The Spectator

Tolerating terror

The government must see something in the ideas of animal rights extremists

‘My point to you is this,’ Tony Blair said of terrorists last month, ‘It’s time we stopped saying “OK, we abhor their methods but we kinda see something in their ideas or maybe they’ve got a sliver of an excuse or justification.” They’ve got no justification for it.’

The Prime Minister’s words must sound pretty hollow to the Hall family of Newchurch, Staffordshire, this week. The Halls have been driven to close their farm, which breeds guinea pigs for medical research, after a six-year sustained campaign of terror by animal rights extremists. Over that time they have been subjected to numerous death threats, a firebomb attack and hundreds of acts of criminal damage. The final straw for the Halls was the desecration of the grave and theft of the remains of one family member, Gladys Hammond, by a group calling itself the Animal Rights Militia.

When the Halls finally threw in the towel earlier this week the government did not immediately condemn the tactics of the animal rights lobby. Staffordshire police have arrested 60 protesters over the years, 28 of whom have been cautioned or charged, mostly on minor public-order offences. But why have there been no early morning raids on the sinister Animal Rights’ Militia? Why, in spite of Patricia Hewitt’s promise to jail extremists, and the promise to set up a National Extremism Tactical Co-ordinating Unit, are none of them behind bars? Why have the Halls been refused an exclusion zone for protesters when the government has enthusiastically established just such a zone in Parliament Square?

It is hard to come to any conclusion other than that — in contrast to the Prime Minister’s views on Islamic terrorists — the government kinda does see something in the ideas of animal rights extremists.

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