Global Trends in Animal Rights Activism

I note that as I write this post I have no idea how this post will conclude. In order to count the number of global animal rights incidents I began to scan the Bite Back website (warning: AR extremist website) which logs most (all?) incidents of animal rights extremism globally. I found that eight countries have dominated the statistics in the last few years – Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA.

Not having time to trawl through every month of every year from 2004 to 2011 I chose to add all the incidents from July to September (inclusive) of every year – essentially these are third quarter figures for each year. The time period was chosen because September was the most recently completed month. I came up with the following data:

Incidents of animal rights activism or animal rights extremism
Number of Animal Rights related incidents during the July-Sept period

The first point to mention is that, with the exception of a spike in 2008 and 2009, the total number of incidents has been fairly consistent at around 88 incidents over 8 countries in each annual 3 month period. Now let’s make the data a little prettier (click graph to enlarge).

Incidents of animal rights activism / extremismSo, what can we see from the graph.

The USA has seen a slight downward trend in the number of animal rights related incidents each quarter. However, the data is far from conclusive on this and may simply could equally be interpreted as showing a cyclical pattern of activism. In many ways the US data reflects the pattern in the UK (but with generally lower figures), let us hope this means there will be a general decline in the future. The USA average over the period was 11 incidents/quarter.

The UK had the highest levels of activism (average of 24 incidents/quarter) although a massive crackdown on extremism by UK authorities is probably a major part of the decline which has seen only 8 incidents in the July-Sept period for 2010 and 2011 combined. This is certainly promising news for biomedical research in the United Kingdom. See more about activism in Britain in the UK Experience page.

(Read more about the UK trends in our next post: UK Trends in Animal Rights Activism – The Rest of the Story)

Sweden has the second highest average number of incidents (17 incidents/quarter) it has seen a massive rise since 2010, increasing to 57 incidents in the 2011 period. This should be regarded as a concerning rise for authorities in Sweden. Mexico went from no incidents from 2004 to 2007 and then rose to an average of 33 incidents/quarter between 2008-2009. While there has clearly been a rise in activists in Mexico, starting in 2008, the post 2008 decline is less easy to explain.

Germany, Italy and Spain have been relatively consistent with the average number of incidents at 6.5, 8.6 and 7.8 respectively. Ireland remained fairly constant with an average of 2.8 incidents/quarter.

Overall it is hard to pinpoint any general pattern (though please use the data to make your own analysis). We must learn from the declines in countries like the UK, and use what we have learned to prevent the type of rises which have happened Sweden (and to a certain extent Mexico).


Tom Holder

*Disclaimer: I may have made some small errors while counting by hand, however these errors should not be big enough to affect the statistics overall. It is also worth noting that not all global incidents are likely logged on BiteBack. Furthermore, I did not investigate the nature of each incident – some are arson attacks and vandalism, others are empty threats and the release or imprisonment of activists – I have not differentiated between these incidents.