Internmnent is New Tactic to Deal with Animal RIghts Movement

18/1/08

“This is just the latest example of the state attempting to decapitate the animal rights movement – but we’re not going away” - SPEAK campaigner.

“What people outside the animal rights movement don’t seem to appreciate is that once these moves have been practised on us, they are expanded to everyone expressing dissent – just look at how PHA injunctions attacked first us, then the peace movement, then the environmentalists and finally the climate camp” - an Animal Rights Legal Advisor

The screws have been tightened on the animal rights (AR) movement yet again. In this country, and in the US, there has been a serious state attempt to deal with the strength of the animal rights movement by using an extra-legal form of internment. Currently the three most prominent activists from the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign - Greg Avery, Natasha Avery and Heather Nicholson - are all on remand, after high profile arrests back on May 1st (see SchNEWS 585). They are charged with ‘conspiracy to blackmail’. Now the same applies to the main spokesman for the SPEAK campaign, Mel Broughton.

Mel was arrested in his home at 5.30am on December 12th – and he’s been held on remand ever since on charges of arson and ‘conspiracy to blackmail’. Meanwhile campaigners against the Sequani animal labs in Ledbury are on trial for conspiracy to breach Sections 145 and 146 of the SOCPA – laws especially introduced to protect ‘animal research’ facilities.

SPEAK are fighting against the new Oxford University primate laboratory, referred to as being of ‘national importance’ by Lord Sainsbury, unelected science minister and aggressive lobbyist for GM crops amongst other profitable er, sorry, progressive issues. Back in June, SchNEWS reported how a senior Thames Valley police officer, Inspector Shead, was caught on tape promising to ‘wage a dirty war’ against the SPEAK campaign (see SchNEWS 590) and ‘persecute’ spokesman Mel Broughton - indeed ‘to prosecute the sh*t out of him’. Now the meaning of that has become clear - the shattering of the AR movement by any means necessary. A SPEAK campaigner told us, “We know they’ve been gunning for Mel for a long time – but this isn’t a one man campaign. It is basically internment – everything about this campaign is peaceful and legal. The big picture is that the police want to smash SPEAK and SHAC.’’

Aspects of the raids, taken in context with other repression around the country, demonstrate that the police’s main strategy is disruption. During Operation Achilles – the raids which netted the SHAC organisers - huge quantities of leaflets, cash etc was seized as ‘evidence’, obviously damaging the ability of the campaign to continue. One campaigner arrested during the initial sweep told SchNEWS how the police pressured them to try and secure their Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) key to their computers. In November, police wrote letters demanding that the passwords for encrypted files on seized computers be released under threat of legal action. Campaigners refused to back down and as yet no legal action has been taken.

LOVE SHAC

The reason the state is using conspiracy charges is they like their all encompassing vagueness. Rather than having to prove specific criminal activities, a huge quantity of evidence can be produced from which ‘inferences’ can be drawn. In the SHAC case over 15,000 pages of documents have been produced, including transcripts from bugs placed in hire cars and into the wall of, what the prosecution are referring to as, ‘the SHAC house’.

Also included are transcripts of conversations made by one of the accused from prison. However there is not one shred of evidence that points to direct engagement in criminal activities (beyond such trivia as trespass). According to one source, the evidence is bizarre - “it includes family photos – loads of stuff that hasn’t got anything to do with animal rights or demos or anything...”

The trial is expected to last six months - so even if the three are acquitted they will have spent the best part of two years unable to take part in any effective campaigning. If they are convicted it will pave the way to repeat the tactics with other campaign groups - except those couched in the vaguest non-threatening terms - and especially those that are actually effective.

“The danger of this sort of accusation is that simply running a campaign could be described as blackmail. Obviously a blackmailer’s threats do not have to be illegal, simply the suggestion that if you don’t do X we will do Y could be construed as blackmail” (AR legal advisor) - i.e. the very act of organising demos could become a very serious criminal offence, punishable by years inside. So once more we see laws drafted to protect individuals being used (or twisted) to protect corporations. SHAC has to be the legally most watertight campaign in the UK. Everything they publish is checked by a barrister beforehand. As our source told us, “ They’ve got masses of evidence of demos being organised of course but most of them are organised with the police! Every campaign has a target – even Greenpeace send out action e-mail alerts! How can what we do be described as blackmail?”

The case of the Sequani Six is now entering its second week in Birmingham Crown Court. Sequani are a vivisection laboratory based in Ledbury, Herefordshire and are the latest beneficiaries of a law specifically targeted at those who campaign for animal rights. Six protesters, including one 80-year-old woman are charged with conspiracy to “interfere with contractual relationships so as to harm animal research organisation” under section 145 of SOCPA.

To add insult to injury the judge in the trial has admitted that he regularly enjoys hunting – but we’re sure he won’t let that unduly prejudice him. It has been suggested by top cop Anton Setchell (ACPO National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism) that the SOCPA laws, which effectively prohibit demos outside establishments connected with animal research, were not drafted widely enough. He wants them expanded to cover any groups that engage in sustained campaigning. The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordinating Unit’s website (www.netcu.org.uk) says, “The term ‘domestic extremism’ applies to unlawful action that is part of a protest or campaign. It is most often associated with ‘single-issue’ protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM (genetically modified) crops.”. Alarmingly section 149 of SOCPA allows the secretary of state to declare any business to be the equivalent of an animal research establishment without going back to Parliament.

Despite the full agencies of the state being bent on the movement’s destruction, with widespread abuse of public order law and the shutting down of animal rights info stalls – they’re not going away! Demos continue despite police intimidation. Vivisectors and those who deal with them are still firmly in the movement’s sights and a glance at the websites demonstrate the extent to which this struggle is still gaining in strength, and going global. As a SHAC activist told us “They think that by taking out a few key people they can stop our movement but for every two they take away there will be four to take their place. The public support has been amazing...”

* SPEAK http://www.speakcampaigns.org
* SHAC http://www.shac.net
* STOPSequani http://www.stopsequani.co.uk

http://www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news616.htm

 

Let us not forget that Mel was set up. He did not do what he has been convicted of. They did what they did to him to get him out of the way. Mel, like all activists campaigning against these atrocities, is a thorn in the side of those who perpetrate them. Mel has a slim hope of being freed through appeal but to him the most important thing is for there to be more people on the streets of Oxford. http://www.speakcampaigns.org/

 

Related Articles:

mel broughton freed on bail 30/3/10 read
fire-bomb conviction overturned 25/3/10 read
appeal over fire-bomb conviction 25/2/10 read
police condemn broughton 13/2/09 read
animal rights activist cleared of possessing explosive substance 6/11/08 read

From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk