helping animals out since 1976
Barry Horne and anonymous other with some of the 82 dogs they rescued from Interfauna vivisection laboratory,Cambridge, UK, March 17 (St. Patricks Day!) 1990
“Let ten men meet who are resolved on the lightning of violence. From that moment on, despair ends and tactics begin” Raoul Vaneigum, anarchist poet.
There has been a thin but visible thread of actions against violence against animals on this Island since at least 1635, but particularly since the advent of the Animal Liberation Front in Ireland in 1982.
Hundreds of direct actions are recorded in small articles in regional, and sometimes national, Irish newspapers. When combined into a coherent narrative and timeline, they describe a history of regular and persistent acts of sabotage, vandalism and rescue that would otherwise fade into historical oblivion.
The ALF and similar groups reached their peak in the 1990’s and have slowly receded form the political landscape since around 2010.
Other tactics are now being employed such as the Open Rescue tactic of Meat The Victims.
My part in this history concerns the Hunt Saboteurs, who employ legal forms of direct action in defence of wild animals.
Just a quick note specifically on fox hunting - this Pleasure Killing has nothing to do with 'controlling numbers of foxes' and is not a natural pursuit for the hounds. Nor has it anything to do with 'sport' or helping farmers. Many, perhaps most, farmers hate them. Would you like a riot of dozens of mounted horses and hounds, plus many more hunt support following in a convoy of vehicles, plus a bunch of sabs, charging through your land and scaring the bejasus out of 'your livestock', potentially spreading disease like TB as they do so?
The Hunt get away with it because they are Establishment through and through - many top Police, Judges, Lawyers and politicians are members of Foxhunt Kennels, its a way to connect to other members of the Elite and showcase their Dominion over everyone and everything else. And as for 'controlling numbers' of foxes to help farmers? Utter bullshit of course - do you really think these people devote their time and money into actually helping others with their 'pest control'? Every Saturday? At their own expense? No, they're a hobby and a business, not a 'pest control' charity. When a farmer wants to kill foxes, they employ two professional marksmen to do it at nigh time. Farmers do not want a bunch of half-pissed, arrogant, rich wankers taking advantage of the situation to have a joy ride and a pleasure kill.
In fact there is ample evidence of fox hunters seeking to increase the population of foxes in an area so they have more to hunt!
See here - https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2825555/Hunt-workers-caught-video-feeding-foxes-offal-eggs-bid-boost-population-illegal-hunting.html
and here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdgaPk6yJJI
and here - https://www.itv.com/news/2014-11-04/footage-shows-foxes-being-fed-in-area-where-hunting-takes-place
In more fact, fox hunting enthusiasts introduced the fox to the Isle of Wight in 1865, something they happily admit to in their pompous website https://www.iwfoxhounds.com/history.php
They also introduced foxes to a slightly larger 'island' - Australia - just so they could have fun chasing them to their deaths.
They can't take enough photos of themselves posing with their 'trophy' after the kill, smiling from ear to ear, smearing the blood of the victim onto faces of their children, cutting bits off the carcass as prizes to take home.
Because these people often own sections of the Media, they try to spin the narrative to present what they do as crucial for a healthy countryside and demanded by farmers to stem the population of the fox. The fact of the matter is they are violent, hysterical vandals who seek personal gratification as the expense of others, no better than bear-baiters, just slightly better dressed.
The ALF was started in the UK by Ronnie Lee, a trainee solicitor from Luton, in 1976. It grew out of the Band of Mercy (BoM), which itself was a secretive offshoot of the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA).
The HSA began in 1962 in Devon, south England, initially as an informal direct-action wing of the League Against Cruel Sports. HSA members would go into the hunting field and directly interfere with the hunting process in the hope of saving the quarry, usually a fox or deer. Using voice and horn-calls that mimicked the hunters, or simply distracting the hounds by feeding them loads of meat, the saboteurs often succeeded in firmly spoiling the hunter’s day.
