Archive for the ‘Animal Rights Movement’ Category

In Praise of Undercover Investigations

February 14th, 2012 1 comment

In praise of undercover investigations by animal rights advocates, including the latest by Animal Equality in a pig farm in England this weekend.

One of the strongest characteristics of the animal rights movement is our relentless commitment to expose animal cruelty hidden by the animal industrial complex which profits mightily by its exploitation of animals.

If there’s money to be made, there’s cruelty to be had. As novelist and essayist Brigid Brophy wrote in her article, ‘Unlived Life – a manifesto against factory farming,’

Whenever people say ‘we mustn’t be sentimental,’ you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, ‘we must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.

The more the animal rights movement demonstrates itself as a credible actor witnessing and documenting what happens to animals in circuses, zoos, factory farms, research laboratories and wherever else they are used, the more the animal industrial complex is put on the defensive and held to account.

Further, the more the public, who I believe respond favourably to these exposes and see them as evidence of indefensible actions, brings pressure to bear on the animal industrial complex to change their ways. Consequently, the animal rights movement will earn increasingly support from those who we seek to influence, including persuading them to go vegan.

Over at the Grumpy Vegan I recognise 30 years ago today the British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, and its front page report on a direct action raid on an animal research laboratory. Taking the long-term view, these actions by the Animal Liberation Front and others are being replaced with undercover exposes and what are known as ‘open rescues’ by increasing numbers of organisations throughout the world.

This must be surely a most welcome trend where our witnessing and documenting are recognised for the value they provide to society in what is done in our name. Further, these actions put the animal industrial complex on the defensive. They provide evidence to demonstrate the need for society to become aware of our animal use. Consequently, the need for the implementation and enforcement of effective regulations and legislation making visible our treatment of animals and eventually replacing it with non-animal methods.

Further, if the animal rights movement can frame the case we make for animals as part of a progressive agenda of social change and not as a competition in human interests, the greater the chances in us succeeding in our mission.

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2011 Animal Rights Image of the Year

December 20th, 2011 2 comments

The Animal Equality inspiring protest in Puerta del Sol, Madrid.

The Spanish animal rights organisation, Igualdad Animal (Animal Equality), bring attention to animal exploitation with a dramatic protest on International Day for Animal Rights on December 10.

Four hundred activists from several countries each hold in their hands carcasses of farmed animals (e.g., chickens, pigs, lambs) although one is holding the body of a dog. The protestors stand silently in the organisation’s t-shirts in ordered rows.

The image of the supplicating protestors asks us to see how we treat animals but also there is a sense of forgiveness about what we do to them. The protestors hold out the dead animals in supplication demanding the viewer to see the responsibility of our actions. We are not made to feel guilty. Although we should. Nor are we confronted with self-righteous indignation, which is all too frequently the currency of the animal rights protest.

Instead, we are asked politely to stop, look and think. In doing so, we participate in the protest rather than passively observe it. There is a shared complicity with the protestors. No one is innocent. We are all responsible for animal exploitation. We must all act. We could be standing there, too, with dead animals lying in our outstretched arms. Most likely for many, they are standing there with dead animals in their shopping baskets.

Convocatoria 10 de Diciembre 2011 – Igualdad Animal / Animal Equality from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

Compare and contrast the simple sophistication of this protest with those which are easy and unimaginative. Generally, they make their point at the expense of someone else, including body size, economic class, gender and race. There is no understanding, even recognition, of the intersection of oppressions. Instead, there is the excuse that ‘it’s for the animals’ which, somehow, magically makes possible any action permissible.

Of course, their objective is to make the link between our bodies and those of the animals we consume. After all, according to Darwin and today’s dominant culture of material science and evolution, we are all of us animals. Embodying animal protest with our bodies may make us feel that we are making the point, even becoming ‘one’ with the animals’ exploitation, and, surely these protests are successful in this regard. But I remain unconvinced as to the effectiveness of the message and what is trying to be said. All too often, it is all about manufacturing personal transformative moments when people recognise for the first time animal exploitation and start the journey down the path toward vegetarian, vegan, cruelty-free living. This is why the animal rights movement is more like an evangelist cause rather than a sophisticated political initiative treading the corridors of power.

