The Horne of a Dilemma
By Martin Rowe
December 13 last year, British animal rights activist Barry Horne ended
a 68-day hunger strike after Tony Humphreys, a friend of Hornes,
said that the all-party Parliamentary Animal Welfare Committee of the
House of Commons would look into vivisection issues this month and report
back to the government. This condition falls short of Hornes original
request for the British Labour government to stand by its election pledge
to institute a Royal Commission to look into the issue of vivisection.
The government, standing by its decision not to be blackmailed
by Horne, refused to commit to a date for the Commission.
Barry Hornes hunger strikethis one was his third and by far
the longestposes a number of dilemmas for all concerned with the
issue of vivisection, both for and against. It should be said that it
is difficult to see Horne as the apostle of non-violence. Horne, 46, who
is serving 18 years in prison for arson attacks against shops in the south
of England, is clearly someone who believes that destroying property is
justifiable violence. His hunger-strike prompted a group called the Animal
Rights Militia to threaten to assassinate 10 scientists who vivisect,
or have worked with those who vivisect, if Horne died. One of those on
the list, Professor Colin Blakemore, says he has received two letter bombs
in 12 years and has had missiles thrown through the windows of his family
homepresumably by those who consider themselves animal advocates.
It should also be said, however, that discussing the issue of vivisection
is fraught with exaggeration and half-truths. Statements about violence,
especially, should be examined with suspicion, since infiltrators from
industries that abuse animals have been known to try and cajole animal
advocates into violent acts as a way of both trapping them and creating
negative publicity for animal liberationists. In Hornes case, furthermore,
the mainstream media have unsurprisingly played up Hornes unsavory
connections and played down Hornes central, and rather unremarkable,
demand that the government should stand by its manifesto pledge. Yet even
the media and the threat of violence cannot hide the fact of Hornes
bravery. Not only is the former garbage collector likely to suffer permanent
physical damage after this extraordinary endurance testone which
lasted two days longer than IRA-supporter Bobby Sands fatal hunger
strike in 1981but he has truly brought to the fore the issue of
whether we should or should not continue to experiment on animals.
During Hornes third hunger strike a number of significant developments
took place. The government announced that there would be an end to all
experimentation on animals in the U.K. for the purposes of testing cosmetics.
The campaign to abolish hunting after hounds received a shot in the arm
after more celebritiesincluding Sir Paul McCartneyvowed to
apply more pressure on the government to pass a bill that would, in a
recent survey, be supported by two-thirds of the British people. And Hornes
protest briefly banished a little bit of cynicism about government and
what we can expect from it. The Labour Party had not only encouraged expectations
in animal advocates by producing a manifesto that made numerous and specific
commitments to animal welfare and rights measures, but has, during the
last 18 months, reaffirmed its pledge to implement every line of its manifesto.
The government didnt need to take such a progressive stance on animal
rights to get elected, and didnt need to keep promising to keep
its promises. Barry Horne didnt need to put his life on the line.
But the government did what it did, and so Horne did what he felt he had
to do. His brave stancehowever futile it may ultimately beshould
be celebrated for what it was: a single human being trying to hold the
government that he voted for accountable.
The dilemma as I see it is recognizing the larger goal of ending violence
by not unleashing violence. Satya condemns any violencewhether
actual attempts of assassination or even threats of assassination.
These do nothing but damage to the cause of animal liberation. When Bobby
Sands died in the Maze prison and became a martyr to the Republican cause,
there was an upsurge in violence in Northern Ireland, from Republican
and Unionist paramilitaries, and even more draconian measures from the
Conservative government. Seventeen years after his death, nothing appeared
to changethere was still violence and division. When Sands
sister and her husband were implicated by association in the bombing which
took the lives of almost 30 ordinary people in the Republican stronghold
of Omagh on the Irish border last year, the revulsion from all concerned
was so intense that the couple were forced to flee. As the situation in
Northern Ireland has shown with terrible clarity, the commitment to change
entrenched attitudes only stops when the cycle of violence comes to an
Thus, I salute Barry Hornes brave action and expect him to serve
his term in jail. I welcome the support he has received from many people
around the world for his actions and condemn the statements of the Animal
Rights Militia. I thoroughly endorse his mission to end violence against
other living animals and equally thoroughly oppose the use of militaristic
terminology such as war or enemy to describe those
whowith patience and good willwill ultimately agree with those
who support animal liberation. If all this seems a contradiction, then
so be it. As Barry Horne has found in settling for something less than
he starved himself for, life is rarely simple and progress rarely linearespecially
in the shadow of death.
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