Thursday, 28 January 2016

"Putting an end to animal expoitation" - Interview with Ballast

Below is the English text of an interview I did recently with the
French radical left-wing magazine Ballast, published in French at

Do you remember when you thought that the education system and pedagogy wouldn't be enough to change people's ideas about animal rights?

What made me think about this was, when some years ago, people campaigning against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) animal research laboratory almost succeeded in forcing the place to close. Campaigners from Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty managed to convince most suppliers and all the UK commercial banks to withdraw services from HLS. 

However, the government at the time, a Labour one, stepped in and took the previously unheard of action of allowing the lab to have banking facilities with the Bank of England, thus allowing HLS to remain in business. Then the government passed new legislation to make it harder for people to campaign against animal experimentation. 

They also encouraged the police and prosecution service to arrest and prosecute campaigners under laws that were never originally intended for that purpose. The aim was to put anti-vivisection campaigners in jail, and many people were given long periods of imprisonment for SHAC activities, with one person receiving an 11 year sentence.

I came to the conclusion that although the government were the major culprits, animal rights campaigners were also to blame for this situation, because we were not involved in political campaigning to try to prevent a pro-vivisection government from coming to power. I formed the view that animal liberationists had to become more involved in politics, because if we did not do our best to get a decent government into power, we could hardly complain when we ended up with a bad one.

To fight the government response, in terms of actions, which one was the most fruitful and successful that you have organised on the ground?

It's difficult to evaluate. In the past, going back 30 years or so, I was involved in many direct actions and some of them did result in animal abuse establishments closing down and going out of business.

There was one campaign in particular in London against a lab called Biorex, where they carried out all sort of horrific experiments on animals. This was a long and very varied campaign, with people doing sit-ins, direct action, demonstrations outside etc. and, in the end, the lab closed down and the building was taken over by Greenpeace and became their headquarters in the UK. So it went from an appalling place for animals to offices used by people to protect the environment and the animals living in it.

However, although direct action has undoubtedly saved thousands of animals from suffering and slaughter, I came to the conclusion that if we wanted to bring about the widespread liberation of other animals from oppression by humans, we had to change the fundamental attitude towards non-human animals of a very large number of people and that could only be done by vegan education.

When you consider there are more animals directly killed by humans every hour (the overwhelming majority by the food industry) than the total victims of the Nazi holocaust, it becomes obvious that there has to be a major in-depth change in society to put an end to this horrific situation. 

I can't see direct action being able to play a major part in bringing about that social change, because I don't think enough people will be prepared to carry out the large number of actions required to do it. Therefore, we must turn to vegan education as the major strategy for bringing about animal liberation. However the question arises of how to deal with people who refuse to be educated.

If such people are still allowed to operate freely, they will continue to be involved in animal abuse, which is a situation that obviously cannot be tolerated. We already have situations in this country where the majority of the population is opposed to a particular form of animal abuse but the people that carry out that abuse are still allowed to do so because governments won't legislate against it.

Like fox hunting for example. For decades a considerable majority of the population has been opposed to it, but it was still allowed to continue because nothing was done by the government to outlaw it. The reason for that was because of the attitude of Members of Parliament, with the majority not wanting fox hunting banned or not considering it an important enough issue for legislation. There is a law against it now, but it is not very strong and not properly enforced. It's the same thing with animal experimentation, where most people are opposed to cruel experiments, but such tests are still allowed to continue because the government does not have the will to take action.

Therefore, it needs more than people opposing something to make it stop. And, in order to make that happen, we have to become involved in political activity to make sure we get people in power who will pass strong and far-reaching animal protection legislation.

If people are educated to be vegan, the number of animals killed for food and other reasons will be massively reduced, but it will not end altogether because some people will still want to consume animal products etc. So, in addition to education, political campaigning needs to form part of our struggle, if we want to totally end animal abuse.

Most people, even politicised ones, think human rights come before animal rights and believe it isn't possible to struggle for both at the same time; as if the desire for emancipation can't be extended to all lives. What do you answer to that?

Where people are focused on struggling against capitalism, for instance, they don't say that to fight against racism, sexism or homophobia is wrong. They support these struggles and see them as compatible with their struggle against capitalism. For instance, they don't say “we have no time to stand up for the rights of gay people because we must focus on fighting against capitalism”.

At one time I think there were some anti-capitalists who believed that fighting against sexism etc. was "diversionary", but I don't believe such people exist these days. It doesn't make sense to say that to also struggle against speciesism is not compatible with those other struggles, because it is totally compatible. There is no reason why we can't fight against all these things. Indeed, they're connected, because we're talking about prejudice.

Racism, sexism, homophobia etc. are all forms of prejudice, and speciesism is also a form of prejudice against those that are considered to be different. People just have to extend their thinking.

It's only a few hundred years ago, perhaps less than that, when black people weren't considered to have rights and were generally believed to be inferior to white people. Therefore it was believed legitimate to oppress black people and use them as slaves.

There has obviously been a big change in thinking on that issue, brought about through campaigning and people coming to realise that racial prejudice is wrong. It's the same with speciesism, where we have to fight to overcome that form of prejudice and to teach people that all forms of prejudice are linked.

That was actually our next question: do you think the animal rights struggle should be connected to other social and anti-capitalist struggles? 

Yes absolutely, because it's part of the same continuum. It's a struggle against prejudice and exploitation and the struggle against speciesism is linked to all of those other struggles.

Animal rights seem to be still something the majority of people don't understand. Even being a vegetarian or a vegan, a non-activist one, seems to cause hostile reactions. What drives you? Where do you get your energy from?

Regarding the first part of your question, about hostility towards vegetarians and vegans, I think it's becoming much less these days, because as the popularity of vegetarianism and of veganism increases, more and more people are ending or reducing their consumption of animal products.

Re what drives me. To be honest, it's mainly anger. Anger at the injustice of animal persecution. What we are seeing is an extreme form of bullying. This comes with any form of prejudice, but most particularly with the illtreatment of animals, because it's the strong persecuting the weak.

That makes me feel angry and it's from this anger that I get the energy to fight. I do think though, that such anger has to be controlled and used as a fuel, rather than it being allowed to dominate, because people don't do things in the most sensible way if they are driven by uncontrolled anger. You have to try to use the anger as a fuel that drives you in a direction that is determined by calm thought and analysis, which is what I try to do.

The “Cahiers antispécistes” in France compares the way we treat animals – in terms of logistics, techniques – to apartheid in South Africa or to the Nazi's extermination camps. Does it seem to you a relevant argument, that can make people understand?

I think it is absolutely relevant because what we are talking about is supremacism and imperialism. The Nazis, for instance, regarded themselves as superior to other races. Their ideology was that the aryan race was superior to all others. Because of this ideology they believed it was right and proper to persecute people of other races and put them into concentration camps and to even do experiments on them, and to drive them off their land and occupy it.

The Nazis had a policy called Lebensraum, which means "living space", and that policy was to drive people of other races off their land, use them as slaves or send them to concentration camps, and then to occupy that land with the aryan race. That's very similar to what humans have done to other animals. We have our own policy of Lebensraum where we take the territories of other animals and use those for our own purposes. Then the animals are persecuted in various ways whether it's for food, experimentation etc., etc.

There is a very close parallel between how the Nazis treated other races and how the human species treats other animal species. The human species behaves like a bunch of fascists and imperialists in terms of the way it treats other animals.

When we interviewed other animal rights campaigners for the magazine, they all promoted legal and non violent actions. Some of them think it would be enough to show people slaughterhouse videos to make a change, in a peaceful way. They say use of violence is counter-productive and that it turns away public opinion from this cause. We know you've been asked a lot about it, but if you don't mind again, for our readers who don't know the subject...

Well I can understand what they are saying and I think overwhelmingly the most important thing is education because it's about changing the way that ordinary people behave.

For two reasons: firstly because their current behaviour in itself supports the persecution of other animals. If people buy animal products, go to the zoo, to the circus, etc. then obviously that supports, encourages and finances the abuse of other animals; that's the first reason.

And secondly, when it comes to trying to create a political system where animals are properly treated - in other words to have a government that will pass the legislation you need to protect animals - so those people will vote in the right way. The nature of a government depends on how people vote, so it's very important that people are educated to vote for the best party for animal protection.

It's really important to educate people to change their behaviour as consumers, but secondly also to change the way they behave politically. That's something of vital importance. And political campaigning is connected to that.

What I'd say about the question of violence is that first of all it depends how violence is defined, because damage to property is often called "violence" where nobody is physically injured. Personally I wouldn't call that violence. For me, violence is when a person is physically attacked.

I think whether or not violence is a good thing is a question of tactics, with regard to what is the best way to move forward in terms of really changing things big time. And I believe that has to be largely through education.

When direct action takes place, there is sometimes outrage in the media, but does that represent the general opinion of ordinary people? I tend to feel most of the fuss is caused by people who want to abuse animals just shouting more loudly because they're upset about animal liberation activities. I don't believe it's a reflection of how the average person feels.

If you or I were to see somebody in the street beating a dog, and we said “please don't beat your dog”, but he carried on beating the dog, we would have to use some force - which could be defined as violence - to stop that from happening. Now would that be wrong? I'd say of course it wouldn't. And I don't see the difference, in moral terms, between someone beating their dog in the street and somebody torturing an animal in a laboratory.

So if someone did go into a laboratory and used violence, or used force I'd  prefer to say, to stop that from happening, I wouldn't criticize that person anymore than I'd criticize a person who used force to stop someone from beating a dog in the street. To me, there's no difference between those two things. People have to be very careful before they condemn others for carrying out that sort of direct action.

So, I think it's not so much a question of what is ethically right or wrong, but more a question of tactics, because we have to think tactically about what's the best thing we can do to bring about animal liberation. I could go right now to a laboratory and physically attack somebody carrying out an animal experiment to stop them from doing so, and I don't think my action would be morally wrong, even if it resulted in serious injury or death to the vivisector.

But if I think about it tactically, and ask myself what is the best way for me to go about trying to stop animal experiments, attacking the vivisector appears not to be the best option. Is it better to physically attack a vivisector and end up in prison, thereby greatly reducing my ability to campaign for animal liberation? Or is it preferable to do education and political action and remain able to campaign for many years to stop vivisection as a whole?

I think it's a question of thinking more long term. If you think short term, such as "that animal is being tortured now, I need to save the animal, I'll go in there and I'll use force and I'll stop it", I don't think that's morally wrong and it's far better than turning a blind eye and not doing anything at all. But if you think more tactically, in a more strategic way, about how we actually stop this whole system of persecution, then the route of education and political action is the way to go.

If someone went and used "violence" to try to stop animal abuse, I wouldn't condemn them for doing that, because the people truly deserving of condemnation are the animal abusers and all those people who are doing nothing to stop animal persecution, but I'd see such "violence" as perhaps not being the best thing to do tactically. We are fighting a long war against human imperialism and to win a war, you have to think long-term and have a long-term strategy that will bring eventual victory.

I believe in being ruthless in pursuit of animal liberation, certainly in terms of carefully analysing the situation, formulating the strategy most likely to succeed, and steadfastly sticking to it. When faced with the nightmare of human imperialism, ruthless is the only way to be. I do not want people to think for a second that my favouring of education and political campaigning, rather than direct-action, as the main way forward for animal liberation, is a sign that I have become less ruthless. It is because I have become more so.

