freedomtoprotest | 29.10.2004 10:49
It is hard to miss this week the fact that an old woman was ‘disinterred’ in Staffordshire and parts of her body removed. The victim, one Mrs Hammond, was the mother-in-law of one Chris Hall of Darly Oaks Farm, Newchurch. Mr Hall’s claim to fame is that he and his brothers own one of the largest guinea pig breeding establishments in the country, catering exclusively for laboratories such as Huntingdon Life Sciences.
However, the response of the animal rights movement has been one of bewilderment. It is an action they feel is completely out of character with the movement, and most have expressed repulsion at even going near a dead body, let alone removing parts of it. Many campaigners have condemned the action. As a result, there is a strong suspicion that this was not an action by animal rights activists at all, but part of a larger dirty tricks campaign that has been suspected for some time. However, to see the evidence of this campaign, we need to understand a bit about the state of the struggle against vivisection.
For the past few years there has been a vigourous campaign against the Newchurch breeders by animal rights campaigners, with a large variety of actions, legal and illegal taking place against them. Though some sections of the media only discovered it in August and September of this year, having temporarily run out of material to fuel the crusade against grassroots anti-vivisection campaigns, one of the most success movements of recent times. Hence mainstream media has immediately leaped to the conclusion that this latest incident must also be the work of animal rights activists related to this campaign, It has fed the latest round of the spectacular anti-animal rights media frenzy which has been going on since the start of the summer.
Grave-digging is not unknown to the movement, though one has to go back to the early 1980s to find instances. An organisation called the “Hunt Retribution Squad” dug up the grave of the Duke of Beaufort who was known as the “father of modern foxhunting”. In this incident they did not disturb the coffin or body. An attempt to dig up the grave of another hunting ‘legend’, one John Peel, in the 1980s has been rumoured, but we have not had any confirmation of that. At least one person involved in the Duke of Beaufort incident, John Curtin, received two years in jail.
ANTI VIVISECTION MOVEMENT
Lets step back a moment and look at another significant set of events happening in the anti-vivisection movement at the moment. The anti-vivisection movement has never been so strong and the pharmaceutical industry is feeling the brunt of it. They in turn are putting immense pressure on the Government to deal with the movement. The heads of massive multinationals such as GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are coming out making statements about how hostile the UK is to do animal research. This is an industry with a lot of clout with the Government. Tony Blair and his very pro-biotech Science Minister, Lord David Sainsbury have been making promises for two years now that they were on the case of the activists and would turn the tide against them. However, in January this year, animal rights protestors once again had the upper hand, when they force Cambridge University to abandon plans to build Europe’s largest primate research centre.
The pharmaceutical and biotech industries were livid and said as much in public interviews. Ultimatums were thrown down – sort out the activists who were being devastatingly effective against companies such as Huntingdon Life Sciences, and elsewhere, and which were now said to be costing the economy in the billions of pounds. The stakes had increased greatly and the battle moved to higher levels. It was no longer individual companies at issue – the future of vivisection in Britain was now at stake.
The activists were already one step ahead. Having learned that another animal laboratory was being built by Oxford University, and that it would take up some of the Cambridge experiments, they switched attention to it. The result is that Oxford University has found itself host to the battleground as whichever side wins at Oxford will probably be able to shape the future of the movement. If the lab is finished and filled with animals, the Government can claim it is winning the battle against the animal rights protestors. If the lab fails to go ahead, the Government will lose the confidence of the pharmaceutical industry, many who have said they will take their business out of the UK.
With so much at stake it is not surprising that the State will fight back harder, something activists around the country testify to. The ongoing hysteria in mainstream media is just one aspect of a campaign against their very existence as a movement.
A solicitor-advocate, Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden, came up with one answer for the Government and industry. Having been involved in drafting the “Stalking Act” – properly known as the Protection from Harassment Act 1997”, he realised that it could be applied to protest campaigns. And there was money to be made in the process.
More than David Blunkett or Michael Howard, Mr Lawson-Cruttenden has gone the farthest in suppressing the right to protest by tarnishing all legal activists with the same brush as those working underground. Over the last two years 14 companies involved in vivisection have taken out injunctions against campaigners claiming harassment, in the hope that it will curb the protests. Studying the number of actions since then, it appears that the only effect was to spur the underground to be more active than ever.
Nevertheless, much emphasis remains on highly prohibitive injunctions as a way of breaking the anti-vivisection movement. However, to get the injunctions granted even on a temporary basis (none have actually come to a full trial yet), the evidence has run into technical problems – that is they are having problems pinning the blame on people as most of the ‘juicy’ stuff is done anonymously.
Most of the evidence being put before the courts is hearsay in nature, or from campaign websites. This gives Mr Lawson-Cruttenden and the Government a problem. Already the Government have had to put in a change to the Civil Procedures Rules, which govern the processes of civil injunctions in the High Court, to bypass at least one defendant’s tactic threatening to scupper the injunctions.
