Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The wrong way of going about things

Despite my determination to be festive and jolly this week, I feel obliged to say something about the Shac convictions on blackmail charges.

The Guardian, in a brief biog of one of the campaign's leaders describes her thus: "A committed vegan, the 41-year-old once said she ­followed the strict dietary requirements because she didn't wish to "contribute to the murder, suffering and exploitation of animals". Well, that's why I'm one too.

I don't claim to speak for the estimated 250,000 vegans in the UK (and I suspect that figure's a bit over-stated) but I think it's important to make clear that I, for one, think that these people are idiots, dangerous idiots. No matter how strongly they feel about vivisection, this is not the way to go about trying to change things. In fact it's counter-productive, in that it's far easier then for the political and scientific establishment to dismiss them as idiots.

I'm not 100% anti-vivisection, and neither are the two other vegans I'm closest to (my sister and one of my best mates). We'd much rather there were far fewer animal experiments, starting with the complete phasing out of cosmetic testing, testing of household products, testing of recreational drugs, etc, and with compulsory data-sharing so that you don't get different companies duplicating experiments. We want more research into finding alternatives to vivisection, and support the intention behind the 3Rs - the Refinement, Reduction and Replacement of animals in research. (Although we think it's not moving fast enough in that direction). But when it comes to finding cures for devastating illnesses, then - reluctantly - we think vivisection might play its part.

Even if I was 100% anti-vivisection though, I still wouldn't support the likes of Shac for one moment. I remember attending a BUAV event at Labour Party Conference a couple of years ago, about whether there was any common ground between animal welfare groups and Muslim groups, i.e. in challenging extremism. A documentary maker - who I'm pretty sure must have been David Modell, who has made films about the BNP and animal rights extremists - was one of the speakers. He said that the animal rights activists he'd met saw the world through a distorting prism. They saw cruelty to animals everywhere; it was almost as if they saw the blood dripping off people's leather shoes.

I have no doubt they feel incredibly passionately about their cause. But by seeking to promote their cause by such aggressive and intimidatory means - hoax bombs, criminal damage, accusations of paedophilia, vandalism and threats - they do their cause a grave disservice.


Dick the Prick said...

The informtion sharing nugget is the gold atandard. How dare they? Vivisection, it would seem (simple biology A level) does have final benefit but.... I'm living in a dream aren't I. Definately ban cosmetics - wtf, household products - what 99.9% effective rather than 100% effective - come on, and i'll test the recreational drugs -

All power to your back Kerry.

It's Christmas eve and i'm hopeful - how the hell did that happen? Mrs Dale has been on one about the Pope calling benders err benders so that's taken a bit too much out of me, not a fight I give a monkeys about - sure they can defend themselves. It's just the bloody nieviety that because they've thought it and no-one has challenged them therefore, therefore, therefore...

Take care miss - I called 1992 within 4 seats. Stand by your convictions, don't listen to the hierarchies threats - bunch of pussies, stand up and, well, that were what you were employed for innit?

Happy Chrimbo to you & all your constituents.


Chris Gale said...

In a 1996 paper entitled New Labour, New Life For Animals, it promised to “support a royal commission to review the effectiveness and justification of animal experiments, and to examine alternatives”.

This pledge was never honoured (and resulted in huge numbers of people alienated) and the govt has gone on to also extend the criminalisation of lawful protest to the point that kids are arrested for giving out leaflets.

Government Ministers and senior Labour figures have made speeches labeling people as 'animal rights extremists' because they are against killing birds for sport for example.
None of this makes compassionate, idealistic people feel inclined to view the political process favorably.

As one colleague wrote to me:

'What those of us who have been in the movement for some time have learnt is that a politician is generally only as good as his or her word on the day; promises are made, and promises are broken for political expediency and gain. Gone are the days when any of us should be fooled by new people in politics with new ideas and a smile with a full set of white-capped teeth.'

Nothing ever excuses such appalling and despicable behavior as we have seen from some people and I condemn it totally.

