ask oneself: since when has protesting been illegal? Unfortunately under the present Labour government we have seen our democratic rights eroded. Never before in modern times has a single government been responsible for introducing so many different laws in such a short space of time. Somewhere in the region of 3500 new laws have been put onto the statute books since Labour came into power in 1997.

It’s up to everyone to fight oppression in whatever form it may take. Some people might not agree with the rights of animals. They might not even agree with how SHAC conduct themselves, but that’s not the issue here. What is the issue is the right to speak out against something we object to; as Voltaire once wrote: ‘I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it’.

It will be interesting to see exactly what evidence the police have against SHAC, but at Arkangel we very much doubt it will amount to a smoking gun, despite the spin the police are bound to put on it, and let’s not forgot that the whole reason for the existence of ‘The National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit’ (NECTU), who were undoubtedly behind the raids, is because of the supposed threat from animal rights extremists. If that threat didn’t exist or wasn’t talked up, then there would be quite a few people looking for a job. It’s an important point to remember.

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