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SHAC Case’s Impact on the Environmental Movement

EcoProtest | 01.01.2009 00:35 | Climate Camp 2008 | Bio-technology | Climate Chaos | Ecology | Cambridge | World

The seemingly unrelated animal rights case’s impact on eco activists!

On December 23rd 2008 4 activists were found guilty for conspiracy to blackmail contract testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) that tests food additives, household products, GMOs and medical products on animals. The campaigners were convicted for their part in SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) who’s stated aim is to close down the company.

After the conviction the media blamed the activists for many different unlawful and intimidating actions taken against Huntingdon and associated companies. Whatever people’s opinion of these actions and the general style and aims of the campaign there is a much wider implication for all campaigners, but specifically the environmental movement.

A recent national media article claimed a lone extremist might be planning an attack aimed at population reduction. It seems to some to indicate that NETCU (National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit) might be turning it’s attention away from animal rights and on to the environmental movement. If this is indeed the situation the impact of this case is well worth taking note of.

The SHAC case seems to imply that the “organisers” of a campaign are fully responsible for everyone that shares their aims. no one is denying direct action was used by some activists against HLS and associated companies and no one is saying the defendants condemned this type of action either. However what is being said is there is no evidence that the defendants were involved in, or incited, the type of actions listed on television reports and which it seems they have been held liable for. Indeed some were still children when some of the actions took place.

So what is to be understood by this case is that a campaign is fully responsible for the actions of all its supporters. A campaign should ‘baby sit’ activists and speak out against every illegal action they make or be faced with responsibility for the other activist’s actions.

This will be a problem for networks and groups like Earth First and Climate Camp the police need only arrest the group organising the EF! gathering, the people who promote Climate Camp etc. and then hold them responsible for the actions of anyone campaigning on the same issue or using the campaign name, anyone taking action against GMOs or who attacked the power station during Climate Camp.

The police no longer need to find and arrest the person who committed the relevant action but can simply imply that the campaign is responsible especially if the campaign supports direct action or carries reports on such actions on their website.

On Monday 19th January there has been a call out for a National Anti-Vivisection Day of Action in support of the SHAC activists that are being sentenced on that day. Because of the direct relevance of this case to environmentalists I ask that regardless of your individual viewpoint on the SHAC campaign or animal testing you do something to support the freedom to campaign. This could be as simple as dedicating an already planned environmental action to the campaigners or holding a small protest.