A.L.F. On Trial – Capitalism Under Attack In The 1980’s (1987. England, city of publication unknown.)
On February 5th of 1987 ten British animal liberationists were sentenced to an aggregate of 38 years after a trial prosecutors had designed to “break the back of the ALF.” This case, popularly referred to as the Sheffield Trial, set precedents not only in the UK, but worldwide for the manner in which vegan militants would be tried by the state and media.
Although the Sheffield Trial failed in its goal to end underground direct action for non-humans, it did take a serious toll on the movement. Ronnie Lee was sentenced to 10 years, Roger Yates skipped bail and went on the run, and several others were taken out of the struggle for lengthy periods. The negative media blitz during the trial was among the first to create a popular association between the terms “animal rights” and “terrorist.” Worst of all, Sheffield was the first case in which the charge of “Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Damage” was upheld, essentially allowing radical media producers (In this case Ronnie Lee and the SG Newsletters) to be held responsible for the actions of others the authors had never met or otherwise interacted with- in fact, these other “conspirators” didn’t even have to be known to the authorities. All that needed to be shown was that a publication showed approval for an illegal act and that those acts then continued to occur. (Other courts disagreed with this novel interpretation of the law however, most notably the appeals court in the GANDALF trial.)
Parallels between this case and that of the SHAC 7 and others are clear, but little has been done to learn from the earlier trial. Luckily, an anarchist analysis of the court proceedings from 1987 has survived in the form of this brief, snarky pamphlet.
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.
Animal Warfare (1989, David Henshaw, London, England)
Based upon a television show of the same name, Animal Warfare was one of the first books written about the rise of animal liberation militancy. Its author, David Henshaw, is decidedly anti-animal rights, and at times his coverage is so unfair and deceitful that it’s tempting to write this publication off as mere tabloid journalism. That would be a mistake. While clearly written from the perspective of a person intent on smearing activists, this paperback also provides us with a look at our history less slanted by movement propagandizing and cheerleading. At times that picture is not pretty.
Authored during the rise of what some English activists called “the cult of militancy,” Animal Warfare takes the fodder provided by the most extreme actions of the early 80s and spins an ugly tale of car-bombs, poisoning hoaxes, graveyard desecration, and alliances with racist organizations such as the National Front. While there are plenty of grotesque distortions of facts, there are also valuable lessons to be learned about how the best tactical decisions consider our movement’s ability to survive backlash while building mass.
At a time when many modern activists seem intent on repeating the mistakes of the past, (or at least blogging as if they intend on repeating those mistakes), Animal Warfare contributes to our ability to learn about media falsification, the dangers of militaristic posturing, and the events which led to the weakening of England’s mass militant movement for animal liberation.