The politicians in power need to ask though how it has come to this that people feel no sense of justice from the political process and are lied to time and time again. Blair, (who never expressed any genuine interest in animal issues and went out of his way to frustrate progress at every turn) turned Labour into a party at the top which has moved away totally from its compassionate, socialist humane roots.

The government should establish an independent transparent scientific inquiry to thoroughly review the ethical, scientific and economic implications of scientific research, toxicity testing and education. It should also facilitate increased funding for the development, validation and implementation of non-animal alternatives.

Sadly, the government appears to view animal issues as something it would rather not talk about.
All of my friends and colleagues who are vegan/vegetarian or in the wider animal movemenet would not vote Labour if I paid them, there is no point in ignoring that fact.
That is what needs to be addressed, people can only be lied to so many times before they become disaffected.
There are complex issues at play here, perhaps politicians could stop debasing politics by talking about inane drivel on television, such as talent shows and so on and address them.

DaveA said...

"...cosmetic testing, testing of household products, testing of recreational drugs."

As someone who is also quite sentimental about animals I can only agree with what you have said. However as I have mentioned before I have a Downs Syndrome son who is now 13. In a medical laboratory in Boston scientists have been able to reproduce DS in mice and it is believed a cure maybe found in the next 5-10 years.
For important medical conditions like this I have never had one ounce of conscience.

AlexBourke said...

Dear Kerry,
Firstly I'd like to repeat how delighted I am that we finally have a vegan MP to speak up for Britain's 3 million adult vegetarians and vegans.
I met you at the Bristol Vegan Fayre last year. I remember that you were on Labour's National Policy Forum before becoming an MP, and I asked you about the commitment in the 1997 manifesto to a Royal Commission to investigate the efficacy of animal experimentation and testing, presumably to settle it one way or the other and end the dispute about whether animal experiments actually serve any purpose. You said that of the 100 things in the manifesto, 98 had been done and there was just this one item and one other. I asked if you could find out what happened to this promise, and is there any truth in the story from the "Animal Rights" side that Lord Sainsbury's (science minister, believes in vivisection) multi-million pound contributions to Labour might have had anything to do with this commitment being dropped.
The animal rights movement is united in its desire for an independent judicial review to determine once and for all whether there is any point to animal experiments, and we are very disapointed that Labour hasn't followed through on this with no explanation. You are surely the best placed person in the country to find out what happened and why this was one of only 2 items in the Labour manifesto that led to Blair's original landslide to have been dropped. Those vegetarians and animal people who voted Labour (instead of Green for example) deserve a full explanation. Can you please give us one?
If Labour had followed through on the 1997 manifesto promise to animal rights people, then all the issues around HLS and SHAC might not even happen.
After all, for decades we were told by scientists that it was necessary to test cosmetics on animals, but that is now throughly discredited and almost every company has stopped using this flawed model. Now it's high time we settled it on medical experiments. With more and more professors of medicine each year, PhD scientists and MD doctors after examining the evidence, and peer review studies of animal versus human models, coming out each year and saying that animal experiments are at best of no use and potentially misleading, those of us who aren't scientists or doctors deserve a thorough review of all the evidence so that we can settle this once and for all. With drug side effects being a major cause of death, and the scandal of drugs from thalidomide to Vioxx that were declared human safe after animal testing and went on to kill or maim hundreds of thousands of people, this is a very important discussion to have and sort out once and for all. If Lord Sainsbury and the Research Defense Society are confident that animal experiments work, they should welcome a judicial review of the subject, and it would lay a lot of confusion and conflict to rest once and for all. What is Labour waiting for?
Best wishes,
Alex Bourke, MSc
Vice-Chair, Animals Count political party
Director, Vegetarian Guides
Producer, Animal Rights

Dave H said...

"I don't claim to speak for the estimated 250,000 vegans in the UK (and I suspect that figure's a bit over-stated) but I think it's important to make clear that I, for one, think that these people are idiots, dangerous idiots."

Well put Kerry.

Judi said...

