Animal Liberation Activist
BARRY HORNE first came to political activity as a Northampton dustman and member of the [British] Socialist Workers Party (SWP). He got involved in Northampton Animal Concern (NAC) in spring 1987, following a very large raid on a Unilever laboratory, involving more than 150 people. NAC picketed Beatties, a department store selling furs, in a campaign which eventually won out. The shop abandoned the fur trade. Another protest by NAC involved a battery farm run by nuns. Barry was also involved in hunt sabbing, and animal rescue work, as well as anti-angling. In October 1988, Barry and other activists tried to rescue Rocky the Dolphin from Marineland in Morecambe, Lancashire. In an act of unspeakable cruelty, Rocky had been held in a small pool for 22 years, but police caught Barry and four others trying to remove the Atlantic bottle nosed dolphin to free him in the open sea. The failed rescue attempt became a catalyst for local animal rights groups to campaign, and audiences at the Dolphinarium dropped 85%. Eventually Marineland closed and Rocky was flown to the Caicos Islands and freed.
Park Farm Oxford
On New Years Day 1990, Barry and nine others raided Park Farm's breeding centre in Oxford, and rescued 36 beagles. He was also involved with the March 1990 raid on Interfauna, a supplier for Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). 82 beagle puppies were rescued and 26 rabbits, but on October 28, 1990, Barry was arrested near Alconbury, during preparations to firebomb a coach firm called Duncans, who at that time ferried workers to and from the HLS lab complex.
Vivisectors' Conference Trashed
Also during the early 1990s, Barry and other protesters attacked a vivisectors' conference at Exeter College, Oxford. The activists sneaked in through a workers' side entrance, and after fighting with cops, got into the main hall, overturning tables piled up with fancy food, and smashing 50 bottles of vintage Bourdeaux claret. Six were arrested and charged with violent disorder.
Increasing Anger and Impatience
While in gaol, Barry wrote in the SARP (Support Animal Rights Prisoners) Newsletter, and his words indicate an increasing impatience with things: "The animals continue to die and the torture goes on in greater and greater measure. Peoples' answer to this? More vegeburgers, more Special Brew and more apathy. There is no longer any Animal Liberation Movement. That died long ago. All that is left is a very few activists who care, who understand and who act." (June 1993)
After release, Barry began to work alone, clandestinely. In mid 1994, a series of nocturnal firebomb attacks took place against Boots stores, Halfords, leather goods and Cancer Research shops; all up and down Britain, in Cambridge, Oxford, York, Harrogate, London. On the night of August 23/24, 1994, five shops were firebombed in Newport, and Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Eventually, Barry Horne was caught in Bristol, in possession of several identical incendiary devices. In November 1997, Barry was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for these attacks.
The First Two Hunger Strikes
While in gaol, Barry went on three major hunger strikes. The first, (January 6 to February 10, 1997) lasted for 35 days, but ended when Home Office officials met with the ABC (Animals Betrayed Coalition) animal rights campaigners. The second, starting in August, called on New Labour to honour its pre election promise to hold a Royal Commission into vivisection, made in their glossy brochure 'New Life For Animals'. The second hunger strike (August 11 to September 26, 1997) lasted 46 days, and acted as a catalyst for increased activity in the animal liberation movement. More protests were held against the Hillgrove Cat Farm near Witney, the Huntingdon Labs, and the Shamrock monkey farm in Sussex.
Third Hunger Strike
Barry's third hunger strike (October 6 to December 13,1998) lasted 68 days, but his eyesight and kidneys were damaged. He never really recovered. The state disorientated Barry into ending his strike when it moved him from York Hospital back to Full Sutton Prison. The spin doctors and media produced a smear campaign, claiming the hunger strike was a hoax, running an anti-animal rights documentary stressing the violence and extremism of the movement, the programme being broadcast on the expected day of Barry's death. I believe that if he had died at that point, the animal rights movement would probably have moved towards a more extremist, terrorist direction. In the event, Barry did not die then, but lingered on until November 5, 2001. The period since December 1998 has brought many changes, particularly a strengthening and consolidation of the movement towards more mainstream, constructive and orthodox political campaigning methods.
In future years, Barry Horne will come to be seen as an important figure within the animal rights movement, because of his total commitment to this cause. His activities in the late 1980s and early 1990s perfectly encapsulate the cutting edge of the militancy of that period. His hunger strikes had the capacity to revitalise the movement, and worked as a focus and catalyst for the wider campaigns. Mike Hill and Tom Whorby were murdered sabbing. Jill Phipps was killed at Coventry Airport during the live export protests. In contrast Barry Horne consciously chose to be an animal rights martyr. Despite being given an 18 year sentence, Barry remained a thorn in the state's side.
The Animal Rights Movement On a Roll
Since 1995, there has been a sea change. The animal rights movement has mostly moved away from Animal Liberation Front type actions towards becoming a broader wider, more inclusive movement, campaigning and holding large protests against particular abusers and companies. More subtle and sophisticated, but open, campaign methods are being used. Things have developed a momentum, with the closure of places like Hyline Rabbits, Consort Kennels, Hillgrove, Shamrock, and Regal Rabbits. There is a strong feeling that Huntingdon Life Sciences will not last much longer, and the banning of hunting in Scotland will only increase the pressure on (British Labour Prime Minister Tony) Blair to do the same in England. With this climate of success, morale is high. However, Barry Horne's words from the June 1993 SARP newsletter call on people to be committed and to act, and I think these are a good epitaph for Barry Horne's activist life. They could be applied to many more areas of political action: "If you don't act then you condone. If you don't fight then you don't win. And if you don't win then you are responsible for the death and suffering that will go on and on."
- STEVE BOOTH