(Blogging will be light for the next week or so — a friend I haven't seen for a few years will be visiting.)
It was inevitable that when the Hall family announced that they would abandon raising guinea pigs for research on their Darley Oaks Farm, Animal Rights activists would see themselves as having won a huge symbolic victory and press their advantage. In their position, I'd do the same.
Now, they're planning to use the same tactics that proved so effective against the Halls against a zoo:
ANIMAL rights extremists have threatened to launch a terror campaign against staff at Edinburgh Zoo over plans to house polar bears in a new enclosure.
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) has said it will use similar tactics to those which forced the closure of a Staffordshire guinea pig farm last week, including fire-raising and criminal damage. It has also threatened to target staff of contractors who work for the zoo. [My emphasis . . . ed].
Edinburgh is the only zoo in Britain which houses a polar bear, a 24-year-old female, named Mercedes. The zoo had said she would not be replaced after she died, but it has now decided to build a new enclosure to house several more of the mammals. It claims that the species faces extinction in the wild within 50 years and that zoos have a responsibility to ensure its survival.
However, militant animal rights campaigners believe the conditions in which the bears will be held amount to cruelty and have pledged to resist the plans using illegal tactics.
Animal Rights is premised on a couple of beliefs: first, that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value. Second, that any exercise of control by humans over animals is sinful. In short, if it is immoral or unethical to do something to a human, it is likewise unethical or immoral to do it to an animal.
These considerations trump the survival of a species, or the health of a habitat. For example, Animal Rights activists believe it is morally preferable to allow an entire habitat to be destroyed by deer overpopulation than for humans to cull deer by shooting some of them, even if by leaving the deer population alone many of them starve to death, and cause the deaths of other animals whose habitat the deer destroy.
In the case of the polar bears, Animal Rights activists define being kept in a zoo as cruel (animals and humans are of equal value, and if it's immoral to keep a human in a zoo, it is to keep an animal in a zoo . . .), and would prefer to see the bears released into the wild regardless of the consequences to the bears, the survival of their species, or the consequences to habitat they might be released into.
It's a matter of ideological purity . . .
Darnley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, which supplied laboratories with animals for scientific research, announced that it is to close following a six-year campaign of violence and intimidation by members of ALF.
Farm machinery was sabotaged, cars were daubed with paint stripper and the home windows of staff were smashed. One worker had his name spelt out in a field with shotgun cartridges, while an effigy of a colleague was left on a doorstep with a knife stuck in its face and pins in its chest.
The finance director of a brokers’ firm associated with the farm had his car firebombed and an incendiary device was found under the car of a truck driver. The final straw, which led to the closure of the farm, was the theft of the remains of the owner’s mother-in-law from a graveyard.
Robin Webb, a spokesman for ALF, said similar tactics would be used against Edinburgh Zoo. “The creation of a new enclosure for polar bears in Edinburgh would provoke deep anger throughout the animal rights and animal liberation movement,” he said.
“The zoo should think very, very carefully about going ahead with this as it and its contractors could find themselves becoming the target of a wide-ranging campaign.
“It would have to hire many service companies and outside contractors and all of these firms and individuals could be targeted to encourage them to pull out of this project. Targeting can cover anything that does not endanger life and would probably involve criminal damage and arson.”
Webb, a former member of the ruling council of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and who was filmed by an undercover reporter appearing to offer advice on how to make a bomb, added: “A place like Edinburgh Zoo relies on visitor numbers to survive and hopefully by putting the maximum pressure on them we can kill this deeply misguided and inhumane project stone dead.”
I think that's pretty clear, don't you?
Edinburgh Zoo plans to launch a public appeal later this year to raise money to fund the new polar bear enclosure.
“The population of polar bears is in decline and the report published by the Arctic Council highlights the fact that polar bears could be extinct in the wild within 50 years,” said Iain Valentine, head of animals, conservation and education.
“It is the responsibility of all of those involved in practical conservation efforts to ensure the long-term survival of this charismatic, important flagship species. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria have stepped up their conservation efforts by managing polar bears already in captivity as part of a co-operative breeding programme.”
Lothian and Borders police said they would work closely with the zoo to ensure the safety of staff. “We support the right to peaceful protest but anyone engaging in criminal activity will be dealt with extremely robustly,” said a spokesman.
Kenny MacAskill, justice spokesman for the SNP, condemned the threats. “The position adopted by this organisation does a gross disservice to the cause of animal welfare and they should be subjected to the full force of the law,” he said.
And yet again . . . Mr. MacAskill's premise is incorrect. He assumes that Animal Rights activists are interested in "Animal Welfare." They are not — they are interested in Animal Rights and Animal Liberation. If you don't know the difference between AW and AR, you should.
The threat of extremism looks set to overshadow a protest organised by moderate campaigners. The welfare group Advocates for Animals plans to demonstrate outside the zoo tomorrow. [My emphasis . . . ed]
“Polar bears are especially vulnerable, capable of suffering terrible stress with zoo confinement limiting them to just one millionth of the space of their natural range,” said Lynda Korimboccus, a spokeswoman for Advocates for Animals.
“How sad it would be to see yet more of these magnificent animals condemned to life behind bars.”
Ahhh . . . no! Advocates for Animals is not a "moderate group." They are an Animal Rights group, which makes them extreme by definition. The fact that they aren't advocating violence doesn't mean that they are moderate by any stretch of the imagination. Once again, if you don't know the difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, you need to read this (op cit).
The larger point, of course, is that the tactics that worked against the Darley Oaks guinea pig farm were hugely, if symbolically, effective, and we can expect to see them employed with greater frequency until they are shown not to be effective.