The Scientific Activist

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.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul T.
    February 13, 2009

    And there’s something wrong with being ideologically-driven is there? Because holding opinions is certainly cause for concern. Think before you write instead of regurgitating government spin.

  2. #2 MartinM
    February 13, 2009

    And there’s something wrong with being ideologically-driven is there?

    That rather depends on whether you’re ideologically driven to burn shit down.

  3. #3 notedscholar
    February 15, 2009

    Someone should tell these people that humans are animals too (according to Wikipedia)!

    NS
    http://sciencedefeated.wordpress.com/

  4. #4 Paul Browne
    February 16, 2009

    Paul T. “And there’s something wrong with being ideologically-driven is there?”

    You appear to have missed the “dangerous” part, Mel Broughton’s ideology was not the problem, rather it was that his ideology drove him to carry out arson attacks on those who didn’t share his ideology.

    One of the dangers with “ideologically-driven” campaigns that employ tactics such ad arson and intimidation is that if they are seen to work and those employing them seen to get away with it in one circumstance other groups which find that their campaigns are proceeding slowly or not at all through democratic methods may be tempted to copy them. You might think that AR activists targeting scientists or Universities is OK, but what if it was anti-aboution activists targeting doctors or abortion providers, or pro-foxhunting activists targeting anti-hunt campaigners?

  5. #5 Sophie D.
    February 18, 2009

    Enjoyed this post and have linked to it from my own – thanks for the info on Broughton, you set it all out very clearly.

  6. #6 watcher2
    February 18, 2009

    Broughton is a typical ARE…lost the moral argument and failed to persuade a majority to his way of thinking, so resorts to thuggery and blackmail. Good riddance (for 5 years at least).

  7. #7 J Lyons
    March 2, 2009

    Human life and animals’ lives matter. Buildings don’t.

    The problem most people have about Animal Rights is that they think humans GRANT Rights. Rights can only be DENIED – which is exactly the same for us humans. Rights are Rights, and slavery is slavery, whatever the species.

  8. #8 J Lyons
    March 2, 2009

    Humans and animals matter. Buildings don’t.

    The trouble with most people is that think that humans GRANT Rights. Rights can only be DENIED. Rights are Rights and slavery is slavery (i.e. denial of the Right not to be ‘owned’) – whatever the species.

  9. #9 Kat
    April 24, 2009

    Would you animal “researchers” do to yourselves and each other what you do to animals? Why not? Hmmm.. that’s what I thought. So arson is not Ok but there is nothing wrong with torture, huh?…
    You will be judged in the end. And probably come back as one of them….just remember that.

  10. #10 Jude
    July 13, 2010

    This man saw that animals were suffering and did everything he could to stop it. He didn’t burn anything down, but anyone with the slightest bit of a conscience would want to do so upon hearing that the building was to be used for such evil, barbaric purposes.
    How can you possibly say that it’s Mel who’s wrong here? You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself. You’re a twisted, un-empathetic, disgusting person. My full sympathy goes out to Mel Broughton at this time. He’s a better person than you will ever be.

  11. #11 Kim
    July 13, 2010

    The Human Race is utterly mad and everything is upside down. This man has devoted his life to the animals and to trying to put a stop to their silent suffering. He has tried to open our eyes to the reality of the torture, abuse and intimidation of animals for our own ends.What on Earth gives us the right to treat fellow creatures in this way? WE HAVE NO RIGHT. The fact that I do not believe that Mel Broughton is guilty of these charges is one thing; but the whole point is being lost, AGAIN. Mel Broughton is fighting for what we all should be doing as a matter of course: allowing animals to live a life free from pain, fear, torture, captivity, misery ….. HOW CAN THIS BE WRONG?
    The fact, as we all know, is that animal rights activists are considered ‘political’ because they are a threat to all the money which stands to be made through the abject abuse and torture of animals, ie, in the name of ‘science’ such as the government funded Oxford animal lab, etc, etc… Good God – the only sane people in the world are the ones who can see and who object to the suffering of animals; and the even saner ones are those who actually try to do something about it. Along with countless thousands of other animal lovers, rescuers and protectors, I am utterly devastated by what has happened to Mel Broughton. Shame on the jury and shame on the judge. I think we can all rest assured that none of them have ever considered the plight of animals in this world; none of them will ever understand what Mr Broughton is all about; they will never know or understand what is in his heart. Shame on them all.

  12. #12 shaz
    May 23, 2011

    Thames Valley police have been waging a war using smear campaigns and dirty tactics against SPEAK.
    A dictaphone recording was played in court….police were heard plotting against Animal Rights activists. They were heard trying to recruit members of the public to create “incidents” so that AR activists could be arrested….the plots even included bizarre ideas involving babies buggies, which could have endangered children.