One unexplored aspect is that with some of these actions there is unwittingly an implication that the animals would do to us (if they could) what we do to them. The ‘world turned upside down’ has a strong tradition in art and agitprop but its message must be used with care and respect. Otherwise, all too often, it becomes simply a gratuitous protest lacking any real meaning other than an invitation to voyeurism. Of course, we want to people to look and what are we inviting them to see? These intentionally sensationalist protests border on the pornographic. Attention is drawn to the people in the protest. The animals are absent. This is one reason why the Animal Equality protest is so powerful. The animals are far from absent. They are being held up respectfully for us to see. It is a simple evocation of how we treat animals. Further, it reminds me of the contrast between anonymous violent and illegal actions of some protestors with those who use open rescues as an open, nonviolent and turning upside down the legality of animal status to witness our instrumental use of animals. With the former, the people are the story. Whereas   in the latter, it is the animals, which is, of course, how it should be.

Igualdad Animal is to be congratulated for staging a moving and dignified indictment of our inhumanity to animals in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.


Igualdad Animal released two additional films of the protest. Here they are:


International Animal Rights Day 2010 (Spain) from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

Día Internacional de los Derechos Animales 2011 || Igualdad Animal from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

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Wall Street Animals

October 10th, 2011 No comments

My Animals and Society Institute colleague, Bee Friedlander, writes on the ASI Diary (blog) about the protest underway on Wall Street.

Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock this past week has heard about “Occupy Wall Street,” a movement that seemingly has come out of nowhere, beginning in New York City a few weeks ago, and now spreading each day to more cities small and large across the United States. Is it the Arab Spring come to the U.S.? An incarnation of the 1960s student movement? A progressive version of the Tea Party?

Bee goes on to consider the presence of a concern for animals as part of this protest, including as an integral part of an emerging social movement with broad objectives challenging the present social and economic norms. Bee quotes from various people involved with and commenting on this initiative, including yours truly. She concludes,

A core belief of the Animals and Society Institute is that institutional change for animals and future success of the movement depend on our ability to position animal issues in the arena of public policy, including action in the mainstream political arena. Perhaps the activists will come to see the same is true for the other worthy causes they espouse.

She speaks for me in this regard.

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Some Thoughts on Abolition and Regulation

August 3rd, 2011 5 comments

A recent New York Times oped was brought to my attention by a long standing friend and colleague. She situated it within the context of the debate surrounding the announcement by The HSUS and United Egg Producers, a debate which brings into focus the perennial issue among most if not all social movements: regulation vs. abolition.

The understanding behind The HSUS and UEP wanting to make such an agreement is generally to be welcomed. There are, of course, aspects to it that give me considerable concern; however, I wasn’t a participant in the discussions and can only comment as an observer. Nevertheless, I am a participant in the campaign against factory farming since the mid-1970s and subsequently witnessed its development in the UK and US. Of course, on the face of it, banning cages for egg laying chickens is, for a vegan like me or anyone opposed generally to factory farming, as straightforward as anything can be. Nevertheless, I have come to appreciate the complexity of achieving this simple change is considerable. Significant progress has been made in the European Union which is scheduled to outlaw the battery cage by January 1, 2012. Now, this ban is for the barren battery cage. In other words, a cage is a cage is a cage. Alternative so-called enriched cages are proffered as an alternative, which is something I — and Compassion In World Farming whose lead I follow in such issues — reject as a satisfactory alternative. [And, coincidentally, The HSUS.] In short, if people are going to eat eggs, well, they’ve got to eat less and only eat those from chickens in organic, free range, nonlethal conditions. But, as a vegan, I, of course, don’t recommend anyone to eat eggs, anyway.

And herein lies the tension between abolition and regulation. Much ink has been spilt on this purported conflict not only in the animal rights movement but also in other social movements. For example, Gary L. Francione and Robert Garner explore this issue thoroughly in The Animal Rights Debate (Columbia University Press, 2010). One of the more nuanced reviews of this book is by Ben Mepham.

