In recent years politicians have sought to savagely curb the activities of peaceful protestors. It has for centuries been unlawful for anyone to physically attack another person, to steal, to cause criminal damage, or commit what we all assume to be criminal offences and therefore new additions to the statute book aim to stop campaigners protesting legally.
Many different groups fighting for social justice have broken the law of the day as a last resort to initiate change. The suffragettes for example used arson as a tactic as well as smashing windows and blowing up the house of the home secretary, feminists in the 70s set fire to porn shops.
We certainly feel that if feminists and anti slavery campaigners had not broken the laws of their time that we as a society would not have progressed. Some campaigners choose to break the law, (and face the consequences if caught) usually through actions such as for example barricading premises and “locking on” to gates or machinery, or property damage, or rescuing animals from appalling conditions.
There are now several new laws which seek to stop peaceful protest or curb it to such an extent that it is utterly ineffectual. Even before Blair and co unleashed their blueprint for a draconian police state many protestors were arrested charged and convicted for pretty minor things.
We have known people be arrested for touching a fence (criminal damage), taking scrap paper out of a bin (burglary), standing in the street (obstruction of the highway and sometimes vagrancy), holding banners or having something written on them along the lines of “Stop torturing animals” (section 5 public order act 1986).
The police have had a whole arsenal of laws to use against the general public (if they really want to that is) for decades and they have not exactly been idle in using them against campaigners from a whole range of diverse groups.
The present government has misled the public by falsely claiming that animal rights people are violent extremists whom are beyond the remit of normal legislation, thus necessitating extraordinary measures. This of course is utter nonsense and even the most rabid of our critics would have to admit that animal rights activists are nowhere near as violent as Nazi thugs, or gangs of badger baiters, the IRA, Al Queda, local neighbourhood thugs or other such groups who think nothing of maiming and killing their opponents.
NETCU defines “animal rights extremism thus”:
“Any unlawful or, if not actually unlawful, recognisably anti-social act, motivated by an intention to disrupt lawful business or to intimidate. Percieved by any party involved to be rooted in opposition to the perceived exploitation of animals”.
Using the new laws many normal protest activities could be perceived as “unlawful” by confused police officers. For instance the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was used to arrest 13 of us for peaceful protest. Some individuals were arrested and homes turned upside down for simply holding banners under the premise that people had “conspired” to cause economic damage to a certain company.
If it is now a serious crime (with a worst case scenario of 14 years imprisonment) to conspire to hold banners on a grass verge as NETCU believe then we really should not pretend that we live in a democracy any longer. It would seem that it is relatively easy to commit a crime by just being a protestor but anything else which questions vivisection for example a polite letter to a company could always be dismissed as “extreme” under the civil provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act. “Anti social behaviour” just about covers anything else apart from breathing. Animal Aid have a brilliant link to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act http://www.animalaid.org.uk
NETCU are really no more than glorified security guards for the vivisection industry who intend to try and stop what many would regard as peaceful, legitimate campaigning. Their website states that their remit is to advise those who experiment on animals, there is no interest whatsoever in advising for example Asian shopkeepers targeted by Nazi thugs, or hunt saboteurs about how to ward off an arson attack from pro hunt extremists.
Of course the fact that Tony Blair and his cronies are closely associated with figures such as the very rich (and very pro vivisection) Lord Sainsbury and that peaceful protest has brought the vivisection industry to its knees might explain why draconian measures are now in place. Animal rights people are being hounded for one reason only and that is because campaigns have been successful.
We condemn Mr Blair’s attacks on civil liberties and urge everyone to think carefully about the consequences of imprisoning people who have simply protested in a calm and peaceful way. After all activists who do not behave in an exemplary fashion have usually been arrested for as long as people can remember.
The only purpose in legislating against anti vivisection protests is to stop people campaigning against this form of animal abuse legally and NETCU have clearly stated that they are implementing this witch hunt at Blair’s behest. We have no intention of allowing them to brand us as “extremists” and will critique politicians who denigrate us on these pages.
Write to Gordon Brown (Pre-written letter)