Crossposted at Thomas Paine’s Corner thanks, Jason.
Steve Best speaking to a group of anti-vivisection activists before the UK implemented its own version of the Iron Curtain
By Steve Best
Thomas Paine’s Corner
“God save the Queen
the fascist regime
they made you a moron
a potential H-bomb.
Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
all crimes are paid.
When there’s no future
how can there be sin
we’re the flowers
in the dustbin
we’re the poison
in your human machine
we’re the future
— Sex Pistols
“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” —Frederick Douglass
I have a deep, abiding, ethical concern with the suffering of animals. In the late 1980s, when I was a committed human rights activist, the animal rights struggle became my ultimate choice and existential meaning. The more I learned about the enormity of animal suffering, the more radical my positions became, shifting from animal welfare to animal rights to animal liberation, and finally to total liberation politics that articulates human, animal, and Earth liberation struggles as an inseparable unity that must be conceived of and fought for together.
In 1999, I decided to take a public and very controversial stand in support of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). This group emerged in England in 1976, and quickly spread throughout the world, such that it is now active in over three dozen countries. The ALF is the newest anti-slavery and abolitionist struggle on the planet; ALF principles are rooted in a rights framework that rejects any form of animal exploitation as unjust and renounces all welfarist attempts to regulate rather than to wreck institutions of oppression as unacceptable and antithetical to liberationist goals.
The ALF is an underground movement that operates in decentralized and autonomous cells unknown to the aboveground world and to all other cells as well. Typically working at night and always covered by black masks, setting right the wrong inscribed in the law, the ALF breaks into laboratories, compound, and cages of any kind to free animals from their captors and tormentors. The ALF uses tactics of economic sabotage or property destruction to undermine or eliminate the ability of individuals and industries to exploit animals for profit. Despite using tactics of sabotage and even arson, the ALF adheres to a nonviolent ethic that attacks the property of exploiters, but never the exploiters themselves.
After careful study of the ALF’s history, philosophy, ethics, and tactics, and after consideration of their goals and results, I concluded that such as approach is defensible, just, and highly effective, and thereby should play a vital and respected role in the animal rights movement. Governments, corporate exploiters, much of the media and public, and even many so-called “animal advocates” themselves characterize the ALF as violent terrorists, but I see them as freedom fighters and counter-terrorists. The ALF is part of a new peace and justice movement defending innocent beings under attack and fighting the real terrorists who torture and kill animals without justification.
Against a repressively established social “consensus,” I argue that ALF actions are defensible because (1) what happens to animals is wrong, and (2) legal channels to stop it are blocked by speciesism and corrupt governments that support the property rights of industries over the moral rights of animals.
I believe that no door, no law, no cop, no government, and no profit margin should stand in the way between an animal and its freedom. I wish that legal methods of animal liberation were adequate to free animals from their oppressors, but they are not. Governments are corrupt and speciesist and serve their corporate masters. Animals are too important a resource and commodity for corporations to voluntarily free them, and so animal liberation requires militant tactics such as raids to rescue animals and sabotage (property destruction) to weaken and eliminate oppressors.
Social change does not come about through moral persuasion or legislative initiatives, but rather through one kind of force and pressure or another. No human liberation movement has ever won its cause except by using threats, force, confrontational tactics, and violence, so why should it be any different for the animal liberation movement?
The New Civil War
“Many activists do not understand the revolutionary nature of this movement. We are fighting a major war, defending animals and our very planet from human greed and destruction.” —David Barbarash, former ALF Press Officer
Anyone who follows the animal liberation movement in England knows that the direct action element has become increasingly powerful since the 1970s. By abandoning often futile efforts to influence oppressors through feeble protests and appeals to government, and by taking the fight directly to the animal exploiters themselves, groups such as the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), SPEAK (originally named Stop Primate Experiments at Cambridge), and Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) have developed highly effective campaigns against all facets of the vivisection industry, a primary target of attack.
If you want to know what a possible future civil war over animal rights might look like, gaze no farther than England. In the last decade, for instance, pro-hunting forces have mounted massive demonstrations against bans on fox-hunting that were ultimately passed. In September 2004, pro-hunters stormed into central London where they clashed with animal activists, mixed it up with police, and broke into Parliament and disrupted a meeting in session. The struggles stem in part from a culture war whereby traditional rural values are attacked by modern urban values informed by an ethic of animal rights.
Similarly, in the last decade, activists have come after the vivisection industry with tornadic force, attacking it in the countryside and cities, in the village farms and university laboratories. Liberationists have shut down numerous lab animal breeders, stopped the construction of a new vivisection complex in Cambridge, and nearly achieved the same stunning results at Oxford University. They have captured the social spotlight and mounted a formidable threat to research and testing companies of huge economic importance. The biomedical and pharmaceutical industries are the third largest contributor to the British economy, and the animal liberation movement has foiled the UK’s plans to be the epicenter for such research. Consequently, the state takes any threat to its economic interests quite seriously, and has responded to the challenge in kind.
As a result of their many victories, however, the animal liberation movement in England and elsewhere has entered into a war, but ultimately this is a war that humans started against animals ten thousand years ago. As animal exploitation grows ever more extreme, so too do the actions taken to stop it, and this elicits increasingly harsh response from the state which has become outright fascist in its crackdown on free speech, dissent, and protest. On all sides the gloves are coming off, and an increasingly volatile war is brewing in the UK, as well as the US and other hot zones of struggle over the rights of nature.
The “Terrorist Training Camp”
“Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable.” —Voltairine de Cleyre
In the summer of 2004, SHAC was organizing the International Animal Rights Conference which brought together hard-core activists from a host of European countries. Along with veterans of the English animal liberation movement such as Ronnie Lee, the founder of the ALF; and Keith Mann, a seasoned ALF activist and former political prisoner, SHAC invited a few prominent US activists. Those honored with an invitation to speak included former ALF warrior Rod Coronado, trauma surgeon Dr. Jerry Vlasak, actress and activist Pam Ferdin, and yours truly, a writer and philosophy professor.
Assembling a few hundred animal rights militants in a secluded area of the English countryside unavoidably elicited intense interest and attention. The European media ludicrously dubbed the planned event a “terrorist training camp,” evoking images of Al Qaeda soldiers running through obstacle courses and firing guns, except with purple hair, body piercings, and tattoos. In fact, the gathering was like any other conference, except held outdoors in the fields rather than in posh hotels. Activists from countries such as France, Amsterdam, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Russia, and the US shared stories and experiences, showed videotapes, gave talks and workshops, and addressed a wide scope of issues relating to the history, philosophy, politics, and tactics of the global animal liberation movement.
Once the British government caught wind of the conference, however, it took whatever repressive actions it could and the easiest targets were the invited speakers from the US. Thus, on official government stationary that proclaimed its commitment to openness and diversity (!), we all received “Minded to Exclude” letters from the Home Office, the UK equivalent of the US Department of Homeland Security. The letters detailed specific things each of us had allegedly said, written, or done in support of animal liberation. In the gentlemanly way of the English, the Home Office granted us the opportunity to explain and justify our positions, and stated that they would ban us from entering any part of the UK if they did not find our defense credible. They were signed by David Blunkett, just a few months before he was forced to resign over allegations that he had fast-tracked the visa application of his ex-lover’s nanny (!).
Pen Pals with David
“The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.” —John Adams
Regarding my own case, I received the following letter from Blunkett’s Home Office on July 29, 2004, a month before the conference. Even though the British government prohibited public viewing of the missive, I am delighted to share it.
Dear Professor Best:
The Secretary of State for the Home Department has been made aware that you intend to visit the United Kingdom to attend the International Animal Rights Conference 2004 between 3 and 6 September 2004.
The Secretary of State is aware that you are an academic involved in the animal rights campaign. He has taken note of an article written by you entitled “You Don’t Support the ALF Because Why?” In that article you are quoted as confirming your support for the Animal Liberation Front and that you support the destruction of industrial properties engaged in the animal research field. You have said that you do not consider property destruction as violence but even if it is, violence is defensible in certain cases. You have also confirmed your support for the underground direct action tactics of the ALF.
In light of the above, the Secretary of State considers that you provide the intellectual justification for those in the animal rights movement to engage in violent acts in order to further their cause and has indicated that he is minded to exclude you from the United Kingdom on the basis that your presence in this country is not conducive to the public good for reasons of public order.
You are invited to make representations to the Home Secretary on why you should not be excluded. Any representations should be sent directly to this office. These should be submitted to reach this office no later that two weeks from the date of this letter.
Whilst your case is being considered, you should not attempt to enter the United Kingdom.
The Secretary of State
Stunning. I was possibly being banned from the UK for exercising my right to speak out against the real terrorists whose barbarities were protected by the power of the state. I was under attack for the crime of compassion toward animals and defending the defenseless. In their hysterical, Orwellian mindset, I was deemed a threat to the “public good” and “public order.” In case I was snoozing, I was rudely awakened to the realities of the Bush/Blair regimes and the 1984 dystopia of state surveillance and totalitarian suppression of dissent. The Home Office was threatening to annul my right to free speech as well the right of their own citizens to hear controversial viewpoints.
After a thousand deep breaths, I penned my requested response.
Dear Mr. Blunkett and the Home Office:
As a citizen in a leading “democracy” hearing from a government official in another leading “democracy” that I could be banned merely for exercising my rights to free speech, I honestly am shocked beyond belief. My remarks may be controversial, but they are not illegal and do not warrant the harsh action you are contemplating.
I do not deny writing the words you cite; I posted the essay you refer to on my web site for the public, or any government officials such as yourself, to read. I do not disavow my belief in the justice of animal rights or the ALF. I respect your concerns for “public order” and the “public good,” given the intensity of passion flaring on both sides of the animal liberation issue. I hope I can persuade you that you have nothing to fear by my presence in your country. Indeed, by diminishing the opportunity for free expression, I fear that you yourselves might injure the public good and public order in England because surely this will inflame the situation there.
I support the ALF, but I do not advocate violence in the sense of causing physical harm to another human being. Because they attack the property of animal exploiters, and never the exploiters themselves, I consider the ALF to be a non-violent organization. Just to be clear, I am not a member of the ALF. I am a philosophy professor who writes about, and often expresses support for, social justice and liberation movements
It is true that I have provided an “intellectual justification” for the ALF, but then again so does any modern democratic constitution or bill of rights, so did J.S. Mill, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with anyone who promoted concepts such as rights or justice that can be used on behalf of the ALF. Moreover, the ALF and other direct activists hardly need or await my justifications to act, so I don’t quite see how my words have inflammatory potential.
I have never incited violence against anyone. I believe that both the US and UK should allow their citizens a great deal of latitude in the exercise of free speech, including defending organizations that use property destruction as a tactic to win justice for animals. As long as my speech does not incite others to violence where there is an immediate possibility of such violence, I believe it is arbitrary, unwarranted, and discriminatory to ban me from England. I clearly did not cross this line in the essay you cite, nor have I anywhere else.
In this threatened ban, you are heading down a dangerous slippery slope. Would you also ban Professor Peter Singer, for his defense of euthanasia and infanticide, also illegal acts? Would you ban Professor Tom Regan, another leading US animal rights philosopher and activist who wrote an essay in one of my books (Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?) entitled “How to Argue for Violence”? Just where do you stop after barring from your country philosophers without criminal records?