Turning to The New York Times oped, “Obama and His Discontents,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, I was struck (prompted by my correspondent) by the comparison between the animal welfare/rights debate and the present American political conflict between Democrats and the Republicans and their even more extreme political sidekicks, which is all framed within the context of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — a compromise that freed only the slaves in rebel territory, as Coates notes.

Coates concludes about President Barack Obama that he is

of course, is not an activist but a politician held accountable by a broad national electorate. He is thus charged with the admittedly difficult task of nudging the country forward, even as he reflects it. That mission necessitates appreciating the art of compromise, but not fetishizing it.

Now, I can be as guilty as the next person of reading into something that which I wish to read. Nevertheless, I read this op ed to say that abolitionists and pragmatists must work together in order to achieve any change. This is the message I’ve been saying for decades. See, for example, my chapter, “Utopian Visions and Pragmatic Politics,” in Robert Garner’s anthology, Animal Rights (Macmillan, 1996).

Success for any social movement, including animal rights, is predicated on balancing utopian visions with the pragmatic politics. It is simply the nature of how things get done. Neither one nor the other are entirely right or wrong. They are both needed. It is the fetishising of either that becomes problematic. It is a smart social movement that is capable of deploying both in creative and innovative as well as in a politically sophisticated and smart way.

I guess what all this boils down to is how one chooses to measure success or accomplishment. Further, there’s the context. I have more anxieties about animal rights groups treading the regulatory path when they proclaim themselves to be, er, an animal rights group. Conversely, this is why I’m comfortable with CIWF and how they implement this mission to end factory farming. Compassion was never an animal rights group. It was started by a farmer who was concerned about factory farming. It’s mission is to end factory farming. Whereas a group like Farm Sanctuary, say, which positions itself as a vegan, animal rights group, has, I believe, a conflict of interest with being involved with regulatory issues. On the other hand, HSUS is not and never will be an animal rights group. Therefore, it does not have issue with being involved with regulatory issues. The trick to success is getting these groups and as many as possible of all the others to play as musicians in a complex orchestra challenged with playing music outside of their repertoire.

There is a further point to make about the ideology of welfare and rights. They each work in some contexts but not in all. For example, as philosophy and as strategy, they both work but with some inherent challenges, particularly when the margins are pushed. In the mainstream political context, however, their values as ideologies informing what could and should be done politically in the terms of laws passed is even more challenging. It is much more difficult to implement the rights ideology (than, say, the welfare ideology) in the present mainstream political climate. So, with rare exceptions, compromise (i.e., welfare) is almost inevitable. But this should not mean we should not work in the mainstream political arena. We must. What other option is there available? I simply do not buy into the argument to work exclusively for vegan education. I am realistic enough (and, admittedly, cynical enough) to recognise not everyone is capable of or wants to go vegan. People still smoke cigarettes even when they know they are a waste of money and will most likely cause diseases that may kill them. So, what is to be done? Make meat, eggs and dairy a prescribed substance like tobacco and other legal and illegal addictive substances? Maybe. Maybe not. I am not sure on this one. The jury is still out for me. There is mileage, however, to position meat, eggs and dairy like tobacco and alcohol in the terms of their societal cost and instituting regulatory state actions to restrict their sale and consumption. But the vegan abolitionists will not like that strategy as they are not prohibitions. Our history documents well enough that prohibitions do not have a very successful track record.

In fact, I do not think the animal rights movement has tried hard enough to work within the political mainstream. If we were to become, as a social justice movement, less obsessed with personal transformative moments and lifestyle purity and more sophisticated about the political, economic and social power which keeps the animal industrial complex in place AND understand this within the larger political, social justice context, well, then, I think we might get somewhere.

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Institute for Animals and Social Justice

June 29th, 2011 2 comments

After more than one year of meetings between academics and animal advocates which was prompted, in part, by my call for an animal rights think tank at the Minding Animals seminar in London in 2008, this week sees the launch of the Institute for Animals and Social Justice at an inaugural ‘Animals and Public Policy’ seminar at the London School of Economics on 30 June.