Did you think about this long-term strategy while in prison? This is where you created the magazine « Arkangel ». What role do you give to writing and promoting your ideas?

I think my change of emphasis in terms of political campaigning - and also to a large extent with education as well - came later. Arkangel was still, in a sense, very much promoting direct action in the best way it could, while trying to minimise the risk of prosecution.

One of the main reasons l was put in prison was because I was judged to be the publisher of the ALF Supporters Group newsletter, which went out every couple of months to people who signed up as supporters of the ALF. Inside the newsletter there was a lot of stuff encouraging people to do direct action and to get involved in the ALF and it was very blatant - we even had a kind of cartoon strip in one of the issues that actually showed people how to break into somewhere, how to disable alarms and all that kind of thing. It was very much up front in its encouragement of illegal action and we just got away with it for quite a long time.

And they said I was the publisher of that.  I wasn't actually the publisher, but that was believed in court and was one of the reasons I ended up being put in prison, for encouraging people to carry out ALF actions and cause criminal damage. With ArkangeI, I felt we had to be very careful to do things in a way where we could avoid being prosecuted.

My idea for the magazine was for it to be like a substitute for the ALFSG newsletter, but more cleverly written. So it wasn't totally along the lines of how I think now, but nevertheless, I think there was a lot of useful stuff in Arkangel.

Do you consider ALF prisoners – or prisoners from any other similar movement - as political prisoners?

Absolutely yes, they are political prisoners. Whether that means those prisoners should be treated any differently to other prisoners is another question. But yes, I think they are political prisoners.

You were imprisoned in 1986 and released six years later. In what way did your time in prison influence your beliefs and your route for the future?

Because I knew I would be so closely watched in everything I did, I came out of jail thinking that it was going to be very very difficult for me to be involved in direct action and I wondered what else I could do to promote the cause of animal liberation.

It was at that stage I started thinking about going out on the streets and doing stalls to educate people. This was difficult for me at first, because I had never previously had very much involvement with the ordinary public, but I gained confidence by helping people who were already doing street stalls, so that eventually I was able to organise and do them myself.

Joining the green party in the UK was one of these routes?

Yes, but that came a lot later because I was just involved in education for several years after I came out of prison.

Then for about 13 years, my wife and I ran a campaign, called Greyhound Action, to protect greyhounds. This all started after we adopted a greyhound and became involved with a greyhound rescue organization, which we mainly helped by transporting the dogs to their new homes. This made us look into the situation of greyhounds and how many were killed and abused because of the greyhound racing industry.

I don't think you have greyhound racing in France but in certain countries - USA, Australia, the UK and Ireland - it takes place on a commercial level. About 10,000 greyhounds a year are killed because of the UK dog racing industry industry, with the situation in Australia probably the worst of all.

So we started campaigning against the greyhound racing industry, trying to put a stop to it by working to close down greyhounds tracks. It started  in a small way. Initially we thought of it as a small part of everything we did, but it grew to be so big that it took over and I was spending about 80 hours a week on the campaign, which gave me very little time to do other things.

While I was involved in the Greyhound Action campaign, the business I've mentioned already, about the government bringing in new laws against anti-vivisection campaigners, was going on. So, I thought to myself, that as a movement, we do have to get involved in politics to try to stop that sort of thing from happening.

It had become very much a trend in the animal rights movement to not be involved in politics. There had previously been attempts to make a political connection, like when the Labour Government was elected in 1997. Before the election the Labour Party made lots of promises with regard to animal protection, which enticed a lot of animal rights campaigners to support Labour and to work to get them elected. Before that, animal rights campaigners weren't really involved in politics.

Labour did get elected and they did eventually pass some legislation to protect animals, but they also went back on a lot of promises. One of the big promises they made was to begin an investigation of animal experimentation - to really look into it. So there was a big hope that they would at least reduce the number of animal experiments. But they didn't do that.

And there was a guy called Barry Horne, an animal liberation activist, who was serving a long prison sentence for ALF activities. Barry went on hunger strike to try to force the government to live up to their promise to set up a Royal Commission to look into animal experimentation. They refused to do so and Barry ended up dying from the effects of his hunger strikes.

This caused a lot of animal rights campaigners to believe that involvement in politics was a big mistake, because politicians were not to be trusted to keep their promises. Then there was the government repression against SHAC (, where a lot of people got put in prison for long periods of time.

These things caused me to think in the opposite way to many other animal rights campaigners, because I formed the opinion that, realistically, whether we like it or not, we are always going to have a form of government, at least for the foreseeable future, so if we don't do anything to influence what that government is like, we can hardly be surprised when the government we get is one that supports animal abuse.

The biggest area of animal suffering and slaughter is the food industry, especially factory farming and industrialised fishing. More than eight billion animals a year are consumed in the UK, which far exceeds the number killed by any other industry of animal abuse.

Under successive governments, including Labour ones, this has got worse, with big subsidies being given to these animal slaughter industries, so we have to work to eventually get a government elected that will turn that situation around. I came to the conclusion that if we didn't try to get the best possible government, we could hardly complain when we got the worst possible one.

So when I had more time, after I was no longer running the greyhound campaign, one of the things I wanted to do was to get involved in politics, at least to some extent. And I thought to myself: what's the best way to do this? Because governments are formed by political parties, I asked myself what was the best political party to try to get into government?

I thought it has to be the Green Party, because they have by far the best policies on animal protection. Those policies aren't perfect, by any means, but Green Party policy is to abolish factory farming and hugely reduce industrialised fishing, which are by far the two biggest areas of animal abuse.

To me there were really two possibilities: one was getting involved in the Labour Party and trying to radically change them; the other one was to join the Greens and try to get them into power. I couldn't see how Labour could really be changed. Of course things are perhaps a little bit different now. The current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is a big supporter of animal protection and has appointed a vegan, Kerry McCarthy, as shadow environment minister. The problem is, though, that most Labour MPs don't support Jeremy Corbyn. He's good, but most of the others aren't. I think that's a huge problem and what will eventually happen, I don't know.

Anyway, I decided to get involved with the Green Party, and together with some other people, formed a group called Greens for Animal Protection (GAP) which campaigns within the party to further improve its policies on animals and to persuade it to give a higher priority to animal protection. Although the Greens have got good policies on animal protection, they don't advertise or promote those policies sufficiently and that needs to be changed. GAP is involved in the policy-making process within the party and holds stalls at green party conferences, vegan fairs etc. 

I outlined my current thinking re vegan education and political campaigning in January 2014 in a blog article entitled "A Greenprint for Animal Liberation" ( which has been translated into French at

A French anti-capitalist and ecologist thinker, Paul Ariès, has written a book that is violently opposed to anti-speciesism and the ALF, whom he has accused of being anti-human. What is your opinion about that?

To say that animal liberationists are anti-human is like saying if you are against the Nazis, you are anti-German, isn't it? 

For me the term animal liberationist applies to anyone who wants other animals liberated from oppression at the hands of the human species. The term doesn't just apply to the ALF, nor to followers of Peter Singer who wrote the book called “Animal Liberation”.

And animal liberation is on the same continuum as black liberation, women's liberation and gay liberation, where people are struggling to gain the freedom of oppressed groups from prejudice and persecution. Animal liberation isn't in opposition to human beings as such, it is in opposition to the behaviour of human beings when they oppress and persecute other animals.

I would describe the behaviour of humans towards other animals on this Earth as human imperialism. The human species, in general, behaves in an imperialistic, supremacist, and speciesist way towards non-human animals, which can be equated to racism, sexism etc. To compare the behaviour of the human species to the behaviour of the Nazis isn't saying that all humans are Nazis; it's actually saying that the regime set up by the human species on Earth, in relation to other animals, is similar to the regime the Nazis wanted to set up in relation to other races.

To say we're opposed to Nazism isn't saying we're opposed to all Germans. The two aren't the same. So what Ariès says doesn't make sense to me. To be opposed to human imperialism isn't to be opposed towards all humans, it's to be opposed to the regime that has been set up. And really it's not mainly about ordinary people, it is about the type of leadership we have, because most people follow leaders.

Ordinary people have been brainwashed: born into a system and a society where they are constantly told that humans are superior to other animals. Similar to the situation of somebody born a few hundred years ago, when it was generally believed that black people were inferior to whites. Most people just accepted that and didn't challenge it, because it was the norm to believe that.

If the Nazis had triumphed and been able to spread and enforce their policies, a German child of the aryan race growing up today would be brought up to believe they were superior to people of other races and that it was right and just to exploit those people. There would be very little challenge to that, because people would be brought up in that system.

The people who promote and push the current human supremacist system are people who have a personal or commercial interest in animal abuse and the political leaders who support them. Those are the people driving human imperialism, it's not ordinary members of the public. So, it's not so much ordinary people that animal liberationists should be opposed to, but rather those people in positions of power and influence who promote human supremacism.

What role has religion, and more particularly Christianity, played in our perception of other animals?

I think it's a problem, because a lot of religions, and particularly Christianity, have the attitude that humans are made in the image of God and we're the most important species and the ones that should dominate the earth. That's very much embedded in Christianity and most other religions and it obviously encourages speciesism.

As an atheist, I dislike religion. I believe religions to be irrational and harmful. That's not to say that all religious people are bad. I've known a lot of good religious people, but I don't think they're good because they're religious. I think they're good people who just happened to be religious and that religion doesn't actually do anyone any good.

I think veganism and animal liberation are rational concepts, and I dislike anything I perceive to be irrational, probably for that reason. Although I've known some Christians who have been excellent campaigners for animal protection, I would say that's despite their Christianity, rather than because of it, because I think Christianity as a whole has encouraged the persecution of other animals.

Friday, 1 May 2015

GO VEGAN - VOTE GREEN! Karen Varga's speech at Worcester March Against the Badger Cull April 25th 2015

I'm speaking today wearing two hats because, as well as being an elections officer for the Green Party I'm a committed animal rights activist and a vegan campaigner.

With my Green Party hat on I'm here to represent all the Green candidates in Worcestershire, and further afield.

Like the national Green Party itself, all of them are totally opposed to the badger cull and want the ban on hunting with hounds to be retained and strengthened.

I'm very pleased to say that many of the Green Party's election candidates have actively campaigned against the cull, including the Party's leader Natalie Bennett and Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, who have both taken part in patrols in the cull zones.

It's not just badgers we're concerned about though, but all wildlife, which is why we have existing policies to ban all shooting for so-called "sport" and to abolish the use of snares.

And with regard to snares, I think a special mention is in order here for Neil Laurenson, the Green Party representative on Worcester City Council, who last year successfully persuaded the council to ban the use of snares on all the land it owns. Let's have a big round of applause for Neil. 

The badger cull is unscientific, cruel and horrific, and cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds. 

A couple of thousand badgers were shot in the recent culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire and, with all my heart I hope not, if the cull is rolled out to the rest of the country, a further 100,000 could lose their lives - BUT it is very important to remember that this is only one of many ways that badgers and other wild animals are killed and threatened.

WE must not forget that the biggest killer of badgers in this country is not and will not be the metal of a shooter's bullet. It is something else made of metal, but rather larger in size. 

I'm talking, of course, about the motor car and other road vehicles, which annually kill 50,000 badgers, year in year out.

