Chapter 24: How it all started, and finished
The class of the kind, the considerate and the compassionate, that is the only class that has ever mattered and the only one that ever will.
E. M. Forster (probably)
1982 - 2013
I became a Vegan in 1982 after watching the 'Animals Film' on the then newly opened Channel Four television station. It is a powerful film showing how animals are exploited in farming, vivisection, hunting and so on. I must admit I am rather dismissive of television, I have not owned one for the last twenty five years, but this programme transformed my thinking and life. I still regard turning vegan as one of the best decisions I have made. I don't think animal abuse will ever end but at least vegans aren't part of the chain that enslaves animals.
Around the time I turned Vegan, I became active with the Northern Animal Liberation League based in Manchester. The first serious confrontation with animal abusers and thugs came at the Waterloo Cup in 1984, a notorious hare coursing event. Whilst trying to disrupt it, a campaigner got attacked and suffered a head injury. In April of that year the NALL organised an invasion of ICI laboratories in Cheshire. Several hundred activists flooded the laboratory complex, overwhelming security. Rumour had it that one of the buildings contained a two headed monkey, but access couldn't be gained to that building. Fourteen people were arrested and put on trial and Robin Smith and Dave Callander received minor prison sentences of three months because they were deemed to be organisers. We were shocked at the sentences at the time, not long after I received two years for my part in a similar raid at Unilever labs in Bedfordshire!
Raids like these were important direct action and they were very empowering. A lot of other NALL campaigning was less so, such as running education stalls in town centres but they were equally important in changing people's minds. It was to be my introduction to the importance of public stalls and why I later did so many whale and dolphin ones.
The NALL could be imaginative, during the 1984/5 miners' strike we arranged a football match with Bold Colliery as an act of solidarity in their struggle, 'human freedom , animal rights, one struggle one fight'. I expect they turned up expecting an easy game against a bunch of soft vegans and weirdos. We insisted we played with our non-leather ball and we ran out 3-1 winners and the game featured on local television for a few minutes. Another NALL event was a waterfall climb up Ingleton falls in Yorkshire. Three experienced climbers and three non-climbers undertook this, wading through the river bed for a mile or two and climbing over several small waterfalls. We had a contingent of supporters following us along the riverside path, handing out leaflets on animal abuse to unsuspecting walkers only out for a stroll. At one waterfall we had to haul one of the non-climbers up on the rope, nearing the top it looked like he was going to drown before we could get him out of the waterfall, fortunately we avoided the potential bad press!
Hunt saboteuring was always exciting though and worrying, as there was always the possibility of violence from hunt 'heavies' or police arrest, and I had a few hairy moments and was arrested once. It was good to be out sabbing knowing you could be saving the life of a hare or fox. There were some mad scary days, like the ones disrupting a grouse shoot on the North Yorkshire moors, when it developed into a mass brawl and the sab on the Cheshire hunt immediately after Mike Hill's sad death. I only stopped sabbing after I moved to Dorset and the progression of MS meant I couldn't do it anymore. I look back on the 1980s and 1990s as halcyon times and it was a real privilege to have been involved in those early days of the animal liberation movement.
I wrote the World Charter for Cetacea in 2005 and two years later initiated the Campaign for the Abolition of Animal Slavery. Slavery in one word really sums up the treatment and exploitation of animals, other sentient beings, by humans. I believe they are a useful contribution in raising peoples' consciousness but I have been quite surprised and a little depressed at the lack of support they have received from other campaigners .However I have NO doubt that as human consciousness evolves then future generations will look back on animal slavery in 2013 as being equal to that of human slavery past and present. They will be viewed with the same dread and shame. What a time that would be, to be living.