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Badgers, Politics, and Hastings

March 12th, 2014 No comments

Tomorrow’s (March 13, 2014) Backbench Business Committee debate in the House of Commons in support of a motion relating to the badger cull states that this:

House believes that the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have decisively failed against the criteria set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in guidance to Natural England for licensing of the culls[.]

The motion is brought by Mrs Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans, who states on her website that:

I have a great sympathy for farmers on this difficult issue and believe something has to be done to tackle Bovine TB. However this needs to be an effective policy and the pilot culls have failed on all of the Government’s own criteria, including humaneness. I cannot support an ineffective policy that condones the inhumane killing of a protected species and does not deliver on an effective way of tackling Bovine TB.

The UK’s government’s policy to kill badgers to stop the spread of TB in dairy cattle in England was criticised by its own Independent Expert Panel into pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Details from the IEP report were leaked recently. According to The Daily Telegraph, the IEP concluded that the culls ‘were ineffective and too many animals suffered needlessly.’

Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, Amber Rudd, has supported the cull when it has been voted upon in the House of Commons. I emailed her on March 6 asking for her support by voting in favour of a motion being debated in the House of Commons tomorrow. Ms Rudd replied on March 11 saying in part that

I assure you that I am listening carefully to the different views that are being expressed by Constituents of Hastings and Rye. I know that you have strong views on this and I am always grateful to get you expert opinion on these matters.

The lives of badgers lay in the hands of Amber Rudd MP

The lives of badgers lay in the hands of Amber Rudd MP

Whereas parts of the Hastings and Rye constituency are rural which may include some dairy farms, most of her constituents live in the urban area of Hastings. The electorate in the constituency is 76,422 but the population of Hastings is about 86,900. Further, the constituency is home to many badgers and their setts. Many constituents appreciate living alongside badgers. Even if they don’t because they dig up their lawns or trample their allotments, they are generally not supportive of killing badgers. One national YouGov poll stated ‘opponents outnumber supporters of the cull by 42%-35%.’

Of particular note is that Hastings and Rye is a marginal constituency. In the last general election Amber Rudd won 41.1% (20,468) of the vote but her Labour opponent, Michael Foster, came a close second with 37.1% (18,475).

It is my sincere hope that Ms Rudd will change her position from supporting the badger cull to voting against it in tomorrow’s debate. Friends of badgers such as myself will be watching closely. The badger cull may well be the decisive issue that determines whether Ms Rudd is reelected at the next general election.

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Badger Cull & Amber Rudd MP

March 6th, 2014 No comments

My MP is Amber Rudd, Conservative, who represents Hastings and Rye. The following is an email I sent today to Ms Rudd asking her to vote in favour of a motion brought by Conservative MP Anne Main to end the badger cull.

I write to ask for your support by voting in favour of a motion to be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday 13th March. The motion calls for an end to the badger cull and is proposed by Conservative MP Anne Main. The Independent Expert Panel report into the pilot badger culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire concluded that they were ‘ineffective and failed the humane test’. The conservative think tank, the Bow Group, has also subsequently come out as saying that culling badgers is ineffective, costly and unscientific and recommends vaccination as the only current option. The alternative to killing badgers is to vaccinate them. Several trials are now underway. Please advise me as soon as possible on your commitment to vote in favour of the motion to end the badger cull. Thank you.

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Best Animal Rights Books 2013

January 7th, 2014 1 comment

There were many fine books about animal rights and related matters published in 2013. So many, in fact, that I’ve had to devise two lists: my five favourites and four noble mentions. So, let’s deal with the latter group first. I’m cheating a bit with the noble mentions. I’m reading them or they’re on my to read pile tottering by my side of the bed.

The Cry of Nature: Art and the Making of Animal Rights by Stephen F. Eisenman (Reaktion Books)

The impact of art on animal rights fascinates me. Just started this book and can’t wait to read his study of my favourite living artist Sue Coe.

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict by David Nibert (Columbia University Press)

This progressive perspective is refreshing in the era of blandness. It will be like a breath of fresh air albeit a strong wind that will knock my thinking sideways—no bad thing.

Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat edited by Kara Davis, Wendy Lee, with a Foreword by Carol J. Adams (Lantern Books)

Carol J. Adams and her books have earned themselves a place in my life in which they have significantly shaped my thinking. Discovering her impact on the lives of others will be interesting.

Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus by Susan Nance (Johns Hopkins University Press)

One unfinished project is to write a contemplation about the life of Topsy, the elephant electrocuted to death in Coney Island, NY in 1903. Susan Nance’s book is part of my research.

Onto my top five animal rights books of 2013.

Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans (Faber & Faber)

During the 1980s when I organised the campaigns of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and U.K. animal rights movement came into its own with many actions of different kinds, I suspected there were undercover police, agents provocateurs, and corporate spies in our midst but never had the evidence to prove it. At the end of one national demonstration I organised which attracted thousands of protestors, I went to the local police station to check on some activists who had been arrested, and witnessed demonstrators emerge as on-duty police officers as they walked past me standing at the counter, started chatting with their colleagues in uniform, and take off badges from their coats and drop placards onto the floor. Researched and written by two Guardian journalists, Undercover documents Britain’s secret police forces and how they infiltrate and influence not only legitimate social movements like ours but also act morally reprehensibly by initiating long-standing, intimate relationship with activists, including fathering children. Every activist has to read this book and understand that much worse goes on around and among us.

Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne (Changemakers Books)

Mark Hawthorne is a writer of integrity. If he says it, you can trust it. This is why Bleating Hearts is so important and deserves a place on every animal activist’s bookshelf. It’s encyclopaedic in its summary description of all the different ways in which we treat animals. An important resource.

A Theory of Justice for Animals: Animal Rights in a Nonideal World by Robert Garner (Oxford University Press)

Living in an imperfect world, how do we go from moral rights to legal rights for animals? This is the question that Robert Garner, professor of politics at the University of Leicester, seeks to answer. Not everyone will agree with his conclusions and that, I think, doesn’t matter, as we have to have this debate. For example, he writes: “[i]t is my contention that moral obligations regarded as being outside of the sphere of justice collapse, in practice, into the realm of charity and voluntarism precisely because there is a much weaker link with legal compulsion.” (8) (emphasis in original)

This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology by Will Anderson (Earth Books)

The big picture view of animal rights and veganism and their relationship to environmental protection are the issues explored by Will Anderson, a long-standing social justice campaigner. There is so much to learn from this well-researched book. One of its special attributes that I appreciate is that it presents the problem as well as the solution.

Polar Bear in the Zoo: A Speculation by Martin Rowe (Lantern Books)

Martin Rowe, who is my editor at Lantern Books, is such a thoughtful and provocative writer that I would want to read anything he writes. I read The Polar Bear in the Zoo as an ebook but its richness deserves another read in the flesh, as it were, as a paperback. Prompted by the evocative photography of Jo-Anne McArthur and one in particular of a polar bear in a zoo, Martin Rowe embarks on a journey of contemplation and questioning as to what it means to care and act for animals as well as the relationship between us. “Do we open our eyes and stare or do we look away?” he asks.

Changing the Game: Why the Battle for Animal Liberation Is So Hard and How We Can Win It by Norm Phelps (Lantern Books — ebook only)

This book deserves a wider readership than I fear it has received so far. With precision and insight, Norm Phelps takes a cold hard look at the animal rights movement and our strategies and tactics. His analysis is always insightful and, when necessary, challenging. This is one of those rare books about animal rights strategy that reaches beyond cliches and stereotypes. It breathes wisdom into the discussion that preoccupies activists of all sorts. He concludes with a seven point program to change the game of animal rights advocacy. “And because neither animal rights nor human rights can be achieved alone,” he writes, “we need to set about building a universal rights movement that will win both together.”

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Animal Pasts in Hyde Park

October 14th, 2013 No comments
Although this horse stables in a nearby mews is relatively recent, London's Hyde Park has a long history involving horses and less recently sheep and cows.

Although this horse stables in a nearby mews is relatively recent, London’s Hyde Park has a long history involving horses and less recently sheep and cows.

On Saturday, October 12, I joined with 12 others on a walk, Animal Pasts in Hyde Park, led by historian Hilda Kean in London. This is the second walk I’ve taken led by Hilda. Here is my account of the first ‘Animal Pasts in London’s Landscape Today‘. Among Hilda’s books is Animal Rights. Political and Social Change in Britain since 1800, which I highly recommend.

‘Hyde Park is not just a site of human demonstrations and concerts,’ explained Hilda. ‘It is a space in which animals have also lived, died and been remembered and not only at the Animals in War memorial in Park Lane.’

Seen in the distance are the gravestones of the Hyde Park Dog Cemetery.

Seen in the distance are the gravestones of the Hyde Park Dog Cemetery.

Britain’s first pet cemetery is in Hyde Park. Although we were unable to gain access, the headstones were visible through the wrought iron fence. Hilda writes about the Hyde Park Dog Cemetery on her website:

It was originally called (it also admitted the corpses of three small monkeys, and two cats) was established in 1880 in the part of the huge park that lies adjacent to Kensington Gardens (and opposite Lancaster Gate). Although accounts vary as to the origins of the cemetery – either initiated by the Duke of Connaught or through a favour of the gatekeeper to friends who lived nearby – it is evident that the cemetery was not run for profit but as a philanthropic gesture towards grieving animal owners.

The walking tour also included two cattle troughs, the memorial for a defunct bird sanctuary which featured Epstein’s figure of ‘Rima,’ the bird-girl heroine of W. H. Hudson’s novel, ‘Green Mansions.’ The tour ended at the Animals in War Memorial on Park Lane immediately adjacent and to the east of Hyde Park.

This video is raw footage I shot with my iPad. The Animals in War Memorial is situated in the middle of a very busy road, Park Lane, with each side having at least two lanes of traffic, including many buses and coaches. So, the audio quality is not great but does improve. In any event, it is possible to hear Hilda Kean speak about the memorial and see it and how it is situated.

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

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IARC 2013

September 15th, 2013 No comments
The IARC 2013 was held at the Kulturfabrik that was originally a slaughterhouse. Here, we look up at the ceiling to see the large hooks that moved the carcasses along the production line.

The IARC 2013 was held at the Kulturfabrik that was originally a slaughterhouse. Here, we look up at the ceiling to see the large hooks that moved the carcasses along the production line.

The International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg is an impressive event. It attracts animal advocates from across the world and produces an impressive program of speakers. It is also well organised and comprehensive and welcoming. Generally, the attendees are younger activists. They are thoughtful and passionate.

The conference is held at the Centre Culturel Kulturfabrik Esch which was formally a slaughterhouse and is now an arts complex with a restaurant, galleries, offices, and studios. I was not aware of this until I arrived and it was pointed out to me. So, attending the conference becomes a bizarre but creepy positive experience in that animal rights was being discussed inside an old slaughterhouse.

I was honoured with making the opening plenary presentation. I decided to present the paper I had written for the academic journal, Relations. This is because the paper, ‘Animal rights: Moral crusade or political movement?’, summarised my critique of the animal rights movement. Other presenters also addressed related issues about the movement’s ideology and strategy.

The conference organisers have opened a page in YouTube where it is possible to watch many if not all of the presentations made. These recordings are a valuable resource into the different views and perspectives made about animal rights and its ideology and strategy.

You can watch my presentation here. Please share with me your thoughts and comments on my thesis that the animal rights movement should be less like a moral crusade and more like a political movement. Thank you!

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Interview with On Human-Nonhuman Relations Podcast

July 12th, 2013 No comments

Sociologist Roger Yates, who I’m proud to say is a respected animal rights colleague I’ve known since the 1980s, recently recorded an interview with me for his podcast, On Human-Nonhuman Relations. Here’s Roger’s introduction

My special guest for podcast 31 is long-time animal advocate, Kim Stallwood, who has been vegan since 1976 – his journey to veganism began with a summer job in a chicken slaughterhouse. Kim Stallwood and I first met in the early 1980s when he was a central figure of the radicalisation of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). Kim quickly transformed the BUAV’s magazine from its rather weak and washy format, “Animal Welfare” to “The Liberator,” regularly reporting on the activities of the Animal Liberation Front and the various Animal Liberation Leagues. In the podcast, Kim provides a brief summary of the origins of political campaigning in Britain, greatly influenced by Lord Houghton, and expounds his view that political campaigning in the 21st century is increasingly important if the animal movement is to achieve it’s goals. I have never been keen on political campaigning, preferring vegan education initiative in civil society and on the cultural level. As you’ll hear, our conversation gets a little heated at times – but respectfully so! Kim Stallwood is appearing at the 2013 Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg, and he has outlined his case for political engagement in a 2012 Critical Perspectives on Animal In Society conference.

Roger and I share many views but we don’t agree on everything. Our differences become apparent as our conversation develops. Even though we do disagree on some, we discuss our differences with passion and humour.

Listen here to the podcast, Growling with Kim Stallwood.

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Elephants, Politics & Animal Rights

July 9th, 2013 No comments

What do these three things have in common?

They all relate to new projects I’m currently working on and want to bring you up to date with.

First, my colleague at the Animals and Society Institute, Bee Friedlander, challenges us in the ASI Diary to find the “S” in the Animal Movement which exists in other social movements in the USA: Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall. In doing so, she explores the common ground among social movements, including animal rights. Bee refers to my paper, “Animal Rights: Moral Crusade or Social Movement?,” which emphasises, as she puts it, going “from philosophical to political, from theory to practice, as the underpinning of the movement.”

Second, in my new paper, “The Politics of Animal Rights Advocacy,” I investigate further the challenges the animal rights movement faces in embedding the values of animal ethics in mainstream politics. The paper is available to read in the journal, Relations–Beyond Anthropocentrism (Vol 1, No 1).

Finally, I am honored to have been invited by the Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, to present a paper at the First International Elephant Congress in Delhi in November. The focus of my paper will be about Topsy, the elephant Thomas Edison electrocuted in 1903.

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News About My Work

June 27th, 2013 No comments

Approaching the midway point of the year provokes reflection on the current status of my work for animal rights.

GREY2K USA joins my roster of client organisations. I am honoured to be assisting them with their successful efforts to “pass stronger greyhound protection laws and end the cruelty of dog racing on both national and international levels.”

Also, I am pleased to announce that my responsibility has expanded as Editor of A Compassionate World, the blog of Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive, Compassion In World Farming. I am now also the blog’s Project Manager and will be working with Compassion’s talented staff to improve and expand A Compassionate World.

My book, GROWL. Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate, is scheduled for publication by Lantern Books in October. Look out for changes here that will feature GROWL!

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NCSU Libraries Recognises My Animal Rights Work

June 4th, 2013 No comments

I received recently a much appreciated letter from Greg Raschke, Associate Director for Collections and Scholarly Communication at NSCU Libraries, recognising my work in support of the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive at North Carolina State University.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you personally for all of the hard work you have put forth towards helping us build the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive here at the North Carolina State University Libraries. As you know, the animal rights archive at NCSU is one of the best venues for scholars and activists to conduct research on the history and development of the animal rights movement. We hope to continue growing the collection and to encourage even more frequent use of the materials.

Your pivotal role in helping NCSU obtain the records of the Animal Rights Network was a key part in generating the momentum we needed as we sought to expand our animal rights collections. We are equally grateful that you have brought other collections to our attention, such as the Animal Rights/Animal Welfare Pamphlet Collection that we recently acquired. In April we released a press release announcing this acquisition and soon thereafter received a larger number of inquiries from researchers wanting to access the materials. No successful archive is built in isolation, and we are grateful for the collaboration of leading scholars such as Dr. Regan and leaders in the field such as you. Your contributions in connecting us with materials for purchase that are appropriate for the archive are most appreciated. We would like to build on these successes as we continue to grow the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive.

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Amber Rudd MP Fails to Oppose Badger Cull

June 4th, 2013 1 comment

The Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, Amber Rudd, who is my Parliamentary representative, writes to me in support of the government’s badger cull.

In response to a telephone call to her Hastings office yesterday morning, I asked for an emailed statement as soon as possible on Ms Rudd’s personal position on the badger cull in advance of tomorrow’s Commons debate. I said I would share her response.

Click on the link below to read the letter.

Amber Rudd Corres Badger cull debate 3 June 2013

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