(Blogging will be light for the next week or so — a friend I haven't seen for a few years will be visiting.)
Last week, the Hall family announced that they would be abandoning the business of raising guinea pigs for research at their Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, at least partly because of a campaign of terror waged against them and their community by Animal Rights activists.
So what's the buzz in the aftermath?
This from the Independent:
[ . . . ]
Sprayed on a road sign just before Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch are the words "Evil Hall Scum". The Hall family, which owns the farm, along with relatives, employees and suppliers, has been subjected to a six-year campaign of terror by animal rights activists objecting to the farming of guinea pigs for medical research. Hostilities culminated last year when the body of Chris Hall's mother-in-law, Gladys Hammond, was stolen from a graveyard.
This weekend, however, after the Hall finally announced that they would stop farming guinea pigs and return to traditional farming, the nightmare was set to continue. The Independent on Sunday can reveal that animal rights activists, as well as continuing to target the Halls, have already drawn up a new list of targets around the country as part of a new offensive in the increasingly bitter animal liberation war.
These include 50 companies that allegedly have "secret" links with Huntingdon Life Sciences, the Cambridgeshire-based pharmaceutical firm which has been a long-standing target for extremists. Many are seen as soft targets that are likely to buckle easily under pressure.
The names, numbers and email addresses of senior managers working for these firms, which include couriers and even a bakery, have been posted on the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) website. This newspaper has learnt that, in the past week, at least three of those targeted terminated their contracts with HLS after being bombarded by letters and phone calls from Shac members.
Animal rights sources say the "victory" against Darley Oaks has fortified hardcore activists who are ready for a new high-profile cause. The Staffordshire guinea pig farm is the fifth in a long line of small businesses that have been forced to close after becoming targets of animal rights "terrorists". Other casualties have included Consort kennels, a beagle-breeding farm in Hereford which closed down in 1997, and Hillgrove cat farm in Witney, Oxfordshire.
[ . . . ]
Is there anyone who still believes that coercion, intimidation and thuggery aren't effective tactics?
Symbolism is hugely important to the AR game plan, and this is a far larger victory in terms of public relations and symbolism than it ever could be in terms of reducing the number of guinea pigs that will be used in research. The fact of the matter is that there will be no reduction in the number of animals used, but that is of lesser importance to the AR people than the fact that they have scored a hugely visible symbolic victory: the farm's closure increases their credibility as a force to be reckoned with, a group that you don't want to be targeted by, a group that will do anything necessary to win, including desecrating a grave.
And for the people of Happy Valley there is no guaranteed end to the harassment they face each day. The protesters are warning they will continue to target the Hall family if the guinea pigs are sold to another animal breeder rather than donated to an animal welfare group.
Greg Avery, a spokesman for Shac, warned: "If what the Halls are planning to do is sell them off over the next three months, if they do that, they will be making a severely bad mistake. People won't forget that there's still thousands of guinea pigs that they've cynically sold off."
This demand is a little "mop up" action to further the power of the symbolic moment . . . The authorities have proven their impotence in dealing with the terrorists, and private organizations, including big pharma, the NAPF and other supporters of biomedical research are reacting rather than acting.
Being reactive is not a winning strategy, and it's hard to know why so many organizations supporting research prefer it to a pro-active strategy . . .
Peter Clamp, a local parish councillor who has been fighting the protesters in court, once received a death threat on his mobile phone and described the activists as "worse than al-Qa'ida" for impeding medical research. "They are the same mentality as the terrorists who bombed London. They will destroy cultures to get what they want."
In 1999, balaclava-clad activists broke into the farm and stole 600 guinea pigs. Farm machinery was sabotaged; the Halls' cars were daubed with paint-stripper and explosives left on their land. The newsagent in Yoxall stopped supplying the family with papers after threatening letters were sent to other customers. The golf club where Chris Hall was a member had several greens dug up and he was asked to resign. The landlords of the Red Lion pub in Newborough, where the Halls drank, had their contract with the brewery terminated after they refused to stop serving them. The activists had threatened to poison the brewery's entire supply of beer.
For eight years May Hudson, a 67-year-old widow, cleaned the house of Chris and Margaret Hall, who live at the farm. For five of them she withstood the intimidation. But she resigned in January when three vehicles owned by her children were sprayed with paint-stripper. "I'm really upset," she said. "We need medical research. I think they are just terrorists. I don't think they're animal lovers at all. My dog's terrified now with all the fireworks we've had."
Mrs Hudson had endured bricks through her window, one of which hit her while in bed. Another almost hit her late husband while he was ill with cancer. A bomb was left outside her house, as was a life-size figure with a noose around its neck.
But the battle is not over. Janet Tomlinson, an animal rights supporter known locally as the Grave Robber following her arrest in connection with the disappearance of Mrs Hammond's body, still intends to protest at the farm until all the guinea pigs are removed.
Readers of AC will be well aware of Ms Tomlinson, who suffers from breast cancer and who has decided to accept treatment for it. As I've pointed out before, some of the profits made by the companies supplying the pharmaceuticals for her treatment are funneled right back in to support animal based research. In effect, she is supporting the very industry it is her mission in life to bring down.
Ms Tomlinson has had the opportunity to back up her uncompromising moral standard by making a tough choice: she could throw herself on a metaphorical hand grenade and become a martyr to the fantasy utopia she would impose upon the world, or she could pull back and violate the core principle she claims to believe in.
In the event, Ms Tomlinson has abandoned the abstraction she would require others — yourself, your children, your spouse, sibs and friends — to live by once the real-world price of HER CAUSE (not your cause, not my cause . . .) became too high FOR HER.
Ms Tomlinson's position is simply her version of Dr. Steven Best's "Me First!" ethic (which is really not an ethic at all, but an attitude masquerading as one . . .).