I urge England not to make the same mistakes made by my own government. In the dark times of the USA PATRIOT Act, the Bush administration has gutted the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the name of fighting “terrorism.” After 9-11, the US government illegally detained thousands of foreigners as terrorist suspects. Except a precious few, they remain in prison without rights to legal council or a hearing of the charges brought against them. This dragnet netted only one suspected terrorist, by pure luck. Similarly, the provisions introduced under the UK’s Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 have done little to make Britain safe from terrorist attack and much to infringe on the civil liberties of those living in the UK.
It is frightening to see England follow the same path of the US in the surveillance of activists and repression of civil liberties in the name of domestic security. The recent involvement of the FBI in Britain’s domestic “security” affairs is hardly reassuring, as their specialty in the US has been to suppress democracy and disrupt political organizations.
England has a long and distinguished history of democracy that must not be extinguished. From the Diggers to the suffragettes to the animal liberation movement, struggles in England have advanced democracy, rights, and moral evolution for our species as a whole. Facing a second prison sentence in the Bastille for his satires of the government, Voltaire sought shelter in England in 1726-1729. He subsequently described to the world how much more free, liberal, and advanced England was than his native France. In the 1840s, Karl Marx was expelled from several European countries for advocating free speech, workers’ democracy, and, indeed, global revolution, but he found a safe haven in England.
Such examples of the progressive heritage of England could be multiplied many times over. I urge you to grant Dr. Jerry Vlasak, Pamelyn Ferdin, and me safe passage into your country to attend the International Animal Rights Conference 2004. This is a peaceful and legal gathering. It is this ban that you are proposing, not my words, that is “not conducive to the public good.”
If you do not respect our right to free speech, or the right of your own people to hear free speech, your words stand a far greater chance than my own of offending the public good by damaging democracy. This will have a chilling effect on free speech that far transcends my own case, for when academics and others learn they may be banished from international travel for exercising their right to free speech, they may well practice self-censorship. You may not like my free speech but it poses no credible threat to you that warrants harsh retaliations such as a ban.
Dr. Steven Best
Chair, Department of Philosophy
University of Texas
El Paso, Texas, USA
From 9/11 to 7/7: Police States Capitalize on Tragedy
“Anarchy for the UK
It’s coming sometime and maybe
I give a wrong time stop a traffic line.
Your future dream is a shopping scheme
cause I wanna be anarchy,
It’s in the city.” —Sex Pistols
For legal reasons pertaining to prior hunt sab arrests, Rod Coronado could not leave his home in Tucson, Arizona. Despite letters of appeal, Dr. Jerry Vlasak was excluded for an incidental conference statement `that since violence has been a part of all past human liberation movements, one could expect the same for the animal liberation movement.’ Blunkett banned Pam Ferdin as well, citing her prior arrest for possession of a “deadly weapon” – a bull hook (used by circus trainers to terrorize elephants in “training” sessions) which was nothing more than a protest prop.
But for some odd reason, the Home Office granted me free passage into England. I had mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, I was proud to represent the militant face of animal rights in the US and delighted to be able to return among some great activists in the UK. On the other hand, I was somewhat embarrassed for not being militant enough to be considered a threat to a repressive state! Then again, perhaps I was nothing more than an alibi, a pawn in a propaganda ploy to give authoritarians the appearance of being fair and reasonable.
So I attended the conference, had an amazing time, and was thrilled to be invited back to speak again in September 2005. My second visit was imperiled, however, by the “7/7” (July 7, 2005) terrorist bombings in London that targeted civilians in buses and in the underground trains. Similar to the US response to 9/11, the UK took advantage of a terrible tragedy to crack down even harder on dissent. The state struck particularly hard against their main target – not the Muslim extremists, but rather the animal rights movement.
