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Template:Animal rights

Robin Webb runs the Animal Liberation Press Office in the UK, which releases material to the media on behalf of animal rights activists operating as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Animal Rights Militia (ARM), and the Justice Department.[1]

Webb was previously a member of the ruling council of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), and a director of Animal Aid.[2] He has said his policy as animal liberation press officer is "never to criticize any action, whatever it may be, so long as it has been undertaken with the sincere intention of furthering animal liberation." [2] This has led to criticism that Webb has appeared to condone acts of violence.


Press office backgroundEdit

File:ALF logo.svg

In 1991, the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group (ALFSG), which exists to offer moral and financial support to jailed activists, stopped speaking on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front because of constant police attention, and a decision was made to create the role of ALF press officer as a separate office.[2]

The office's name was changed to the Animal Liberation Press Office after the introduction of the Terrorism Act 2000, in order to protect the office from police attention and to reflect that it issues statements on behalf of ARM and the Justice Department, as well as the ALF. [1]

In response to a request for an injunction by Oxford University, a British court ruled in October 2006 that Webb was a "central and pivotal figure" in the ALF, and that the Animal Liberation Press Office was "not a neutral reporting exercise or even simply a vehicle for apologists for the ALF, but a vital part of the ALF's strategy."[3] The court ruled that Webb is bound by an injunction banning protests at the building site of Oxford's new biomedical research center. Webb had argued that, as a journalist, the injunction would impinge upon his freedom of speech; the court ruled that Webb is not a journalist, but a propagandist.[3]

ControversyEdit

Webb attracted controversy in 1998 during the 68-day hunger strike of British ALF activist Barry Horne, who stopped eating in protest at the British government's failure to hold a public inquiry into animal testing in the UK, something the Labour Party had indicated it would do before coming to power in 1997.

Toward the end of the hunger strike, when it appeared that Horne might die, the Animal Rights Militia (ARM), an extremist animal-rights group, issued a statement through Webb, threatening to assassinate six unnamed and four named individuals should Horne die: Colin Blakemore, a controversial British scientist and now chief executive of the British Medical Research Council, who came to public attention in the 1980s for research using animal models to research blindness; Clive Page of King's College London, a professor of pulmonary pharmacology and now chair of the animal science group of the British Biosciences Federation; Mark Matfield of the Research Defence Society; and Christopher Brown, the owner of Hillgrove Farm in Oxfordshire, who at the time was breeding cats for animal-testing purposes. [1] As a result of the threats, Special Branch stepped up its surveillance of activists, and in particular of Robin Webb.

Shortly after this, footage shot by an independent production company was shown on the Channel 4 Dispatches program in the UK. The film makers had secretly filmed Webb holding meetings with an individual who told Webb he wanted to arrange a bombing, but who was working undercover for the production team. In the footage, Webb appeared to offer advice on how to make a bomb.

The footage had been shot before the Animal Rights Militia had issued its threat against the scientists, and there was no suggestion that Webb was himself engaged in violent action, but when Channel 4 aired the documentary, his apparent willingness to discuss a bombing caused the Animal Liberation Front to be firmly linked in the public mind with the Animal Rights Militia.

Attitude toward violenceEdit

File:Animalrightsmilitia.gif

Webb himself has appeared to link the ALF and the Animal Rights Militia, together with a third animal-rights group known for violence, the Justice Department. In an interview with No Compromise, the animal-liberation magazine, he said that any vegetarian or vegan who carries out an action that falls within the ALF's three stated aims may claim that action on behalf of the ALF. [2]

He then added: "And if someone wishes to act as the Animal Rights Militia or the Justice Department? Simply put, the third policy of the ALF [to take every reasonable precaution not to harm or endanger life, either human or non-human] no longer applies." [3]

Webb has said that children of animal researchers are legitimate targets of protest. He told the Sunday Herald: "Some say it is morally unacceptable but it is equally unacceptable to use animals in experiments. The children of those scientists are enjoying a lifestyle built on the blood and abuse of innocent animals. Why should they be allowed to close the door on that and sit down and watch TV and enjoy themselves when animals are suffering and dying because of the actions of the family breadwinner? They are a justifiable target for protest."[4]

Webb also said that animal liberation protests would escalate. "There are about 2000 people prepared at any one time to take action for us – more legislation will simply push moderate people to the extremes of the organisation ... When you look at other struggles, there comes a point where non-violent action no longer works. If activists become fed up with non-violent protest then they will take another road and adopt an armed struggle. When you have right on your side, it’s easy to keep going. It really is."[4]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

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Further readingEdit


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