N.A.L.L. Newsletter – Summer 1985, Spring News 1985 (1985, Manchester, England)
Every time we receive a NALL related donation everyone at TALON can’t wait to read it, even if it is just a small newsletter or leaflet. Our fascination with the group stems from their early socialism, their insistence that mass-militancy trumps individual direct-action, and their acts of solidarity with other movements. While their publications don’t always touch on those factors, fans of the Leagues will not be disappointed with these two issues of the NALL Newsletter, especially the Spring News, which comments on the unstrategic militarism happening at the time, specifically the Mars bar poisoning hoax and publicity stunts of groups like the Hunt Retribution Squad.
The excitement doesn’t end there, however! Despite the poor editing, these volumes contain many clues as to the organizing model, rhetoric, history, and strategies employed by NALL- and then there are the small tidbits that will make you love them even more! An embracing of ecological politics, a tendency towards anonymity for the sake of rejecting the big egos that cause so much damage to movements, the fact that NALL was originally called Manchester Animal Liberators, the mention of a cafe run by three NALL members… If you are as fascinated with this classic organization as we are you will absolutely love these two dispatches!
Action For Animals # 1 – (1989, Essex, England)
While there isn’t much stand-alone importance to this particular publication, the critical role played by grassroots newsletters in the 1980s in undeniable. Prior to the popular use of the internet local groups were run by a small core of organizers who communicated with their own membership and the broader public using these cheaply produced zines. Ideology, protest dates, campaign information, news from other organizations, fundraising efforts, and prisoner support were all shared, and with results that often dwarf what we see from Facebook based organizing.
Action for Animals produced a newsletter very typical of its era and geography. Those of you who take the time to look closer at this publication will notice excerpts from the London Greenpeace leaflet (co-written, as it turns out, by an undercover cop) that lead to the McLibel case. Also of note are AFA’s anti-capitalism sentiment, and the diversity of actions embraced by their group- from Christmas carolling to support for underground direct action.
SHAC USA – Vol. 1*, Issue #1 (2001, Philadelphia, PA)
Editor’s note: Several of our upcoming posts were shared with us courtesy of the University of Victoria’s Special Collections Library. Our thanks go out to everyone who has helped make these little pieces of our movement’s history widely available again.
*It should also be noted that there was a previous SHAC USA Newsletter that was numbered Vol.1, #1. That issue was produced by Joe Bateman prior to Kevin Jonas’ return to the US in the very early days of the campaign. We are actively seeking that rarity, if you have it please contact us HERE.
It was just under a week ago that I celebrated the two year anniversary of getting off probation in the SHAC 7 case. I spent the night eating pizza and looking through old mementoes of the campaign. It was an exciting thing to be a part of, especially in those early days when grassroots groups across the country were getting fired up to smash Huntingdon Life Sciences. Every hour seemed to bring news of more people joining the attack.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disheartened that HLS is still out there killing animals after all of our work to stop them, but I would also be a liar if I said that I believed they will continue to get away with it. As the Bodhisattva once said, “Everything moves in cycles,” and from what I’ve seen of the movement lately, times are about to get a lot tougher for the abusers- just like they did back in 2001. It’s all coming ’round again.
Anyhow, this here was the first (relaunched) issue of the legendary SHAC USA newsletter. It covers the opening shots of the battle against Huntingdon in the U.S., the start of our secondary targeting against Stephens Incorporated, and coverage of the early regional demonstrations at HLS’ lab in New Jersey. It is filled with our triumphs (the legal battle over the stephenskills.com website,) and errors (Announcing that this was the first year of what was predicted to be a 3 year campaign, showing support for the ultimately worthless Bank of New York secondary targeting,) but most importantly it has this reminder: “The Time For Action Is NOW.”
CLOSE HLS Newsletters (2006/2007. Location unknown)
The campaign to close Huntingdon Life Sciences has already received plenty of ink (pixels?) on this site, but these particular newsletters are interesting because they appeared after myself and several other organizers had been rounded up and sent to prison. A government that thought they had killed our struggle against HLS soon found out that there were some pockets of resistance left.
The tone of these newsletters continues along the same line as the SHAC newsletters: cocky, sensationalist, and at times haranguing. I wish they had learned from our errors in that regard, but other than that, I mostly just feel joy that they kept the fire burning and the abusers kept feeling the heat. Good stuff, and a valuable addition to the history of the anti-HLS movement.
S.A.R.P. Newsletter #6-11 (1992 – Northampton, England)
One of the big frustrations of working on the TALON site is that the materials we archive contain so much information it becomes difficult to organize and contextualize it all. Our posting of the Barry Horne SARP newsletter revival has made this sense of frustration more distinct than ever.
1992 was an eventful year for the movement: Mike Hill was murdered by hunter Alan Summersgill, the Doddlestone six were arrested protesting that murder, in North America Darren Thurston was arrested, Ronnie Lee was released, Kieth Mann was on remand and just about to escape from prison… This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the significant events that took place over twelve long months twenty one years passed. We could spend pages discussing how these incidents shaped the future, how recent revelations about police informants in the UK have changed our understanding of old arrests, and so on. Unfortunately there is no time to pull at all of these strings- but the SARP newsletters certainly will provide inquisitive readers with many threads of their own to pull. From details of Operation Fox to “Laugh Along with the ALF,” each newsletter if filled with intriguing bits of our collective history.
S.A.R.P. Newsletter #1-5 (1991 – Northampton, England)
After a brief existence and quick demise in the 1980’s, the Support Animal Rights Prisoners organization was re-founded by Barry Horne and some friends in 1991. At the time Barry was imprisoned for possession of incendiary devices, but he never let incarceration keep him from participation in the movement. So, using a prison typewriter, he set to work writing the SARP newsletters. There are claims in the first issue that the material in SARP was written by a committee of five volunteers, but information we have received from reliable sources suggest that in actuality Barry wrote every issue of SARP except for the final issue, which was written by ALF Press Officer Robin Webb.
Barry was one of the most dedicated activists our struggle has ever known, but it would be a disservice to him to strip him of his humanity by pretending that he was without error. There are some poorly examined ideas in the pages of SARP that deserve measured critique, most especially that animal rights activists must, in all instances, preserve “unity.” Calls for unity are often used by those guilty of the most destabilizing behaviors as a way to avoid criticism for their own complicity in pushing people apart. During the era that SARP was being published there were concerted efforts by organized racists to join the movement, for car and postal bombings to be supported, and so on. Under such conditions total unity wouldn’t exactly be a good thing, right?
But for every weak idea presented in the pages of SARP, there are also beautiful moments that give voice to our imprisoned comrades, that remember our dead, and that call for nothing less than a revolution to liberate non-humans from the tyranny of the human species. Barry wrote with an intensity and single minded dedication that reminds us of just how precious each second spent fighting is, and how we must stop wasting those ticks of the clock. To Barry, life, and even death, should be utilized battling the scourge of speciesism. These newsletters are Barry’s voice ringing out from decades past, telling us to ACT NOW in solidarity with the animal nations.
The Hillgrove Campaign Newsletter – (1997- 1999. Oxford, England)
Reading these newsletters gives me a feeling of elation that is rare in our work as animal liberationists. After witnessing the worst abuses against our non-human neighbors, most of us are left with a sense of deep despair. In the instance of the Hillgrove Campaign, however, those abuses were countered and ultimately stopped in a most satisfying way!
These newsletters offer some of the best documentation of one of our movements most watershed moments. Each issue shows the escalation of the campaign, the police response, and the slow downfall of Farmer Chris Brown’s cat breeding business. No punches are pulled, and from blockades, to mass demos, to the beating of Chris Brown by two elderly women, the newsletter shows step by step how the campaign was won.
While this makes for invigorating reading, there are also disappointing, even racist material in the newsletters. One example is Dr. Vernon Cole’s comparing being stopped by police during a lecture to the sort of harassment and brutality faced by black youth in Britain. A well meaning mistake possibly, but a comparison that misses the mark by an offensive distance none-the-less.
As you can see, we are missing issue #2 and #10! Please get in touch if you are in possession of either issue by clicking HERE.
The Vegan News #1 (1944, Leicester, England)
Seventy years ago an ethical vegetarian named Donald Watson began to see the problems inherent in consuming milk and eggs. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that a human could not be healthy without those products, so Watson attempted an experiment. He altered his diet to be entirely plant based and found the results to be encouraging. Soon after he coined the word “vegan” and started the first Vegan Society. In 1944, with a membership of twenty five, they released their first newsletter.
The relevance of this document to animal liberationists can not be understated. While Donald Watson was not among those carrying on anti-vivisection or blood sports work in the 1940s, his vision of a human culture that could live without the products of cruelty laid the foundation for all the work that has come since. Without the hypocrisy inherent in defending one species while exploiting another, new realms of possibility opened up for philosophy and action in our relationship with non-humans.
The inaugural issue of The Vegan News makes for an interesting read. Many of the arguments inside could be pulled straight out of today’s Facebook debates. However, because of the work of those first 25 members of the vegan society, these discussions are now being lead by hundreds of thousands of vegans, and eventually will be made by tens of millions of us. It all started with this hand typed, self published newsletter made almost seven decades ago.
Special thanks to Ryan Shapiro for sharing this document with us.
SHAC USA Volume 2, issues 2 and 4 (2002, Philadelphia, PA)
It is hard to describe the feeling of constant elation that I had working on the campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences. After years of grassroots organizing it seemed that the movement was finally moving forward with speed and determination. News constantly poured in from all corners of the globe that a new target had been chosen- and eliminated. Everyone participating was energized, hopeful, and on the attack.
One of the reasons that so many people were inspired to take action against HLS was the SHAC USA newsletter. Each issue featured the groundbreaking graphic design work of Jake Conroy. His layouts and other artistry made each copy a pleasure to behold, and also left other organizations scrambling to improve the designs of their own publications. If you doubt that a periodical could prompt someone to pickup a sign, bullhorn, or brick, than you feel very different than the US Government. They were so threatened by Conroy’s print and web work that he was indicted in the SHAC 7 case, and received one of the longest sentences of all of the defendants.
These two issues of the newsletter date from 2002, which was an exciting time in the campaign. After Stephens Inc. had capitulated, thousands of people suddenly had faith that they could, in fact, change the world. We all knew that we were a part of something special, and I think that comes across in the text and imagery of of these two movement gems. Sure, we were cocky, our rhetoric sometimes went too far, and we weren’t always as organized or prepared as we claimed- but we walked our talk to the best of our ability and our efforts took the movement far.
Hillgrove Campaign Victory Issue (1999, Oxford, England.)
The late 90s in England saw a series of hard hitting, successful campaigns against companies that bred animals for vivisection labs. The first was against a beagle breeding farm known as Consort. At one point the farm had surrounded its premises with a brick wall in order to protect the grounds from invasion by protesters. Famously, the wall got torn down brick by brick during a national demonstration. After 10 months of nonstop action, the farm closed and the beagles were released to activists for re-homing.
The momentum achieved at Consort spilled over into the next big breeder campaign, a cat farm owned by the infamous Christopher Brown. The protests which occurred against his establishment were epic, and involved everything from encampments on the surrounding property to the cattery areas being raided. Legend has it that so many rocks were thrown at his house that the roof collapsed from the weight. The British government and local police had vowed to keep the Brown’s in the cat killing business, but the tenacity of campaigners proved to be too powerful. Hillgrove closed, and this publication was how the campaign celebrated and told people to be on the lookout for their next target. Within months of the publication of this final dispatch that target was made public: Huntingdon Life Sciences.