Freedom News

I can’t believe they still do that

I can’t believe they still do that.” is a sentence we have heard repeatedly since we held an outreach event in Doncaster a few weeks ago to help raise awareness about the plight of the MBR Beagles. That particular event was coordinated by Exposing Cruelty, who are building a Beagle Rescue Army to try to end the practice of breeding beagle puppies for vivisection in the UK. This is just one of the many tactics being employed to try and close places like MBR Acres, an industrial puppy breeding facility in Wyton, Cambridgeshire, owned by the US multinational, Marshall BioResources (MBR).

The term ‘bioresources’ speaks volumes about the dominant culture’s attitude towards all life; whether that be human, animal, plant, collective biome or the planet itself. Billions of individual lives (and deaths) hidden by generic labels such as ‘resource’, ‘revenue’, ‘stock’, ‘catch’, ‘product’ or ‘produce’. These terms lie at the very root of cognitive dissonance, helping to mask the daily horrors committed by industrial capitalism. They are also a blatantly honest description of the raison d’etre of neoliberalism, profit at absolutely any cost. A bottom line which places economy above ecology, enslaves us all, and has ultimately brought us to the point where we are now fighting a literal battle of life against death. As Canadian broadcaster and activist David Suzuki puts it:

There are some things in the world we can’t change – gravity, entropy, the speed of light, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity for our health and well being. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and die. Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature, we invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere.”

As anarchists we are committed to changing the sum of human invention so that it benefits life; all life. Anarchy recognises that the mechanisms of tyranny, oppression and exploitation must be completely dismantled, not simply replaced by another form of hierarchy, ripe for the next tyrant to exploit. It is important here that, in our understanding of (and opposition to…) tyranny, we do not also create a hierarchy of oppressions. We must adopt an intersectional position which does not give priority to one form of exploitation over another. Both the ecofeminist and the black liberation movements offer deep insights into the mechanisms of tyranny and the way in which many of the processes evolved as patriarchy first devalued non-human life and then actively sort to portray women and anyone else they wished to subjugate or enslave as somehow less than human. Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: a feminist-vegetarian critical theory (Continuum 1990) has famously linked both the individual and the societal abuse of women to the oppression of the non-human and the consumption of meat, and political activist, philosopher and academic, Angela Davis has talked about how changing relationships with the non-human world is key to revolutionary change:

I am sometimes really disappointed that many of us can assume that we are these radical activists, but we don’t know how to reflect on the food which we put in our own bodies. We don’t realise the extent to which we are implicated in the whole process of capitalism by participating uncritically in the food politics offered to us by the great corporations. I usually don’t mention that I’m vegan, but I think this is the right moment to talk about it, because it is a part of a revolutionary perspective […] The lack of critical engagement with the food that we eat demonstrates the extent to which the commodity form has become the primary way in which we perceive the world.”

During the 70s and 80s, Animal Liberation developed alongside Black Liberation and Women’s Liberation to the point that it was cited in the 1981 annual report of the Special Defence Squad (SDS), the unit of Special Branch at the centre of the SpyCop scandal: “Following closely on the heels of sexism and racism, speciesism — a concept linking cruelty to animals to the oppression of all non-human beings — has recently focused the activities of the broad-based animal liberation movement”. This quote was brought to our attention by the Radicals & Revolutionaries podcast interview with Paul Gravett, who also provided the introduction to Active Distribution’s 2019 reissue of the groundbreaking pamphlet: Beasts of Burden: Capitalism, Animals and Communism. When paired with Total Liberation, these two Active Distribution pamphlets offer the perfect primer to the intersectional nature of oppression and the holistic approach we must take to oppose it. As Total Liberation says:

[N]o axis of domination can be passed off as secondary compared to the others. Even if we’re a long way from understanding how all the parts fit together, what should be clear is that neither class, nor human relations in general, are somehow primary within the immense tangle of hierarchies we inhabit today. In essence, there’s only one victim when it comes to the horror wrought by the system: life itself. Whether it’s a question of the suicide netting surrounding iPhone factories, the futile panic of animals in the vivisection lab, or the deathly silence of a clear-cut forest, any really subversive discourse ends up putting everything into question.”

A week after the Doncaster outreach event we were in Harrogate with Vivisection Exposed, helping to hand out leaflets before marching on the Labcorp animal testing facility just down the road where we held a vigil for Barry Horne, an activist who died from ill health as a result of a series of hunger strikes which he staged due to New Labour refusing to act on their election promise of a public inquiry into vivisection, something which groups like FLOE are still calling for 21 years on.

Previously known as Covance, the Harrogate lab is one of a network of Labcorp facilities which conduct toxicity testing on a diverse range of animals, supposedly for our benefit. In truth, 96% of all animal testing yields no valuable data and 92% of the drugs that do pass animal testing then fail in the human research phase. The advancement in alternative technologies has rendered animal testing completely redundant (if, indeed, it ever had any real value to begin with), but vivisection is a multinational industry which shares the bottom line of all corporations, profit at any cost.

Animal Free Research UK estimates that 6 animals are killed every minute for experimentation in the UK. Often this takes place in unassuming buildings which you would walk by without ever guessing what was going on inside. Labcorp in Harrogate is not one of those buildings. It is a huge and expanding complex which looks every inch like a lair designed by Dr Evil. While we were there the incinerator chimney was smoking heavily, but the yellow biohazard bins had been surrounded by a pretty wooden enclosure. Last year footage was caught of a large yellow biohazard bin with ‘DOGS’ scrawled on the side in marker pen being pushed by a portly man in a hazmat suit, which caused national outrage when published by the Daily Mirror.

At MBR Acres near Huntingdon, they have also taken to hiding their bins out back. But there’s no hiding the stench and heartbreaking noise of 2000 beagle puppies being raised like pigs (not that pigs deserve such a fate either), fed by drip feed and living in pens filled with their own feaces. Some days the facility is only staffed for an hour a day (the minimum allowed by the Home Office), with a couple of people supposedly looking after thousands of dogs during that short period. When we arrived, two members of staff were just leaving and there was obvious animosity for all to see.

We had brought some donations to share between Camp Beagle, the longest running animal rights protest camp in UK history, and the newly emerging Operation Liberation camp just down the road. It was a quiet weekend in terms of numbers as it coincided with VegFest UK, where Camp Beagle had won an award. But even on a quiet weekend there is always much to do. This kind of 24/7 campaign is never without incident and there is always a need for people on the ground, so please feel free to visit and spend time with these wonderful people.

The police are always on hand to help the animal abusers when the Impex animal transport vans turn up to transport the dogs to their deaths (some die or are killed on site, there are four members of staff ‘qualified’ for acts like ‘bleeding out’, where dogs no longer fit for reproduction are bled to death and the blood sold for experimentation). The same police conveniently turn a blind eye to blatant violations of the law committed by MBR Acres.

The site is surrounded by an ageing fence (you can still see a heart-warming bodged repair where it was breached by the Animal Freedom Movement when they liberated five beagles in June, 2022). MBR’s solution to the degrading fence was to encircle the complex with razor wire, but the wire is at ground level instead of the 1.8m legal requirement for use in the UK. This means it routinely traps and kills wildlife and even trapped one of the dogs living at Camp Beagle. Luckily the dog was wearing a winter jacket which protected them from serious harm.

The impact that the capitalist economic system has had on animal populations over the last fifty years is staggering. 70% of animal populations have been wiped out since 1970. 60% of the planet’s biodiversity loss is a direct result of meat production, an industry which itself slaughters 70 billion land animals (not to mention 2 trillion fish) every year. Unless you have no other means of subsistence (poverty is created by the same mechanisms of greed which wreak ecological destruction), then all of this death is simply to satisfy your taste-buds.

Anarchism is nothing if not action. Action is life. The goal of an anarchist life should be to live — as far as is possible and practicable in the age and culture we find ourselves — without adding to the oppression and exploitation of other beings. As famed animal liberation activist and Camp Beagle resident, John Curtin says in another Radicals and Revolutionaries podcast:

We call ourselves activists and anarchists, and we think we’re acting outside of the box. What about creating our own boxes? […] Movements move […] That’s where the revolution is. It’s not in the big spectacles, it’s not in the machine guns. It’s good people doing little things. Just keep on going, keep on going. That’s where the revolution is […] That’s why I like the quiet people, the people who just chip away, chip away. Feeding the homeless — not with the big banners, not the ‘look at me’ — people just doing the nice stuff. That’s where the revolution is. Love and compassion. Little acts.”

The statistics are truly horrifying, but during the same timescale, and against all odds, the animal rights/liberation movement has chipped away and made a real and lasting impact. The once mighty fur trade is on its knees, and so is vivisection. Sometimes these industries have regained ground, but this is largely a result of the general public thinking that it was a problem which had already been solved; hence the regular cry of “I can’t believe they still do that.”

The day after our visit, the Beagle Freedom Project arrived at Camp Beagle. This was the group who not only helped to shut down the American Envigo beagle breeding facility in Virginia, they also successfully rehoused the facility’s 4000 beagles. MBR Acres will close. Their sister breeding site, B&K Universal at Grimston, near Hull, will close. Labcorp will close. The exploitation and oppression of all living beings will end. As long as anyone and everyone who believes in a better, braver, brighter world continues to chip away with love and compassion in any way they can.

Until all cages are empty and all beings are free.

Carissa Honeywell & Warren Draper

This Saturday 10th December from 12 noon there is a day of demonstration against the three beagle testing labs: Labcorp in Harrogate, Labcorp in Huntingdon, and Seqauni in Ledbury, as a part of International Animal Rights Day.

Sign the petition calling for a Royal Commission into the scientific efficacy of animal experimentation:

Images: Warren Draper

Discover more from Freedom News

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading