Archive for July, 2004


July 27th, 2004

SIAW — back to blogging with some regularity now — mentions this:

“Incitement to murder. Equating a bullfight with 9/11. Such is the mentality of the animal rights extremist.� He’s quite right – it’s just a pity that supposedly left-wing bloggers are silent on this latest threat to what little of the Enlightenment has been realised, leaving it to a right-wing blogger to point it out.

I don’t normally join in the game of ritualistic condemnation of whatever it is we’re supposed to be condemning on any particular day in order to qualify as members of the appropriate ethical community. (Go to Harry’s for that, or to Planet Melanie, now that she’s back from her holiday and setting the world to rights once again.) But I don’t like the animal rights people right now, and it’s probably a good time to say so.There’s a campaign here in Oxford against the building of a new animal-holding facility, which seems to be organised by a bunch of people called SPEAK, who have a website here (though I can’t seem to connect to it right now). And, naturally enough, there’s usually news of what’s happening intermingled with expressions of support for the campaign over at Oxford Indymedia.

The various activists seem to be in a good mood right now. A recent SPEAK press release, for example, begins by saying that “The decision by Montpellier to withdraw from building the new animal research laboratory in Oxford is a significant step forward both for the animal rights movement and for the future of scientific research in this country”. Well, scientific researchers may beg to differ. But what this press release doesn’t mention is the recent firebombings at RMC, the concrete suppliers for the construction project, which took fifty firefighters three hours to extinguish (details here). If SPEAK presents the legal wing of the struggle against the new facility, there’s also an illegal wing, and its spokespersons say things like this:

“This attack is a warning to RMC that collaboration in animal torture at Oxford or anywhere else will not be tolerated, and a further warning to all involved in building the Oxford laboratory to expect similar ruthless treatment.”

Other pleasant details of examples of intimidation are given in the same news report linked to, above. This, in fact, is the kind of behaviour which even the Animal Liberation Front website thinks qualifies as terrorism, being clearly part of a strategy which involves “the systematic use of violence or acts that instill intense fear to achieve an end”.Now I’ve no idea what the various relationships are between the legal and the illegal bits of the movement. I doubt it’s much like the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, because I doubt that animal rights activism has anything like that kind of organisational structure. But I don’t get the feeling that the SPEAK people are angry and frustrated at the illegal activities of the extremists. And they should be.

Testing things on animals is something to be bothered about. The Enlightenment of Edward Tyson, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the splendid Lord Monboddo was one that was terribly interested in the relationship between great apes and human beings, and I don’t really go along with SIAW’s attempt to paint the whole animal rights movement as thoroughly anti-Enlightenment. John Gray put it best, I think, when he said (something like this), that great apes are often the best subjects of animal testing because of the extent to which they’re like human beings, but to the exactly the same extent to which they’re like human beings, they shouldn’t be the subjects of animal testing. There is an important and a difficult ethical debate to have about animals being used — both for scientific research and for food — but that debate has got to be a democratic one, and democratic debate isn’t possible when firebombs are going off and contractors and researchers are being criminally intimidated.

So this is one occasion when I do condemn the extremists, and rather hope both that the criminal law will be vigorously enforced against them (when necessary) and that a more liberal, democratic, moderate, organised and therefore accountable animal rights movement will take the place of the current ramshackle gangs of activists and criminals.

So consider yourselves condemned. wherever you are.

Like Stephen Pollard and Unlike Chris Lightfoot…

July 26th, 2004

… the Great British Public Appears to be a Bunch of Ignorant Gits. Most of what appears in the Daily Mail is rubbish or nonsense, a truth that happily restates itself with each day that passes and the appearance of a new issue of the rag.

But in an exception-that-proves-the-rule kind of exception, Green Fairy has pointed to this article about public perceptions of paedophiles, and she’s right to do so.

(Where’s Chris Morris when you need him?)

Unlike Stephen Pollard…

July 26th, 2004

… Chris Lightfoot is Emphatically Not an Ignorant Git: He has also been reading the Government’s latest advice about what to do in the case of a major disaster, terrorist attack or whatnot. Go and read what he has to say.

Stephen Pollard…

July 26th, 2004

… is an Ignorant Git: We’re used by now to pieces of Pollardiana in which he spouts nonsense on subjects about which he appears to know nothing whatsoever. His lunatic sneerings about Glastonbury are probably the most celebrated recent example.

