Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Animal Rights Activists Losing Ground in UK?

That's the implication of this article in Germany's Der Spiegel. There's a lot in this article, including examples of the illegal and criminal activities engaged in by animal rights "terrorists." I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are some highlights.

The British are waging a new war on terror, but this one is at home and is one in which they appear to be gaining the upper hand. When it comes to animal experiments, militant groups like the Animal Liberation Front, founded in 1976, have long enjoyed extensive support and a monopoly on opinion rarely questioned in public. Even when they resorted to extreme measures like setting fires or sending letter bombs, they could consistently bank on a silent majority's vague sense of guilt over the suffering of laboratory animals.

But this support is rapidly disappearing, thanks in part to Pycroft and Pro-Test {see below}, but also because as a result of their extreme actions the laboratory rats avengers have been marginalized, and some have even been imprisoned.

A new group called Pro-Test founded by Laurie Pycroft is leading the backlash against animal rights "terrorists."

He began his crusade by founding an organization called Pro-Test, to campaign on behalf of the kinds of animal experiments that are unavoidable. Students and professors quickly joined his group, and together they began staging public debates and counter-demonstrations. As the movement grew, Pro-Test's ranks swelled to the point where its protestors, sometimes numbering more than 1,000, would actually outnumber the animal rights protestors. Since then the house of Pycroft's parents, where he lives, has been under police protection.

Here are some examples of the backlash against activists, including increased police action ....

In many British cities, police officers now take action against illegal stands animal rights activists have set up in pedestrian zones. Using horrifying photographs, many of them very old, the unlicensed activists collect money and signatures for petitions to combat animal experiments.

The stands are apparently lucrative. According to the police, some have taken in as much as €115,000 a year. But investigators say that the petitions usually end up in the trash, while the money pays for criminal activities like SHAC's acts of sabotage.

In May, in a campaign dubbed "Operation Achilles," 700 police officers raided dozens of addresses in Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands, arresting 32 people aged 19 to 68. Nine were charged with extortion or other crimes. Among them were many senior members of the animal rights movement, including Greg Avery, the co-founder of SHAC. Avery, who goes on trial next summer, will likely be sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

As a result of the increased pressure, the number of violent attacks has declined drastically this year, but the movement is by no means dead. Although Huntingdon still keeps the names of its customers a closely guarded secret, the news leaked out that Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis allegedly uses HLS's services.

Tipu Aziz is a neurosurgeon and Parkinson's researcher.

"As soon as people are sufficiently informed about the meaning and purpose of animal experiments," says Aziz, "they become willing to support them." Or at least he hopes this is the case. An 88-year-old former nurse wearing a prison uniform recently went on hunger strike in front of his laboratory, demanding the liberation of all laboratory monkeys and an end to animal experiments everywhere.

Aziz was dumbfounded. "A nurse at her age," says Aziz, "was around when massive numbers of children were dying of infectious diseases." Without animal experiments as the core of medical research, this would still be the case today.

"The British have a grotesque relationship to animals," says Aziz, who was born in what is today Bangladesh. "They see them as human-like beings that feel and think the way they do." Which make is all the odder that they never became a nation of vegetarians.

If this backlash really is happening in Britain, then I'm very disappointed. If these animal rights activists are engaging in illegal activity such as fraud and extortion, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no excuse for exploiting a cause in that manner. But if there is a growing acceptance of animal research amongst the people of Great Britain, and a concerted effort by government authorities to suppress legitimate activism, then I find this very disturbing.

I don't like to see anyone suffer. My own father suffered terribly from chemotherapy and eventually died from cancer. I have thought long and hard about the role of animal research in saving human life and alleviating human suffering. It strikes personally.

So I mean it when I say the following...I hear these statements all the time from medical acquaintances, "I choose to save people. People come first." Something has always bothered me about those statements and for the first time, I'm getting the guts to ask my question.


Why are humans more important? What have humans done to prove this superiority? Why are we so wonderful? Are we equally wonderful? What about murderers, rapists, pedophiles? Are they worth saving? Are they beautiful, wonderful examples of humanity that require us to cause pain and suffering on innocent animals? Let's be radical here for a moment. Why torture an animal that has never harmed a soul or made a conscious choice to harm anyone and yet protect, forgive and "love" the human being that made a conscious choice to hurt another human being? Where is the line drawn?

I'm tired of being on the defensive about animals. It's time to go on the offensive. If your species is so blessed, prove it to me. Make a cogent argument to me and we'll go from there. Because any student of history can show you that humanity is highly, highly flawed.

Photo by SorenL.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From a very recent interview with Ingrid Newkirk on Wikinews; I think she says it best:

DS (reporter): A critic would say that there is no equating humans with animals. That by stopping research that saves lives based upon these animals you are valuing chickens or mice over people.

Ingrid Newkirk: I think it hokum. Total hokum. First, you can’t have it both ways. They are either like us or not like us. You’re using them because they’re like us, then recognize the ways they are like us. They are afraid to be in the cages. The cages are tiny and uncomfortable and miserable. They are frightened. They are not treated well in the course of being experimented on. It’s not as if it is just a few of them being used in life-saving experiments. There are millions being used every year for fool things, including, still, nicotine and cocaine experiments. You know nicotine is bad for you. Every little single thing is done to them. But, on the other hand, they’re not like us physiologically in many ways that are important, which is what makes these tests invariably unscientific. You can’t extrapolate from a mouse to a man. They have a different metabolism. They have a very different physiology.

DS (reporter): Like the saccharine experiments, which were ridiculous because they showed it causes cancer in mice when you inject them with eight times their body weight daily with saccharine. We aren’t mice, and who consumes such amounts?

Ingrid Newkirk: Yes! People are scared, and experimenters who still use animals are only a percentage of all the people who do research in the U.S. The other research fields are more profitable in terms of applicability; human clinical work, epidemiological work, computer mapping work, all those things where you use human data, all those researchers are doing more productive work. Cloning human skin, putting human DNA on the Internet. This is where the money should be going. Not doing things you did five hundred years ago by stuffing chemicals down animals’ throats, or performing some procedure that you later find out doesn’t even work on human beings.

blog stats