It's all well and good to talk about what effect radical Animal Rights activities have on businesses, talking in terms of numbers of suppliers who have withdrawn from working with targeted companies and billions of dollars lost because of AR intimidation. The measure is one of cold, impersonal numbers, and while one can be intellectually impressed, one can't really get a feel for the human lives underlying the numbers — lives that have been forever changed.
We should remind ourselves that the targets of the AR terrorists aren't really impersonal companies, but individual human beings who happen to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time: their crime was simply to be working for a business that happened to be involved in some peripheral way with the company that the terrorists want to bring down, being a housekeeper for a hated target, or being a governmental minister that is insufficiently sympathetic to the terrorists' cause.
So today, I begin with this:
The bomb scares, all-night firework attacks and paedophile smear campaign ended more than a year ago.
But Brian Clarke (not his real name) and the staff at his manufacturing business in the north still live in fear that animal rights extremists will return.
This is why Mr Clarke will only tell his story under an assumed name and if his company is not identified.
"When these things happen you are frightened to go to bed at night," he says.
The campaign against Mr Clarke and four colleagues, which lasted for eight months in 2003, was bizarre because their business had never been involved in animal research directly.
They became targets because their business was the UK subsidiary of a multinational group supplying Huntingdon Life Sciences, the animal-testing company.
The first signs of trouble were the e-mails sent to the office in which the authors said they would go to prison for stabbing "animal abusers" to death.
The attacks soon escalated to "home visits", where protesters would come to Mr Clarke's house at night to sound car horns and let off fireworks to deprive him of sleep.
A hoax parcel bomb was delivered to Mr Clarke's house one Saturday but was only revealed for what it was after a six-hour operation by police and army personnel.
In the end, Mr Clarke hired a private security company to camp in his garden and give him and his wife 24-hour cover.
The extremists then changed tack, sending several hundred local people a mail shot alleging Mr Clarke was a convicted paedophile. "The only convictions I have are for a parking ticket and a speeding fine," Mr Clarke says.
But when people as far as five miles away started reporting the matter to the police, Mr Clarke was forced to hold a public meeting so a detective chief inspector could set the record straight.
"At the beginning I was horrified but I soon became determined that we would not give in," Mr Clarke says. "My wife didn't agree with that. She said I didn't get paid enough to go through things like this. At one stage she suggested moving to another country."
The Clarkes' home details were posted on the website of Stop Huntingdon Animal
Cruelty so that anyone wishing to launch attacks had a target. The hate campaign began to subside when Mr Clarke joined a syndicate of companies that had been affected by the attacks, and obtained a high court injunction against the protesters.
The threat of a prison sentence helped to frighten the protesters away, says Mr Clarke, who believes that his tormentors merely switched their focus to other companies.
"We ceased to be a priority," he says. However, he remains vigilant. "I know of people who have gone for years without any targeting only to be suddenly thrust back in the spotlight."
I must say, I'm totally surprised that obtaining an injunction against the "protesters" was sufficient to discourage the attacks on our pseudonymous Mr. Clarke. But I'm pleased nevertheless.
Our second story focusses on a 67 year old widow, who once was the Hall family housekeeper. Here are some snippets, and you should read the whole thing:
[ . . . ]
Yet for the last five years Mrs Hudson, a 67-year-old widow, has attracted the attention of an international animal rights campaign. Her name, address and phone number are posted on a Florida-based activists' website, identifying her as a legitimate target in the fight to close a controversial guinea pig farm owned by the Hall family in Newchurch, Staffordshire.
Mrs Hudson is no vivisector, animal farmer or laboratory technician. She is simply the Hall family's cleaning lady. But in the highly charged atmosphere that has pervaded the campaign to shut Darley Oaks Farm since the Animal Liberation Front filmed guinea pigs in overcrowded conditions there six years ago, she is seen by some as a collaborator.
Bricks have been thrown through her windows, incendiary devices left outside her house, and a lifesize rag doll, with a noose round its neck, a knife in its chest and a note on its body saying: "This is me next," has been deposited at her front door.
It is only in the last few days that Mrs Hudson has finally succumbed to the pressure and left her job after activists turned their attention to her children and grandchildren. Three vehicles owned by her children were sprayed with paint stripper, causing thousands of pounds of damage. Her daughter Jayne also received a letter which warned: "If your mother doesn't quit within one week we can't be responsible for what is going to happen to you - so can you please display these yellow cards in the bedroom where your children sleep."
So Mrs Hudson resigned from her £100 a week job last week.
[ . . . ]
Next week Mr Justice Owen, in the high court, will rule whether the intimidation requires an injunction barring named activists from a 27- square mile zone around seven parishes. Members of Save the Newchurch Guinea Pig campaign, who are already restricted by an injunction to protesting once a week, say this a draconian step too far.
Melanie Abbott, 27, said no one in her organisation condoned direct action of the type suffered by Mrs Hudson. "The main effects on the wider community are being caused by the illegal activities of people who are nothing to do with our campaign," she said.
Readers of AC will be quick to notice the careful choice of Ms Abbott's defense: "nobody . . . condoned direct action of the type . . .".
But neither did they condemn it. Nor did they object to the posting on the Florida website of personal information that made Mrs. Hudson a target.
It is as always: AR people like Ms Abbott create a metaphorical tinder pile, douse it with accelerant, inflame passions of the true believers, invite them to gather around their tinder pile, supply them matches and encourage their acolytes to play with the matches.
And then, when the tinderpile catches flame, Ms Abbott disingenuously claims that she didn't condone setting it ablaze.
For Mrs Hudson, whatever happens in the high court next week is too late. With plenty of time on her hands, she can only dwell on what she has been through.
"The first time they came with bricks, it was the early hours of the morning. My husband was very ill with cancer and was sleeping in our room alone. I was in the spare room and I heard this almighty crash. I ran into him and the whole window had been smashed, the brick landed on his pillow, just inches from his head, there was glass all over the pillow. If he had moved his neck an inch he would have been stabbed with glass."
Two weeks later the visitors returned, hurling more bricks through her glass front door and windows, one into the basket where her dog Ellie was sleeping.
"Two months after my husband died they came back. The brick came through the window and hit me on the shoulder. I had an almighty bruise," she said. "Even now I still lie in bed sometimes wondering: 'Are they going to come tonight'."
More recently, Staffordshire police, who routinely intercept mail across the whole community, received a letter warning Mrs Hudson that her late husband's body would be dug up unless she abandoned her cleaning job. "The police asked if I wanted to see the letter, but I said no, it would upset me too much. I just think it's a wicked thing to do."
The threat was taken more seriously because it came in the months after the body of Christopher Hall's mother in law was stolen from a graveyard in nearby Yoxhall. "We were all still coming to terms with my dad's death and then we have the stress of this," said Jayne Birtles, Mrs Hudson's daughter. "We have a camera over my dad's grave now. Can you believe it?"
Few in the villages to the west of Burton upon Trent will talk so openly when the subject of the Newchurch guinea pigs is raised. "People are just too scared to say anything in case they are next," said Gordon Sealey, the vicar of Hoar Cross. "There seem to be two groups, the ones that demonstrate peacefully outside the farm and others who come at night. The question is, who is actually fronting this thing?"
Of the 17 names of individuals and groups mentioned in the high court application, some are known activists.
They include John Curtin, a veteran protester, who endorses violent direct action and was jailed for digging up the grave of the Duke of Beaufort, and Mel Broughton, another committed anti vivisectionist, who was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to cause explosions.
Janet Tomlinson, 62, is accused of "stalking" the Halls with the frequency of her protests. Born and bred in Burton, Ms Tomlinson has much in common with Mrs Hudson. In her 60s, she also lives alone and has been touched by cancer, having been diagnosed with a malignant breast tumour last year.
But Ms Tomlinson said she had no sympathy for the cleaning lady. Although she denied any involvement in direct action, she blamed the police and Tony Blair for forcing legitimate protesters to adopt more extreme tactics. "The police have prevented lawful protest and forced people to take other actions. It's like the suffragettes when they used to lobby MPs at the Commons and then follow them home and smash their windows. It's like any pressure group - first you are ignored, then you are ridiculed, then you are bullied and then you win."
[ . . . ]
Nor are government ministers immune:
A HATE-campaign against Government ministers is being whipped up by animal rights extremists.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke and Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt are among those whose houses and families may be at risk.
Special Branch is investigating an internet website, believed to be the work of the Animal Liberation Front, which has published home addresses of the two Cabinet figures and 11 junior ministers. The site - under the name of Badgers Unknown Anarchist Ventures - urges followers: "Never do anything to an animal abuser they wouldn't do to an animal."
Police warn of windows being stoned, graffiti daubing, acid sprayed on cars and large fireworks thrown in gutters and gardens.
A senior Scotland Yard source said: "We think it could become vicious."
The list also has details of Oxford University Chancellor Chris Patten, its High Steward and nearly 40 academics.
An £18million animal research base planned at Oxford has triggered the anger, police believe
It was originally going to be at Cambridge but plans were abandoned after extremist threats.
There is a diseased irony here: the terrorists say they are opposed to animal experiments because they are cruel and abusive to animals, even when those studies are undertaken for the lofty moral purpose of eradicating disease and reducing suffering for both animals and humans.
Yet AR terrorists are willing to inflict just such cruelty and abuse they claim to abhor for their own lofty moral purpose, with one luminary, Dr. Jerry Vlasak MD Holy Warrior, going so far as to openly advocate assassination.
The AR message, of course, is simply an assertion: our cause is better than yours, and we're fully justified in using any tactics we see fit, be they within the framework of the law or not, be they aimed at innocent people or not.
In all honesty, though that's bad enough, I think something else is going on here. I don't think these terrorists are entirely motivated by an overpowering commitment to the purity of "the cause."
I think a great many of them really get off on the sick pleasures of anonymously exercising power — the power of causing terror — over innocent people who can't fight back.
I think the lofty AR ideology is just an excuse to give misanthropes with antisocial tendencies free reign to the darkest impulses of their sick hearts, and I don't really see much difference between their motives and the sadistic motives of people who get their kicks out of torching cats.
They do it because it gives them pleasure . . .