At least 30 million birds and one million wild mammals are killed on Britain's roads every year, including 75,000 foxes, three times the number killed by hunting.
But this is something we really can change, if we can reduce the amount of traffic on our roads.

Out of all the political parties, only the Greens offer solutions to this carnage, with our strong policies to improve and to reduce the cost of public transport and to promote cycling and walking, all of which will drastically cut the number of vehicles, and deaths, on our roads.

Another potentially huge threat to wildlife is fracking - and guess which parliamentary party is the only one totally opposed to fracking and all types of environmentally destructive extreme energy extraction. I don't think I really need to spell it out for you!

The proposed High Speed 2 railway, a vanity project so the rich will be able to get down to London a little bit quicker, could devastate as many as 500 wildlife sites, with many thousands of wild animals, including badgers, losing their lives. 

Very sadly, all the major parties support the HS2, but the Greens are opposed to it and want the MINIMUM estimated cost of 43 billion pounds to be spent instead on improving our existing rail network and on other socially useful projects.

There is, terrifyingly, something in Britain that is even more potentially devastating to wildlife and, indeed all life, than motor vehicles, fracking and HS2. 

That something is called Trident. Nuclear weapons that could totally destroy billions of lives, of both humans and other animals.

It's ironic, isn't it, that on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction that weren't actually there, the previous Labour government, at the behest of their masters, the United States of America, took part in a war in Iraq that has resulted in an estimated 1 million human deaths and an unknown and uncounted loss of wild creatures and other animals in the region.

And how deplorably hypocritical that a government of this country should support a war based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction when we have our own very real weapons of mass destruction in the form of Trident, up at Faslane in Scotland.

Not only do all the other parliamentary parties support the immoral madness that is Trident, they actually want to renew it, at a cost of £100 billion.

Only the Greens would get rid of Trident and spend that vast amount of money instead on such things as improving our National Health Service and increasing animal protection, for example by strengthening Wildlife Crime Units. 

I am so very pleased to be a member of a party that says no to the lunacy of nuclear weapons.

On that note, I think it's time now for me to take my Green Party hat off and to put my vegan one on, and to return to the subject of the badger cull.

One very important thing to remember about the cull is that it is not being done out of any love for cows.

It's estimated that less than 30,000 cows are put to death annually because of bovine TB, many infected due to intensive farming methods, but at the same time the dairy industry kills a total of almost half a million cows every year, after they become lame, because they develop mastitis or simply because they are too worn out to be efficient milk producers any more. 

Cows can live to the age of 20 years old, but almost every single one in British dairy herds will be dead by the age of seven.

The fate of 100,000 male calves born to dairy cows every year is even more appalling, as they are put to death at one or two days old, because they will be no good for producing milk.

All this slaughter and suffering because humans want to consume a product that is really meant for calves.

The solution to this cruel loss of innocent lives? Very, VERY simple. Go vegan! And if you want more info on how to do so, please pay a visit to the Worcester Vegans & Veggies stall when we get to the park.

Sadly though, it isn't just cows. 

About a billion land animals and several billion fish and other sea creatures are slaughtered to feed the people of Britain every year.


Most of the land animals are reared in appalling factory farm conditions and most of the fish either reared in intensive fish farms or caught and killed by appallingly cruel, destructive industrial trawling methods.

And with my Green Party hat back on I can tell you that the Greens would spare hundreds of millions of animals from suffering and slaughter every year by putting an end to factory farming, extending the Animal Welfare Act to cover fishing and by encouraging and educating for a transition to a plant-based diet.

Under previous governments, of both the red and blue colour, the consumption of animals and the numbers kept in factory farms and cruelly slaughtered has relentlessly increased, as has the number of painful experiments on animals, now standing at about 4 million annually, which increased by almost one million a year under the Tony Blair government, with this appalling upward trend continuing under David Cameron, because money is placed above everything and these parties are closely tied to the money markets and big, greedy, uncaring corporations.

The Green Party, once again, are the only major party totally opposed to something which would have an extremely negative effect on our ability to protect both animals and the environment we share – The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, something many have never even heard of and won’t until it’s too late. 

Talking about corporations, let's not forget how the Labour Party provided resources to keep open the appalling Huntingdon Life Sciences animal torture lab, after it was forced to the point of closure by the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign.

Let's not forget how, under the Blair regime, a strategy of persecution was instigated against anti-vivisection campaigners, resulting in dozens of decent, caring people being dragged before the courts and many of them sentenced to long periods of imprisonment for trying to stop the horror that is imprisoning animals and then carrying out live experimentation – euphemistically called vivisection – on them.

Let's not forget our comrade Barry Horne, who gave his freedom in the fight for animal liberation and who also gave his life fighting to save animals, when he died in Long Lartin prison in this very county on November 5th, 2001, following a series of hunger strikes aimed at forcing the Labour
 government to live up to their pre-election promise of a Royal Commission to investigate vivisection. A promise they failed to keep.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November. For many of us, when we go into the polling booth on May 7th, we will not forget.

The Green Party would abolish all cruel experiments on animals. We would put an end to the totally money-driven and unnecessary evil that is vivisection.

If you oppose the badger cull and support the Hunting Act, there will be, for most of you, only two parties to choose from at this election.

And, if you find it a difficult choice to pick between these two parties, do remember who it was that made it difficult for you.

We have an appallingly undemocratic first past the post system in this country which puts an awful pressure on people to vote against the party they like least instead of for the one they like best.

And the reason we still have our unfair voting system is that the major parties used their huge resources in 2011 to defeat an attempt to bring in a fairer system that would have given more of a chance to the smaller, developing parties.

So on May 7th, if you just want to end the badger cull and keep the ban on hunting with dogs, there are only two parties you can choose from. 