However, to get the injunctions through on the back of poor evidence they need a greater level of manipulation. Mr Lawson-Cruttenden is well-known for press releasing the outcome of hearings before they are even formalised to the mainstream media, but it will appear that there are some prepared to go further. It is suspected that there have been attempts to manipulate the judiciary as well.
And this brings us back to Mrs Hammond. Oxford University have also brought out an injunction. The temporary hearings for an interim one to be granted are currently going through the High Court. Named on this injunction is the same Mr John Curtin, though the most he has ever done against Oxford University has been to attend two national demonstrations early in 2004.
Indeed, campaigners close to the case have pointed out repeatedly that there is very little evidence tying in the majority of the defendants (three people and seven ‘organisations’) to any forms of harassment or illegal activity against Oxford University. The ‘crime’ of some groups is simple to express agreement with the aims that the new research labs should not be built.
However, Mrs Hammond had her remains removed just in time for it to make all the national media on the day Judge Grigson was to listen to a tape of an interview John Curtin did with a BBC were he talked about his life as an activist, including his sentence for digging up the Duke of Beaufort.
An outrageous act done to fit in with an important court case, and with an impact that could only have negative impacts on the animal rights movement - it is not hard to see why campaigners are expressing reservations over who actually carried it out. After all, it does not really match the animal rights style of campaigning, seems rather irrelevant to the campaign against the Newchurch farm and plays directly into the hands of the pro-vivisection lobby and the state.
This by itself is not evidence of a dirty tricks campaign - but, it does fit a pattern of controversial stuff happening in time for court cases to do with the in injunctions. Prior to poor Mrs Hammond being removed from her resting place, the most noted case was the publication of a website known as “Yamanouchi Are Scum”, named for a customer of Huntingdon Life Sciences. This website, briefly advertised through a small animal rights news forum, published the details of some of Mr Lawson-Cruttenden family and much more personal details of a number of the judges who to that date had been dealing with the injunction hearings.
The website’s life was supernaturally short, by any standard, and most animal rights activist never got to see it. Indeed, most only heard about it when the media managed to learn about it... Yet Mr Lawson-Cruttenden managed to secure a copy where most animal rights people failed, and has gleefully inserted it as evidence in all his injunctions.
Very unusual for animal rights websites, it didn’t mention the addresses of any animal abusers, but focused on the judiciary. It appeared at just the right time to scare the judiciary – there is now an apparent policy that no High Court judge does a sitting relating to the injunctions more than once. The singular effect of the website, notwithstanding its failure to be repeated or be released to the animal rights movement at large, was negative to the animal right movement and particular those fighting injunctions. It cannot but have helped to affect their case negatively in the court, and did no favours in the mainstream media. The timing and the speed with which it was taken down all indicate that all is not what it seems.
A second attempt at this sort of stunt was the slightly longer lived “Badgers United Against Vivisection” – a crude attempt to implicate the rather straight campaigning group British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection”. In this case, the timing also coincided with a hearing for the Oxford University injunction, and it named the home addresses of some of its top people, along with various Government ministers and bizarrely, anti-vivisectionist Gill Langley.
This time campaigners were quicker off the mark to deal with it, so it did not make as big a splash as the first one. However, campaigners once again expressed concern about the timing and the way in which the information was disseminated. One activist noted that an email announcing the site was sent to an address that they do not use with other animal rights activists. There are questions about where the information on the websites, which we can verify is detailed and personal in nature, came from. Just how does one find home addresses of a judge and their mother-in-law?
Another activist asked why, if people are taking this sort of risk and effort, is it not spent on people working on behalf of the vivisectors or the supporting industries. Campaigners cannot point the finger at any one organisation as being behind this, though they will tell you that the MI5 have stated that they will be involved in dealing with the animal rights movement.
Others point the suspicion at Mr Lawson-Cruttenden, saying that he seems to be far too well in the know and point to the fact that he obtained the Yamanouchi Are Scum” well before most animal rights activists knew it existed. It has also been learned that Mr Lawson Cruttenden, who runs his own firm in London and when not otherwise defending vivisection companies does court martial cases for the military, has a number of complaints against him going before the Law Society, who regulate this industry.
This is the same Lawson-Cruttenden who knows about things far too fast and is very friendly with the police who sit behind him in court. You will find few campaigners who would disagree with the statement that he is somehow in on all of this, with people who would go so far as to dig up a grave.
Whether the evidence is sufficient to prove that there is a dirty tricks operation or not is debatable, but you will find many animal campaigners expressing their suspicion about the motives of those behind these incidents. Certainly they believe that not all is right. Certainly there are strong questions about just who is benefiting.
Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) – www.liberation-now.org.uk
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) – www.shac.net
SPEAK Campaigns (Oxford University) – www.speakcampaigns.org.uk
BiteBack magazine – www.directaction.info
Timothy Laswon-Cruttenden – www.lawson-cruttenden.co.uk
Other articles on Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden