The Narrative That Animal Rights Activism Is Extremism Must Stop

The animal rights activist community has had a difficult past with the authorities, but this recent document sends a very damaging message.

Perspective Policy Reflections

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The Guardian has revealed that the UK anti-terrorism police released an official document titled “Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism” it contained guidelines on racist and neo-nazi groups such as National Action, alt-right and even Extreme Satanism. The booklet also controversially branded Extinction Rebellion, the environmental protest group, an extremist ideology.

Alongside the warnings regarding XR is a detailed section about the dangers of “Animal Rights Extremism”. The page reveals how to look out for specific behaviour amongst young people who may be consuming content related to “animal liberation”.

The booklet details “What you might see and hear” and outlines the worrying behaviour you would notice if a young person is being exposed to the dangerous ‘extremist’s ideology’ of animal rights activism.

According to the booklet, the concern should arise when young people exhibit opposing views on animal testing, fox hunting, zoos, animals in circuses or even wearing fur. It goes on to say “You may observe behaviour such as no longer eating meat, criticising others who do, or questioning others.”

The booklet also has an interesting highlighted point which reads “While concern for animal welfare is not in itself extreme, activists may encourage vulnerable people to perform acts of violence or commit acts themselves”

The kind of message we are sending young people in the UK is that if you stand up for what you believe in you will be classified alongside terrorists, Satanists, and extremists?

Animal agriculture is a leading cause of; climate breakdown, deforestation, ocean dead zones, river acidification, and species extinction.

There is an incredibly long list of planet-killing effects this industry is having on Earth today. Any rational person with an ounce of ethics in their life understands that this is something we need to change.

Aside from taste and economic profit, there are very few reasons we should continue allowing these industries to desecrate and destroy life on the Earth of tomorrow.

Caring about how animals are treated and standing up for what you believe in, in a nonviolent way, is an essential part of living in a free and democratic society. It is wrong to suggest that animal rights activists potentially could commit violent acts because they care about things like animal welfare, fox hunting or the barbaric fur industry.

The very bedrock of animal rights activism is non-violence. To smear the animal rights and vegan community in this way is a veiled attempt to discredit the work activists do to educate and shift British society away from killing and eating animals.

This is a much needed and positive step for the health of British people, the environment and the wellbeing of billions of animals unnecessarily bred into existence just to be killed, often incredibly violently. Anyone who has spent any time in a slaughterhouse can not suggest that what happens in there is nonviolent.

Factory farming in the UK today is a pale example of what farming once was. Animals live in cramped, squalid conditions, and for many of us, this is an outrage. Animal rights activism is not extreme. Tens of thousands of pigs tightly crammed into a shed covered in their own faeces with nothing to do so that human beings can enjoy their flesh is extreme. Gas chambers where pigs are lowered and their lungs filled with carbon dioxide, so they burn from the inside out screaming in agony. That is extreme.

The truth is that factory farming is a form of extremism, it is damaging the Earth, causing untold suffering, and it is a leading cause of habitat loss and species extinction.

Going vegan in the 21st century, Britain has never been more straightforward. With over 370,000 people joining the annual Veganuary campaign, the numbers of people stepping away from eating meat are staggering.

But despite this, the mainstream media is incredibly duplicitous when it comes to discussing veganism. Media websites often flip flop between supporting the plant-based diet and lifestyle to publishing pieces that actively attempt to discredit and even condemn it.

I spoke with some of the leading voices in the animal rights movement in the UK. Juliet Gellatley founder of Viva! has been campaigning for the rights of animals for well over 20 years said:

“To insinuate that animal rights and vegan campaigners are on a par with Neo-Nazis and Satanists is a deeply worrying, insulting and a spectacularly outdated world view!”

“It is also deeply ironic that we are seen as a security risk by anti-terrorist Police when we are peacefully campaigning to save the life of the entire planet. Meanwhile, those corporations committing ecocide and atrocious animal cruelty are protected and cosseted worldwide.”

A leading voice within the vegan British vegan movement is the Australian animal rights activist Joey Carbstrong. Carbstrong has been featured on many mainstream television programs where he has debated and discussed the topic for several years now. He has routinely been accused of being aggressive or militant by the mainstream media outlets.

Speaking to me about the booklet, he said “I feel it’s absolutely insane that people who are concerned with the abuse and cruelty committed against other sentient members of our planet are put into the same category as those who are motivated by hate and violence. Animal rights activists are motivated by justice and compassion and represent those in the population who care about the suffering of animals.

Isobel Hutchinson, director of Animal Aid, told me “The guidance itself lacks even the most basic understanding of animal protection campaigning. It gives absurd examples of what might be considered extreme behaviour, including taking part in protests against fox hunting – an illegal bloodsport. The section on animal rights should be removed from the guidance. The authorities should focus their efforts on genuine threats to national security, not peaceful campaigners who are simply trying to create a kinder world.”

Abigail Penny director of Animal Equality added ‘A shift away from animal products not only spares animals from needless suffering, but it also has hugely positive effects on the environment, since animal agriculture is a major cause of pollution, biodiversity loss, species extinction and more. It is incredibly alarming to learn that UK Counter-Terrorist Police consider this ‘radical’ and we urge them to remove the animal rights section from this pamphlet as a matter of urgency.”

The question to the authorities is clear, should we be concerned about young people becoming involved with what the government has for many years deemed a dangerous ideology? Or should we encourage our youth to take responsible and nonviolent action to bring change in a world that desperately needs it?

When you fully grasp the magnitude of the problem this industry is causing, any self-respecting young person is frequently compelled to want to stand up and do something about it. This is activism.

But instead, they are branded extremists or militant.

Should the women of the pre-suffrage era have acted moderately and calmly in the hope that men would step out the way and offer them some equality, a slice of the social pie?

By today’s standards, Emmeline Pankhurst and her compatriots would have been branded terrorists as they did use violent methods to get society to sit up and listen.

Humanity stands at a crossroads. Total annihilation, social and environmental meltdown. Or immediate shifts and adjustments to bring about complete social and ecological equilibrium.

As environmental activist Greta Thunberg said in her speech in Paris at the Climate Action Summit in 2019: “We are at the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”

Animal rights activism stands in the way of corporate power, it drives a wedge between the industries of the past and of the future.

Animal rights activism is a nonviolent ideology and indeed not a form of extremism, it calls for kinder, greener, cleaner, plant-based future, something we all should support if we wish to see our children thrive on the Earth of the future.

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