Animal rights activist and
convicted arsonist Barry Horne recently ended his much-publicized hunger
strike after 68 days. Horne, currently serving an 18-year prison term
in the United Kingdom for a series of arson attacks, began his hunger
strike after Britain’s Labour government failed to deliver on a campaign
pledge to create a special commission to examine animal experimentation.
The prolonged hunger strike, however, raised more questions about Horne
and his supporters than about animal experimentation.
At first, Horne’s
hunger strike seemed to energize at least some parts of the animal rights
community on both sides of the Atlantic. Activists in the United States
and Great Britain staged numerous demonstrations and activities in support
of Horne, and some groups began linking their generic protests against
fur or animal experimentation with Horne’s hunger strike. But in
December the whole affair turned into a public relations disaster as the
animal rights terrorists got involved and Horne and his supporters made
a series of blunders.
Everything started to unravel
thanks to UK Animal Liberation Front spokesman Robin Webb. Webb, who made
numerous television appearances during the hunger strike, gave the media
a list he claimed came from the radical Animal Rights Militia. On the
list were the names of four people the ARM claimed would be assassinated
should Horne die.
The list included Christopher
Brown of Hillgrove Farm, who provides animal uses in medical experiments;
Colin Blakemore of Oxford University; Clive Page of King’s College;
and Mark Matfield of the Research Defence Society. Death threats are no
strangers to Brown and Blakemore who have been targeted by UK activists
in an unrelenting campaign of harassment and terror; Blakemore’s
children once received mail bombs intended for him.
Webb tried to distance himself
from the ARM hit list, saying, “we do not condone this,” but
he couldn’t bring himself to condemn the threat of violence either,
and perhaps for good reason. A British television documentary on animal
rights violence included allegations that Webb actively encouraged such
violence. Former ALF member David Hammond claimed, for example, that Webb
was the main force behind the violent animal rights group, the |Justice
Department|. Hammond also claimed that Webb once offered him a sawed-off
shotgun and asked whether he knew Blakemore. Suddenly, Webb was off consulting
with lawyers rather than distributing hit lists.
And then something really strange
happened – amidst all of the talk over who would be killed if he
should died, Horne ended his hunger strike without obtaining any of the
concessions he demanded. This was odd because only several days before
the British newspaper The Observer ran a story quoting Horne
saying, “I want to die. This is the end. In death you win. …
It is not a question of dying. It’s a question of fighting. If I
die, so be it. We have tried to negotiate with the Government. They have
condemned me to death.”
The same story quoted his next-of-kin,
Alison Lawson, saying “It is only a matter of time now [before Horne
Following publication of that
story, however, Horne and the Animals Betrayed Coalition, which has been
the main animal rights group publicizing Horne’s plight, denounced
The Observer’s story and emphatically said that Horne,
in fact, wanted to live. What was going on here?
According to a story published in The Observer a few days after Horne ended his hunger strike, Horne had
planned a long fast but wanted to end his strike well before death, much
as he had done in two previous hunger strikes. Seeing newspaper stories
with quotes from activists such as Tony Humphries suggesting “he
is a dead man” forced Horne’s hand, The Observer argues, and led him to issue the press release insisting he wanted to
live. Some animal rights activists might have wanted a martyr, but Horne
wasn’t willing to play the part.
Ultimately, Horne ended his
hunger strike not only without getting the concessions from the Labour
government he sought, but if anything his actions delayed the creation
of a committee to look at animal experimentation, since the Labour government
doesn’t want to be seen as giving in to blackmail and threats of
political terrorism. The Animals Betrayed Coalition did try to put a positive
spin on the story by claiming Horne decided to end his hunger strike after
examining papers sent to him by the Labour government, but those were
apparently papers Horne had in his possession for some time and which,
in any case, did not grant the assurances Horne sought.
