Archive for the ‘animal rights’ Category

Why #SPYCOPS matters

June 27, 2018

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The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) has been in the news a lot in the past few weeks, as a result of the high street cosmetic chain Lush’s highlighting of this issue. The Lush window display originally featured a montage of half a uniformed police officer and half the same person in plain clothes, with the headline “PAID TO LIE”, underneath which some fake police tape said “POLICE HAVE CROSSED A LINE”. It encouraged people to tweet support for victims of #SPYCOPS, innocent people who were “SPIED ON FOR TAKING A STAND”.

This display was later changed, as a result of a backlash from the UK cop humour site, with Lush staff being threatened and harassed. The Lush facebook group (which previously had an 80% approval rating) was targeted, with a slew of negative reviews and threats to boycott the company. Ironically, takings at Lush were actually up 13% during the campaign – brandwatch has done an interesting analysis, explaining that Lush’s customer base and the visitors to the police website were completely different, and Lush’s customers overhelmingly approved of the campaign.

The police units concerned operated since 1968 until at least 2010 and may well still be operating under a different guise today. The tactics which were employed included using the names of dead people as cover identities, without knowledge of the families concerned; having non-consensual sex with victims and in some cases even having children with their targets.

The full extent of the police operation is unknown, but at least 1,000 groups were infiltrated in this way. The only thing all of them have in common is that they are all left wing! Environmental campaigners, trade unionists, socialists, the Stephen Lawrence family, animal rights campaigners all found themselves targeted by the state, including members of the Socialist Party, of which I am a member.

Under pressure, Theresa May began a public enquiry in 2015, but this is not expected to give any answers until 2023, officers have been granted anonymity, and the enquiry does not cover Scotland. There is a petition for full details to be released and for a fair and transparent enquiry, with justice for the victims – https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-support-victims-of-spycops-get-access-to-justice

#SPYCOPS matters because we are supposed to live in a democratic country, with freedom of speech, where we have the right to join a trade union and the right to criticise the government. It matters because we need to stand up for the environment, because we need democratic, fighting trade unions to improve our working conditions and to fight against privatisation and casualisation of jobs. It matters because there are victims up and down the country, mostly women, who were left bereft as the men they thought of as their partners led double lives. It matters because the police’s record on investigations is abysmal – e.g. Orgreave, Hillsborough, Jean Charles De Menezes, Stephen Lawrence . . . It matters because police resources were wasted in deceiving innocent protestors rather than targeting criminals.

To read more about the campaign visit campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/

Orangutan’s Song

May 24, 2016

We still remember the joyous canopy
a verdant green blanket
smothering – sunlight struggled
down to the dank forest floor.

We still remember the tamarind’s hoot,
the faintest placement of the tiger’s paw,
the chattering of cicadas.
tree frogs flashed vivid; danger.

We had no such warning,
no scent or sound, until
it was too late.
few of us escaped.

A new sound came –
the rasping death rattle
of alien machinery;
great trees felled in moments.

We grew hungry, stressed, scared.
resorted to eating bark:
the rainforest clamour gone
amidst acrid stench of smoke.

We remember a time when
this fragile dream was shattered
into chaos and suffering.
hundreds of lifetimes gone.

For what? Palm oil: cheap bulking agent
from distant tropics, where labour costs are minimal
where the old people of the forest
do nothing for profit margins.

Goods line supermarket shelves:
capitalism captures, constricts, commodifies;
brainwashes humans. soothing adverts
mask the suffering.

If we could only communicate in your alien tongue:
“Find your inner ape.
play together, co-operate
discover life’s true value”.

 

Orangutans cannot speak.

They cannot voice their displeasure at supermarket chains raking in £billions, while destroying fragile ecosystems in distant rainforests, which may have held the cure to cancer, or are home to millions of undiscovered species, or are the last sacred home of an indigenous culture, who have had little contact with the outside world.

They cannot use keyboards to send indignant emails, explaining the injustice and suffering associated with palm oil.

They cannot point out that it is perfectly possible for supermarkets to use palm oil substitutes, or sustainably grown palm oil, neither of  which harm precious and irreplaceable habitats.

They cannot organise to overthrow this system of capitalism which sacrifices all in the name of profit.

But you can!