Now he turns his attention to Lance Armstrong’s victory in the Tour de France and comments that part of the reason competitive cycling is so boring is “because the team element is missing.”

That’s pretty much the equivalent of saying that football is boring because the ball isn’t spherical.

(Are the only people more stupid and ignorant than Pollard the editors who pay him for his dross?)


July 24th, 2004

Harry’s Place has a fine new look.

All it needs now is a more stirring slogan to go beneath the logo than that rather tired thing about liberty, which implausibly suggests that the essence of freedom is unlimited contributions from the wretched Benjamin in the comments threads.

Suggestions please.


July 23rd, 2004

While the Tour de France has been making its way through the Alps, with Lance Armstrong winning all three stages in very great style, and just before my attention shifts for the rest of the Summer to the England – West Indies cricket series, I’ve been enjoying Matt Rendell’s new book, A Significant Other, which follows Victor Hugo Pe�a through the 2003 centennial Tour and tells me a lot about the history of the race which I’d never really picked up from Sean Kelly’s commentary on Eurosport.

Anyway, here’s race founder Henri Desgrange on the threat to his creation posed by the invention of the freewheel in 1912:

Over the 379 kilometres of [stage eleven], the riders applied pressure on the pedals for scarcely half the distance. The rest was covered freewheeling. Behind the man who devotes himself to sustaining the pace, all our strapping fellows installed themselves as if on a sofa; they were sucked along, and covered enormous distances without any fatigue. The presence, I repeat, of men like Everaerts and Deloffre, Huret and Engel, for example, clearly indicates the ease with which they rode the stage. Is there any remedy? Are our races seriously threatened with decadance by the freewheel? Will the Tour de France be undermined by this infernal invention? Where will it lead? I well know that as far as L’Auto is concerned, the 1913 regulations will authorise the race director to suppress the freewheel in certain stages.

A Significant Other, pp.69-70.

The Real Virtual Stoa

July 23rd, 2004

I should have mentioned this sort-of blog ages ago, but trot along to Stoic News for, um, news about Stoics.

The Things One Learns From The Interwebnet

July 23rd, 2004

According to the comments box on this post here, my brother Michael suffers from something called “gonadal ideological blinkeredness”.

(I hope it’s not too painful.)

Child Sacrifice Abolished

July 19th, 2004

The Tophet bows out.

It’s only rock and roll

July 19th, 2004

Just a quick dissent from Norm’s opinion that the results of his poll show that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan constitute a “collective Sir Donald Bradman of their sphere”.

The point about Bradman is that almost everyone agrees that he was the best (see, inter alia, details of the Wisden survey not so long ago). To have about half your survey nominate each of three bands when you’re allowed to nominate up to ten isn’t remotely the same kind of thing, either individually or collectively.

Anyway, something’s gone radically wrong with a poll that can put Led Zeppelin in spitting distance of Elvis Presley, at the same time as it keeps Elvis out of the top three. I blame the voters.

Enough said.

Just Dead Socialist Watch

July 19th, 2004

Nick and Raj and also Norm have severally informed the World of Blogs that Paul Foot has died. (Perhaps they get up earlier than I do in the morning or something, or live in different timezones.) So there’s another Dead Socialist with which to reckon.

Me, I liked his early stuff best, The Politics of Harold Wilson and, especially, Race and Immigration in British Politics.

The Guardian’s obit is here, though it probably won’t tell you much you didn’t know about him before.

UPDATE [23.7.2004]: The Guardian’s obit is, in fact, here. The link above was just to a news item. I liked the bit about how, from the early 1960s onwards, “Neither his politics nor his hairstyle was to change…” And I should add The Rise of Enoch Powell to the list of really good Foot books, and I’m not sure why I missed it off first time around.

Spam, spam, unlovely spam

July 19th, 2004

Nick‘s been having the same problem with the same spammer that I’ve been having — though I have the further problem that a glitch in the (usually excellent) comments service I use mean that I haven’t been able to conduct a search-and-destroy mission and then ban “Perry” from So apologies for any pollution you come across in the comments boxes: I’ll try to fix it soon.

So la lotta between civilisation and spam continua.