Keith's View

Talking Tactics

I find myself feeling dismay at the reaction when I express my view that continuing to rely on the moral case against vivisection as the key weapon to persuade the general population of its failings is a disastrous and failing tactic. And this with fellow animal rights campaigners! It strikes me as obvious that this is the way forward for those of us who want to see less brutal research methods and medical progress. As a first rule those in favour of vivisecting other animals seek to drag the debate away to instead whine on about paint-stripper on cars and broken windows, which is understandable when you appreciate the impossibility of their position. Perversely, so many of those among us who are so passionately opposed to vivisection will seek to keep the debate on one about animal rights. How come no one wants to talk about the scientific failings of torturing small creatures?

It isn’t letting the animals down or conceding the higher moral ground to leave their suffering as an obvious but secondary public objection when debating the issue, rather an essential approach if we are to get into the heads of those people not yet persuaded, people who will subject others to any amount of extreme violence if it benefits them. In my view, it goes without saying, and is merely stating the obvious, to argue that animals have rights. Of course they do! It’s our duty to enforce them, not merely argue in favour of them. It is already illegal to commit unnecessary suffering on animals, even in the labs. When will we as a movement collectively recognise this and do something about it? How many more animals will suffer for our moral objections?

This isn’t a new idea but it is one that the Animal Liberation Movement seems stubbornly reluctant to grasp. The question is often asked of us: the rat or your baby? We are monsters if we choose the former. It of course matters not what the stated answer is because the question is irrelevant, a bit like asking whether you want to live to 150 or 200. Ask most people to choose between their baby and someone else’s and the other baby gets it. Violence is violence whoever the recipient and many humans occupying this planet are happy to inflict it upon others, mostly by proxy, if they think they are getting something out of it. Once we recognise this grim fact, we can control not just the higher moral ground, but every debate we are quite capable of raising on the issue of vivisection.

Until then, we will watch animal rights activists relegated to second place in this struggle for animal liberation and sound medical research. Sure, people will have some sympathy for our moral objection, even admire us for it, but we will not convince the majority to change their views and side with us - not while they believe it’s in their interests to have other animals tested on, or killed, for their tastes. On the other hand, should we succeed in convincing them that dealers peddling dangerous drugs are likely to poison their baby few will reject our position.

Way back in 1919 The Animal Guardian, the newspaper of the London & Provincial Anti Vivisection Society noted, “To base opposition to vivisection mainly on ethical grounds, as some societies and speakers are accustomed to do, is on the one hand to neglect the strongest and most vital argument at our command - on the other to postpone all prospects of success for at least 500 years to come.” Many anti vivisectionists have said it since.

Figure it out for yourself. One hundred years on and animal experiments are still rising and those in the animal liberation movement fighting this monstrous business on scientific grounds are few in number. Yet, largely ineffective groups like those London nationals with all their accumulated wealth have gone out of their way to keep banging on about the animals’ suffering and only occasionally touched on the scientific failings. Remember, these are of the ilk that have called for an annual reduction in the numbers of animals used, so implying their use is a benefit to us and should continue, as indeed they would applying this strategy, for another hundred years to come! These are the people that have wasted millions on side issues like cosmetic testing for example (which continues to this day). These people often side with the establishment line that those who risk everything to save animals are terrorists. These groups are unhelpful and will never bring an end to vivisection using such tactics.

There are some invaluable websites bursting with facts and figures exposing the failings of vivisection, there are books that bulge the same and demand our attention. We all know how many animals die to the vivisectors and the kind of things they do, but how many of us can reel off the facts that prove that far from saving people, vivisection is killing people? There are endless class action law suits pending for the families and victims of animal tested drugs, like Torcetrapib, which has reportedly killed 82 so far, Vioxx, which has killed tens of thousand, the Ortho Evra patch which causes blood clots and Epilim which is described as the new Thalidomide, see: There are many more. Count the dead and suffering – bet you can’t! We killed none!

If we continue to stress the neglect of animal rights over the scientific invalidity and danger of animal testing, we will plod along forever in our moral indignation while the rest of society holds, as a some perverted moral badge of honour, the infliction of controlled suffering on a few for the benefit of many.

If we really do believe that the majority will give up the cruelty when its exposed to them, then what the hell are we doing spending so much time and energy on vivisection and not the meat and dairy industries, which consume far more individuals in the quest for profit? It seems to me that we need to accept, as our starting point, the reality that most people don’t really care, as long as they are benefiting.

Speaking as one who would, on befriending a genie, first wish the burning to the ground of each and every vivisection laboratory, no matter what results they claimed they generated, our chosen method of campaigning matters not to me – just so long as it succeeds. It seems to me perfectly inviting for the uninitiated to side with an intelligent articulate movement of compassionate people who expose the many glaring failings of animal research, in opposition to the weird mix of cold, creepy characters who publicly defend all, and any, violent vivisector extremism.

The single most frequent comment I heard from viewers of the powerful film Behind the Mask is that there isn’t enough information on the elusive ‘alternatives’ to animal tests in the film. The respondents were well aware of the cruelty but still, even after such an amazing experience as this documentary delivers; we are failing to deliver the coup de grace.

Dare I suggest that to even question the rights and wrongs of using other animals in secret experiments, which would command life prison sentences if the same were inflicted on human animals, is an insult to those animals? Of course it’s wrong, it’s so wrong it doesn’t deserve debate. What isn’t so irresistibly obvious to enough people is that animals aren’t good models for human ills and their suffering compounds ours. When we finally get that message across there will be few who would dare argue for the continuance of vivisection. Until we do, the suffering of other animals, however mild, moderate or severe the perpetrators catogorise it, will remain an acceptable sacrifice for our well-being.

Keith Mann

For further information see

From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann