There was reason for celebration on 12th August 2014 when SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) announced an end to its fifteen-year campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), an international contract research organisation who have been the subject of a long campaign of violence and harassment. The campaign has seen around two dozen activists sentenced to over 100 years’ worth of jail time in the US and UK, with more sentences due to be handed down next month in the UK. This comes at a time when animal rights extremism remains at an all-time low in the UK.
However, within a month of the SHAC campaign ending, a new animal rights campaign has sprung up in Cambridge (UK), which bears many hallmarks of SHAC.
National Operation Anti-Vivisection (NOAV) claims to be:
“a completely grass-roots network of animal rights activists opposed to vivisection in the UK … We feel strongly that institutional animal abuse of all kinds will continue while the benefits to the companies abusing animals outweigh the detriments. Through campaigning, lawful protests, boycotts and all other lawful means we intend to create those detriments!”
The call to keep the campaign legal is laudable, but few animal rights extremist organisations openly declare illegal intentions. Indeed SHAC, with its 100 years of jail time, claimed that it “[did] not encourage or incite illegal activities.” NOAV go on to say that:
“The time for talking, thinking and plotting is over – it’s time for action! We are not a talking shop or a social club, we are a no nonsense anti-vivisection activist group! If you are ready to take action to stop animal testing, please check out our campaign pages!”
The campaign pages bring up two separate campaigns NOAV are running. The first, which offers cash incentives to students, for the details of fellow student animal researchers so that they “can be used for covert monitoring or naming and shaming student animal abusers.“
The poster (below, left) produced by NOAV shares much likeness of a similar campaign poster (below, right) created by American animal rights extremist group, Negotiation is Over, led by Camille Marino. If you look carefully below you will notice the use of language, and structure of the poster is remarkably similar. Both offer students “easy cash/money” for the names, pictures, addresses, contact details, and experiment details of students involved.
We have condemned the targeting of students before, and we do so again. Stalking and harassing students is not a legitimate way of running a campaign. It is these sorts of actions which can potentially force brilliant minds out of the life sciences out of fear, as may have happened after an NIO campaign targeting Florida Atlantic University student, Alena, in 2011. It must be made clear that Alena wasn’t targeted after being identified by a fellow student, rather she contacted NIO directly in the naive belief that she could reason with Marino (clearly not appreciating just how nasty Marino is). As far as we know no students ever took Marino and NIO up on their offer.
If any Cambridge students are targeted by NOAV it would be safe to assume that the reaction of Cambridge students will be the same as that of students in Oxford when they were declared “legitimate targets” by SPEAK/ALF. Did the Oxford students cower and tremble? No, they most certainly did not!
National Operation Anti-Vivisection’s second campaign targets a new animal research facility being built by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in Cambridge. What makes this campaign concerning is a section of the website called “Secondary Targets”.
The webpage then provides names, addresses, pictures and contact details of individuals and organisations who are involved in building the new facility in Cambridge. This tactic is similar to SHAC’s campaign against HLS; as John Salon described these tactics in a Salon article:
“SHAC’s modus operandi is simple, elegant and shockingly effective: Publish the names, home addresses and telephone numbers of executives and employees of Huntingdon and any companies it does business with; identify these individuals as ‘targets’”.
It is at this point we may care to question why SHAC closed down its operations. SHAC’s wide reach and big impact in the preceding 15 years has made it a prime target for legal action by firms wishing to protect themselves. At least 18 companies, including Oxford University and AstraZeneca, have won legal injunctions to prevent or limit SHAC protests aimed at themselves, their employees, or their stakeholders. Any activists running under the SHAC name are therefore restricted in acting against these companies. Many may believe that by running under another banner they can avoid those legal injunctions imposed on SHAC.
Does National Operation Anti-Vivisection (NOAV) represent a violent threat at a time when extremism is almost unheard of? Time will tell. A rise in legal activism by animal rights groups is bringing fresh money into the movement. While most of this goes on above-the-level campaigns, it is often hard to prevent some of it spilling into more questionable hands. SHAC collected almost “£1 million in donations to SHAC’s collection buckets and bank accounts” back in the early 2000s.
Organizations and individuals must continue to be open in explaining why they conduct animal research. In this way the public and younger potential-activists will be dissuaded from supporting or joining these fringe animal rights groups, which threaten research and the benefits it can bring.
Addendum – February 2015:
More than 3 months now have gone by since NOAV’s campaign was noticed by Cambridge students and despite claiming to have received “around 100 emails” from students the “delightfully unhinged” NOAV have not reported any targeting of students, which means either that no students have taken NOAV up on their offer, or that NOAV has realized what a spectacularly bad idea it would be to threaten students.
It also seems that Cambridge City Council are as unimpressed with NOAV as Cambridge students are, as on 4 February 2015 they gave planning permission for AstraZeneca to start building their new headquarters on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.