Archive for the ‘Animal Rights Movement’ Category

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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Karen Davis Assesses Peter Singer

April 28th, 2011 1 comment

Among the number of animal advocates who I most admire are Karen Davis, president and founder of United Poultry Concerns, and the philosopher Peter Singer. In a movement that isn’t always capable of rational and respectful debate on ideas and strategy, Karen makes the case in this thoughtful and fascinating article that Peter’s ethical stance on the moral and legal status of animals — and, in particular, chickens — has changed since the publication of his important book Animal Liberation in 1975.  She discusses various statements and actions Peter has taken and discusses them within the context of the place poultry occupy in the animal liberation struggle. She concludes that Peter

condemns the cruelty and environmental havoc of factory farming and observes that ‘ultimately, we should be aiming to eat vegetarian diets,’ which is all well and good, but he is no longer an inspiration for animal liberation.

What do you think?

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Henry S. Salt died today in 1939

April 19th, 2011 No comments

Henry Salt 1851-1939

The great humanitarian, vegetarian and ethical socialist Henry S. Salt died today 72 years ago in Brighton in 1939. He wrote his own eulogy which was read out at his service.

When I say I shall die, as I have lived, rationalist, socialist, pacifist, and humanitarian, I must make my meaning clear. I wholly disbelieve in the present established religion; but I have a very firm religious faith of my own—a Creed of Kinship I call it—a belief that in years yet to come there will be a recognition of brotherhood between man and man, nation and nation, human and subhuman, which will transform a state of semi-savagery, as we have it, into one of civilisation, when there will be no such barbarity of warfare, or the robbery of the poor by the rich, or the ill-usage of the lower animals by mankind.

To learn more about Henry S. Salt go to this excellent celebration of his life.

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Why We Left PETA

April 11th, 2011 10 comments

Alex Pacheco, Co-founder (1980), speaking on Animal Rights Zone:

I’m often asked “Why did you part from PETA, was it a fundamental issue and/or do you feel the actions by PETA are justified?” The short answer is: I left PETA because it had and has drifted far from its base, and because of disagreements over tactics. The longer answer is: The record will show that while I was there, my core focus was on developing high impact exposés which were very inclusive, and were typically made up of a combination of at least: undercover investigations, criminal and civil litigation, legislation and of course public education.

Kim Stallwood, Executive Director (1987-1992), from my forthcoming book, Animal Dharma:

At this time I was PETA’s executive director and proud of our accomplishments; however, I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the organisation’s leadership and the direction in which some of the publicity stunts were going. Of course, our mission was to educate people about animal exploitation but was it necessary to do so at the expense of someone else? This led me to making what I believed to be the only honourable decision I could make. I resigned in 1992 and left PETA without any other employment to go to. I enthusiastically supported what I always understood to be PETA’s effective two-part strategy of presenting, first, the problem of animal cruelty with innovative undercover investigations and, second, offering the solution by inspiring people to adopt a compassionate vegan lifestyle. The focus of this brilliant but deceptively simple approach of simultaneously and credibly presenting the problem with the solution appears to have changed. PETA’s increasing emphasis on celebrities and strident publicity stunts overwhelming its brilliant undercover investigations and unnecessarily polarising sections of the population, including women, racial minorities and obese people, from its deliberately provocative publicity stunts that trivialise them.

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Henry Salt asks Restrictionists or Abolitionists?

April 3rd, 2011 1 comment

Henry Salt 1851-1939

The great Henry Salt explores in the essay, Restrictionists and Abolitionists, in the journal, Humanity, published by the Humanitarian League on November 4, 1900. He concludes,

For our own part, we have no quarrel with those who are abolitionist only, or with those who are restrictionist only; it is for each to do what he or she can. But we hope that members of the Humanitarian League will strive, wherever feasible, to adopt the fuller and wiser policy—that is, to be both restrictionists and abolitionists at once. Humanitarians have a hard fight before them against the power of cruelty and oppression, and they cannot afford to refrain from using their intellects as well as their hearts. Stupidity, in such a contest, will retard the noblest cause. And the recrimination that goes on between the advocates of greater and lesser measures strikes us, if we may say so, as just a little stupid.

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