The IASJ’s mission is to open the realm of social justice to animals and hence advance animal protection. Therefore, the IASJ’s core strategic aim is:

To embed animal protection as a core policy goal of the UK Government, international governments and intergovernmental organisations, utilising and developing applied research as a primary tool to achieve this.

The IASJ’s priority programmes will involve research and advocacy in three crucial areas:

  1. Animals’ legal/political status
  2. Institutional representation for animals
  3. Policy Strategies for Animal Protection

As one of the founding group, I look forward to establishing the IASJ to further the mission of advancing animal protection through policy research.



Institute for Animals and Social Justice from Kim Stallwood on Vimeo.

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Wild Animals in British Circuses

June 27th, 2011 No comments

Martin Lacey from the Great British Circus spoke out in support of animals performing in circuses but refused access to the BBC to film the animals in his care. A move which could be seen to be audacious or naive (or both) given that the House of Commons was about to debate a motion calling for a ban on wild animals in circuses.

At the time of writing there isn’t a comment on the Commons debate on the Web site of Amazing Animals, a company which it states “trains and supplies animals to the film, TV, still photography and live event industry.” You would think that this would be something of interest to them. You would think that they would want to speak out. But they didn’t. Perhaps they believed they didn’t have to.

How the Great British Circus spoke out but Amazing Animals didn’t are just two developments in an extraordinary narrative which formed the backdrop to the successful June 23 Commons debate which adopted unanimously a motion calling for a ban on wild animals in circuses.

The cross-party motion was proposed by Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for The Wrekin, with the support of Bob Russell (Liberal Democrat) and Jim Fitzpatrick (Labour). It directed the Government to “use its powers under section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to introduce a regulation banning the use of all wild animals in circuses to take effect by 1 July 2012.” The motion was passed unanimously; however, from the first minutes of the debate no one could have predicted that this would be the outcome. (Read the debate here.)

Shortly after opening the debate, Mark Pritchard stated,

I want to focus on the interesting past few days. On Monday, in return for amending my motion, dropping it or not calling a vote on it—and we are not talking about a major defence issue, an economic issue or public sector reform; we are talking about the ban on wild animals in circuses—I was offered a reward, an incentive. If I had amended my motion and not called for a ban, I would have been offered a job. [Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] Not as a Minister, so those who are competing should not panic. It was a pretty trivial job, like most of the ones I have had—at least, probably, until 30 minutes from now. I was offered incentive and reward on Monday, and then it was ratcheted, until last night, when I was threatened. I had a call from the Prime Minister’s office directly. I was told that the Prime Minister himself had said that unless I withdrew this motion, he would look upon it very dimly indeed. Well, I have a message for the Whips and for the Prime Minister of our country—I did not pick a fight with the Prime Minister of our country, but I have a message. I might be just a little council house lad from a very poor background, but that background gives me a backbone, it gives me a thick skin, and I am not going to kowtow to the Whips or even the Prime Minister of my country on an issue that I feel passionately about and on which I have conviction. There might be some people with other backbones in this place, on our side and the other side, who will speak later, but we need a generation of politicians with a bit of spine, not jelly. I will not be bullied by any of the Whips. This is an issue on which I have campaigned for many years. In the previous Parliament I had an Adjournment debate and I spoke in the passage of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. I have consistently campaigned on this issue, and I will not kowtow to unnecessary, disproportionate pressure.”

Thus, the scene was set for an extraordinary debate in which the plight of wild animals in circuses became also a challenge from Conservative backbench MPs, like Mark Pritchard, to speak out and vote for what they believed in. With the exception of Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, who failed to declare in his speech an association with the Great British Circus, MPs from all parties spoke in support of a ban on wild animals in circuses.

The situation now is that the British Conservative led coalition government is under increasing pressure to ban wild animals in circuses with a regulation written with the authority of the Animal Welfare Act (2006). Time will tell how quickly this will be done. It is estimated that there are less than 50 wild animals in five circuses in the UK.

But the wild animals in circuses debate has far greater consequences. They are all positive, given the cross-party strength of feeling for animal welfare expressed; however, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do to embed animal welfare as key value in public policy. It will now be more difficult for the present government to push ahead with other topical animal welfare issues, including the proposed badger cull and repeal of the Hunting Act. The debate signals a coming-of-age for animal welfare in Parliament. MPs repeatedly made reference to the overwhelming public support for animal welfare. The challenge for the animal welfare movement is to continue to build and transform this public sentiment so that it is focused on the political arena, including at all local, regional, general and European elections.

As I have repeatedly stated here and elsewhere, moral and legal progress for animals will not significantly advance until the animal welfare movement learns to balance the pragmatic politics of animal welfare with the utopian vision of animal rights thereby embedding the values of animal protection into public policy and mainstream politics. The Commons debate on wild animals in circuses signalled a shift in the right direction.

Meanwhile, questions go unanswered. Why did the Prime Minister’s Whips Office institute a 3-line whip on Conservative MPs forcing them to vote against Mark Pritchard’s motion? Further, why, in the course of the debate, did the Whips office abandon the 3-line whip and instruct their MPs that it was now a free vote? The second question may be easier to answer. The Whips office learnt in the course of the debate that Conservative MPs stated their intention of defying their authority. Its withdrawal then prompts a further question: Why was the 3-line whip imposed in the first place? A question that was repeatedly asked during the debate. Later, news reports pointed out that Amazing Animals was based is David Cameron’s Witney constituency. The day after the vote Cameron played down the vote by saying the “government’s position was ‘not a million miles away’ from that taken by Mark Pritchard.” Then, why the 3-line whip? And why such strong-arm tactics against Mark Pritchard? Amazing Animals denies any contact with their MP David Cameron.

One other reason maybe that the Conservatives in the Coalition government with the LibDems wanted the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to establish a licensing scheme for wild animals in circuses so that it set a precedent for a similar licensing regime for hunting wild animals. David Cameron and many but by no means all Conservative MPs and Lords are pledged to repeal the Hunting Act. If this is true, their misreading of Conservative MPs on wild animals in circuses may will be the precedent which unwittingly ensures bloodsports stays illegal and kill badgers allegedly to tackle TB in dairy cows.

What cannot be denied, however, is that animal welfare is increasingly recognised as a legitimate public policy. Further, it’s now up to the animal welfare movement in the UK and Europe to push further at the boundary of the political mainstream.

PS Congratulations to the various animal welfare groups and individuals involved as well as The Independent who was in the forefront of this initiative.

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Rethinking. Reorganising. Leadership

June 13th, 2011 1 comment

Worryingly, in every major green group, managers, administrators, communicators and fundraisers outnumber campaigners and researchers. Too many staff have become obsessed with the process of running an organisation. Interminable meetings, not action, are the order of most days. All too often, fundraisers and PR teams, not campaigners, call the shots. Today’s activists regard once radical organisations as part of the NGO establishment: out-of-touch, ineffective and bureaucratic. The wheel has turned full circle. It is time to rethink and reorganise again.

This is Charles Secrett‘s conclusion to an article published on The Guardian Web site called “Environmental activism needs its own revolution to regain its teeth: Today’s protest tactics are not sufficient to alter the destructive path travelled by virtually all governments and most corporations.” Charles Secrett was executive director of Friends of the Earth (1993 – 2003).

Now, repeat the same paragraph but this time apply it to animal welfare/rights organisations.

Worryingly, in every major animal welfare/rights group, managers, administrators, communicators and fundraisers outnumber campaigners and researchers. Too many staff have become obsessed with the process of running an organisation. Interminable meetings, not action, are the order of most days. All too often, fundraisers and PR teams, not campaigners, call the shots. Today’s activists regard once radical organisations as part of the NGO establishment: out-of-touch, ineffective and bureaucratic. The wheel has turned full circle. It is time to rethink and reorganise again.”

Is it true? Methinks it is certainly true of some animal welfare/rights groups in the UK and US. Clearly, organisations have their own life-cycles where they climb and descend in productivity and effectiveness. Size and purpose don’t seem to influence an organisation’s ability either. I’ve seen both very effective and hopelessly ineffective small and large as well as local and national organisations. I’ve also witnessed diverse groups with charismatic, dominant leaders who are equally brilliant and awful and sometimes both at the same time.

In any event, rethinking and reorganising is smart advice; however, it’s how you do it and who’s involved that makes all the difference. Leadership is more about vision and empowerment than direction and enforcement. In short, hire the people who can do the job better than you. Trust them to get on with the job while you maintain a firm but relaxed hand on their shoulder so that they know you’re with them as they make their way. And let them make some mistakes so that they learn. And you, too.

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Testing Organisations

May 21st, 2011 2 comments

Periodically, I set tests for animal welfare/rights and vegan/vegetarian organisations in the UK and US to see if they past them. These tests are one of the ways I use to determine if the group is cost-effective, productive and deserves my support, recommendation and involvement.

My tests include signing up for e-newsletters, making donations, posting questions to their Web sites, attending events, reading publications, reviewing financial reports, volunteering my services, applying for jobs, asking others to make a donation in my name because I provided them with a professional service I would normally have charged them for and so on.

With one or two notable exceptions, most of the groups fail my test. It seems that many function on low levels of innovation and creativity. Some rely upon income from the dead (e.g., legacies) and do not care about their relationship with the living. Other aspects (usually disappointing) of their management style and campaigning or program effectiveness also become apparent from these tests.

I am not going to name any organisation–good, bad or indifferent–but I will summarise below some examples of my experiences. Do I report back to any group who fails one of my tests and explain why? No. Because I want to see how quickly or how long (if ever) it takes to make a correction or improve performance. If there is any pattern to be detected here I think it is one of lost opportunity.

One group, who I had not donated to but had some involvement with, repeatedly asked me on its Web site to sign up for e-newsletters, e-alerts and receive information in the regular mail. This I dutifully did. And when I began to realise I had signed up before and again before that, I made a point of signing up every three months just to see how long it would take to receive something. Anything! Well, I never did received anything in the mail but recently I started to receive e-alerts. This only took at least two years. This is a group with an annual budget of more than £1million. So, there’s no excuse for this incompetence. Nevertheless, the group should not have invited people to sign up to an e-newsletter without first having the means in place to deliver it. As I never received anything in the mail after I signalled my interest in their organisation, I presume they neither want my involvement nor my financial support.

To another group I made a significant donation in honour of a relevant topic for reasons it would be inappropriate for my to detail here. I didn’t a receive a prompt letter thanking me for my donation. It arrived some weeks later. I didn’t even get a phone call thanking me. I continue to receive their solicitations and mailings. I monitor carefully what they do because their work is interesting; however, I am disinclined to support them for the time being because of how they failed to recognise my donation. If they had responded personally and promptly I would feel differently.

I applied for a full-time position with one group, as I was more than appropriately qualified. Sometime after my interview, I had to call at least twice to find out the status of my application. Only then I was told I wasn’t required for a second interview, even though the position remained unfilled for sometime. I would feel differently about this group if they had not been so dismissive of my application.

I volunteered my professional services to more than one organisation. I even paid my own expenses to meet with them and donated my expertise to their projects. Eventually these situations came to nothing because of their choosing. The groups continue, from my monitoring of them, to be essentially where they were before I got involved.

I posted a question in response to a blog posted by one group on their Web site. The blog criticised a policy of another organisation which was an opponent. My question, which sought clarity on their position, was never answered. Why not?

Why not set your own tests? And see for yourself if your experience is the same as mine. If you discover a group fails a test you set them, well, question whether they continue to deserve your support.



