How long have you been involved in animal advocacy, and how did you first get
I became involved well over twenty years ago; it must be approaching
the quarter-century soon.
The catalyst occurred shortly after taking a new
job at an electronics company that, unrecognised by me at the time, was next door
to a small slaughterhouse. Seeing the trucks began to play on my mind until, one
day, I went for a lunchtime walk and saw some pigs being unloaded. Sitting at
my desk during the afternoon I could smell them and hear them. That evening, I
arrived home and found my partner, Margaret, had prepared pork chops for dinner.
I made the connection; the blinds were torn from my eyes . . . I couldnt
eat a part of what I at last perceived to be an individual with their own feelings
There and then we became vegetarian. With Margaret coming from
a rural farming area, so that we had some dormant knowledge of the agricultural
scene, progression to the vegan way of life, although not easy back then, took
just three months. Finding out also about the horrors of vivisection and perceiving,
at last, the many other abuses made that a pretty traumatic time for both of us.
How did you end up taking on the role of being the British A.L.F. Press Officer?
Lee, co-founder of the A.L.F., was the first press officer. At that time the press
office was part of the A.L.F. Supporters Group (the SG). In 1986, Ronnie was tried
at Sheffield Crown Court, in the U.K., and convicted of conspiring to incite persons
unknown to commit criminal damage and arson. When Ronnie was arrested Robin Lane
took over the role of press officer, still a part of the SG, which lasted until
his conviction despite me being a defense witness! on similar charges
at Cardiff Crown Court in May 1988.
To protect the essential work of the
SG, prisoner welfare, etc, it was thought unwise to maintain a formal spokesperson
following Robin Lanes arrest in 1987. Unfortunately, this gave free rein
in the news media for anti-A.L.F. quotes from animal abusers. Unsympathetic national
animal rights groups also took advantage with comments such as the
now-infamous setting the movement back ten years. Pro-A.L.F. voices
came only from those who had been convicted of A.L.F. activity, served a sentence,
and could thus be presented as ex-A.L.F. activists. The main problem
with that was the media wanted immediate access to a spokesperson without having
to track down one of several people who may or may not be available at that time!
during 1991 it was decided that it would be a good thing to once again have a
formal spokesperson to put the A.L.F.s point of view across. But who? And
how to protect the SG from charges of conspiracy and incitement?
time I was, among other things, a member of the RSPCAs (Royal Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) ruling council, therefore enjoying a so-called
respectable, responsible image. I had also, for example, known Ronnie for around
ten years and had defended the A.L.F.s philosophy and actions on several
To cut a long story short, on 31st October 1991... Halloween
... it was announced that the A.L.F. Press Office had been created as a unit independent
of the SG, with myself as press officer. One of my main policies from that time
on has been never to criticise any action, whatever it may be, so long as it has
been undertaken with the sincere intention of furthering animal liberation.
What role do you see direct action groups like the A.L.F. playing in the Animal
The Animal Liberation Front, together with more
radical groups such as the Animal Rights Militia and Justice Department, is the
hard cutting edge of the war against abuse and exploitation of the weak and innocent,
irrespective of gender, race or species. Education, outreach, lobbying politicians,
sanctuary work and similar paths of action are all important in their own ways.
But, history has shown, with the struggles against slavery and for the emancipation
of women as two examples, that saying Please for change is rarely
sufficient. The State and the Establishment have to be challenged; they have to
be fought, because change to benefit the underprivileged will never be given freely
by those who benefit from privilege.
The question should not be Do
you support the A.L.F.? The question should be Are we all fighting
for the same ends?
If we are all fighting for the same ends, animal
liberation, then we must expend our energies in criticism of the abusers rather
than of those whose goals are the same but whose tactics may differ.
How would you deal with someone who says they want to join the A.L.F.?
may be reasonably argued that one is only a member of the A.L.F. whilst actually
undertaking an A.L.F. action. There is no membership list of elite compassionate
The A.L.F. has had, and retains, an unchanging triad of policies.
