SHAC – A Campaign That Made History (2013 – Italy)
I am happy to see that new generations of activists are discussing the successes and failures of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign with an eye towards applying those lesson to the ongoing struggle for animal liberation. This attractive booklet was originally released in Italy under the name “SHAC: ha fatto storia” and focuses on the legal repression, past and present, experienced by those working to close Huntingdon Life Sciences. The english translation is not perfect, but makes for a good overview of the FBI’s “Operation Trailmix” in the US and INTERPOL’s “Operation Achilles” in Europe.
The collective that made this booklet has a blog at shacmadehistory.noblogs.org. I would love to see them continue to dissect the international repression against SHAC and also support the victims of the same.
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.
No Compromise #29-30 (2006. Santa Cruz / San Francisco, CA)
The early days of my activism were so exciting. After a lifetime of feeling powerless I suddenly discovered that there was a community dedicated to fighting the good fight. Its members were in every major city and many smaller ones, and sometimes not living in any city at all, but in trees and encampments. The people involved were empowered to act for themselves in order to create a better world, and had abandoned all the false hope of political parties and their dead politics. Words meant little, action was what counted, and the sky was the limit. The internet was not yet in wide use, and thank goodness! That meant that we met each other in conference rooms, in squats, on the streets, and sometimes on the pages of No Compromise magazine.
No Compromise shaped who I am today. Each new issue contained articles that helped me and thousands of others to evolve our own style of resistance, and as our experience grew we were able to share our stories in the pages of the magazine.
After 30 issues, the steering committee of No Compromise decided to stop publishing in 2006. Their decision could not have come at a worse time. With the SHAC website and newsletter killed by the convictions of the SHAC 7, Bite Back being published only sporadically and with a limited focus, and the Earth First! Journal mired in its “Confronting Oppression Within” drama, the sudden absence of No Compromise meant that the primary sources for radical animal liberation news, opinion, and strategy were the twin sewers of online social networks and the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. These were dark times for our movement, and we are only just beginning to recover.
The final issues of No Compromise were the best of the series, though! I was in prison when issue 30 was released, and it felt electric in my hands. I read it over and over, alternately laughing and crying. As I was putting this post together I decided to pull out that print copy. It gave me the same sense of awe I had when I read those first issues. More than that, it reminded me that there is still a community of people capable of changing the world through compassionate direct action and mutual aid. And you know what? We are going to win!
(The complete set of all past issues of No Compromise can be found HERE)
TALON Conspiracy co-founder Josh Harper recently spoke in Portland, OR. about the history of anti-vivisection activism and his hopes for a more intelligent, multi-generational approach going forward. Thanks to Burning Hearts Media for filming and editing, Laughing Horse Books for hosting, and Portland Animal Liberation for organizing the event.
No Compromise #27-28 (2005. Santa Cruz / San Francisco, CA)
The volunteer staff of No Compromise may have only published two issues in 2005, but both were valuable sources of news and ideas from across the globe. As always, the reports inside are bitter sweet. Many animals were rescued, many abusers felt some heat, and many people rose up and fought back. Then, there was the backlash, the senate hearings, and the arrests. The movement has never stopped though, and No Comp always served as a reminder that come hell or high water we were all going to forge ahead, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker.
One unfortunate development in 2005 was the arrest and conviction of Chris “Dirt” McIntosh. Despite receiving movement support, Chris turned to Nazi groups in prison for advice and friendship. Soon, he counted himself among their ranks, and requested to be removed from animal lib prisoner lists. He would have been removed anyway though: there is never room in our struggle for a Nazi!
Luckily, other prisoners continued to show courage, dignity, and resolve from behind bars. Both 2005 issues of NC contain inspiring letters and interviews with jailed comrades. All in all, this is another must read year for the best animal liberation publication to come out of the United States.
No Compromise 23-26 (2004, Santa Cruz / San Francisco, CA)
One of the lessons that archiving old animal liberation publications has taught me is that the most extreme actions have rarely produced much in the way of results for animals. A public that already sees veganism as odd might still see the value of rescuing animals from a laboratory, but will never support a car bombing. When innocents are injured, or when murder was the goal, the backlash starts to creep into our own ranks, and as we fracture law enforcement and industry groups take advantage. In the end, I can think of no bombing (or contamination, or grave robbing, etc.) which advanced the cause of animal rights more than it harmed it. This is not to say that bombings and the like could never be successful. At later stages of many revolutionary struggles, when the majority of the public supports the cause, bombs can clear away in one night what years of protest could not. While a movement is in its infancy, however, it could be argued that more often than not bombs blow up in our faces.
And so it was in 2004 when a group calling itself the Revolutionary Cells Animal Liberation Brigade carried out two bombings of HLS related targets in California. The movement was left to make lemonade from truly shitty lemons, and No Compromise did their best to mitigate the harm of the actions while keeping activists focused on the real enemy.
The year continued with the indictment of the SHAC 7, the emergence of Austria as a leader in the movement, and some exciting open rescues. Sarahjane Blum and Ryan Shapiro’s organization, GourmetCruelty.com, carried out one such operation that piqued public interest and eventually resulted in a sympathetic program on Animal Planet. Elsewhere Gina Lynn was imprisoned for defying the Seattle grand jury, Billy Cottrell was arrested for a massive SUV dealership arson, and the Universtiy of Iowa was treated to the most sophisticated lab raid to occur since the early 90s.
Every time we post a year of No Compromise we say the same thing: that this is essential reading for those who wish to understand the recent history of our movement. This posting is no exception. No Compromise was the best AR publication of its era, and 2004 saw the publication refining its strengths and providing their readers with four of the best issues yet.
SHAC USA Newsletters, Various Issues (2001-2006, Philadelphia, PA)
Diaries From Hell (2001, Princeton Junction, New Jersey)
The Mandate & Strike Back – Shac Videos (2002, Philadelphia, PA)
Today marks the end of a very long journey for me. After more than two years on pre-trial release, eight months on house arrest, three years in prison, and three years on probation, my life is now my own again. As of this morning I no longer need to fill out monthly reports, open my home to law enforcement at any time without probable cause, give the government constant access to my e-mail and social media accounts, or stay confined within the western district of Washington. Best of all, I can return to the kind of organizing that I love and live the life of conscience that I committed myself to so many years ago.
The people who took away my freedom did not do so because I was breaking the law. In fact, they knew that I was not doing so. FBI documents show that I was under almost constant surveillance for years of my life. One field office after another followed me in an attempt to prove that I was “the nexus of illegal [animal and earth liberation related] crime in the Northwest.” They hired informants to befriend me, went through my garbage, paid off my mail carrier to write down the return addresses of my incoming mail, attempted to entrap me, raided my home… the list could go on and on. In the end they had some tapes of lectures I gave advocating forms of hacktivism, and for that speech activity I had my life interrupted for the better part of a decade. An appeals court later said this about my conviction: “Harper’s personal conduct does not cross the line of illegality; to punish him simply on the basis of his political speeches would run afoul of the constitution.” They then went on to uphold my conviction.
If all of the years stolen from me were not about crimes I had committed, what was the government’s motivation? The answer to that question is complex, but I believe the primary concern for the ruling class was that I had begun to see through their illusions of status and power. I know how grandiose- even absurd- that may sound, but please bear with me for just a moment. I was born to working class parents so poor that my first crib was made from a dresser drawer. My mother worked in convenience stores, cleaned homes, and toiled away her health in a frozen foods warehouse. My father was a Vietnam veteran who had survived a fire in the tank he was driving. The horror that he experienced in our government’s imperialist venture in south-east Asia colored every moment of our home life. He returned from his time in the army addicted to drugs, disabled, and in constant pain from shrapnel that was still lodged in his skull. He worked off and on as a mechanic and small time drug dealer. This is the situation that I was raised in, but I am not complaining. My parents loved me and my sister, and despite their mistakes they did their best to help me become a good person. My dad once saw two cops harassing a homeless man outside of a 7-11. They kept asking him if he was “an illegal” and made several references to his race, repeatedly calling him “amigo.” Everyone sat in their cars and watched. Everyone except for my dad, who got out and challenged the police. That moment taught me more than any private school or university ever could have. And while my mom couldn’t always afford the clothing that I selfishly demanded when I was kid, she never bowed down to anyone higher on the social ladder. When some entitled rich kid gave her shit at work, she gave it right back and then some. My heart swells with pride when I think about the warning she got from her bosses at one job: she was required to provide service to police officers and had better begin doing so or else she would be fired. After years of seeing the cops in Eugene, OR beat and harass the underclass she wouldn’t sell them coffee and doughnuts, and continued in her disobedience even when her job was on the line.
I always knew that no matter what my economic status was, that my life was just as valuable as that of a billionaire or a president. I do not care about their titles or money or connections, but I began to care an awful lot about their abuses of power. The wealthy elite, who strip this planet of its life support system, who benefit from racism, sexism, and homophobia, who view our non-human kin as machines for profit, who turn the masses against each other, are made of flesh and blood just like you and I. They want us to believe in corporate personhood because it distracts from the man behind the curtain, the vulnerable decision makers who use towers of steel and concrete to appear more powerful.
This was the threat of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty; we saw through all of the social conditioning that tells us that we are too weak to effect change. We went straight to the homes of those in power, challenged them on their golf courses, screamed at them while they vacationed at summer homes. We were the barbarians at the gate, an alliance of the kind of people who did not usually get heard by the mega-rich of the world. Tooth and nail we went after their profits, and along the way refused to divide and fracture over broken windows or graffiti. Everyone was welcome if they would fight, and I smile so big it hurts when I think of the grandmothers, the punks, the students, and all the other unlikely comrades who marched together in defiance of the false hierarchy that tells us to keep separate and leave the rich to their own devices. We didn’t stay in our place. In fact, we recognized that our place was wherever the hell we chose, and the world of finance and animal abuse was rocked as a result.
This isn’t to say that we were perfect. We made so many mistakes, and we must be accountable for them. As Conflict Gypsy completes its archives of Huntingdon Life Sciences campaign materials we will be critical of the movement’s failures. But today, as I leave Washington to see my family and friends and celebrate my new freedoms, I hope that the spirit of the campaign will infect you. All of us have a revolutionary spark in our hearts, and together these individual sparks provide a beautiful warmth that melts away the cold sterility created by our rulers. Together we can turn the tide of ecocide, of prejudice, of economic and political exploitation. Never, ever believe otherwise.
For animal liberation, for global revolution, and for joy! Yours always,
July 2nd, 2012