Animals

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.

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