The worst offenders can be found here:
http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/shoppingethically/palmoilfreelist.aspx#supermarkets

For a political alternative, and a better livelihood for people in poor countries, so that they do not have to do backbreaking work, which is destructive to our environment:
http://www.socialistworld.net You can also buy my poetry pamphlet ‘Little Green Poetry’ – http://www.lulu.com/gb/en/shop/andrew-walton/little-green-poetry/ebook/product-21745906.html – all profits go to help build a movement to change this rotten system.

 

Hustings for Animal Rights

May 6, 2015

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Britain is a nation of animal lovers, they say – so it is surprising that events like the one above, where candidates were asked questions on their party’s stance on human rights, are not more common. Animal rights was hardly mentioned in the mainstream media during this election campaign.

From left to right above are Ian and Iona (Lib Dem candidate and his guide dog); myself representing TUSC for Leicester South; Mags Lewis (Green candidate for Castle Ward) and Leon Hadji-Nikolau (Conservative, Leicester South). The Labour Party clearly didn’t think the issue was important enough to send a representative! The event was organised by LUSH, which made for an unusual and interesting debate.

We discussed the ethics of fishing, one of the most common past-times in Britain – humanely carried out, with barbless hooks, it causes the fish little distress and anglers regularly report pollution in Britain’s waterways. The Tory candidate confused coarse fishing with game fishing, where fish are returned to the river (although many “game” fish are also returned to the water to preserve fish stocks). I contrasted responsible angling with the overfishing of the seas by commercial trawling, where many fish are returned dead back to the ocean. Capitalism always seeks the greatest profit, and long-term considerations, such as the sustainability of fish stocks, are not taken into account.

The treatment of animals for food was discussed – all participants agreed that CCTV cameras should be used in slaughterhouses. My argument was that we need to connect up the reality of where food comes from, with the meals we eat. Again, capitalism’s mantra of cheapest possible production costs, has led to factory farming and poor conditions for animals.

I pointed out that we cannot rely on the state to uphold the law in respect of animal rights – fox hunting has been banned, for example, yet hunt saboteurs still have to protect foxes from being hunted by dogs. The Socialist Party has a record of supporting activists and upholding the right to protest peacefully. We would also reduce the working week to 35 hours – this would create more jobs in the countryside, thus supporting people involved in industries around hunting – grooms, farriers, etc. At the moment, farmers are not even being paid a fair wage for the produce they sell.

Ian, for the Lib Dems, made a telling point that it is now an offence to allow a dog to attack a guide dog, and this is on the increase, with 10 guide dogs being attacked every month in the UK. However, could this be something to do with government attacks on the disabled benefits and disabled people being labelled as “scroungers” by right-wing tabloids? Ian came across as a very genuine and concerned person – I just wonder why he is with the Lib Dems, when they have been complicit in the Con-Dem government’s savage austerity programme.

The Conservative spokesperson seemed uncomfortable with many of the questions, and contradicted his own party’s policy, which has sought to repeal the Hunting Act, saying that he would fight to ban hunting. He said that a vegetarian diet was as unhealthy as a diet involving meat (which came as a surprise to most of the people in attendance!) and blamed a high-carbohydrate diet for obesity. I pointed out that Cameron had said he would deliver the greenest government ever in 2010, and the Tories could hardly be trusted on environmental issues.

The question of vegetarianism was also raised. I said that this was a personal decision – I am not a vegetarian myself – but that it is a more efficient method of feeding the population of the world. Capitalism cannot provide enough resources to deliver basic human needs for the world’s population, and hunger rather than obesity is a vital issue for most of humanity.

The Green candidate skilfully answered the questions and her party has some very worthy policies. However, her response was limited to staying within the confines of the present economic system – she pointed out that while capitalism had its problems – we needed to do something now about animal protection. My position was that, while we fight for reforms under capitalism, the whole system cannot be reformed – that practices such as the horrific conditions in puppy farms and people importing dogs in the boots of cars (very risky due to the risk of rabies entering the UK) – would continue, as long as there was profit to be made from the exploitation of animals.

Only by getting rid of the capitalist profit motive altogether, and replacing our present economy (profit-driven and short-term) with a democratically planned society to meet the needs of everyone, can a truly sustainable and environmentally friendly society be achieved.

If you agree, support TUSC candidates – read more about us at http://www.tusc.org.uk – in the forthcoming elections this Thursday. If you can’t vote for TUSC where you live, why not consider standing yourself? It is very likely that there will be an unstable coalition government, and a new set of elections could be just around the corner. We need to build an alternative to cuts and austerity, to meet the needs of the millions and not the millionaires.