When faced with the inevitable violent reaction from hunters and their supporters, the early activists had one response – run away or curl up into a ball and hope for the best. Misled by Gandhian pacifist theory, they hoped their principled victimhood would nurture sympathy from the public and politicians, and maybe even amongst the hunting fraternity.
But just as the Hippie 1960’s gave way to the abrasive Punk of the 1970’s, attitudes changed.
“As soon as they laid the slightest finger on anyone, we’d attack”hunt saboteur and co-founder of the ALF , Ronnie Lee
Ronnie Lee – Appetite for Destruction
symbol of the Animal Liberation Front
ALF activists pose with two rescued rabbits
By the mid 1970’s Lee and fellow Hunt Saboteurs based around North London decided enough was enough and a new, dramatically different tactic was instigated – from now on, any aggression shown against the sabs would be met by an immediate swarm of violence.
“As soon as they laid the slightest finger on anyone, we’d attack” Ronnie Lee said, “We wouldn’t stand for any of it.” On one occasion, “One of the hunters hit one of the hunt sabs and an all-out fight broke out because we fought back against him.” When it was over, the saboteurs were victorious, and the hunters lay in a ditch writhing in pain.
The hunting fraternities response to this escalation was to notch things up another rung. Raymond Brooks-Ward, Master of the Vale of Aylesbury hunt (much more on them later) and a show jumping commentator on the BBC, formed the Hunt Protection Squad – local thugs who were paid to take on the sabs. They quickly met their match when Lee gathered a squad of sabs who were proficient in karate for a regional hit on the Vale. As three carloads of hunt sabs approached the hunt one Saturday morning, the Hunt Protection Squad ran at their vehicles and pulled open the doors of the leading car - “a boot came flying out and kicked him in the face “says Lee, “they (the karate sabs) were so brilliant. As soon as they started on one guy, all the others ran away because they thought ‘shit these guys are going to kill us.”’
Their stance was initially rejected by the HSA leadership and most other sab groups refused to work with them.
However, this shift was a pivotal moment in the history of the movement. Over time, most hunt saboteurs accepted the necessity of self-defence. A tactic developed where, if a group of sabs were attacked, the following week several other sab groups would descend on that hunt for a day of very intense sabotage. These were known as ‘regional hits’ and proved highly effective in curtailing violence from the hunting fraternity. Where necessary, a ’national hit’ would be arranged. The hunt might have 200 or more sabs turn up, often leading to violence.
Out of this situation the Hunt Retribution Squad formed to go on the offensive against certain Hunts that were felt to be out of control in their aggression against saboteurs.
Not content with bringing the concept of aggressive self-defence into the movement, Lee and a few others formed a secretive offshoot of the HSA he named the Band of Mercy (BoM), after a Victorian anti-vivisection society of the same name. Starting in the autumn of 1973, the half-a-dozen strong BoM’s specialty was to vandalize vehicles and property owned by members of the hunt, either on their property or when their vehicles were parked in quiet country lanes as their owners hunted. Vehicles belonging to the Vale of Aylesbury and other nearby hunts regularly had their tyres slashed, windscreens broken and engines sabotaged.
The range of targets expanded quickly and within a few years the Band of Mercy were burning down vivisection laboratories and boats used for seal culling until the main two activists in the group -Lee and a fellow hunt sab named Cliff Goodman - were apprehended and sent to prison.
Upon release, Lee immediately set up the Animal Liberation Front with about 40 others. Their first action was in 1976 with a raid on the Pfizers laboratory in Kent. Three pregnant beagles were rescued who went on to have 13 pups between them.
Things rapidly escalated from there. Over the next 6 years, the ALF spread all over Great Britain, over the seas to the USA and across mainland Europe and Ireland.
The history of the UK ALF is told in Keith Mann’s excellent book ‘Dusk till Dawn” and elsewhere so I won’t go into too much detail here about that here, but It is important to note a few things about their mindset and strategy to best understand their tactics.
The ALFs stated goal is ‘animal liberation’ – an end to all exploitation by humans on non-human animals.