I'm vegan and yet I can't agree with your comments about those SHAC members.
I was once threatened in my own home by hunt thugs who left spine chilling messages on my answering machine, yet not much was done to find and punish them - unlike animal rights people who thanks to people like you are demonised for doing what amounts to very little compared with other minor criminals. Be honest, if it was anyone but animal rights, they'd walk practically free from court, and what's the betting their case would only have been heard in a magistrates court. Plus the press wouldn't even have lifted a pen let alone allow themselves to get into a frenzy as they have with these unfortunate SHAC people. Just the slightest hint of animal rights and any resemblence of who these people really are goes out the window.
For me they are all very compassionate people who just overstepped the mark, but who do not deserve the kind of media attention and condemnation that they are being exposed to. Nor do they deserve you calling them dangerous. Get this into your head; animal rights in its entire history has never, I repeat never killed anyone. If you actually view these people as terrorists, then it's you who has the distorted view of the world, not people like me who see the world as it really is - a cruel place indeed, especially for animals. These poor creatures suffer terror in slaughter houses and their mutilated bodies have the skin ripped from their backs to make leather; sounds to me like they drip with blood, or am I too extreme for you. Have you ever seen the grotesque heads of sheep in a skip? If you have, then you will have seen the look of terror and sheer suffering still on their faces.
Yes, I'm blood angry - NO! I'm bloody furious because MP's who should know better and should be pushing HARD for a more compassionte world are giving in to evil scum like HLS.
There seems to be one law for animal rights and another for hunt thugs and other yobs.
Now for saying this, am I too to be put on the list of dangerous people and convicted for daring to speak out against the notoriuos HLS? Because all that will happen if the authorities don't stop their victimisation of animal rights activists, is that your hardcore (and I use the word loosely) will no doubt go undercover. The majority of very peaceful AR's, who like me have never broken a law in their lives will never stop trying to expose companies like HLS to the public. New laws to curb aninmal rights will never stop the likes of us speaking out against horrific cruelty. I'm already aware that one animal activist is serving a 4 yr sentence for basically doing nothing more than organising peaceful protests against HLS. I happen to know that the Qauker Concern group used to hold protests outside the labs, but the establishment in cahoots with HLS have made sure even these people were stopped from protesting against this vile company.
I wish the accused all the blessings in the world, because with folk like you opposing them, they don't need any enemies. Your kind are the dangerous ones - because you pander to the cruel and by doing so keep the world in blind indifference. It takes more than a change of diet to make the world a better place, it takes guts too!
I don't know how old you are, but you sound very naive to me and easily taken in by those with power.
Remember these SHAC people haven't tortured a baby like baby P, but plenty of people inside HLS will have tortured animals who are just as defenceless. What a pity these animals can't speak, but like baby P I bet they can scream.

dmc said...

Kerry,these evil people have caused real anguish,damage and encouraged violence to innocent people going about their everyday lives and you only call them idiots,nothing stronger.These people as as dangerous as religious extremists and you feebly call them idiots.If they had not been arrested how far would they have gone.
Are you just mouthing platitudes whilst secretly agreeing with them.Or is it because they are labour supporters.

Martin said...

The issue isn't really the cause, it's more the method. They used criminal tactics to reach what is a perfectly valid end, and that's a crime.
It's not ok to do bad things in order to "do good". In fact, it's impossible. Injustice can never lead to justice.

Old Holborn said...

"I don't claim to speak for the estimated 250,000 vegans in the UK (and I suspect that figure's a bit over-stated) but I think it's important to make clear that I, for one, think that these people are idiots, dangerous idiots"

I agree. Vegans are dangerous idiots.

Kerry said...

Well I drafted a slightly rushed but rather comprehensive response to all these comments and then the laptop decided to do one of its logging off so it can restart and install new programs thing... and it was all lost. So here's an even more rushed version...

Dmc - I called them 'dangerous idiots' which I think makes it clear how I feel. And no, I don't secretly agree with them. If I did I could quite easily have avoided the subject altogether, rather than sticking my neck out and getting flack from vegans who see me as betraying the cause.

Alex - I did do some follow up work after we met. I can't remember now if I tabled PQs or wrote to Lord S, but anyway, I had a meeting with his special adviser as a result, and there was some more correspondence. More recently I've been involved in some stuff with BUAV, and in pursuing the issue of what's going on in Europe with the Cosmetics Testing Directive, and where we go next (e.g. household products). And I spoke in Oliver Letwin's slightly bizarre debate on animal testing recently, which I blogged about on here. I agree I could do more, although there are some many other issues! But I don't agree that I'm necessarily the best placed MP to do so. The fact is, I will always be seen as coming at it from an 'emotional' (dare I say, naive?) angle, whereas we really need the support of those MPs with impeccable scientific credentials, such as Dr Ian Gibson and Dr Doug Naysmith. What you will find, however, is that the dynamics of the political debate mean that such MPs often end up spending their time defending what they see as vital animal experiments, rather than focusing on what isn't vital. We need a coalition, not a lone champion.

I would like to see a Royal Commission, and I've tabled Qs about this in the past, Alex. The Govt response is, as I'm sure you know, that the Commission on the 3Rs is doing the same job, and I really think the way forward is to subject that body to close scrutiny, pushing it to do more.

Judi, I am all in favour of the same laws apply to pro-hunt campaigners. I am also very much against the law being used to stop peaceful protests, not least because if people feel they are being denied the right to make their voice heard, then some will turn to more extreme methods. At the moment I'm pursuing some complaints about police behaviour at the Kingsnorth climate camp, which goes to the same point. But how can you talk of your fear at receiving "spine chilling" messages from pro-hunt campaigners, and then "wish the accused all the blessings in the world" for doing pretty much the same thing? That's my exact point - the ends DO NOT justify the means.

Chris, I hope you continue to tell your friends that Labour has done more on animal welfare than any Government in history. And that if they don't recognise that, they'll end up with a PM whose first act will be to repeal the hunting ban.

Dave A - I have similar reasons for you to not being 100% anti, i.e. family members with genetic illnesses. Of course some, such as Alex, dispute the efficacy of animal experimentation, and I've spoken at some length to organisations like EMP about it. But I simply don't feel in a position to be able to make that judgment, and therefore I feel the best use of my time is to focus on those aspects of animal testing that we know to be completely unnecessary, and where we're likely to be successful in the short-to-medium term in getting those experiments stopped.

OH - when I wrote that sentence I considered refining 'these people' so as to avoid someone coming back with your line. But then I thought, why deny them their fun?

OK, I am now going to load up the car with Christmas presents, and I'm off to see my mates for a (vegan) Christmas curry!

Chris Gale said...

"Chris, I hope you continue to tell your friends that Labour has done more on animal welfare than any Government in history. And that if they don't recognise that, they'll end up with a PM whose first act will be to repeal the hunting ban."

A 'ban' that was drafted so that the practice continues virtually uninterrupted, is not enforced and a party and government that do nothing about nor hardly mention the subject, oh whilst at the same time supporting and actively promoting the shooting industry. I'm not sure they will be overly impressed....

Emerald said...

What I can't understand is why vegans and vegetarians don't oppose motor vehicles - they are killing and maiming machines.

"Annually, 1.2 million people die and an additional 50 million people are injured" worldwide.

If you cycle around the country, as I have, you will be horrified and sickened to see the sheer number of bloody corpses, of birds and animals, mangled into the tarmac by motorists. This senseless slaughter is obscene.

Martin said...

The same could be said of combine harvesters, which kill small animals such as shrews and mice which live amongst the crops.
(TIME Magazine, July 15 2002, Pg. 56)

Same logic, the end result being that vegetarians cant eat wheat either- animals are killed producing it.

Emerald said...

It's a tough life, being consistent, just ask the Jains.

Thankfully this particular consistency headache (being against killing animals yet using machines which kill and maim animals on a large scale) is not mine, as it seems to me that H. sap. has evolved as an omnivore. In our ecosystems grazing makes good conservation sense too.