Today, a court in Oxford found animal rights extremist Mel Broughton guilty of conspiracy to commit arson and sentenced him to ten years in prison for his crime. Broughton was arrested in 2007, after being linked to a failed arson attempt at Oxford’s Templeton College (which followed a successful attack of Queen’s College the previous year).
I have written at length about the animal rightists’ campaign of fear and intimidation against Oxford University (check out previous entries for more)–a campaign that escalated in 2005, when the ALF declared that nothing owned by the university is off limits from a potential attack. Broughton has been the public face of the movement for much of this time, as co-founder of SPEAK, the primary animal rights organization operating in Oxford.
In early 2006, I conducted a brief phone interview with Broughton as part of an article I was writing for Oxford’s Isis magazine. (There isn’t a link to the individual article, but the full issue is available as a pdf, and my article starts on page 13.) The focus of the article (which was really just a fleshed out version of an earlier blog post) was on a recent SPEAK rally, so I called up Broughton to get his take on the rally and on his campaign in general. You can read more of what he said in the article, but I’d like to highlight the following passage in particular:
The protesters I interviewed were not particularly enthusiastic about the use of intimidation in the animal rights movement, putting many of them at odds with the movement’s leaders, who openly advocate fear tactics and who focused much of their speeches at the rally on intimidating and taunting the police. None of those I spoke to openly agreed with the tactics of the more radical organisations, such as the Animal Liberation Front, which operate outside of the law, although one woman said that these techniques have been “both effective and ineffective.” Broughton, who heavily stressed that SPEAK only engages in legal activities, shares this ambivalence. “Whether the actions of those organisations help us or hurt us, I don’t know. Being involved in a legal process is becoming increasingly difficult. Normal activities are being illegalised.” Although SPEAK does not openly support these actions, it also does not condemn them either.
How rich. Granted, the “legal process” Broughton referred to included sending threatening letters to the contractors responsible for Oxford’s new biomedical research building and, even worse, posting photos online of the building’s construction workers. Still, I’m not sure when he could claim he was operating within the law, given that he has a long history of domestic terrorism, having been previously arrested in 1998 when police found a bomb in the trunk of his car.
Clearly, Broughton is a dangerous, ideologically-driven man who needs to be locked up.