Its important to understand the ALF are not interested in the publics perception of them. They are not Greenpeace or the RSPCA et al. This is what separates them from most other animal rights groups.
They do not seek approval from or favour with them or Politicians, believing that direct action in defence of animals is justified and necessary.
As most of the public and the economic system are both typically deeply involved in the exploitation of the animal kingdom, their reactions to ALF actions cannot be the barometer of what is considered acceptable in the pursuit of animal rights. To the ALF and others, the question is not what will people think about this or that action. Rather, the question is - what would the animals want us to do for them? Or more pertinently still – what would I want to see happen if I were in the animal’s situation?
From this point of view, the ALF have been a remarkably restrained force.
The ALF are against all violence against any living sentient creature, humans included. Some actions may cause temporary upset and chaos in society or upon certain individuals or Corporations but never physical violence. Shock and Awe, not Shoot and Kill.
This is what separates them from “militant” groups.
- above, picture of fire-damaged seal cull boat after visit from the Band of Mercy, the Wash,UK,1973
- above - the response from the Hunt Saboteurs Association to the boat-burning.They were offering reward money for information about the incident.This was the starting point for direct action for animals : even the supposed 'radical' edge of the movement was offended by the direct action of its own members.And this was done on to save seals and their beautiful pups.If even their cute faces couldnt generate enough sympathy for succesful if illegal acts, what chance did actions for rats in labs have?
left - the first ever communique in 1973 from the first ever organised group of people acting directly for animals that this author is aware of. The Band of Mercy, an informal off-shoot of the Hunt Saboteurs Association, were the precursor to the ALF. The significance of this message, being the first of its kind and widely circulated in the media, cannot be overstated in the history of struggle against violence against animals.
- images all from the ALF SG newsletter #17,p.17/18.
Paranoid Visions' Deko Dachau leads the shout-a-long somewhere in Dublin, circa early 1990's. Paranoid Visions were early and vocal supporters of the ALF. Check them out here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUdGWIdcMyE
The band I was in - Violent Phobia- played with Paranoid Visions a few times in Dublin in the early 1990's.Heres an original track from our 1990 demo tape called, you guessed it, "Animal Abuse (No Excuse)"
ME AT 15 - Crass were right about everything/ME AT 25 - Actually these issues are way more complex, too complex to be summed up in a song/ME AT 35 - Really it comes down to larger, systemic issues beyond the scope of a rock band/ME AT 45 - Crass were right about everything
THE GROUPS OF WRATH - The anarcho-punk movement emerged from the dying embers of the much better known but short-lived punk rock scene of the late 1970's. Rejecting the 'no future' nihilism espoused by the Sex Pistols, bands like Crass offered a more mature, positive and relevant outlook on the world. Alongside bands like Conflict and Flux of Pink Indians, these bands and many others vigorously promoted direct action and animal liberation in their multi-media output. Their influence on the nascent militant animal and environmental movements is hard to overstate.
At a time when young people felt alienated by the political system, anarcho-punk provided a sense of community, urgency and vitality that could never be matched by the mainstream parties or organisations.
BANDS OF MERCY - Jim Steinman, the man who composed Bat Out of Hell amongst many other songs, described his bombastic music in six words - FEVERISH, STRONG, ROMANTIC, VIOLENT, REBELLIOUS, FUN. Coincidentally, these same nouns describe the essences of anarcho -punk.
However, anarcho punks were not the first people to write songs extolling the virtues of empathising with and defending our fellow animal brothers and sisters.
A full 80 or so years before Crass released their first EP and kickstarted the whole movement, a more gentle, less expletive-ridden scene arose called the Band of Mercy (BoM). The BoM were an offshoot of the RSPCA and was aimed at children and adolescents. The BoM held weekly meetings in their locale, gathering the youth to learn and sing songs in praise of kindness toward animals and a willingness to defend them when required. The little rascals were also given to breaking hunters guns and rescuing animals due for vivisection. This was at a time when vivisection was completely unregulated and could be performed by anyone, anywhere.
The BoM's were huge in Britain and the USA at the turn of the 20th century - the US had 27,000 chapters and a full 3% of United States citizens aged between 5 and 15 were signed up.
Each member pledged to do "all in our power to protect animals from cruel usage, and to promote as far as we can their humane treatment."
Lyrics from their songs could be quite militant and often soaked in religious references as reflected the times they were written in .Some lyrics could have come straight from a Conflict song - “Stand by your conscience, your honour, your faith, / Stand like a hero and battle till death” ; "Marshall forth the Bands of Mercy o'er all the Earth , till war oppression and hatred cease, In the reign of liberty love and peace". Listen to the BoM song "Liberty, Love and Peace " as, sung by the 2019 BoM summer camp Choir - https://ongcdh.org/education/british-19th-century-childrens-hymns/liberty-love-and-peace?path=bands-of-mercy-songs
The target of the first wave of punks were the likes of the double-guitar playing hippie on the right. His problem is that he's too good on the guitar. Alienated by pompous rock stars, Punk created a fresh and bright alternative that collapsed quickly under the weight of its own contradictions. Sid Vicious epitomises the emptiness and self-destruction of much of this movement. His problem was that he couldn't play the guitar at all. That, and a massive heroin addiction and a psychotic girlfriend. Manipulated by Svengalis like Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, Punks original cohort was doomed to capitalist exploitation and hard drug addiction. Killed by cash and coke.
Fortunately the black flag was wrested from their dead hands and the energy and vitality of Punk was born again in squats and gig halls across these islands, back underground where it belongs.
A CHORUS OF DISAPROVAL
this punk is dead
above - a typical Band of Mercy chapter in the United States, circa 1890
THIS IS THE A.L.F.
What does Direct Action Mean?
It means that you are no longer prepared to sit back and allow terrible,
cruel things to happen. The camerman in Ethiopia took direct action,
he filmed the worst disaster that has ever happened to human beings. He
realised it was too enormous a problem to handle himself - so he took the
films home in the hope other people would help. They did. Are you prepared
to sit back any longer? Direct action in animal rights means causing
economic damage to those who abuse and make profits from exploitation.
It's possible to do things alone, slash tyres, glue up locks, butchers,
burger bars, the furriers, smash windows, bankrupt the lot. Throw paint over
shops and houses. Paint stripper works great on cars. Chewing gum sticks
well to fur coats. A seized engine just won't start, sand in the petrol tank
means that delivery's going nowhere. When the new death shop opens up make
sure you're the first person to be there. If the circus comes to town
remember what goes up must come down. Stop contributing to the abuse
yourself - don't eat meat, don't buy leather. Buy non-animal tested make up,
herbal soap and shampoo's better.
Try and form a group of people that you know that you can trust and plan
ambitious direct action, sometimes risky but a must. Only when you have
animal liberation will we obtain human freedom, when the last
vivisectionist's blade is snapped. It will be that one step nearer to peace.
Direct action in the animal movement is sussed and strong, and our final
goal is not far off.
Animal lovers, vandals, hooligans, cranks; recognise the labels? They say we
don't care about human beings. We say all sentient beings, animal or human
have the right to live, free from pain, torture and suffering. They say
because we are human and speak the same, we matter more. Is our pain and
suffering any greater or lesser than that of animals? Human v. animal rights
is as much a prejudice as black v. white or the nazis versus the jews an
affront to our freedom.
Vivisection is a violation of human beings, the same as it is for animals.
We have a chemical world built on a pile of drugs to thanks for their
experiments. Drugs are designed for profit, manufactured to suppress
symptoms. Human freedom, animal rights. It's one struggle, one fight.
When animal abuse is stopped then human abuse will soon stop also, an
attitude of mind. "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind".
Start by protecting the weak, the defenceless, animals, the sick, the
disabled. Compassion and emotion are our most important safety values.