After the 7/7 bombings, the new Home Office Secretary, Charles Clarke, announced that the “rules of the game have changed.” The Home Office drafted new “rules of unacceptable speech” that apply to any non-UK citizen alleged to promote, defend, justify, or advocate “violence” or “terrorism” in any way. The new “Exclusion Bill” granted the Home Office the authority to ban any non-UK citizen for “unacceptable speech” in a lecture, printed essay, or website. Blair began arguing that terrorism is a problem not only of those committing terrorist acts, but also those defending them. In the fascist mentality of the UK state, there is no difference between blowing up citizens in buses and trains and defending the actions of the ALF.
But my passage into England in September 2005 went unchallenged, such that I could once again be a featured speaker again at the International Animal Rights Gathering. Knowing full well that I was under surveillance, however, I carefully chose my words for an audience of 300 people packed into an outdoor tent. Trying to bottle up my passion was challenging, but the topic itself – the philosophical and political motivations of the ALF — doomed me.
The day after my talk, the amicable proprietor of my Bed and Breakfast served me the morning news with an ironic smile, asking: “Guess who is in the paper today?” I saw a prominently featured article with the spurious headline, “US Activist says: `We will Break your laws and destroy your property until we win.” The story was about my allegedly inflammatory lecture, and gave the impression that I had crossed the Atlantic just to thumb my nose at Home Office. Although those are fine words in the headline, they were not mine. A hack reporter from The Daily Telegraph attributed a statement I made about the tactics of the ALF to me, as if delivered a personal ringing endorsement of maximum mayhem.
I knew my fate was sealed. I spoke to 1000 people and a menacing phalanx of cops at an anti-vivisection demonstration at Oxford University and enjoyed the last lazy days I would ever pass at Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park.
Shortly after returning home, I heard from the Home Office. Once again, they threatened to ban me and invited my comment for consideration. I denied saying the infamous quote attributed to me, but I admitted to other statements I thought innocuous.
Meanwhile, the marathon campaign against the Newchurch Farm and its guinea pig breeding operation for vivisection laboratories ended in dramatic victory. The leaders of SNGP graciously invited me to return to England in September to speak at a celebration event. But, quite predictably, the Home Office lowered the boom before I could pose any further “danger” to their disorderly “social order.” My status was about to change from person of suspicion to persona non grata, from domestic terrorist to international terrorist.
We Politely Insist You Fuck Off
Thus, on August 24, 2005 I received the following letter from Home Office Secretary Charles Clarke:
Dear Dr Best:
After careful consideration, the Secretary of State has reached a final decision and has given a personal direction for you to be excluded from the United Kingdom on the grounds that your presence in the UK is non-conducive to the public good. The Secretary of State has taken this decision based on the actions you have taken and the statements you have made on animal rights.
The Secretary of State notes your admission that at the International Animal Rights Conference in East Peckham you stated that, “we don’t want to reform them [vivisectors], we want to wipe them off the face of the earth.” It is considered that these are your views and we have reason to believe that you have publicly stated these views in the UK and that you intend to continue to do so.
The Secretary of State also notes that in January 2005 you said in an interview posted on the Milwaukee Indymedia website that you “do not include attacks on inanimate objects as violence (vandalism, sabotage and other terms work better here).” He also notes that in May 2005 you wrote an article which was posted on the Arkangel website which stated, “if violence is needed to save an animal from attack, then violence is legitimate as a means of self-defence for animals.”
The Secretary of State observes that in April 2004 you wrote an article on the Satya website entitled, “Thinking Pluralistically: A Case for Direct Action”, in which you stated that, “it is obvious that not all violence is justified, but it is equally obvious that not all violence is unjustified. Self-defense is one example where it is acceptable and prudent to use force against another person if necessary. . . Acting as proxy agents or for animals who cannot defend themselves, ALF actions in principle are just.”
In an article on your website from July 2004, you stated that, “whereas direct activists use an inclusive logic to appreciate all facets of our struggle, many mainstream activists use an exclusive logic that disparages militancy and illegal tactics. . . . If we look at the history of militant tactics in the human and animal liberation movements, we see that illegal actions have been very important and effective. I support SHAC. I support the ALF.”