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Ag Interests Going Gaga over Ag Gag Bills

May 17th, 2011 No comments

Jill Howard Church, my colleague at the Animals and Society Institute, assesses the outbreak of Ag Gag Bills in various US states. She writes,

By using its considerable financial and political resources to enact these “ag gag” bills, the industry is hoping the whole issue of factory farm cruelty will be nudged away, by adding another layer of legal intimidation toward those who already take great risks for the purpose of bearing witness to violence. Trespassing is already illegal, but by singling out filming on farms for special punishment, these states are hoping activists will take their cameras elsewhere or simply give up. I strongly suspect that’s not going to happen.

Indeed, enlightened responses to ag interests going gaga over ag gag bills is really encouraging. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association made a most welcomed statement, which concluded

A variety of organizations, including the AVMA, industry groups, humane organizations, and state and federal regulatory agencies, offer guidelines to protect the health and welfare of animals used to produce our food supply. Too often, however, these guidelines are ignored. There is no excuse for this. If those responsible for the good welfare of the animals in their care are unable or unwilling to follow these guidelines, then additional oversight, either through public pressure or regulation, may become a necessity. We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way. But either way, it must be done.

Further insight into these developments and a comparison between the UK and US is a commentary published on the Web site,, which describes itself as the “food industry’s leading online resource.” Discussing the Ag Gag Bills and undercover exposes in the US and the approach taken by RSPCA (e.g., Freedom Foods campaign) and CIWF (e.g., Good Egg Awards), Ben Cooper concludes,

Freedom Food and CIWF also aim to restore some form of link between consumers and animal agriculture. But they recognise that the real disconnect exists between mainstream production and mainstream consumers, rather than those buying niche, high-welfare products who in many cases will have that heightened awareness. The UK NGOs also believe that this is more likely to be achieved by cooperation between industry and campaigners than through conflict, and their results appear to be bearing that out.

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May 9th, 2011 No comments

Whenever I read media reports alleging that animal rights activists threaten so and so because of such and such they do to animals, I always want to know if they state whether the evidence of the threats have been handed over to the police for investigation. If they don’t, I am always sceptical of the reports and their severity as well as whether animal rights activists, as opposed to unknown members of the public, actually made them.

Take, for example, this report.

Animal rights extremists threatened to “burn” the children of TV presenter Adam Henson after he investigated the bovine tuberculosis and badger cull issue on the BBC’s Countryfile programme. The threat, and other hate mail, were revealed by Mr Henson when he spoke to 185 farmers and agricultural professionals at a conference in Cornwall.

Let me make immediately clear, before someone rushes to allege otherwise, I do not support violence whether it is threatened, implied or actual. My opposition to violence is one reason why I am for animal rights. Also, I am not alleging Adam Henson is not telling the truth.

But wouldn’t any reasonable person, whose family was threatened for whatever reason, report it to the police? And would want to make it publicly known, particularly when given opportunities to do, including public speaking? Wouldn’t you want to use any situation to send a message to the aggressors that you are not cowed by them? And know full well, given public interest and a public profile if you have one as Adam Henson does, that this sort of thing the media loves to report?

Perhaps Mr Henson provided the evidence to the police. Perhaps he said so publicly. Perhaps the reporter failed it make a note of it. Or did make a note but it was excised from the published report for some reason. We don’t know.

But what I do know, and what I don’t like, is when someone gets attention for claiming something which the media rushes to publish without finding out for itself whether there is a police report to verify its veracity. To fail to do so is sloppy journalism. Perhaps the media in this case did. We don’t know.

Further, people who work tirelessly to stop violence to animals are incorrectly represented in the media in these situations, thereby perpetuating the mythology the animal rights movement is an inherently violent social movement. I don’t think this is the case and nor do I think it to be true. In fact, it’s the reverse. The social movement for animals (regardless of ideology) is very much a peaceful movement and inherent within its ethical credo is opposition to violence, particularly that which is inflicted upon animals. Yes, of course, there have been actions for animals which involve what most people would consider to be violence. In this regard, the animal movement is no different from all other social movements in that there is a minority which thinks differently. Nevertheless, I feel I have a duty to speak out whenever I can to correct this injustice.

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