The March 30, 2005 AMP Weekly News Service Digest points us towards a page on the Research Defense Society's web site which provides some very interesting history on the AR Extremism as it was and has evolved to be in the UK. It's long been my personal belief that the UK is a laboratory for developing AR/AL tactics, and that such tactics ought to be of concern to us on this side of the pond because they are easily adaptable for use by our own AR extremists, as well as by other extremist groups for furthering whatever pet agenda each might have. Here's part of what the RDS has to say:
Animal rights extremism started in the UK in the early 1970s with the formation of the Band of Mercy by a small group of hunt saboteurs. The leaders of the Band of Mercy were jailed for their campaign of arson and criminal damage and on their release from prison in 1976 started the Animal Liberation Front. The ALF had about 30 activists. Today, there is thought to be a central core of about 40 committed extremists.
Yes — what must be inviting if not down-right encouraging to every group with an ideological ax to grind is how successful such a small cadre of hard core extremists can be.
Of course, it isn't as though success is realized solely through the actions of those 30 - 40; there are, I suspect, anonymous others who strike hard and violently once or twice, and then retreat back to doing more mundane AR activities, like picketing, fund raising and protesting. And then, there are the people who are sympathetic to the cause, or who are apathetic, who together provide a sea of humanity in which the violently active can lose themselves.
Indeed, Peter Daniel Young's success in evading the authorities for several years may well be due to the active support of AR sympathizers, who probably hope that he'll not trade their names for a reduced sentence.
The ALF has never been an organisation with members and a constitution: it is a badge of convenience. Extremists carry out actions in its name, or in the name of other, similarly unstructured, groups. . . .
Today, the grassroots radical campaigns are dominated by groups such as SHAC, SNGP and SPEAK, which run concerted campaigns of harassment and intimidation against specific targets: respectively Huntingdon Life Sciences, a guinea pig breeder in Staffordshire and the University of Oxford. While the leading extremists are involved in these groups, they too claim they are moderate and peaceful, and more extreme activity tends to be claimed by ALF.
The animal rights extremists have adopted various tactics against animal research over the last 30 years.
Bombs, raids, contamination scares
The 1980s were characterised by sporadic bombing campaigns: letter bombs, firebombs and car bombs aimed at politicians and leading scientists. Mass daylight raids were carried out on laboratories and research animals stolen. The infamous Mars Bar hoax - protesting against tooth decay experiments on monkeys - led to mass stock withdrawal, checking and £3 million in lost sales. A similar contamination hoax, this time involving Lucozade, was mounted in 1991.
The Mars Bar Hoax shows how effective scare tactics can be: to protest against the tooth decay experiments sponsored by Mars, the Animal Rights Militia promulgated the false rumor that Mars candy bars had been poisoned, prompting the removal of stocks from store shelves. In the aftermath, Mars "realized the potential for further actions and withdrew from animal experiments."
1989/90 saw the use of high explosive devices by animal rights extremists for the first, and last, time. The Senate House at Bristol University was blown up in February 1989 by plastic explosives: luckily it was in the middle of the night and no-one was injured. The following May, extremists planted plastic explosive devices under the cars of two scientists in the West Country. One of them drove his car for several days not knowing there was a bomb fixed underneath. It fell off as he was driving along, exploding and injuring a child in a pushchair on the pavement. The other device also exploded and the driver – a vet involved in research – had another lucky escape.
The public furore that followed may be the only occasion on which animal rights extremists have taken note of adverse publicity. The bombers were never caught, but the extremists have not used plastic explosives again.
This is a particularly interesting observation. The notion that AR extremists reacted to public outrage and pulled their punches in the wake of a negative public reaction reveals how important public opinion is to the AR movement as a whole: the only way that AR people can further their agenda is if they control the media. And in this instance, they lost control of it: they went a step too far, and used a tactic that even the accepting British public couldn't swallow.
The trick for AR opponents is to shine sunlight on the tactics, terrorist connections and incoherent "philosophy" of the Animal Rights movement, to reveal the concept and deeds of AR for what they are. The first step is to simply make the public realize that Animal Rights and Animal Welfare are two entirely different concepts (see also this, this and this [the last is from radical AR author Gary Francione]).
Postal devices, incendiary bombs
The next major extremist campaign involved the sending of postal devices to scientists in 1993/94. A variety of devices were used: explosives in poster tubes and video cases, some with syringe needles, mouse traps primed with razor blades in padded envelopes, and hoax devices. All these were claimed in the name of the Justice Department. By the middle of 1994 over 100 such devices had been sent to scientists, and timed incendiary bombs were causing millions of pounds worth of damage to high street shops such as Boots and medical research charity shops, which were perceived as having links to animal research. The extremists responsible for all these devices were eventually caught, charged and received lengthy prison sentences.
Evidently, as far as the public is concerned, a more precise attack on a person is acceptable, so long as the chance of collateral damage is minimal . . . bombs can be so messy . . .
Focus on breeders
After this the extremists adopted a major change in tactics. In 1997, a combination of extremist, radical and grassroots campaigners focussed on a small laboratory dog breeder called Consort Beagles. This small company suffered sustained threats and violence and could not afford the high cost of extra security. It was forced to close down within six months. Despite their lab raids, bombs and contamination hoaxes, the animal rights activists had never succeeded in closing anything down in the preceding 20 years. They were buoyed by a strategy that seemed to work.
Over the next three years, the same activists focussed on three more small laboratory animal suppliers and forced them to close with a mixture of intimidation, criminal damage and mass protests. The cat breeder Hillgrove Farm in Oxfordshire lasted two years. Here the mass protests descended into near riots on several occasions, with many protests in the name of Barry Horne, hailed as a hero by the extremists. He was on hunger strike in prison having been caught red-handed planting incendiary devices in shops in 1994. He later died after his fourth hunger strike, giving the extremists one of their first martyrs.
The campaign against the monkey supplier, Shamrock Farms in Sussex, was equally vicious and after 18 months this small company was also forced out of business. The nearby laboratory rabbit breeder Regal Rabbits was the next focus, and, seeing what had gone before, it gave into the extremists after just one week.
Targets hold out
In 1999, having succeeded in closing down four small laboratory animal breeders, the extremists turned their attention to Darley Oaks Farm in Staffordshire, which breeds guinea pigs for research. This farm is in a very similar position to Hillgrove Farm, a working farm in a rural setting with an additional business breeding laboratory animals. It is standing up to the activists, and is still in business after over five years of sustained intimidation, harassment and criminal damage.
At the same time, the extremists chose a more ambitious target, the contract research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), as their major target. They clearly expected to force Darley Oaks Farm out of business quickly, and then concentrate their major effort on HLS, which they threatened to close down within three years. Like Darley Oaks Farm, HLS is still very much in business.
What this report tells us very clearly is that the AR extremists have had their successes, and even in the case of HLS and the Darley Oaks Farm, both of which are surviving, the cost of doing business in emotional as well as financial terms has become heavy indeed.
What this outline omits is a concise outline of the AR terror tactics that are so effective. In short, the extremists understand that for businesses to survive, they need suppliers, clients and stockholders. So that's who's targeted. The basic idea is that supplier "X" has HLS (for example) as one of hundreds of customers . . . so if you can induce "X" to stop supplying HLS, it will hurt HLS far more than it will "X". Then, it just becomes a matter of intimidating the employees and customers of "X" until "X" abandons HLS.
By picking off its clients and suppliers one by one, the extremists hope to suffocate HLS.
In the case of the Hall family, the extremists took it upon themselves to vandalize and terrorize an entire community in their effort to cut the Halls off from their solicitor, pub, milk purchaser, fuel supplier, golf club, vet and glazier, all of whom withdrew from the Halls as far as possible after they had suffered threats and/or vandalism. (See link above.)
There is much more to be seen on the RDS website, and though specifically oriented towards the UK, you should browse through these links: Current Tactics and Targets, Laws and Injunctions, Serious and Organized Crime Bill (SOCA), and Police and Prosecutions.
Let's learn from our UK friends.
Thanks to the AMP digest for the RDS page.