Ronnie Lee on the ALF
Because the ALF discussion has a tad of momentum, I thought this was a good time to hear from Ronnie Lee, one of the founders of the ALF. His interview with Claudette Vaughan at Abolitionist-Online might be helpful when you’re thinking about where you stand. Mr. Lee presents a brief history and I believe he answers many questions that come up over and over again in relation to the ALF, direct action in general, and violence. You might be surprised by what he says. (My commentary, as always, is italicized.)
Here are some of the passages that struck me:
- I think a wide range of different activities need to come together to actually defeat animal abuse and a hell of a lot of it will come through the use of education, because if you look at the greatest area of animal abuse it’s the rearing and slaughter of animals for food. The best way to combat that is to educate people to become vegan and that doesn’t involve direct action at all. I’m not going to criticize anyone who wants to put a brick through a butchers shop window. I’ve done that many times myself, but a more fundamental way is to educate people. An educational effort won’t change everybody, but it can make a difference with many, many people.
- I don’t think anything useful will come out of the major political parties, so the Greens are probably the best bet in terms of making things better for animals and obtaining social justice for people too. We now have a political party in England called “The Party for Animals” but they are only single-issue, so, in my opinion, it’s better to support the Greens. I’m no longer an anarchist, like I was in my younger days. I’ve come to the conclusion that, as with all other animals, there’s a very strong pull within most humans to follow leaders. Rather than try to fight this reality, we need to take account of it in our battle for animal liberation. Sadly, those who advocate anarchism allow the bad guy to lead, because they say that not even the good guys should be leaders. Advocates of animal liberation need to seize political power, if we really want to have things our way.
- To achieve animal liberation we need to change the way people behave and there are two ways of doing that – education and coercion. Educate those we can educate into behaving properly towards animals and force the others to do so, through legislation etc. Most people will never lift a finger to oppose animal persecution. We have to accept that. They are too busy watching soap operas or Big Brother. However, this public apathy could be advantageous once we seize power, as it would mean that most people would not resist legislation passed by a pro animal liberation government. We need to get active in the political process, in my view through the Green party, with a view to one day forming a government that will pass stringent animal protection legislation. If you succeed in educating people but, at the end of the day, there’s no-one for those people to vote for, half the potential benefit of educating those people is lost. (I was surprised by this one!)
- If I see a picture of a person torturing an animal I don’t think, “Oh my God, that poor animal”. I think “That bloody bastard. I want to stop them”. That’s probably the difference between what makes a campaigner and what makes a rescuer. We just want the animals to be left alone.
It’s about changing people’s attitudes and it’s about changing the way that people behave. People only ever change their behaviour for 2 reasons. One reason is because they want to and the other reason is because they are too frightened not to. We have to educate people, so that they want to change, but we also have to make it so they have got to, or else. I know that sounds very stark, but that is the actual reality of what we are up against. We live in the middle of a holocaust for animals. If you begin to think in terms of 1% of what happens to animals, your mind would just explode. You know it’s happening but you can’t go into it because you’d just be destroyed by it but what I think we have to do is concentrate on how to stop it, develop good strategies for stopping it and try to think in terms of what works and not waste time on things that don’t really work. Each area of animal abuse has its weakest link, where we need to exert pressure in order to bring it to an end.
- [L]ast year a local branch of greyhound protection group Greyhound Action were running a campaign to close the dog track at Glastonbury Stadium. This consisted of demos, leafleting, street stalls etc. Then bang, bang, bang, the ALF carried out three damage attacks on the stadium and the guy in charge there decided to close the track. To their credit, Greyhound Action didn’t condemn the ALF, like other similar "peaceful" organisations have done in the past, but accepted that there was "no doubt that the ALF actions contributed significantly" to the closure of the dog track and even went so far as to say that they were "quite sure such activists would be regarded as heroes" by greyhounds persecuted by the dog racing industry. (Violet Rays and Charles Hobson Booger, III are delighted by the track closure, as am I.)
- Obviously I’m happy with how effective the ALF has been, but, if I were back again now at the beginning, I would do things differently. In terms of my input into the ALF there are three things I would do differently today. (Teaser–you have to go to the article to find out what they are, and you might be astonished to find out what they are.)
- The discussion about PeTA at the end of the interview is particularly useful for anyone new to PeTA, as if you don’t like the organization now, you probably would have when it started. For me, it is nearly unrecognizable now.
- [W]hat many of the large organisations tend to do is constantly start new campaigns while ending those that have been running for a certain amount of time, even if those original campaigns haven’t achieved their objectives. This is because the main aim isn’t to win campaigns, but to get money. It’s a huge problem, which involves many of the larger national organisations, even some of the better, more radical ones.
- Finally, though, I would like to state quite firmly that this is a war we are definitely winning. I don’t know about that one. Maybe you’ll agree with his rationale, which is UK-specific. I certainly don’t feel like we’re winning here in the US.
What do you agree with/disagree with? Does the interview bolster your beliefs or does it make you think differently about anything?