In the UK, the AR extremists are expanding their efforts. Now, they are terrorizing an entire village, and from the London Times, in an Aug 21 story entitled "Animal terror tactics that damn a whole village" by Valerie Elliott (subscription required - this from LexisNexis) we learn:
THE entire community of a Staffordshire hamlet has been targeted by animal rights activists determined to close down a local farm which breeds guinea pigs used for testing pharmaceuticals.
Anyone who has dealings with the farmers John and Chris Hall, brothers and co-owners of Darley Oaks Farm, Newchurch, near Burton-on-Trent, risks broken windows, midnight visits from activists with loudhailers, abusive letters and phone calls, paint stripped from their cars or slashed tyres.
These "tertiary" techniques -so called because those affected are two steps removed from the laboratory -have been ruthlessly deployed against Huntingdon Life Sciences and companies involved in the construction of a new animal experiment facility at Oxford University. Now activists are intent on closing down the guinea pig farm. The ploy is to ostracise the family and its workforce and hope that local opinion will force the closure of the business.
The tactics started five years ago when a website and campaign group Save Newchurch Guinea Pigs was set up. The organisers hold regular demonstrations outside the farm but insist that they are peaceful campaigners and do not resort to thuggery. Victims blame the violence on hardliners from the Animal Liberation Front.
Fear has spread outwards from the 20 households in Newchurch to cover a five mile radius which includes villages such as Yoxall, Branston, Newborough and Barton-under-Needwood, where friends, family and suppliers of the Halls or any of their eight to ten workers have been attacked.
Some have been labelled paedophiles, others have had false medical records sent to neighbours suggesting that they are being treated for a sexually transmitted disease. There have also been silent phone calls and sympathy cards sent in the post, warning them that their children will soon be orphans. The victims include the Halls, their 86-year-old father, their wives and three children, their staff, staff's spouses, partners and children, in-laws and anyone vaguely linked as a friend or associate.
John Hall, 56, said yesterday that he refused to be intimidated by the violence and protests. "We are licensed by the Home Office to provide animals for use in medical research and are subject to regular inspection. We only breed guinea pigs.
The research needs us to go on," he said.
He accused some of the protesters of "sheer hypocrisy" and said that one activist who regularly protested outside the farm was being treated for cancer with drugs that were tested on laboratory animals such as his guinea pigs.
He admitted that many local firms and suppliers had had to sever links with his farm but insists that the family and workforce have a lot of support and they would not quit their business.
John Hall no longer has a daily newspaper delivered after his newsagent was the subject of attacks. He had to sell off his dairy herd after the haulage company collecting the milk became a target. The company's headquarters was daubed with paint and its vehicles attacked. The Halls have also had to give up their turkey business after the company that supplied their gas was targeted, suffering broken windows and damaged vehicles. A local firm has stopped supplying tractor fuel after a brick was hurled through the owner's bedroom window.
Even Mr Hall's golf club at Branston has been attacked. After nine greens were dug up one night and paint daubed on the fairways, he felt he had to resign. His former solicitor no longer acts for the family and a local glazier who repaired vandalised windows withdrew his labour after receiving threats. A vet did the same and a local restaurant has banned the Halls.
The landlords of the local, the Red Lion were warned they should not serve the Halls or their staff or risk a fire at the pub. Kate and Keith Marklew, the licensees, refused to ban them, so activists targeted the owners, the Union Pub Company, and inundated them with abusive letters, e-mails and phone calls. The Marklews say they were told they would have to quit their tenancy if they refused to bar the Halls.
Nick Sanders, 35, has worked for the Halls for 12 years and even though he does not touch the guinea pigs, he and his young family have suffered so much intimidation that they moved house. The activists found their new home within a week. He is so worried for his partner, Jackie, and two sons -one is autistic and is disturbed by the noise of night time protesters -that he has had to install fortress-like security. Besides sensors in the garden that detect movement his windows are protected by steel shutters. He admits that sometimes the strain is so hard that he thinks about quitting his job, but he said: "I don't see why I should be driven out of my job by these people and am not prepared to give in to them.
There is nothing these people will stop at. We're all waiting for the police to get new powers." Staffordshire Police said 15 prosecutions were in the pipeline.
There's another article here here, which contains this:
The local MP, Michael Fabricant, said: The irony is that if this particular guinea pig farm is closed, laboratories will import these guinea pigs from France where there are no inspections whatsoever."
So - the AR extremists have escalated. I guess the lesson learned by them over the past several months is this: "If the government can't stop us now, what's the argument against broadening our target base?"
It's going to be hard to stop these people, but not impossible. As I've argued before, legislation alone won't be enough, even if coupled with increased resources for the apprehension and prosecution of the terrorists. The government has lacked the will to deal with the AR terrorists in the past, and that must change.
I continue to believe that a really important element in this struggle is the battle for public perception. With that in mind, I'm again struck by the tone of the 2 articles. It is impossible for the reader not to sympathize with the Hall family and the terrorized villagers. It seems to me that both stories portray the Animal Rights extremists rather like we in the states might portray the night riders of the old American south - as masked, anonymous people coming by night to terrorize their targets with hit-and-run tactics. In both instances, terror against innocent people is used as a means of social control. And while it is true that the British AR people haven't yet killed anyone (the southern night riders lynched black folks), the concern that they might well take that next step is, in my view, entirely warranted. Certainly, nobody in the village of Newchurch can rule that out.
The tone of the articles (sympathetic to the victims while portraying the terrorists as - well - terrorists) can't be good news for the Animal Rights extremists, violent and non-violent alike. The AR community survives because of public acceptance, or at least, public indifference. But these two articles, in common with those reporting on instances of AR coercion, intimidation, vandalism and assault are almost certainly undermining public acceptance of the AR cause, and shifting public indifference towards disapproval. Or so I would argue.
Finally, I'm struck by how completely symbolic the campaign of terror against the Hall operation is: even if the farm quits operation, the use of guniea pigs in British research won't stop, nor will it even be slowed down. And, as Mr Fabricant MP pointed out, if the Hall farm closes, the animals will just be imported from France, where the animals are bred and raised without inspections. But then, terror is often primarily a symbolic act, and symbols are important.
Finally, I can't help but wonder if the perpetrators aren't motivated by the gratuitous pleasure they enjoy in exercising god-like power over defenseless and innocent people - people like the local glazier and newsagent, for heavens sake.
Thanks to David S. for the early heads up.