Police have arrested several people in connection with the desecration of Gladys Hammond's grave. A brief UPI report specifically describes them as "Animal Rights supporters, and a longer report from the Guardian provides the details:
Police investigating the theft of the remains of an elderly woman from a grave in a Staffordshire churchyard yesterday arrested five people in the West Midlands and Manchester. Gladys Hammond, who died aged 82 in 1997, was the mother-in-law of Christopher Hall, who runs Darley Oaks guinea pig farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire, with his brother John.
The guinea pigs are bred for medical research and the farm, its owners, employees and suppliers have been the subject of a prolonged and at times violent six-year campaign by animal rights campaigners.
Staffordshire police said that a 35-year-old man was detained in Manchester, a 36-year-old man in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham and a man aged 38 in Wolverhampton. A woman aged 23 was also detained in Wolverhampton on suspicion of obstructing police and assaulting an officer, and a 38-year-old woman was arrested in Burntwood, Staffordshire.
All five, held on suspicion of conspiracy to blackmail the farm, were questioned at a police station in Staffordshire and released on police bail.
Interesting — conspiracy to blackmail . . . I suspect additional charges may be added as the investigation continues.
Police said all but the woman held in Wolverhampton had been arrested previously in connection with the inquiry.
The theft in October of the remains of Mrs Hammond from the graveyard at St Peter's church, Yoxall, near Newchurch, is thought to have been the work of extremist protesters whose tactics, denounced as mob rule by some in the science research industry, included hate mail, malicious phone calls, fireworks, a paedophile smear campaign, paint stripper on cars and arson attacks. Every Sunday afternoon peaceful protesters had also gathered opposite the farm entrance to shout slogans and wave banners.
Activists were determined to close the farm and in August the Halls said that by the end of the year they would shut down the business, which was started by their father 30 years ago. They said they planned to return to traditional farming and would have no further connection with medical or scientific research.
"The business ... will undergo a phased closure until then to ensure the welfare of animals involved," the Halls said in a statement at the time. "The business has continued during a sustained protest from animal rights extremists for six years, which included the desecration of the grave of Gladys Hammond last October. We now hope that, as a result of this announcement, those responsible for removing Gladys' body will return her so she can lie once again in her rightful resting place."
But since then no information has been received about Mrs Hammond's body.
If the case against the alleged perps turns out to be a strong one, it may well be that mystery of the whereabouts of Ms Hammond's remains will be resolved. If the evidence is compelling, the cops should be able to play the perps off against one another. At least I hope so.
I continue to believe that there is no way that those who did the deed would have (or will, if other than those arrested) come forward and point out where she now lies, absent strong incentive to do so. Why should such anonymous hooligans risk exposing themselves to capture, and all that would come with that, by communicating information to anyone?
Would they do so out of the goodness of their heart?
After hearing of the announcement, John Holmes, a spokesman for the Save Newchurch Guinea Pigs campaign, hailed the planned closure as a victory. He said he could not justify the desecration of Mrs Hammond's grave but could understand it. "We have to encourage any activist to return those remains. We cannot say any more than that," he said.
As I've pointed out, at least one Animal Rights activist (Mel Broughton) did condemn the desecration early on — but only because it didn't further the AR cause! (Translation: "good", "morally acceptable tactics," etc. are defined in terms of furthering the AR cause . . ..)
You make the call — which is worse: Mr. Holm's neutral, tepid "couldn't justify" the desecration, or Mr. Broughton's implication that he'd have been all for it had it, at the time it was done, driven the Halls out of business?
Earlier, Mr Holmes had rejected claims made by the local Conservative MP, Michael Fabricant, that the Halls' decision would "hearten animal rights terrorists" and said that he had always protested peacefully. "There has been no violence by any animal rights protester against that family or any worker," Mr Holmes said.
The campaign has asked the Halls to hand over the guinea pigs so that "loving new homes" can be found for the animals.
At about the same time as the Halls' announcement, more than 500 leading UK scientists and doctors pledged their support for tests done on animals in the name of medical research, but acknowledged that where possible experiments should be replaced by methods not using animals. The scientists signed a declaration drawn up by the Research Defence Society "reaffirming" that animals were required "to achieve advances in medical research" that enabled "people throughout the world to enjoy a better quality of life".
The government is reported to have reassured scientists that another supplier will replace Darley Oaks. [My emphasis . . . ed]
Of course there will be others to supply all the Guinea Pigs researchers need. But for the AR people, reducing the number of Guinea Pigs used in research is less important — far less important — than the symbolism of having forced the Halls out of business.
Symbolism is the stuff of propaganda, and propaganda is important in establishing an aura of invincibility, of effectiveness, and most of all, of progress. It is just such symbolism that provides a tipping point to a certain percentage, albeit a small one, of AR true believers who are inspired and take up violent tactics in the name of the cause. (You don't need very many acolytes acting out to keep fear alive in those they target.)
In any event, let's keep our fingers crossed that the remains of Ms Hammond can be recovered and returned to her place of internment, where, surely, they should be allowed to rest undisturbed.