If, as well as being opposed to the cull and to hunting, you want widespread protection for wild animals, you want an end to factory farming and vivisection and for our society to be moved towards veganism, there is only one place to put your cross on May 7th, to support, encourage and to help into eventual power a party that will make the radical changes necessary, not just to create a fairer society for human beings, but to drive back the rising tide of animal exploitation and spare hundreds of millions of animals a year from slaughter and suffering.

But above all, whoever you're considering voting for, please do vote. Because if any of us who care about animal protection refrains from voting, that is in reality a vote for animal abuse to continue.
So please do vote on May 7th. 

As Natalie Bennett rightly said: “The politics of the future doesn't have to look like the politics of the past." Vote for hope. Vote for what you believe in, not what biased opinion polls or the media try and make you believe. 

Vote for more caring, active and focused representation. For real change, for life, for the common good – Vote Green.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Animal liberation: An end to isolationism!

One of the difficulties with us humans is that we have (or certainly most of us seem to have) a deeply engrained tendency to fail to see the bigger picture.

Sadly, this is a tendency that has been ruthlessly encouraged and exploited in their own interests by capitalists and the Right, who have had little difficulty in encouraging people to consider their own wellbeing and that of their families, nations and ethnic groups to be more important than that of other individuals, nations and races.

So instead of a far-sighted community, based on caring and sharing, equality, fairness and selflessness, we have a myopic society, where greed, competition, selfishness, lack of concern, prejudice, division and appalling inequality between rich and poor hold sway.

Of course, this same failure to see the bigger picture has also been exploited to cause appalling suffering and slaughter of other animals, by those who profit financially and otherwise from such abuse.

However, it’s not just ordinary members of the public who fail to see the bigger picture, but animal liberationists too – and by animal liberationists I’m talking about all of us who want to see an end to the oppression of other animals by humans, not just those folks who take direct action against laboratories, etc.

Seeing the bigger picture in relation to the animal liberation struggle is coming to understand that we will not succeed in obtaining the widespread emancipation of other animals from human tyranny, unless we rid a large percentage of the general public of human supremacist attitudes.

This changing of people’s attitudes can only be done through vegan education, according to the broad definition of veganism, as meaning opposition to the use of other animals for any purpose, but starting with diet, because the food industry is by far and away the largest area of animal abuse that is bought into by ordinary people.

Doing such education isn’t exciting and very rarely yields immediate results, as it tends to take a while with people for the vegan message to sink in and you’re really not going to get a “eureka” moment at the info table of a meat-eater immediately vowing to go vegan!

This means that difficulty in seeing the bigger picture tends to draw animal protectionists towards taking part in and supporting activities, such as animal rescue, Sea Shepherd, hunt sabs and even the ALF, which yield much more immediate results.

Now all these “immediate results” activities are extremely praiseworthy and honourable, because they have saved a huge number of animals from death and suffering and continue to do so. However, I would describe such activities and the groups who carry them out (even the direct action ones) as “rescuist”, rather than “liberationist”, as they seek to save individual animals without attempting to change fundamental human supremacist attitudes which prevent animal liberation from being brought about.

And it isn’t just that vegan education can bring about an eventual widespread change in human attitudes that rescuist activities cannot, it’s also the case that persuading people to be vegan can spare more animals in the short-term than rescuism, through the reduction in the demand for animals to be reared or caught for slaughter that will occur as veganism increases.

A microcosm of this situation occurred just a few years ago when I worked as National Co-ordinator for a UK greyhound protection group called Greyhound Action (GA).

Now GA courted controversy by refusing to get involved, as an organisation, with rescuing greyhounds (although, as individuals, those of us who ran the group all had rescued ex-racing dogs in our homes). Instead we concentrated totally on educating the public to boycott greyhound racing, because we saw the bigger picture and understood that rescues would be having to desperately try to snatch what discarded dogs they could from the death needle or gun provided for them by the racing industry until the seas froze over, unless concerted action was taken to bring that industry to an end.

So we picketed the tracks and staged info stalls in city centres – and through the reduction in public attendance at and betting on greyhound races this caused, helped shrink the industry to such an extent that more dogs were. spared from suffering and slaughter than all the rescue people, who were much more numerous than us, could ever have saved.

This was a lesson for me in the importance of seeing the bigger picture and tackling the root of a problem, rather than just dealing with the symptoms, that I’ve carried with me into the campaigning I do today.

In addition to not having sight of the bigger picture, rescuist activities are isolationist in that they tend to just involve the activists and the animals they seek to rescue with little or no dialogue or interaction with ordinary members of the public. In fact, I believe that is what attracts many animal protectionists to them, because there is no need for any involvement with those “nasty ordinary people who eat meat and don’t care about animals.”

It’s interesting to note that nearly all the ex-ALF activists I know who are still working for animal protection do so in the world of rescue, rather than as campaigners or educators who have involvement with the public, which I feel is a continuation of the isolationist mindset that attracted them to the ALF in the first place.

Another form of isolationism exists within the vegan community, where there are so many groups that just spend their time swopping recipes, telling one another about the latest new vegan product in Morrisons and scoffing vegan cake, without any real attempt to get out there and educate ordinary people to be vegan.

Thirdly, there is the widespread isolation of the animal liberation movement from other movements for radical and progressive social change, whom we need to make alliances with if ever we are to create a decent world for all its inhabitants, both human and non-human alike. This form of isolationism is very eloquently challenged by Dr Steve Best in his excellent Total Liberation talk.

Here in Britain, I feel that one of the best ways animal liberationists can ally themselves with members of other progressive movements is through involvement with the Green Party, where they can work to eventually bring about a government that will pass strong and far-reaching legislation for social justice and animal protection (see my previous article for more on this).

With over 30 rescued animals of various species in my home, I am certainly not opposed to animal rescue and I salute the brave activists of Sea Shepherd, the ALF and the Hunt Saboteurs Association, all of which groups I have helped, either actively or financially in years gone by.

I also love being in the company of other vegans and feeling the camaraderie of people who have the same compassion in their hearts for other animals as I do, and the consuming of delicious vegan food (including cake!) is wonderful too.

But the bottom line is this – unless far far more of us become involved in vegan education in the world of ordinary people and unless our movement becomes integrated as part of the Left, animal liberation will continue to be a far-off dream.

There comes a time to see the bigger picture and to end our isolationism – and that time is now!

(First published on the Species and Class blogsite at

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A Greenprint for Animal Liberation

A Greenprint for Animal Liberation

What follows is my personal opinion formed after over 40 years in the animal
liberation movement.

It is intended for those who wish to see animal liberation, i.e. an end to all persecution, exploitation and killing of other animals by human beings or for us to reach a situation that is as near to that as possible.

It is also focused on what we should be doing in England. In other countries the situation may be different, particularly with regard to the political aspect.

What has concerned me for a long time is that we have no overall strategy or masterplan for the achievement of animal liberation and that the lack of this causes disunity among us and inefficiency in the use of our resources.

In order to formulate such a masterplan or blueprint, or greenprint, as I prefer to call it, I think we first of all need to try to understand why it is that the human species persecutes, exploits and kills other animals in the first place.

Although there are many things that exacerbate the mistreatment of other animals by humans, there is one fundamental cause of it, which is speciesism or human supremacism, i.e. the arrogant, selfish and irrational belief that human beings are somehow more important than other sentient animals.

As a socialist I want to see an end to capitalism, but although the greed, wastefulness and desire for profit inherent in the capitalist system certainly increases the mistreatment and exploitation of other creatures, animal abuse would still exist in a socialist society if speciescism continued to hold sway.

All abuse of other animals flows fundamentally from speciesism, so if we are to achieve animal liberation we need to challenge the speciesist mindset in human beings and strive to create a situation where humans behave towards other animals in a non-speciesist way.

We tend to divide animal abuse into various areas - vivisection, the fur trade, zoos, hunting, farming etc. - but all these areas of animal abuse are really symptoms of an underlying disease, which is speciesism, and unless we treat and cure that underlying disease, we will be forever having to deal with its symptoms.

If we are to persuade human beings to live in a non-speciesist way, the most
important thing we need to do is to educate them to end their consumption of animal products, because eating flesh, eggs and dairy is the most fundamental speciesist thing that most people do and also because, when we consider all the areas of animal abuse normally campaigned against by our movement, 99.5% of the persecution of other animals by humans occurs in the food industry (several billion animals slaughtered annually for consumption by humans in England, with the next highest area being the approx. 4 million victims of the UK vivisection industry).

Thus, the most important form of activism for other animals is vegan outreach
and our main focus as a movement needs to be on educating members of the public to become vegan.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't also campaign against other forms of animalabuse, but that we should always seek to promote veganism at the same time.

So, on our stalls we should always have vegan information to give to the public and on any demos or protests we do, the leaflets we give out need to contain information that will lead people towards veganism, in addition to information about whatever form of animal abuse we are protesting against.

If we are to educate ordinary people to become vegan, we need to consider what are the best ways of doing this.

To educate the public, we need to be where the public are - and that means we have to do street stalls, stalls at community events, free food events to which the public are invited etc. etc.

We also have to be in what the public read and listen to, which means articles and letters in local newspapers and interviews on local radio/TV.

So what is going to be the vehicle for these local outreach events and this local media presence? It has to be local vegan outreach groups.

Therefore, what we need to do is to try to set up a large network of such groups throughout the country, so that every town and city is covered, and to train and give confidence to the people within those groups to engage positively with the public and the local media.

Of course, educating people to go vegan is not an easy task and we need to try to understand how people operate in order to do this effectively.

People, in general, tend to be passive creatures of habit who don't like change and want to be the same as everybody else and not stand out from the crowd. Animal liberationists are not at all like that, but we need to take people for what they are and not presume that everybody is fundamentally the same as us.

Thus we need to make veganism seem as "normal" and easy as we possibly can
and not get frustrated when there appears to be a slow uptake of the vegan message. That is bound to be the case at first, but as the number of vegans gradually increases, a level will be reached when veganism is no longer considered to be that unusual and that will then cause the amount of vegans to rapidly increase.

It isn't just a case though, of persuading ordinary members of the public to go vegan, but of persuading existing vegans to become involved in outreach.

The Vegan Society has estimated there 
are at least 150,000 vegans in the UK. Opinion polls have put this figure as high as 600,000, but, for the sake of argument, I'll stick to the lower estimate.

I've done many vegan outreach events just on my own or with the help of only one other person, but if, once again for the sake of argument, we say it would take 10 vegans to do one event, this would mean that if each of the estimated 150,000 vegans in this country just took part in one outreach event per month, that would equal 15,000 events per month, 3,000 events per week and about 500 every day.  

And just think how many more vegans 
could be created, if that were to happen!

The vast majority of vegans are vegan because they are opposed to the suffering and slaughter of animals and so they would, presumably, want that suffering and slaughter to end entirely (or, at least, as near as we can possibly get to that situation), but that won't happen unless we persuade lots of other people to go vegan and that, in turn, won't happen unless we get out there and interact with the public in order to do it.

Surely the difficult bit is actually becoming vegan, with all the initial trials and tribulations that involves, especially on a social level. So, having become vegan, it would only take a comparatively tiny step more to do a bit of outreach. So many vegans seem unable to take it, however, and this is a problem we have to try to solve, if we really want animal liberation to be achieved.

