Letter:Too genteel a view of animal rights protests

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leader today ("Long hot summer on the docks", 13 April) took too genteel a view of the animal rights protests to permit a proper assessment. Perhaps the fascinating spectacle of demonstrations manned by the middle- aged burghers of Brightlingsea and the pensioners of Shoreham, as you put it, has simply blinded you.

Or were you so shocked to see their activities damned as "mob rule" that you failed to read the rest of the judgement? Anyone in the front line will tell you that the reality is considerably less idealistic than you describe it, and the judges acquired in a few days a clearer understanding of the issues than you have in as many months. The first page in the judgment set the tone:

The precise point at which the right of public demonstration ends and the criminal offence of public nuisance begins is difficult to detect. But not only is all violent conduct unlawful; so too is any activity which substantially inconveniences the public at large and disrupts the rights of others to go about their lawful business.

That should answer your question about the relationship between lying down in the road in front of a lorry and riot.

You apparently have not noticed that this became an issue of public order months ago, because of the animal rights people themselves and no one else. Animal export is a case where public sensitivities have been offended, but the resultant strength of feeling has routinely spilled over into unlawful activity of many kinds, including death threats, physical assault, criminal damage, dummy letter bombs and malicious telephone calls, aimed at intimidating participants in the trade until they give in. These can only be described as attempts to subvert democracy by the use of violence.

The protesters' disenchantment and frustration with Parliament's approach to legislation is entirely understandable, but it was their decision to abandon the constitutional route in favour of "direct action" that brought about yesterday's judgment with its concentration on public order issues. The organisations that originated and, in the early days, led the protest movement have no answer to their present predicament.

The protesters are now out of control, leaderless and without a coherent strategy, blundering from one act of frustration and anger to another, their own, and their cause's, worst enemy.

Yours sincerely

J. E. BRADSHAW

Phoenix Aviation

Rugby,

Warwickshire

13 April

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