|Some time ago, I suggested that there are well-documented links between the Dutch animal rights movement and violent, left-wing splinter groups. I was inundated with reactions, particularly as I'd mentioned that the killer of anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was an animal rights activist. Was this any more relevant than if he'd been a hair dresser or a shoe salesman, one listener wanted to know. After all, Fortuyn wasn't murdered for his views about animals.
It's a legitimate question, all the more so at a time when connections between, say, the ethnicity or religion of a criminal and his actions are often made without thinking. I'm afraid my answer has been long overdue. Fortunately the Dutch intelligence service has come to my aid, confirming in a new report that violence and intimidation are indeed becoming more and more widespread in the fight against factory farming and the fur trade.
As the report documents, first it's a stone through someone's window, then threats against their family and children, and ultimately who knows? In that respect, extreme animal rights activists are no different from other extremists. Which may explain why so many people from the largely defunct squatters' movement - Mohicans, piercings, iron chains...I'm sure you know the type - have found their niche as animal rights crusaders.
"To live outside the law you must be honest", Bob Dylan once said. But even if you are, deciding how far it's acceptable to go can be a slippery business. And this is where I believe there's a particular problem with the animal rights movement.
One of the movement's basic tenets, as my great friend Marianne Thieme from the Dutch Animal Party would no doubt confirm, is that man's supremacy among species is a myth. In a perfect world, this would lead to a Hindu-like respect for all creatures great and small. But, as Ms Thieme would also confirm, it's not a perfect world. So the next more or less logical step is to argue that someone who kills an animal is just as guilty of murder as someone who kills a human being.
How guilty does that make someone whose daily business is killing - 'executing' as some activists would very deliberately call it - pigs in a slaughterhouse? Or someone who makes a fortune breeding minks for expensive fur coats? I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that for some animal rights activists, there's an Auschwitz or a Srebrenica every day.
Here's a classic moral dilemma then: how far can and should they go to stop such mass murders? And once they've established that there are circumstances under which it's okay to use violence, where does it end? Should it be limited to the cause of animal rights? Or should other vulnerable groups be included as well, which resemble animals in that they can't stick up for themselves?
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