All About Animals: The Issues (Ages 14-16): Freedom Fighters
Many animal campaigners see themselves as freedom fighters, saving animals from suffering and slaughter by whatever means necessary. For some, breaking the law to save an animal’s life is worth the risk.
Most freedom fighters agree that breaking one law to prevent a greater crime (be it a crime morally or legally) is acceptable, but historically these campaigners have fought for human rights.
While many anti-slavery campaigners worked within the law to end the slavery of human beings, others purposefully broke the law to focus attention on the issues and to force the authorities to make changes. Some activists even fought violence with violence but were convinced that the end justified the means.
In Britain in 1897, Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage and aimed to change the law which prevented women from voting through peaceful means. She made slow progress and other women, frustrated with the status quo, launched a more radical movement known as the Women’s Social and Political Union. In 1905 Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of this movement, along with her daughter Christabel stormed Parliament and were jailed as a result. Other actions undertaken by these campaigners included vandalising Oxford Street, chaining themselves to Buckingham Palace, refusing to pay their taxes and attacking politicians as they went to work. Many women were sent to jail for their actions and even went on hunger strike while inside. But without them and their actions, women may still be excluded from political life today.
Animal rights campaigners see their fight as belonging to the same tradition as the anti-slavery campaigns and the suffragette movement. Individuals in all three groups agree that breaking the law to achieve their aims is necessary to effect change. They all had or have activists prepared to go to prison for their actions and people have died or been killed as a result of fighting for their beliefs in all three movements.
Animal rights campaigners who break the law say that, in time, society will come to agree with what they do and they will be hailed as revolutionaries, just as anti-slavery activists and suffragettes were. Of course, the government and police of today, just like those of the past, say that these campaigns are illegal and they continue to crack down on those who break the law. What do you think? Are they freedom fighters or just plain law-breakers?