One, to rescue individual animals from suffering or potential suffering then place
them in good, permanent homes or, where appropriate, release them into their natural
Two, to damage or destroy property and equipment associated
with animal abuse. That has a dual effect. It takes that property out of the arena
of animal abuse, so that it can no longer be used to cause harm. Also, it compounds
the economic loss by increasing insurance premiums and security costs not just
for the company or institution attacked, but also across that whole discipline
of exploitation. The simple intention is to price them out of business.
third policy is to take every reasonable precaution not to harm or endanger life,
either human or non-human.
Anyone, so long as they follow at least a vegetarianbut
preferably veganlifestyle, can go out and undertake an action that falls
within those policies and claim it as the Animal Liberation Front. There is no
hierarchy; there are no leaders. There is just a compulsion to follow your heart
in pursuit of justice. That is why the A.L.F. cannot be smashed, it cannot be
effectively infiltrated, it cannot be stopped. You, each and every one of you:
you are the A.L.F.
And if someone wishes to act as the Animal Rights Militia
or the Justice Department? Simply put, the third policy of the A.L.F. no longer
NC: What value do you see in talking to the media about A.L.F.
actions, and what is the media image of the animal liberation movement like in
The value in talking to the news media lays not just in explaining
why some good people are prepared to work outside current legislation and risk
their freedom but also in being able to reveal the obscenities behind whatever
area of abuse or exploitation has been attacked and highlighted. Of course, the
news media will misquote, edit and even make up what one is supposed to have said.
For that reason I prefer live radio or television where no editor can interfere
with my words.
The media image of A.L.F. activists in the UK was originally
one of typical British animal welfarists who, being a bit eccentric, are
maybe going a bit far but, after all, eccentricity is a national trait
to be proud of.
Then, during the mid-1980s, department stores that
had refused to remove fur from their stocks began to burn down. The great god
Profit was really under threat. Suddenly, almost overnight, these
cuddly eccentrics became transformed by the media no doubt
at the behest of those behind their financial considerations into axe-wielding,
baby-eating maniacs who were a threat to the very fabric of society!
a personal point of view, I seem to have settled into a role of the acceptable
face of terrorism but Im not too sure what they mean by that. Certainly
Im the only person within the U.K. whos been the victim of quadruple
jeopardy! I guess thats some kind of compliment?
NC: With those
last comments in mind, how have the authorities viewed the press office?
couple of brilliant activists, Keith Mann and Vivien Smith, were arrested on active
service, so to speak, two weeks before the new press office was introduced. They
had information with them about the forthcoming launch so my home was raided almost
immediately, which was a pretty good start! Ive been arrested many times
by various police forces including the anti-terrorist squad (SO-13) and one time
I was imprisoned for seven months without trial having been told by a senior police
officer, were going to lock you up to shut you up ... that,
together with travel restrictions, gagging orders and, on one occasion, police
forces so eager to get evidence against me that one force which raided
my home subsequently seized more of my property from another force that had beaten
them to it. The National Union of Journalists described some of this as an
extraordinary vendetta against me. And the secret service working with the
security forces tried to set me up with a sawn-off shotgun, presumably to portray
the movement as violent. That took two years to get the case thrown out ... and
that was only achieved because the State wanted to avoid disclosing its role in
Of course, late last year I undertook my first visit to
the United States, intending to stay for just five days. Eight days in the County
Jail and four months without my passport later... for simply walking across some
grass... I finally got home owing U.S. lawyers several thousand dollars and thinking
maybe the U.K. isnt so bad after all! Thanks are due the FBI for being so
concerned about me whilst a guest in your country by accompanying me almost everywhere
NC: How do you deal with questions that suggest the use of arson
is dangerous, or that economic sabotage is violent? And what do you say when asked
about non-A.L.F. actions that involve real violence (or the threat thereof)?
A.L.F, as well as its predecessor, the Band of Mercy, has used arson as a tactic
for some thirty years with no one having been seriously harmed. The suffragettes
used arson as a tactic and history has not condemned their actions. I believe
that history will show that animal liberation, the ultimate liberation struggle,
was equally justified in its use of such tactics.
Economic sabotage cannot
be violent. Violence can only perpetrated against a being that has
awareness, who can perceive that they are on the receiving end of violence. A
door, a meat truck, a vivisection laboratory: these are not sentient. How can
one be violent against a thing that has no feelings? Of course, there
is in our society wanton, mindless violence just for kicks but that
falls into quite a different category from what may be termed constructive
The avowed use of violence by the Animal Rights Militia
and Justice Department has, so far, been more threatened than actual. The overwhelming
violence is against the countless hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters
every year on the farms, in the vivisection laboratories, in the circuses and
zoos and all the other hellholes. Also, let us not forget our own species
suffering while we still have child labour, slavery and prejudice in this world.
only human deaths and serious injuries have been against animal liberation activists,
against hunt saboteurs, against those fighting for a just world. I am confident
that, if the animals could fight for themselves, we would have seen a heck of
a lot of dead animal abusers already.
How can people in our movement have
condemned the A.L.F.s economic sabotage as violence whilst, for example,
supporting Nelson Mandela during the ANCs armed struggle? To do so is speciesist.
The simple question is: Is short-term violence justifiable in pursuit of
a long-term peace? I leave the answer to each individuals conscience.
This issues focus section is on Going the Distance for animal
liberation. Amongst other things it examines why so many activists burnout or
leave the movement. What do you feel causes this to happen, and how do you stay
motivated and active?
Why do people burn out and leave the movement?
I would guess for a number of reasons. The seemingly slow rate of progress towards
our goal is one. But we still have slavery, racism, sexism and all the other -isms
within our own species after so many years of fighting such injustices. It is
going to be a long, hard struggle to achieve animal liberation. All I can offer
is that slow progress certainly doesnt mean defeat.
problem, if you can call it that, is that the animal liberation movement is now
established. People no longer feel they are part of building a movement. Like
other long-established campaigns they can walk in at one end and walk out the
other without thinking they have made a difference. But they have made a difference
and I wish they would stay with it and continue to make a difference.
proliferation of movements and concerns may be another motive, diverting peoples
involvement elsewhere, but animal liberation is the ultimate, all-encompassing
movement. Once we respect individuals of other species we will automatically respect
our own. Once we recognise that those species, those nations, so much older than
ours have a right to their own air, land or ocean on this planet then we will
strive harder to protect it and save it. I cannot conceive of a single human concern
that the achievement of animal liberation would not solve.
How do I stay
motivated? Well, my batteries do get low; sometimes the road looks too hard or
the direction signs seem confusing. Then I cast into my memory for stories of
suffering of individuals. I dont mean the vast horrors of vivisection or
animal farming or the fishing industry that are on a scale beyond comprehension;
Im talking about the suffering of an individual mouse or an individual sparrow
or an individual underprivileged person. Then I get angry; I get very angry, but
that anger is channelled into energy, into determination. Once I recognised, so
many years ago, the injustices of life I had to something about it. Ive
worked and campaigned with the physically disadvantaged, Ive been a trade
union activist and now Im fighting for something that covers all the wrongs
of this world. How can I stop? How can I not be motivated by what Ive learned
over the years?
NC: Do you feel that the animal liberation movement has
made much progress over the years? And where do you see the movement going in
the years to come?
Progress has been made but some would say it has
been too slow. Think of how many tens of thousands of years weve had animal
exploitation, both human and non-human. Now think of the last twenty years alone:
Theres been an explosion of vegan fare in major supermarkets soya
milks, tofu products, and non-dairy chocolate. Boots and shoes, coats and pants
can be made free from fur, leather, suede, silk and wool. Public awareness has
never been greater since the A.L.F. and undercover investigators declared war
on the A-B-C-D syndrome (animals behind closed doors). Yes, weve
made progress and we should be pleased and proud. But, its not enough. Its
not nearly enough. As with slavery, welfare is not the answer; total abolition
is the only cure. To wipe all abuse and exploitation from the face of this world
must be our demand.
I try to explain that, while theres one individual
anywhere in this world being abused or exploited its one too many. The warand
it is a warfor animal liberation will continue until that one individual
is free and we have a just world, a free world, a world where every individual
can live in peace.
Where do I see the movement going in the years to come?
Towards that very goal ... surely thats worth fighting for with every weapon
at our disposal? Thanks for listening and good luck to you all. Well, go on...
what are you waiting for?