BOOKS: Capers In The Churchyard

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:

Capers In The Churchyard:
Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror
by Lee Hall
Nectar Bat Press (777 Post Road, Suite 205, Darien, CT 06820), 2006.
162 pages, paperback. $14.95.

Friends of Animals legal director Lee
Hall’s short book attempts to provide a lesson in
strategy for animal rights campaigners. Hall
argues that the goal of animal advocacy should be
to change the aspects of human culture that are
based upon dominating and exploiting non-human
animals.
Violent methods, such as those used by
the Animal Liberation Front and Stop Huntingdon
Animal Cruelty, are in Hall’s view merely the
“greening of hate’” and counter-productive.
Most significantly to Hall, they discredit the
campaigns of those who seek radical reform by
non-violent means. Hall sees the excesses of the
environmental thugs ensnaring all animal
activists in the association with terrorism
amplified by threatened industries and their
stooges in government.

Hall’s employer, FoA, has particular
reason to be wary, since FoA was the victim of
extensive covert infiltration funded by U.S.
Surgical, culminating in the heavily publicized
November 1988 arrest of fringe activist Fran
Trutt in the act of planting a bomb in the U.S.
Surgical parking lot. The plot was aided and
abetted throughout by FoA volunteer Mary Lou
Sappone, who turned out to be working for a
private security firm (now defunct) contracted to
U.S. Surgical.
Beyond just the matter of rotten apples
giving the whole barrel a bad name, Hall
believes that the thugs miss the whole point of
animal rights advocacy, which is to create a
culture of respect for all animals, human and
non-human, and to live in harmony with nature.
This, she says, cannot be done by adopting the
authoritarian mindset and brutal methods of the
animal abusers.
So far, so good. A well researched and
cogent critique of eco-thuggery is overdue, and
Hall’s well-written, concise and closely
reasoned book is commendable. This is a
significant contribution to animal rights
literature.
However Hall is somewhat coy about
spelling out her alternative strategies and
explaining precisely how a long-term non-violent
strategy can overcome various practical
obstacles. Hall criticises the militants for
treating others with open disdain’ and scorns
the militant rationale that the non-violent
approach is not working.
Yet Hall does not respond effectively to
the militant belief that nothing will change in
the foreseeable future without confrontation to
raise public awareness. Paul Watson of the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society has drawn a
distinct line between his type of open
confrontation and the covert activity of the ALF,
including in a 1995 ANIMAL PEOPLE guest column,
but apologists for covert and even violent
actions hold that the difference is merely a
matter of degrees, that the educational approach
Hall espouses is conspicuously unsuccessful in
effecting short-term remedies, and that
aggressive incremental direct action is
appropriate meanwhile, even if industry
propagandists turn this to their benefit.
Hall approvingly cites Martin Luther King
Jr. on the tactic of boycotting delinquent
industries. This should bring up two issues for
discussion, but does not.
One is that boycotts have rarely won much
for animals, and have often merely displayed to
industries and governments that animal advocates
are seldom capable of sustaining an effective
boycott.
The other is that boycotts may cause much
collateral economic damage to innocent people.
Apart from the ethical issue that collateral
damage to the innocent should raise, there is
the risk that it will provoke a backlash–as has
occurred in response to boycotts of Japan,
Canada, and South Korea called to protest
against whaling, sealing, and dog and cat
eating. Abusive and offensive practices that
were never condoned by majorities of citizens are
now politically defended as aspects of national
culture.
Hall regards many mainstream animal
welfarists as part of the problem, not the
solution. Activists who press for larger cages,
she argues, play into the hands of industry
public relations, by accepting the need for
cages instead of campaigning for empty cages.
Hall’s allegations that mainstream animal
welfare organizations are irrelevant and
complacent is lucid and well informed, if
uncompromising and self-righteous–for example,
in her dismissive attitude towards Paul Watson
and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Humankind has waged an undeclared war on
animals from the beginning, and whilst we can
all agree that thuggery is offensive and
counter-productive, there is no doubt in this
reviewer’s ideology that intelligent
confrontation of animal abusers is both necessary
and effective. –Chris Mercer

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