In expressing such views it is considered that you are fomenting and justifying terrorist violence and seeking to provoke others to terrorist acts and fomenting other serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts.
In reaching his decision, the Secretary of State has taken account of your representations, in particular those in your letter of 8 August 2005. He notes your assertion that you do not advocate or incite violence. He is aware that you accept that you made the first statement detailed above but that you assert that this remark was “maliciously taken out of context”.
The Secretary of State takes the view that even if your remarks at the Conference were taken out of context, when taken together with your other public statements and comments in various articles, your speech at the Conference demonstrates that you support and justify violent action, including the actions of the ALF. In your article of July 2004 you publicly admitted that you support the ALF. By expressing these views you are fomenting and justifying acts of terrorist violence in the UK, you are seeking to provoke others to terrorist acts in the UK and you are fomenting and justifying serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts in the UK.
The Secretary of State considers that should you be allowed to enter the UK and attend further UK demonstrations or conferences you would continue to express such views. In doing so, you would be committing listed behaviours and would therefore be behaving in a way that is non-conducive to the public good.
In light of these factors, the Secretary of State is satisfied that you should be excluded from the UK on the grounds that your exclusion is conducive to the public good.
We instruct you not to travel to the UK as you will be refused admission on arrival. There is no statutory right of appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision.
The Secretary of State
The Terrorism of “Terrorism”
“`Terrorism’ is a word people use to refer to armed struggles they don’t like.” —John Burdick, Syracuse University
I give them some credit for doing a bit of homework. But it is astonishing that because of views I peacefully express as a philosopher and activist, a person without a criminal record, that with the stroke of a pen I was banned for life from four countries – England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland – and had “no statutory right of appeal.” (Indeed, the humanist lawyers at the ACLU and their British counterparts ensured this would stand as – speciesist humanists that they were – they took no interest in my case and cause)
To my knowledge, I was the first person after the 7/7 bombings against whom the Home Office applied the new “rules of unacceptable speech.” The day I received my “letter of exclusion,” August 24, 2005, is the same day that the Home Office published their new list of “unacceptable behaviours.” This means that their fascist rules were first exercised not against a Muslim cleric advocating jihadist revolt, but rather against a secular Western philosophy professor militating for a peaceful society that respects the rights of human and nonhuman animals alike.
By its own newly minted legal definitions, the UK had the right to ban me, but it is the right of a closed society, capitalist killing machine, and police state psychologically and economically threatened by animal rights.
When people use the same discourse of terrorism to describe those who fly fully-loaded passenger planes into high-rise buildings as well as those who rescue our fellow animals from the most obscene, unspeakable, prodigious violence and killing on the planet, the term clearly has been drained of all meaning. When corporations and states deploy the language of terrorism, it is purely for propaganda purposes, to cover up their own terrorist acts, and to denounce in the strongest language possible anything that threatens their interests.
I define terrorism as any intentional act of violence toward an innocent sentient being in order to advance an ideological, political, and economic agenda. It is a strange kind of terrorist who has never injured a single person, who is compassionate toward the suffering of others, and who risks his or her own freedom to save another from harm, violence, and death. It is not the ALF who are violent terrorists, but rather the British government, vivisectionists, and all facets of the animal exploitation industry. They are terrorists on the grounds that they intentionally harm and kill innocent living beings for ideological, political, and economic gains.
Industry leaders, scientists, state officials, and media figures alike never talk about the terrorism inflicted on animals in hunts, vivisection labs, fur farms, and slaughterhouses because their myopic speciesist definitions prohibit this. If animals – innocent “non-combatants” — can suffer and experience terror like humans, then those who torment them ought to be called terrorists. Nor do those who decry the animal rights movement as “violent” ever apply the term to denounce what thugs and police do to activists, many of whom have been killed while defending animals or the forests from being massacred and plundered for profit. While reporters unconsciously drop the loaded phrase “animal rights extremists,” you will never hear or read the phrase “vivisection extremists” in relation to the horrific suffering “researchers” often inflict on animals.
I absolve myself of the charges of the Home Office because I reject the premises of their arguments and the loaded definitions of their terms. I reject the speciesist assumptions whereby they see animals as mere things or property, as resources that exist for any humanly devised purpose, however cruel and unnecessary.
I do not consider breaking into laboratories to free captive animals, or even destroying property used to exploit animals, to be violence or terrorism. These actions are undertaken by freedom fighters opposing the real terrorists who murder billions of innocent animals; as such, they are counter-terrorist actions.
With their long history of war, imperialism, and violence, the UK and US are the leading terrorist states on the planet. England rolls out the red carpet for genocidal maniacs like former Chilean dictator August Pinochet (responsible for the death of tens of thousands of his own people) and Ariel Sharon (a “man of peace” who has killed thousands of Palestinians), but ban advocates of peace and justice for all animals, a prerequisite for a viable social order. The values and sympathies of this fascist police state are as clear as its repulsive hypocrisies.
Convulsions of a Failed State
“These are perilous times …Bloody scenes, I fear, are in reserve for our vision.” William Lloyd Garrison, 19th century abolitionist
The Home Office ban of US animal rights activists is ineffective, illegitimate, and the desperate measure of a fascist state incompatible with an open society and the principles of democracy. But then again, after 9/11 and 7/7 Blair said civil rights are basically a thing of the past and the UK under Gordon Brown has followed this philosophy.
Ironically, while the intent of the Home Office was to silence radical views, they gave them even wider publicity than they would have received otherwise. In the aftermath of the ban I was deluged with request for interviews from international media. London Channel 4 aired a sympathetic 7 minute documentary about my case and gave me an uninterrupted platform to describe the plight of the animals, the need for militant direct action, and the complicity of the UK state in an evil of the highest order (see the link below).
I recognize that free speech is not an absolute right and has moral and legal limits; in the US, for instance, one does not have the legal right to incite violence in such a way as to cause possible harm to others. But free speech should include the right to endorse civil disobedience and sabotage if one should want, with the goal being to bring about a higher moral good liberated once exploitation stops and respect of rights begins. Under the protections of free speech, one ought also to be able to defend and even to advocate violence. Free speech should include the right to articulate the limits of persuasion itself, to critique the system and institutions that are protected by the monopolization of violence, and to espouse the means and tactics necessary to overthrow a repressive social order.
My words may be unpopular – to animal exploiters and speciesist society as a whole — but free speech rights are designed precisely to protect controversial and critical discourse, not mainstream or conformist platitudes. An open society respects and protects these rights; a closed society rejects and denies them. With parallel regimes such as North Korea, China, and the US, the UK has become a fascist, totalitarian society, a police state that attacks dissent as a body’s white blood cells goes after threats and invaders.
The Home Office has the right and the duty to prevent terrorism in the UK and to protect its citizens from attack. But I am a philosopher, not a terrorist; I carry words not weapons; I target the guilty not the innocent; I seek change for the betterment of all, not the dictatorship of a few; I draw from critical reason, not religious fundamentalism or fanaticism.
People like me are not a threat to the “public order” in the UK, the oppressors and exploiters are. We are not the cause of violence but rather the effect and response to it.
Sea Shepherd activists hurling bottles at Japanese whaling ship. Photograph: Ho/Reuters
When there are compassionate people in a society, a disturbance in the animal world will inevitably bring a disturbance in the human world.
Thus, if the Home Office wants peace, it must grant justice to animals. And until it does, the state and animal exploiters in particular can expect a shattering of the peace – of their peace – and ever greater firestorms of fury.
