Whatever moral reservations one might have of the action (if in fact animal activists did it), the tactic was effective, for in the war of attrition waged against them, the Hall family eventually lost. In August 2005, they announced that they could not take anymore pressure and harassment, and that they would give up breeding guinea pigs in favor of “traditional farming.”
The British Union of Anti-Vivisectionism simply deplored the campaign and reaffirmed their commitment to “non-violent” methods of change. Many activists condemned the action without understanding the complexity of the situation. Some did little more that regurgitate distorted media and police press reports. Among these activists, who dogmatically cling to pacifist principles over effective tactics and who show more sympathy for the Hall family than the guinea pigs – none stand out more glaringly than US writer, lawyer, and “animal advocate,” Lee Hall.
Calling Out Lee Hall
Recently in the pages of Thomas Paine’s Corner, we penned two critiques of Lee Hall’s work and her attacks on the MDA movement in the UK and US (see “Pacifism or Animals: Which Do You Love More?” and “Averting the China Syndrome: Response to Our Critics and the Devotees of Fundamentalist Pacifism”) These essays were meant to counter the uncritical reception of the extreme pacifism in Hall’s work and that of others such as Gary Francione, his legion of followers, and Friends of Animals. We were glad to learn that we had alerted UK activists of her disparaging representation of their work, and some very seasoned activists who were directly involved in the events Hall criticizes wrote us to say they would read her book and write back with critical comments,
And they did. We are therefore happy to feature below the responses of three UK activists to the work of Lee Hall. Whereas Hall can dismiss our critiques easily enough, these responses are much harder to deflect as they come from veteran activists directly involved in what Hall so adeptly mischaracterizes in her book, “Capers in the Churchyard.” While Hall is in no way related to the Hall family described above, it is a serendipitous coincidence, for her own bilious defamations of militant animal liberations could easily have come from the mouth of the Hall brothers, as their rancid anti-liberationist discourse elides into her own diatribes.
We first hear from Joan Court, who directly challenges Hall’s portrayal of her own positions in Capers. In the second letter, Janet Tomlinson takes Hall to task for copying biased press reports rather than doing real research and actually talking to UK activists. In the third and longest response, Lynn Sawyer, also impugns Hall for her absurd caricature of the MDA movement in the UK and finds her guilty of spreading “lies by omission.”
Let us say, finally, that we are honored to feature the words of these courageous women; they are paragons of steadfast resistance to murderous speciesism and a decadent and barbarous Western “civilization.” Let us now enter their words into the historical record and stand as a correction to the distortions of the UK police and corporate media, and fundamentalist pacifists and animal “advocates” such as Lee Hall.
II. UK Activists Speak
1. Joan Court
ATTN. LEE HALL: I “TOTALLY SUPPORT DIRECT ACTION AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE”!
I am Joan Court from Cambridge England, where I have lived for the last 30 years after graduating from the University with a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology. I also have a Master’s degree in social work from Smith’s College Massachusetts. I have been involved with the animal rights movement since 1978 supporting national and local campaigns and have been arrested on several occasions.
Regarding pages 56 and 57 of “Capers in the Churchyard,” I must say that I object to being whitewashed as if I were in opposition to other radical campaigners. The fact of the matter is that I fully support SHAC, SPEAK, the ALF and, when they functioned, SNGP. I have been a crew member on Sea Shepherd and have worked alongside Captain Paul Watson for 10 weeks and respected his total commitment saving the lives of sea mammals.
In regard to the hunger strikes in Oxford it was in fact SPEAK who sponsored me and I raised substantial funds for them.
I support direct action and civil disobedience. Some of those in prison are my friends who I totally support.
Furthermore, regarding page 117 of your book, I would like to ask you which hunger strikers are you referring to, as I am not aware of any other hunger strikers, bar animal rights prisoners in England and Austria. And what is the “terrible conflict within activism” to which you refer? Who are the hunger strikers supposed to despise?
Hunger striking is one of the few tactics left which are not illegal and can be used as a political tool. I am deeply disturbed by the erosion of civil liberties in the UK which affects everyone involved in any radical movement.