I've spoken above about the importance of vegan education in persuading people to change their attitudes and, hence, their behaviour towards other animals.

It would be naive in the extreme, however, to suppose that we can succeed in
educating everybody and we need to accept that some people will remain unaffected by our educational efforts and will wish to continue their support for or involvement in animal abuse.

People change their behaviour for one of two reasons, either because they want to or because they fear the consequences of not doing so. Thus there are two ways of changing human behaviour, education and coercion, and with those who refuse to be educated, we are left with coercion.

I've talked about local vegan outreach groups being the vehicle for education, but what is to be the vehicle for the coercion we need in order to change the behaviour of those we are unable to educate?

Basically, there are two types of coercion that could be applied to enforce correct behaviour - coercion by the individual (or group of individuals) or coecion by the state.

Non-state coercion would need to take the form of illegal direct action and the problem with this is that it is highly unlikely that enough people could be persuaded to do this in order for it to be effective.

This leaves coercion by the state, in other words the passing and enforcement of laws to protect animals from abuse and in order to get such laws passed, we need an elected government that would be prepared to pass them.

Governments are formed by political parties, which means that all of us who want animal liberation need to support the political party which gives the best hope for strong animal protection legislation.

I think we can say immediately that isn't going to be the Tories or the Lib-Dems, so is it going to be Labour?

Sadly, there is nothing in the fundamental philosophy of the Labour Party or its record in relation to animal protection to indicate that this would be the case.

We must never forget how Labour reneged on their promise of a Royal Commission to investigate vivisection, how the number of cruel experiments increased under their administration and how they brought in new laws to persecute anti-vivisection activists.

Apart from a half-hearted "ban" on hunting with dogs and the abolition of fur farming (but not the fur trade) most forms of animal persecution continued to increase and prosper when Labour were last in power.

In my view, the best hope of a government for animal protection lies with the Green Party.

The Greens have policies that would end the badger cull, ban all animal experiments, abolish the fur trade, end the use of all animals in circuses, strengthen the law against hunting, abolish shooting and snaring, end live exports and factory farming and encourage veganism through the promotion of a diet free from animal products.

The strong environmental protection policies of the Green Party are also of great benefit to non-human animals in terms of preserving their habitats and reducing the risk of them being harmed by pollution, climate change etc.

A large number of Green Party politicians and activists are already involved at local, national or   European level in fighting factory farming, live exports, animal experiments, the badger cull, bullfighting and many other forms of animal abuse.

We need to get the Green Party into power if we are ever to truly protect animals in this country and if we don’t try our utmost to do so, we will be partly to blame for the continuing persecution of other creatures under Tory and Labour regimes.

A Green Party government is not an impossible dream. The Greens are not only the best party for animal protection, but also the best for social justice and the environment – and if everyone who cares about all or any of these issues were to support the Green Party, they could easily sweep to power at an election.

Let’s not forget that only about 20% of the population would need to vote Green in order for that to happen.

As I mentioned above, it is a fundamental trait of humans in general to be passive and to not want to stand out from the crowd. However, in order for us to get a Green Party government, most people don't need to be outspoken activists. They just need to put a cross on a piece of paper in the right place!

Anarchists within the animal protection movement will object to my support for the Green Party, but it is my contention that those who support anarchism are harming the cause of animal liberation by advocating that members of the public should not vote at elections.

Most human beings are fundamentally leader-followers, so the problem is that if there is no good guy (or gal!) for people to follow, most of them will inevitably follow the bad guy. Therefore anarchists are playing straight into the hands of the bad guys by advocating that animal protectionists do not vote, because all that achieves is to make sure that animal abuse supporters will continue to get elected.

Likewise support for the Animal Welfare Party can also be harmful to the cause of animal liberation in that it takes the votes of animal protectionists away from the Green Party. Unlike the GP, the AWP has no chance of ever being able to form a government, because it can only ever appeal to that small minority of the population that is highly focused on animal protection above everything else. On the other hand, with its excellent policies on social justice and the environment, as well as on animal protection, the Green Party has the potential for mass appeal.

There is also an argument that if we just persuade enough people to go vegan, politics will change accordingly and we'll get animal protection legislation without supporting the Green Party.

However, just having a large number 

of people wanting animal protection
doesn't mean that legislation will be passed to enforce their views. For decades a substantial majority of the public were opposed to hunting with dogs without it being abolished, forinstance, and a large majority against the badger cull hasn't prevented that from going ahead. Similar failure to reflect the views of the majority in legislation can also be seen with regard to the fur trade, live exports and animal experimentation.

This means that hand in hand with educating people to go vegan, we have to build up the political force that will form a government for animal protection and reflect the views of vegans in its legislation.

Thus my Greenprint for Animal Liberation is a combination of vegan outreach and support for the Green Party and I would urge every single person who yearns for animal liberation to do the following in order to help achieve it:-
(1) Join your local vegan outreach group (or, if there isn't one, form one) and start educating members of the public to go vegan.
(2) Join your local Green Party and help them with the process of getting people elected both at a local and a national level.

None of this will be easy, but I see no other way. What I am talking about is basically the creation of a new type of animal protection movement that focuses less on shouty demos and hero-worship of direct action and more on vegan education and political involvement.

We have to find a way of moving away from being brave losers, constantly trying to throw ourselves against an overwhelming force, and towards a situation where we ourselves become that overwhelming force that can make the world our own and carry all before us in the struggle for animal liberation.

The above is just my opinion and I welcome constructive criticism. My plan may not be an easy one to put into operation or to see through to the end, but at least I have a plan, so please do not tell me mine is wrong without putting forward one of your own!

(Please note: This article was written before the unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and a left wing Labour govenment could possibly offer hope for strong animal protection measures, but only if most of its current MPs are replaced by people who share his views.)