The End of Free Speech
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Thomas Paine
Free speech is a lie and myth on the same order as “democracy” itself – a vicious fiction peddled to gullible publics in the land of corporate plutocracies such as the UK and the US. The right to free speech exists only until you begin to use it and speak out against the prevailing powers, and once you do, especially if you are effective, you smash you, or kill you. Even more shocking than my own ban, in 2008 the Home Office wrote former ALF prisoner and now vegan educator, Gary Yourofsky, a Letter of Exclusion based on some of his pro-ALF writings. As Yourofsky has never been to the UK and never intended to go, this was similar to the movie Minority Report, where the cops bust for even thinking of doing something wrong, before you can do it. But it’s even worse, for Yourofsky never even thought once about going to the UK in his life! And apparently the Home Office has have done away with nicety of offering a response before they ban you.
Clearly, with so much money at stake in the multi-billion dollar vivisection industry, the animal rights movement in England has become not only an ideological and political threat, but, far more seriously, an economic threat.
Just as human slavery was once a huge part of modern capitalist economies, so animal slavery is fundamental to capital accumulation today. The state can no longer ignore a movement that has discovered its power lies not in the vote but rather in the ability to shut down production. The direct action movement has transcended the largely meaningless gestures of protest – such as letter writing, demonstrations, and lobbying – pre-approved by the state, as it unavoidably awakens the system’s wrath and vengeance.
And thus, as I write, brave animal liberation warriors rot in the prisons of the UK and US, and I speak of friends and comrades such as Kevin Jonas, Josh Harper, Lauren Gazzola, Gregg Avery, Natasha Avery, and Heather Nicholson. But the movement they helped to build, and today continue to inspire, is growing globally.
The animal rights movement has rocked the core of the British establishment and the Home Office has taken extraordinary measures against it, but this righteous force cannot be stopped or defeated. The menacing cops and laws of the UK dictatorship are not enough to stop the children, youth, families, mothers, and grandmothers from marching in the streets and knocking down walls to free animal prisoners. England is a barometer of the kinds of political storms one can expect in the US and elsewhere around the world as the struggle over animal rights moves to entirely new levels.
Every justice struggle up to the present has been relatively easy. Now it gets hard. We are involved in a serious battle — a war — that will be lengthy, protracted, costly, and most likely violent as it heats up (exactly like earlier struggles to end human slavery). Animal liberation is the most difficult liberation struggle of all because speciesism is primordial and universal.
Speciesism is arguably the first of any form of domination or hierarchy and it has spread like a deadly virus throughout the entire planet and all of human history. The problem is not limited to Western culture or to the modern world, such that there is some significant utopian past or radical alternative to recover. The problem is the human species itself, which but for rare exceptions is violent, destructive, and imperialistic. Universally, humans have vested interests in exploiting animals and think they have a God-given right to do so. To change these attitudes is to change the very nerve center of human consciousness, and thereby to change the totality of society itself. That is our task – no more and no less.
Dr. Steve Best is TPC’s associate editor. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.
For the latest updates on the animal liberation movement, visit NAALPO at http://www.animalliberationpressoffice.org/
The August 2005 “Exclusion Bill”: http://media.apn.co.nz/webcontent/document/pdf/ACFAIAt9aaKU.pdf
“Britain uses hate law to ban animal rights campaigner”
“Speaking for the Animals, or the Terrorists?”
“More 4 News Opinion: Activist or Terrorist?”
 On the history, ethics, and politics of the ALF, see Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals. New York, Lantern Books, 2004.
 See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=395&invol=444: “Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”
 And here I disagree with this fine sentiment by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which notes on its website: “The best way to counter obnoxious speech is with more speech. Persuasion, not coercion, is the solution.” The flaw with this idealized rational communication model is that the best arguments, often the radical critiques of existing societies, are stifled, marginalized, and repressed, as the prevailing points of view are overtly and covertly enforced, and it takes more than a good argument to challenge and overcome oppressive systems of power, it also takes varying degrees of force.