If we lose them, then 'we lose' the vitality of life itself.
Emotional? Hooligans? Cranks?....
above- Colin Jerwood, singer with Conflict.
Not to be confused with the many other Colin Jerwoods. Conflict in particular pushed a vigorous endorsement of the ALF and hunt sabotage,writing anthems and raising money and recruits for the quickly expanding movement in the 1980's. Their song "This is the A.L.F." is a good example. From "the Ungovernable Force" album ,1986 . Listen to the song here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpw6yDfM1QI (lyrics above)
COMBAT ROCK ...Ronnie Lee, co-founder of the ALF, was himself an anarchist punk and sang in the short-lived Total Attack. Here they are live in Slough no less, 1980, Lee is in the middle with microphone.
KILLER WAILS - In 1979 they sent their demo tape to John Peel hoping it would get airplay. The box the tape was sent in had been covered in ALF type slogans by Ronnie and when it arrived on Peels desk at BBC it was assumed by staff to be a suspect device so they threw it into a bucket of water! Now that's Punk Rock.
Blow your ears off and have a listen to their suspect device here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZTGazVry30
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
NEVER MIND THE SEX PISTOLS
ANARCHISTS IN THE U.K.
listen to Crass song " Have a Nice Day" from their final album "Best Before 1984" here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3Lk0_AC6sE (hang on to your socks coz theyre about to be knocked off)
hear them live with splices of sound collage here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vclV7dmlFsU
Crass live - forever on the verge of exploding ...
they got the guns but we got the numbers
Huntsman using his horse as a battering ram against saboteurs, Nottingham, circa mid 1990's, photo by Andrew Testa.
THE END OF THEIR WORLD IS NIGH
"...if we are vandals, so are those who destroyed forever the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Auschwitz.." anonymous ALF activist
brand new interview with the Author on Irish Left Archive podcast
In this episode we talk to Mark Fitzpatrick. Mark is an animal rights and vegan activist originally from Cork and now based in New Zealand, where he is on the board of the Vegan Society of Aotearoa .
We discuss Mark’s politicisation in the anarcho-punk scene in Cork in the late 1980s, his involvement in hunt sabotage in Ireland and the UK, his perspective on the animal rights movement and its relationship with the Left, and his newly launched website project to document the history of animal rights in Ireland, The Humanity Trigger .
Listeners can also hear Mark discuss hunt sabotage and the police response in more detail on episode 17 of the Policed podcast , from February 2021.
above left - hunt sabs demonstrate outside a Police Station in the west of Ireland protesting biased policing against them,picture from the Limerick Leader, Saturday January 25th,2020. above right - five hunt sabs await Trial outside Culmstock Courthose, Devon, at the first ever Court case involving saboteurs, 1964.
above - GOONS FOR HIRE -staunch Saboteur Irish Kev' faces down the Surrey Union fox Hunts private security, circa early 1990's. When the Union, and other Hunts, hired local thugs to beat up Saboteurs, their violence was matched thricefold by Saboteur counter-violence. Pitched battles between sometimes hundreds of people erupted in (usually) quiet countryside lanes and valleys throughout the 1990's as the Hunting fraternity fought desperately to survive in the face of continuous waves of hunt sabotage across the British Isles.
above - cops and nobbers.
The 'social elite' who enjoy bloodsports are a breed apart - they enjoy the perks of owning their own private security force (AKA the public police), coupled with friends in high places such as the House of Lords and the media. Disassociated from the rest of society by extreme wealth and privilege, they imagine themselves to be an indispensable part of the 'natural order of things', with them on top of course. Foxhunting is one of those few areas where different Classes directly intermingle and you will see a microcosm of the System at play.
eliciting pearl-clutching histrionics since 1822
DIRECT ACTION FOR ANIMALS
62 animal rights activists from 269 Libération Animale occupied the Sicarev slaughterhouse in Roanne, France, for over 13 hours yesterday completely blocking the “production” line. Workers at the death factory abandoned their posts.