Not too long ago, I wrote on how the Animal Rights people in the UK have escalated their campaign: they've targeted an entire village. The primary target - the collection of demons - was the Hall family, who raise guinea pigs for use by researchers. Animal Rights terrorists not only targeted them, but also anybody in their (unnamed) village who had anything to do with them (glazier, news agent, pub operator, fuel delivery person, etc.) - in the popular vernacular, those poor souls would probably regarded by the terrorists as "enablers."
On August 8, BBC Radio 4 did a program on the situation. I didn't hear it, but reading the transcript of the program took my breath away - it puts a very human face on the story.
WAITE This week we travel to Staffordshire to investigate how an entire community has come under threat. It's the first time that any of the people involved have spoken publicly of what they've been through and how the whole of this little village here, in its sleepy setting amongst rolling farmland, has become a target for animal rights extremists. We won't reveal its location for fear locals may receive further reprisals, more families threatened with physical violence, who see their houses and possessions attacked. Some have even lost their jobs, their home and their livelihood. And the crime they've committed that's produced all this? Not that they themselves are involved in any way with animal experiments, it's just that among them lives someone who is. And so from the pub landlord to an old age pensioner looking after her autistic grandson they wait in the darkness for their punishment to come.
[ . . . ]
HALL In the post around Christmas time a cylindrical package came which you normally associate with a calendar from people that we deal with, but we had had a phone call to say that there were some explosive devices in the post and that anything that looked like that should be treated with suspicion. I took it into the workshop and donned the chainsaw gear, which is a helmet, visor and heavy clothing, put it in the vice and pulled the end off and there was an almighty bang, which had I have been holding in my hand would have no doubt blown fingers off.
WAITE Though few animal rights campaigners believe bombing is a legitimate tactic some, nevertheless, see the Halls and their farm as a legitimate target. And then those who simply work for the Halls have also come under attack. Nick Sanders is a farmhand and not one who works with the guinea pigs.
[ . . . ]
WAITE Nevertheless, Nick Sanders has become a target of a sustained campaign of hatred with jeering demonstrators turning up on his doorstep and malicious letters describing him as a convicted paedophile sent to all his neighbours. As were forged medical reports on NHS stationary saying his partner had a sexually transmitted disease. It forced the couple and their two young children to move to another village nearby and to install close circuit TV cameras and other security devices at their new home. But within weeks this too had been targeted and the terror tactics resumed.
SANDERS They poured paint stripper all over the cars on three occasions, which ruined the paint work and the car has come to the stage now where it will not take any more paint at all, they slashed the tyres, they cut the telegraph pole down round the corner so it would knock the electricity off which would take the CCTV cameras out and all the security lighting and then come in and smash the windows.
MRS SANDERS That's the children's toy room with all the toys in and everything and I thought god the children's toy room, they could have been in there playing.
SANDERS Lots of their toys we had to sort out and chuck away because they were just all covered in splinters of glass - all their cuddly toys. They've even sent us letters saying that our children are going to become orphans because they're going to kill us.
[ . . . ]
WAITE When their parents are at work the youngsters are looked after by their 70-year-old grandmother, a former school cleaner, who has been the target herself of abusive hate mail and frightening acts of vandalism. Acts which were preceded in May last year by a chilling warning in a letter containing two squares of yellow card. Display the cards in the bedroom windows where the little boys slept, the letter said, so when we come to smash the rest we don't put in theirs. A warning their grandma chose to ignore but it was no idle threat.
GRANDMA Oh we were in bed at half past one in the morning, we just heard bang, bang and when I came down the window was in.
WAITE And then you got a stream of letters.
GRANDMA A stream of letters, yeah, ugly letters, which were sent to neighbours as well.
WAITE Saying what?
GRANDMA Well the content was that my daughter could visit me at the crematorium and I'd sexually assaulted someone at the bottom of the street, I'd knocked a baby out of its pushchair, I was on medication.
WAITE But it is very sinister.
GRANDMA It is sinister but they're very sick people aren't they. My family have stopped coming to see me because of these people, in case they get followed to where they live. That does hurt me what they've done that has affected them that way.
[ . . . ]
WAITE These days it's a similar story of extensive security for Rod Harvey who also has nothing to do with the guinea pigs. He and his son run a small fuel delivery service from their home and Rod's crime in the eyes of the activists is that he supplied fuel for the Halls' tractors. The pattern of intimidation is the same. In November 2000 Rod's vehicles had paint stripper poured over them. Everyday he received up to 75 menacing phone calls, abusive e-mails poured in from all over the world. But Rod tried to ignore them and continue running his fledgling business as normal. Tried, that is, until the physical attacks on his home began, when balaclava hooded figures in the middle of the night stove in his windows and smashed down his door. The first few attacks he weathered until …
HARVEY Well I was just going to bed and I heard this noise and I thought oh dear that sounds like the window in the bay and the next thing was a brick came through the door and it actually hit me foot. The glass from the door it just shattered and it cut me hand and I thought that's it, I can't stand anymore, it could have been me wife that was there, it could have been anybody and if they're going to start and do things like that when we've got all the lights on, they know there's cameras, it's just frightening. And we were just so worried - I was so worried for me wife - I thought that's it, I've got to finish.
WAITE And you did.
HARVEY And I did.
WAITE Rod Harvey stopped delivering fuel to the Halls in October 2003 but the impact on him and his wife continues. Seventy-three-year-old Mrs Harvey says they no longer advertise their fuel business for fear of attracting further attention and they've changed their phone numbers, all, she told me, in an attempt to undo the distress and the lies they've had to endure. The couple are well known local darts players and activists even sent scurrilous letters about them to the Amateur Darts Association, which still have the power to horrify.
MRS HARVEY I just don't believe and never have believed, until this has happened to us, that people have got such dirty, filthy, foul minds and have got the time to write what they think in their minds on to paper and send them out to people.
WAITE Because they've accused your husband of being a paedophile and of you helping him to procure children.
MRS HARVEY …yes, definitely. My husband never, ever came to my youth dart matches, never ever. It's just horrendous.
WAITE Horrendous it may be but it's by no means unique. Other targets in the community here include the local golf club where John Hall used the gym. When threatening letters were ignored turf on its greens was dug up and red paint poured over the fairways. Mr Hall chose to resign. His newsagent was targeted and no longer delivers the papers. His solicitor bowed to pressure and no longer acts for the family. The glazier, who repaired the farm's vandalised windows, was threatened and withdrew his labour, so did the local vet. And the Halls have been stopped from visiting the nearby hotel when it too received warnings. Indeed the entire community here received letters of abuse and accusation about the Halls and their alleged cruelty to animals, including the village pub, the Red Lion, where landlords, the Marklews, tried at first to resist the pressure.
[ . . . ]
WAITE For the past five years and regular as clockwork every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon the legitimate face of protest takes place here opposite the farm. Today, about 20 people, including children and pensioners, stand on the grass verge with their placards and whistles, whilst at a discreet distance the police observe events. It's noisy, as you can hear, and in the past it's occasionally been heated but it's lawful, where protestors can legitimately vent their anger about this farm. . . . Like many protest groups the one demonstrating here has a special website. Besides news about the progress of the campaign are reports, posted anonymously, of the kind of direct action we've been hearing about today.
[ . . .]
What really caught my attention was WAITE's aggressive questioning of Amanda Richardson, the person who organized the peaceful but boisterous protests outside the Hall home, and whose organization sponsors the web site. WAITE gets it:
So how does she explain those who've gone much further than protest and targeted ordinary villagers?
RICHARDS By dealing with the Halls they are condoning what the Halls do.
WAITE They're not at all condoning - that the pub landlord serves them a drink because that's his job, the newspaper man delivers his newspaper because that's his job - they're going about their lives.
RICHARDS What we're saying is that the Halls are animal abusers and surely no one who's a decent person would want anything to do with these animal abusers.
WAITE Well that's for them to decide not for you to tell them.
RICHARDS I mean when we contact these companies we don't threaten them, we don't intimidate them, all we do is we have peaceful demonstrations outside. We put people in touch with each other who want to get there but have no transport, we send out leaflets and petitions to people and we let people know what's happening at the farm and how they can help it by joining the protests. We have nothing to do with intimidating or illegal acts and we totally condemn it.
WAITE But it's done in your name.
RICHARDS No it's not done in our campaign name - I don't know who's doing it - we are there with our placards and our banners, we stand opposite the farm to let people know what's going on, to let the Hall family know that we disagree with what's happening and hoping that they will change their minds and stop keeping guinea pigs in those horrendous conditions and stop selling them to the labs where they will be tortured to death.
WAITE Well who is it to do with then?
RICHARDS I don't know.
WAITE So if you've nothing to do with it why do details of these attacks appear on your website?
RICHARDS Well just as a newspaper reports items of news we report items of news, people send things in to us.
WAITE This is slightly hypocritical isn't it, you know, you can publish things and you know Amanda they're fairly gloating these reports and quite proud about it, you can publish that can you in all conscience?
RICHARDS As I say we publish what's sent in to us.
WAITE That's totally disingenuous isn't it. It's encouraging people, isn't it, to go out and do more of the stuff?
RICHARDS Absolutely not, we do not incite people and we do say that we do not condone any illegal acts.
WAITE But you report those acts so others can see and follow the example and join in.
RICHARDS But that's like saying a newspaper prints news and is therefore condoning or inciting people to do what's reported in their newspapers.
WAITE But your website was closed down by the police.
RICHARDS It was yes.
WAITE So that's where the difference is - between a newspaper and your website - the police found it so disturbing they closed it down.
RICHARDS Well the police haven't actually contacted the Save Guinea Pigs to tell us why it was closed down, I would certainly be interested to find out.
[ . . . ]
Notice the rationale: Richards is just providing information, just like a newspaper. What could be more innocent?
And here's the problem: in the US, what Richards has posted to her website would be perfectly legal (and may well be so in the UK as well). She and her organization would be within bounds: as long as the site doesn't incite violence, but only expresses opinions and dispenses information, I suspect they'd be on pretty solid First Amendment grounds. After all, they don't condone violence, nor do they issue a call to arms.
What they do do is to build an ideological and incendiary case against an organization and people they do not like, provide public information that anyone could get if he wished to spend a little time and effort, and report events approvingly as they transpire at the Hall operation. Nothing wrong with any of that ...
What is required to complete the equation is for one or more anonymous useful idiots (like William Cottrell), a person perhaps unknown to Ms Richards or anyone in her organization, to inflame himself over the injustices perpetrated on Mr. Hall's guinea pigs, and take it upon himself to become an avenging angel and do the illegal, violent deeds.
The website run by Ms Richards' organization incites, but doesn't, the anonymous terrorist is their agent, but isn't.