Report: Animal Rights Conference – Part 1

For the rest of this week I shall be blogging my thoughts and comments on the Animal Rights Conference, that was held Friday 15th – Sunday 17th August 2008 (the conference actually started on Thursday and finishes on Monday, but I attended the main 3 days).

Friday 15th August, I headed to the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria to attend the animal rights conference. Far from infiltrating the conference under any false pretenses I chose to sign in under my real name, and although not actively advertising myself and my organization (It’s their conference and I was not there to disrupt it).

Exhibitors and speakers ranged across animal rights issues, from production agriculture to veganism to medical research and more. The first talk that caught my interest was “Applying Direction Action” by Jonny Vasic (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society), Steve Hindi (SHARK – Showing Animals Respect and Kindness … SARK surely?) and Camille Hankins (Win Animal Rights – W.A.R.). Hankins was heavily involved in the campaigns against Huntingdon Life Sciences, as well as being one of the spokesmen for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (ALPO) which publicizes the violent activities of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Animal Rights Militia (ARM).

Applying Direct Action was an interesting talk since both Vasic and Hindi’s organizations’ claim to stand against violence (arson, bombs, home invasions), whereas Hankins was quite happy to support the more extreme activities of the ALF and ARM. Hankins talked about her part in the campaigns against HLS (in particular in keeping them off the New York Stock Exchange – however HLS has since been listed) and urged others to join in on direct action. Talking more about acceptable forms of direct action, Hankins offered her opinions on two particular incidents.
On the arson attacks on DHL vans – “We drove up to this parking lot, and there were three lorries that had been firebombed, that were in ashes. And you know what, I have to tell you I was excited, I cheered.”
On the grave robbery of Gladys Hammond –  “I didn’t have a problem with that, besides the person was dead. Nobody got hurt. Except the people that lost the body for a couple of years did.”
[Click on either quote to get the full audio clip (mp3 format) to play in your browser. Audio from official conference recordings]

It seems Hankins may have taken it too far, as the crowd applause after the support of the grave robbing was sporadic at best. Given that this incidents, and other incidents like this, brought the condemnation of non-violent animal rights groups (and rightfully so) who tried to distance themselves from this fringe element, Hankins decided to remind the room that condemning such actions is “betraying our fellow activists.” She finished her talk by confirming her commitment to shutting down HLS by “any means necessary.”

To write off individuals like Hankins as an animal rights nutjob is to forget that she is a powerful and energetic speaker, who’s experiences, advice and encouragement has nurtured many animal rights activists into, sadly, becoming animal rights extremists. Most activists at the convention (or those I heard and spoke to) were genuinely caring and pleasant individuals who are often wrongly tainted by the activities of the extemist elements that exist on the fringe of the movement. Activists such as Hankins do her movement no favors, however she appears to see such criticism from her own movement as betrayal rather than advice.

Leaflet of the day – “Things You Didn’t Know About Animal Testing…”

This was a small leaflet I picked up at an exhibit stand, which included some of the following “facts”.

1. In the US alone, over 87,000 dogs, 20,000 cats and 62,315 non-human primates were used for research in 2006
– They choose an anti-viv website as a source, and seemingly the reason they chose not to use the actual facts from the USDA is because they’ve exaggerated the number of dogs by over 20,000.

2. No law requires that cosmetics and household products be tested on animals
– This is just plain wrong. Any novel cosmetic product in the US MUST be tested on animals, however one can use previously animal-tested chemicals to put new cosmetics on the shelf.

3. At least 450 methods exist with which we can replace animal experiments.
– The truth of the issue can be read in the bad science section.
“This is nonsense, these are techniques used alongside animal research. Only about 10% of medical research involves animals. From time to time non-animal techniques do come along that replace animal tests, but their adoption is rarely controversial as they are almost invariably cheaper and quicker. The vast majority of scientists who undertake animal experiments also use non-animal methods, it is a case of using the appropriate technique for the question being asked. Of course new animal techniques, such as transgenic animals, are regularly developed so the situation is very fluid.”

Keep reading for the rest of my report on the animal rights conference.



5 thoughts on “Report: Animal Rights Conference – Part 1

  1. >2. No law requires that cosmetics and household products be tested on animals
    >- This is just plain wrong. Any novel cosmetic product in the US MUST be tested >on animals, however one can use previously animal-tested chemicals to put new >cosmetics on the shelf.

    I’m not per se agains animal testing (I think there are genuine cases where it would be justified), but can anyone explain to me why we need these new cosmetics ?

    Do we really feel that the pain we inflict (even if the extremist tactic is to pain a much worse picture than it in reallity is) to these animals is of no importance at all ?

    1. Ecogeek, I do agree here – My point was to illustrate the factual inaccuracies in their “facts”.

      In the UK we do not allow cosmetic testing at all (although some components of cosmetic testing may be tested for other reasons) and that is fine by me. This website does not serve to defend cosmetic research, only medical research.

  2. Thanks for the input Marie. I wasn’t aware that the links between members of the Green party in Ireland and SHAC, though knowing of the close links between the Green Party in the UK and the anti-vivisectionist movement it’s hardly surprising. I think Green MEP Caroline Lucas might even have spoken at a SPEAK rally a couple of years ago. Oddly enough though the Oxford Green party was pretty evenly split on animal testing last year, though perhaps they have more members than usual who are actually familiar with animal research and all too familiar with animal rights extremism

    I suspect that following their decision to enter coalition with Fianna Fail, their U-turn on the M3, fence sitting on the Lisbon treaty and other actions in the past year the Irish Green Party will find itself down a few seats in the next election.

    If you’re at a University in Ireland and would like to invite a speaker form Pro-Test to deliver a talk or take part in a debate you should get in touch via the contact e-mail at

  3. It’s great to see the British public finally take a stand against these extremist and I like many other ordinary men and women commend you for your own bravery in speaking up for animal researchers. I watched the documentary of Monkeys, Rats and me, I think people like Colin Blakemore and Tipp Aziz are real modern day heros. I live in Ireland and although we have not seen anything like the level of intimidation that there is in Britain, Irish activists are very closely linked to SHAC, SPEAK,PETA and the ALF and to make matters worse unlike the U.K. and America, these extremists that have provided platforms in Ireland for Steve Best, Keith Mann, Robin Webb and Heather Avery are policy makers for the Irish Green Party, who are junior members of the current Government.(the Irish Green Party state they are ‘the only political force with an animal rights philosophy at its core’), they describe animal research as ‘scientific fraud’. So while British. and American Governments are introducing new laws to combat this terrorism we have Green Party members that are listed on the U.K. SHAC’s website as SHAC Ireland

  4. It’s interesting that Hankins chose the campaign against HLS and the grave robbery of Gladys Hammond as examples of the successes of her style of direct action, since anyone familiar with what has happened since would have realized that they are also an example of how such actions can backfire. The actions of SHAC and the campaign against the Hall family at Newchurch may have won tactical victories for the animal rights extremists, but in the long term they lead to strategic defeat for the extremists. They forced the government to pass tough new laws against such activities and establish a police unit, NETCU, to coordinate police actions against animal rights extremists and others that use intimidation, vandalism and violence in pursuit of a social or political agenda. This tough new approach has had great success in reducing the number of AR related attacks over the past couple of years

    At the same time these campaigns had the effect of making the public and media commentators increasingly concerned at the tactics used, and the case of the desecration of Gladys Hammond’s grave provoked widespread disgust and condemnation of the activists involved. The overall effect of the AR extremist campaigns was to turn the general public against the animal rights movement, particularly when it was obvious that there were intimate links between the leadership of “above ground” organizations such as SHAC and SNGP and the underground ALF.

    The success of Pro-Test in Oxford can be viewed as the culmination of a rising tide of support for the victims of AR extremism. As for HLS, it’s been quoted on the NYSE for a couple of years now, where its share price is doing very well indeed!

    I’m not surprised that many AR activists are not too keen on Hankins’ brand of direct action!

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