All he asks for is respect

Mark Glover beat the fur trade and blocked live animal exports. Now his goal is nothing less than an end to all meat-eating. Danny Penman meets a campaigner with nothing to lose
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Indy Lifestyle Online
For Mark Glover, the fight against live animal exports is merely warming up. The High Court decision this week that Dover port authority acted illegally in banning live animal exports led him to predict such scenes of civil disobedience that the port of Dover would have to be closed to all traffic.

Yesterday, as 30 protesters gathered at the port, his prediction might have seemed somewhat optimistic, if not laughable. Yet, as the police and port authorities recognise, when animal shipments resume after Easter, a massed demonstration could immobilise the port completely and leave the approach roads shut.

British livestock exporters probably consider Glover their worst enemy. The ferry boycott, which he organised through the protest group Respect for Animals, has brought the livestock trade to its knees and taken the image of farmers to a new low. Now, he says, with a calm based on utter conviction that his arguments are right, he plans to destroy the meat industry.

"It's fundamentally wrong and immoral to abuse and eat animals," he says. "Taking an animal's life and causing it to suffer when there is simply no need - we do it because we like to - is simply wrong.

"We're supposed to be civilised, and I think killing a sentient creature is wrong. We should make changes to our society to accommodate that moral principle. That's the ideal. But when you look at what actually goes on, you see the complete institutionalised callousness of the system. It has to stop."

His track record is convincing. After working for Greenpeace for five years he left in 1984 to found Lynx, the organisation that destroyed the fur trade. The poster that showed a model dragging a fur coat dripping with blood across a pristine floor is an image etched on the collective psyche.

Lynx was bankrupted in a libel action in 1992 that left Glover penniless, but out of its ashes grew Respect for Animals. The negative marketing skills he pioneered at Lynx were used to devastating effect against the livestock exporters. The ferry boycott that Respect organised led to the voluntary ban on exports imposed by the ferry companies. The ferry ban last November in turn began the slow strangulation of the livestock trade and left the industry in tatters. The number of animals shipped abroad last year declined by a third, massacring the profitability of an industry that depends on the high volume traffic of a low-value product. This year, the figures will be even worse for the industry, if it still exists in a recognisable form.

Respect's campaign against the trade began in March last year. "It just seemed that the live transport issue had been going on for decades, nothing had changed," Glover says. "The RSPCA was still trailing lorries around and would be for ever more. It occurred to me that they must all go over on the ferries."

Two months later, the plans to end the trade were ready. Through Respect, where he works as a consultant, he began mobilising supporters for a ferry boycott at the moment of maximum paranoia for the companies - the opening of the Channel tunnel, Eurotunnel having already said it would not carry livestock.

The companies were initially dismissive of demands to stop shipping animals for slaughter. Respect warned them of the impending boycott twice before launching the campaign with the help of Alan Clark, the ex-Tory minister, and Tony Banks, the Labour MP.

"After the campaign was launched, they were being bombarded every day with pledges saying they wouldn't use the company's ferries," says Glover. Tens of thousands of people wrote in.

"Within a month, P&O announced it was going to hold a review of the trade and then the rest tumbled over each other to try and outdo the other's previous announcements. We had a programme of events, actions and stunts planned, as we have now, but events overtook us between June and November when Brittany Ferries made its final announcement."

Since then, exporters have become increasingly desperate to maintain the trade. "They're quite similar people to those involved in the fur trade. They're also making the same mistake. They should realise that this sort of thing does not go away once it's started. Respect for Animals, and certainly I, won't go away. I would only take on a campaign like this if I was determined to see it through. And that's what we shall do.

"We have certainly encouraged people wherever possible to get involved in the blockades and boycotts, but we did not orchestrate the demonstrations, nor did anyone. They were entirely spontaneous outpourings of feelings."

The demonstrations have dramatically altered the economics of the industry. Before the ban, haulage companies could capitalise on the economies of scale provided by the ferries. Now they have to provide their own transport, with all the additional costs. Ports forced to accept the trade, through various court injunctions, are picking up the tab for security, and the taxpayer ends up providing the police protection from the thousands who still turn up for the nightly demonstrations around the country at ports such as Brightlingsea and Shoreham. If the full cost was built into the trade, it would probably be uneconomic.

Glover's previous battles have exacted a high personal price. In 1990, a fur farm sued Lynx for libel and bankrupted it. Respect is continuing the mopping-up operation, with Glover, bankrupted himself, acting as a consultant. His close friend Stefan Ormrod killed himself a month ago. He was 51, a central pillar in Lynx and wrote the article that landed the organisation in the bankruptcy courts. Glover lapses into a long silence before saying: "He was one of the kindest people I've ever met."

So bitter were Glover's own bankruptcy proceedings that there were even discussions about whether his chickens could be repossessed. They are now prized possessions in his garden. He was allowed to stay in his Edwardian semi in a suburb of Nottingham because there was so much negative equity tied up in it. His earnings from consultancy fees from Respect covers the interest on the mortgage and basic living expenses.

After the collapse of Lynx, the founders of Respect decided to build a group that would be swift moving and unencumbered by large numbers of staff, supporters and local branches.

Respect is organised around a core group of four, with Glover functioning as a forward planning consultant. Because of the swift-moving nature of the battle to end the trade, Respect has been ideally placed to act decisively. The group forges links with other organisations as and when required. Local groups provide the much-needed punch and organisation through their branches, while Respect has the necessary detachment to act as a national figurehead. Its highly motivated but relatively small numbers of supporters can act as both catalysts and shock troops for demonstrations.

Glover's house, which he shares with his girlfriend, is dedicated to fighting for animal rights. Books and pamphlets on animals rights are stacked in his study. A borrowed,Greenpeace-style dinghy lies in the garage. Upstairs, a room is dedicated to rescued animals on the road to rehabilitation.

He has no money, and won't even be allowed a bank account for another 10 months. Why risk everything again just as he could start rebuilding his life?

"I don't know. You get to my age, and you have to ask these sorts of questions. Forty-one, not a penny to my name, no prospect of ever of having anything to my name. You ask that question and I don't honestly know. I think the only answer is I just couldn't walk away now.

"Now that I've got the confidence of having had a major influence on several campaigns and can have an influence on other campaigns, I can't stop. It would be wrong."

He refuses to say how he will tackle the meat trade except to say they have "copious weak spots" and "I would dearly love to stick the rusty dagger into the industry". He and his colleagues have been honing their precision campaigning style into a new and sharper blade.

"It's obvious now that governments aren't going to act in areas involving animal welfare because of free trade, the European Union and Gatt. The role governments are going to play in these areas is going to diminish.

"It's incumbent on the public and corporations to behave more responsibly in society. If they don't do it, then it's up to the consumer to push them in the right direction. We're going to help them apply the appropriate pressure.

"If one is serious about saving animals, then the meat industry is the one to go for. Quite simply, the most basic animal right of all is not to end up on the end of someone's fork."

Respect can be contacted on 0115 952-5440.

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