Is Great Britain's Labour Party Turning Its Back on Animal Rights Activists

Of course the Labour Party isn’t planning to do anything to resolve the impasse over fox Hunting with hounds until after the upcoming scheduled elections. The Daily Telegraph reports that after the election, however, Labour plans to abandon the ban on such hunting — which it promised to deliver for animal rights activists — and instead go along with a middle-of-the-road proposal to establish a joint committee of the Commons and the Lords to resolve the issues.

In its recent election manifesto, rather than come out and say that it would invoke the Parliament Act to force a ban on fox hunting through over the objections of the Lords, the Labour Party simply said,
“If the issue continues to be blocked [by the House of Lords], we will look at how the disagreement can be resolved.”

According to the Daily Telegraph,

The Labour manifesto signals the Government coming off the fence towards a more partisan view: that the sport should remain as long as it is regulated. The wording went through several drafts and only a handful of the most senior Labour figures knew what the final version of the manifesto would say.

It will be very interesting to see how animal rights activists react to this latest twist. Where 18 months or so ago it looked like the activists had Labour on their side, the extreme reaction involving Huntingdon Life Sciences and other issues seems to have begun to pull Labour away from its former flirtation with the animal rights community. A concerted backlash against Labour by activists upset over its sudden change of heart on fox hunting could go a long way to making such a break permanent.


Labour moves away from fox hunting ban. David Cracknell, The Daily Telegraph (UK), May 20, 2001

Hunt Ban Opponents Targeted for Violence

Two opponents of the ban on fox Hunting in the United Kingdom were warned by police that their names appeared on a hit list prepared by extremist animal rights groups. Labour Member of Parliament Llin Golding and Sports Minister Kate Hoey were advised by police to take extra security precautions after the list came to light. Given recent animal rights violence, including an assault on an animal lab manager and a wave of letter bombs, police are taking the threat very seriously.

Hoey is an outspoken defender of fox hunting, while Golding supported a compromise proposal that would have heavily regulated fox hunting rather than banning it outright. They were the only Labour Members of Parliament to vote against the bill banning fox hunting.

Golding lashed out at extremists in the animal rights movement saying,

These people do not frighten me, they just make me sick and nothing they do will stop me from speaking up for what I think is wright. They have already sent me a coffin containing a huntsman, and tombstone. They are bullies and they are evil. It is important that people do not give in to them.

Robin Webb, spokesman for the UK Animal Liberation Front, was relatively candid in an interview with the Daily Telegraph about his group’s indifference to human life and the ALF’s connection to violent attacks in the UK.

Asked whether or not the ALF condemned the threats, Webb said,

This is something the ALF will neither condone or condemn. We fully understand the anger and frustration which leads people to take this type of action. The Labour Party has failed to keep all those pledges it made to animal rights campaigners in the run-up to the last election.

Many people feel they have been conned and let down by New Labour. The whole movement has taken a step towards radicalism. The argument has been used, quite justifiably in my opinion, that if the animals could fight for themselves there would be a lot of dead animal abusers.

Webb said that the hit list was probably put together by members of the Animal Rights Militia and the Justice Department, both of which have been responsible for numerous acts of violence, including letter bomb attacks, in the UK and other countries. Webb also confirmed what anyone who has followed the ALF for very long could also deduce — ALF members are behind the Animal Rights Militia and Justice Department. Webb said,

People who are ALF members do work for other organistions. The ALF cannot be held responsible for actions they carry out as [a] result of membership of another organisation.

In other words, the ALF is just a label. If nobody gets hurt in an action, the activists say it was done in the name of the ALF. If it involves potentially maiming or killing someone, they simply pick another name out of the hat such as the Animal Rights Militia, but the same core group of activists is likely behind both types of actions.


Animal rights activists target MPs. The BBC, March 10, 2001.

Bomb threat to pro-hunt women MPs. Joe Murphy and Chris Hastings, The Daily Telegraph (London) March 11, 2001.

Is Tony Blair Hypocritical on Fox Hunting?

Last week I reported on
the British Prime Minister Tony Blair once again taking up the cause against
fox hunting. The Labour Party previously tried to ban fox hunting, but
had to back down after huge demonstrations by supporters of the sport,
and some observers suspect Blair might pull back from his recent pronouncement.
The theory goes that Blair is using the fox hunting issue to court animal
rights groups, which are significant contributors to Labour, while also
trying to avoid excessively alienating sportsmen and their supporters.

After BlairÂ’s latest statements,
however, supporters of fox hunting point out that the anti-fox hunting
proposal is hypocritical since the British government itself funds the
hunting and killing of foxes in Scotland and Wales. The foxes are killed
as part of a pest control scheme, and all indications are that any ban
on fox hunting will contain a special exemption for the government-sponsored
culling of foxes.

Until the 1970s foxes in Scotland
and Wales were removed by the use of leg traps. The leg traps were banned
because they were alleged to be cruel and so the government
began subsidizing the hunting of the foxes. The animals are typically
tracked with hounds and then killed by rifle shot. Conservative and pro-hunt
member of parliament Paul Atkinson told the BBC that by banning fox hunting
by private individuals while simultaneously subsidizing fox hunting in
Scotland and Wales means “what they want to do is put people in prison
who ride around on horses with red coats,” alluding to the fact that
it is primarily the upper class that hunts foxes in Great Britain.

Tony Blair Says He's Committed to Banning Fox Hunting with Dogs

The last time animal activists in Great Britain tried to ban fox Hunting with
dogs what looked like an easy win turned into an embarrassing debacle
for Tony Blair’s Labor government. Apparently it is not an embarrassment
Blair will easily forget as in a nationally televised debate Blair vowed,

It [fox hunting] will be banned. We will get the vote to ban
it as soon as we possibly can. We had one try last session. It was blocked
by the Conservatives in the House of Commons and the House of Lords
and we’re looking now at ways of bringing it forward in a future session
that allows people to have a vote and actually carry it through.

This pleased the International Fund for Animal Welfare which wants to ban hunting altogether in the United
Kingdom by Jan. 1, 2000. According to Mike Baker, executive director of
the IFAW, “Hunting wild mammals with dogs is cruel and unnecessary and
the government has recognized that it has no place in a modern Britain.”

HSUS Pals Burlington Coat Factory Targeted by Activists

Several months ago the Humane Society of the United States discovered that some Fur-trimmed coats being
sold by Burlington Coat Factory contained fur from dogs. The story was
widely reported in the national media and BCF agreed to not only stop
importing coats containing fur from dogs but also donated $100,000 to
HSUS to help that organization track and campaign against the import of
fur from dogs into the United States.

As I pointed out, the BCF actions
were the result of embracing what Adrian Morrison calls the “muddled middle.”
If using dog fur is wrong, certainly using mink or other animal fur, not
to mention leather, is wrong. By acting in such an unprincipled way, BCF
was only inviting further harassment from animal rights activists who
won’t be satisfied until no animal products are used in the production
of garments.

In fact, animal rights activists
now appear to be aggressively targeting BCF.

The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade and Last Chance for Animals sent a letter to BCF demanding that
they stop selling coats with fur of any sort by March 26. The two groups have designated Sunday, May 30th as a National
Day of Action Against Burlington Coat Factory. As the two groups put their
complaint in a recent press release, “Burlington Coat Factory has
so far refused to stop selling fur and fur trim, despite the big expose
where they were busted with dog fur. Somehow this company fails to see
the similarities between canines (foxes and coyotes) and canines (dogs).
Therefore they still sell fur from foxes, coyotes, raccoons and who knows
what else.”

In a separate press release, the two
groups reiterated that, “The only way BCF can avoid the protests is to voluntarily
give up selling fur by May 30, or agree to a phase-out plan.”


BCF demo next Sunday. Coaliation to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, February 21, 1999.

National day of action against Burlington. Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, April 9, 1999.

Burlington Coat Factory rejects peace overtures of anti-fur coalition; protests set. Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, Press Release, March 29, 1999.

Animal rights activists back California anti-trapping measure

Animal rights groups are supporting
Proposition 4 on California’s November 3 ballot which, if passed,
would make it “unlawful for any person, including employees of the
federal, state, county or municipal government, to use or authorize the
use of any steel-jawed leghold trap, padded or otherwise, to capture any
game mammal, fur-bearing mammal, non-game mammal, protected mammal, or
any dog or cat.” According to the initiative’s supporters,
the use of the steel leg traps is cruel.

“There’s two distinct
kind of cruelty,” said Proposition 4 supporter Aaron Medlock. “There’s
the initial impact that can cause broken bones, abrasions and swelling.
Then the second injury when the animals struggle to get out.”

On the other side of the issue
are wildlife conservationists who argue the bill will make it extremely
difficult to effectively manage wildlife. W. Dean Carrier, president of
the Western Section of the Wildlife Society, recently sent out a letter
to that group’s members urging California voters to vote against Proposition
4 for precisely that reason.

a report on the impact of the ban prepared for its members, the Western
Section of the Wildlife Society claimed,

Banning padded leghold traps would eliminate the most humane, selective,
and effective means of capturing non-native red foxes. Padded leghold
traps, also called “soft catch” traps, can be set to the target
species’ size and weight, thereby reducing the likelihood of capturing
pets and non-target wildlife species.

The report goes on to note
that studies of the effectiveness of various trapping methods indicate
it takes anywhere from 3 to 9 times longer to trap a red fox with a cage
trap than with a padded steel leg trap. This is a highly significant difference
that could severely impact endangered species. Again from the Wildlife
Society’s report,

In situations where foxes are preying on endangered species, wildlife
managers cannot afford the time to use less effective capture methods.
Predation must be curtailed as soon as possible. An entire colony’s
or population’s nests could be destroyed if an animal is allowed
to predate endangered birds for one or two extra nights.

Leave it to animal rights activists
to oppose an important technology in the fight to preserve endangered