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.