Tuesday, 14 January 2020

ANIMAL LIBERATION: A 2020 VISION - “A Greenprint for Animal Liberation” revisited.

(Written with particular reference to the UK, but I’m sure much of it could be applied elsewhere in the world as well)

Six years ago, I wrote an article entitled “A Greenprint for Animal Liberation” about what we should be doing to create “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”.

This can be found at https://animalliberation-socialjustice.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-greenprint-for-animal-liberation.html and, if you haven’t read it already, I would urge you to do so, before continuing with this article. 

“Greenprint” attempted to lay out an overall strategy or masterplan for the achievement of animal liberation, with the emphasis being on vegan education and political action.

In the six years since its publication, I have taken action on my own advice and tried to put into practice those things that I advocated in it, and this article arises out of what I have learned during that time.


Firstly, I have become much more aware of the oppression of animals caused by adverse human impact on the environment, which is something I feel I did not refer to adequately in “Greenprint”.

In the past 500 years, more than 300 animal species have become extinct because of human activity and it has caused the death of 50% of wild animals in the world within the last 40 years.

The climate crisis is already causing extinctions, and far more will follow, unless strong and rapid action is taken to combat global warming.

The roots of the crisis lie in the Industrial Revolution, and its fundamental cause is speciesism, which allowed industrialisation to take place without regard to the harmful impact it would have on the natural world. If human society had been vegan back then, the climate emergency would never have happened.

However, it does seem to be the case that many vegans have a limited view of speciesism that fails to properly include the oppression of other animals caused by adverse human impact on the environment. I referred to this in a recent Facebook post that I addressed to vegans and environmentalists:-

It’s important to emphasise that veganism is a philosophy of opposition to speciesism, not a diet (although a plant based diet is an important part of it), and that those who subscribe to this philosophy should do their best to avoid and oppose all oppression and exploitation of other animals by the human species.
Vegans have always been very good at opposing speciesism where this comes clearly in the form of persecution of individual animals, as in animals killed by the food industry, animal experimentation, hunting, the fur trade, horse and greyhound racing etc.
Where they haven’t been so good is where that persecution is not perceived as directed against animals as individuals and where it is more systemic, rather than direct, in its nature, such as when it is caused by pollution, habitat destruction, human overpopulation, transport methods and industrialisation.
Thus we have vegans hugely concerned about foxhunting and the badger cull, but showing little regard for changing our transport system (in a situation where far more foxes and badgers are killed by road vehicles than by hunting or shooting) or about combatting other forms of negative human impact on the environment that continue to kill huge numbers of wild animals.
On the other hand there is the problem of environmentalists who continue to hold a human supremacist worldview and do not value the lives of animals as individuals. For them, the environment needs to be protected primarily for the benefit of humans, and species of other animals conserved for the same reason, either so humans can continue to have the pleasure of seeing them in the world or because human wellbeing depends on the web of life of which those species form a part. 
I remember being at a Friends of the Earth meeting in a pub where I commented that they were putting their drinks on “horse killers beer mats”, because these were advertising John Smiths, the Grand National sponsors at the time. My comment wasn’t met with approval but with embarrassed staring at the table by the others at the meeting. I had dared to speak out against the oppression of other animals as individuals.
In my view, two things need to happen so both vegans and environmentalists can campaign together properly for a better world. Vegans need to extend their concept of what constitutes speciesism and environmentalists need to reject speciesism and become vegan.


In “Greenprint” I spoke of the importance of active local vegan groups in spreading the vegan message and said that “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”.

I took my own advice on this and set to work in creating such a group in my own area, Wyre Forest, in north Worcestershire.

Wyre Forest Vegans now has well over 600 members (at least half of them from the local area) and in each of the past two years has organised more than 100 outreach events, both big and small.

This would not be the case though, had I not devoted a great amount of time to organising and taking part in those events, with the help of a small but dedicated team of volunteers. 

I know that if I wasn’t here to continually drive the group forward, it either would not exist at all or its activism would be very much less.

This has brought home to me the importance of dynamic local leadership in the spreading of the vegan message.

In areas where active local vegan outreach groups exist, it is because there is one or a small number of people organising events and encouraging other local vegans to take part.

In areas where such dynamic local leadership does not exist, there are either no local vegan groups or those that exist do not involve themselves in active outreach.

So, merely imploring more vegans to become vegan activists, and to get involved in vegan outreach, is not enough, if there is nobody in local areas to organise that outreach.

In every town, city, and in every suburb of every city, there are people who are potential local vegan activists, but most of them are either not active or travel, sometimes quite long distances, to do their activism elsewhere, because nobody is organising any in their local areas.

This means that a huge number of places throughout the UK are without an active local vegan outreach group, meaning that many millions of ordinary people are not in sufficient receipt of the vegan message.

So we are faced with two problems; a serious one of not enough vegans becoming involved in vegan activism, and an even more serious one of not enough vegan activists being prepared to become local organisers.

The second problem is by far the biggest, because there are potential vegan activists everywhere, and because it only takes a relatively small number of activists to carry out a large number of actions, provided there is dynamic local leadership to organise those actions.

So the key to achieving animal liberation lies in the answer to one simple question: how do we help/persuade/encourage far more vegan activists to become organisers of local vegan outreach groups in their own areas?

Sadly, I feel that merely urging more activists to become local organisers is unlikely to have much effect, especially as I have frequently done this myself, with little or no positive result.

What is needed is a much more proactive and hands on approach to stimulate and aid the formation of local vegan outreach groups and to educate and encourage vegan activists to become local group organisers.

Where, though, do we find the resources to put this approach into action? 

In my view, the answer lies with the national pro-vegan organisations: Animal Aid, PETA UK, the Vegan Society and Viva!.

These societies have the financial and organisational resources to employ regional coordinators, whose job it would be to go into local areas and do what is necessary to set up vegan outreach groups and to find and train local vegan activists to be group organisers.

At present much of the resources of these national organisations are committed to the production of campaign materials and the promotion of national campaigns. However, without a widespread network of active local vegan groups to distribute those materials and to take those campaigns to a large number of ordinary people, their effect will remain very limited.

What I would like to see is a vegan outreach stimulation team, consisting of one or two national coordinators and a number of regional coordinators, funded jointly by the national societies I have named (and, perhaps, also by any groups or individuals who have the financial resources to do so).

Unless resources are put in to creating a proper network for the delivery of the vegan message, for very many people in our society it will remain insufficiently delivered.


My second main point in “Greenprint” was that because we could not hope to educate everyone to become vegan, we would still need legislation to protect non-human animals, and that the best political party to deliver such legislation were the Greens.

Therefore, as well as urging my fellow vegans to get involved in vegan outreach, I also encouraged them to get involved with and to help their local Green parties.

Since, I wrote the article, however, my own experiences in promoting the Green Party, and big changes in the national political landscape, have caused me to take a more nuanced view.

It is still my opinion that a Green Party government would be the best of all possible administrations for delivering legislation that gave wide reaching protection to other animals (both directly and through protections given to the environment).

However, I have come to understand that such a government, or even a coalition where the Greens would have significant influence, has no chance of coming about unless there is electoral reform and our present first past the post system is replaced by some sort of single transferable vote. The reality, at present, is that many people who would like to feel able to vote Green, do not do so, out of fear of letting the Tories in by depriving Labour of their vote.

Thus, the priority, in terms of eventually getting a Green Party government, is electoral reform, even though that may mean giving our votes to a party other than the Greens for the time being.

This was the case at the last General Election, where the only possible outcomes were, in reality, either a Tory government (no possibility of electoral reform) or a coalition of centre/left parties headed by Labour (electoral reform a distinct possibility).

It was also vital, for the sake of animal and environmental protection, and of social justice, that the Tories be defeated, which is why I advocated that all the opposition parties should form a Progressive Alliance that would stand just one candidate in each constituency, so as to avoid the anti-Tory vote being split.

My advocacy of this in my own constituency led to me resigning as press officer for my local Green Party after they decided to stand a candidate against Labour, who, in my opinion had the best chance of beating the Tory.

As it happened, the failure of the anti-Tory parties to from a Progressive Alliance resulted in a huge Conservative victory in the General Election, when had those parties not been so bloody minded and tribalistic, all could have been so much different.

The cause of the Conservative victory went deeper than that though, and led me to make the following post on Facebook, entitled “A Failure of Education”:-

I see very many of my vegan friends posting their messages of dismay over the Tory election victory.

It was a huge blow to all of us who care about animal liberation, environmental protection, and social justice, and I totally understand and share their sentiments.

But we have to go far beyond dismay. We have to learn from what has happened, and act accordingly.

The Tories won so convincingly because almost 30% of people registered to vote put a cross next to the name of the Conservative candidate.

So the blame for the election result lies quite firmly with the mindset of many ordinary people, and the reason for this lies with our failure to educate those people to see the world in a more enlightened way.

The greatest social injustice in the world, which is also the root cause of the climate crisis and all our other environmental woes, is speciesism: the view that human beings, in their selfishness and arrogance, are somehow more important than other sentient animals.

Once people set themselves against the greatest form of social injustice, they are also likely to set themselves against all the others.

If we constantly and unremittingly educate people about the wrongfulness of the speciesist viewpoint and show them a different way of living, and of looking at the world, so that they reject human supremacism, not only will they adopt a diet and lifestyle that causes massively less destruction to this planet and the other animals that live upon it, but there is a very big chance that they will make a more enlightened choice next time they put a cross on a ballot paper.

But we have failed to make sufficient effort to educate people about veganism; and the planet, non-human animals, and impoverished and vulnerable people will pay the price.

Now we must learn from this failure and put the situation right. All vegans must become involved in vegan education as much as they possible can, and there is no excuse for any of us not to do that.

We can learn from the tragedy of the Tory victory and use that knowledge to create an eventual triumph for social justice and animal liberation.

We’re not going to succeed in educating everybody. But we don’t need to. Just 30%.

So, once again, we come back to the importance of vegan education and to putting a strategy in place that will lead to the maximum number of people being educated.

A strategy centred on the setting up of a nationwide network of local vegan outreach groups, and which requires the involvement, not just of vegan activists, but of all the national pro-vegan organisations.

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 http://www.revue-ballast.fr/ronnie-lee

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Huntingdon_Animal_Cruelty), 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" (http://animalliberation-socialjustice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/a-greenprint-for-animal-liberation.html) which has been translated into French at http://www.international-campaigns.org/un-modele-ecologique-pour-la-liberation-animale

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.