There are many lessons from
the Horne fiasco, the most obvious of which is the extent to which animal
rights activists of all stripes are willing to support terrorists and
terrorist activities, starting with Horne himself. Although Horne wasn’t
willing to die for the cause, he was willing to endanger the lives of
others during the arson campaign for which he is now serving an 18-year
sentence. Horne planted incendiary devices, hidden in a packet of cigarettes,
in stores of which he disapproved. Horne’s activities were particularly
dangerous, however, because he planted his bombs in the products sold
at the stores.
One of his devices, for example,
was hidden in a leather bag which a woman subsequently bought. The device
wasn’t discovered until four months later, after the woman had allowed
her children to play with the bag. Horne’s activities represent an
extraordinarily callous disregard for human life, and he deserves every
single day of his jail term. As Ian Glen, who prosecuted Horne, told the
jury that convicted him, “the risks and dangers to human life were
blindingly obvious and the risks were either run or ignored for the sake
of political beliefs.”
That animal rights activists
would rally around such an individual speaks volumes about the moral compass
of the movement. Animal rights activists like to compare their cause to
the U.S. civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King Jr. and others
didn’t sneak around planting bombs in handbags – in fact the
civil rights movement activists were victims of the sort of violence the
animal rights movement perpetuates.
Medical researcher Colin
Blakemore, one of the targets of the ARM hit list, wrote an op-ed piece
noting something peculiar about those singled out for violence:
[When he was first targeted by activists] I was convinced that openness
offered the only route to understanding. But that very stance angers
the terrorists. It is surely significant that three of the four people
who were actually named for assassination by the Animal Rights Militia,
myself included, have participated in broadcast debates on the use of
animals in the past few weeks. The message is clear: defend yourself,
try to respond to criticism, and you may be killed. The perpetrators
of such tactics are not interested in dialogue: they are a lynch mob
that will not even give their victims the right to defend themselves.
The other important lesson
is that negotiating with terrorists only encourages more terrorism. As
Blakemore points out in his article, Horne and other animal rights activists
have been encouraged by a Labour government that actively courted them
during the most recent election cycle. According to Blakemore, Labour
accepted over 1 million pounds in donations from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and in exchange led animal rights activists to believe
it would convene a commission to look at modifying Great Britain’s
1986 Animals Act which regulates animal experimentation.
The Labour government did
follow throw by banning Cosmetics Testing, which was a rather minor
victory given how few such tests were actually being carried out in the
UK (most such tests are performed in the United States, Japan or France).
The British government should follow Blakemore’s advice and condemn
all animal rights violence and extremism.
I will talk to those who threaten to murder me. Colin Blakemore, Sunday Telegraph (UK), December 1998.
Horne: I’m dying to save ‘tortured’ animals. Yahoo! News, December 6, 1998.
‘I want to die. It’s the end.’ The Observer (UK), December 6, 1998.
Animal activist attacked shops with fire-bombs. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 4, 1997.
‘Ruthless’ animal rights bomber convicted. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 13, 1997.
Horne ends hunger strike. A.J. McIlroy, December 13, 1998.
Revealed: how Barry Horne refused to become a martyr for the cause. The Observer, December 20, 1998.
Animal rights protester ends hunger strike. ITV News, December 14, 1998.
Militant protests target Britain. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 24, 1998.
Police fear backlash if animal activist dies. John Steele, November 26, 1998.
Supporters rally for hunger striker. The BBC, November 29, 1998.
Hunger striker back in jail. The BBC, December 11, 1998.
Ordinary guy heading for martyrdom. The Telegraph, December 7, 1998.
Day 53 of Hunger Strike. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 29, 1998.
Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Release, November 22, 1998.
Prisoner in hunger protest ‘near death.’ The Independent (UK), November 22, 1998.
Animal liberation prisone hunger striker given last rites: Barry Horne to go into intensive care. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 23, 1998.
Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 22, 1998.
ARM lists potential targets. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, December 3, 1998.
Animal rights ‘hit list.’ The Guardian (UK), December 3, 1998.
Dolly Scientists on Security Alert. The Scottsman, December 3, 1998.
We’ll kill 10 if this man dies. The Mirror, December 3, 1998.
Scientists on alert after death threats. The BBC, December 4, 1998.