Imagine you are lying in bed in your apartment. Next to you your partner, the children in their rooms. You are in a place that offers you warmth, safety and security. Here you feel safe. The door locked. Not much can happen. It’s three in the morning. The time when you sleep the deepest. Maybe you have a nice dream right now. From the trip with the kids last weekend. Or from the last sunrise hike. When you are suddenly jerked out of your sleep. Hooded figures, all in black, weapons at the ready, break open your door and drag you out of bed. But not only you, but also your partner. They don’t even stop at the children. Stuck against the wall just like you were dragged out of bed. In pajamas or even naked. Didn’t you think you would be safe here? Didn’t you think it would be a place where nothing could happen to your children? And this is where this raid takes place. Out of the blue. Completely unpredictable.
The masked, black men are by no means criminals, but rather those men and women – possibly, because it was not visible under the mask – who are supposed to execute the law. They are members of a special unit designed to protect citizens from criminals. But who protects the ordinary citizen from the representatives of the executive branch?
This incident, which took place in 23 different apartments on the night of May 21, 2008, is not a product of the imagination and did not take place in a country where police arbitrariness is the order of the day, but in Austria. A country that should have learned from a time when it was common practice for people to disappear overnight – albeit with more secrecy back then. Or maybe that’s why it fits here. But making people disappear is no longer that easy, no matter how uncomfortable these people may be. But what did these people, who had slept so peacefully in their beds and apparently not conscious of any guilt, owe themselves that they were such a thorn in the side of the authorities? Were they terrorists, enemies of the state, collaborators, saboteurs, anarchists or any other individuals who wanted to destroy the state? no way. It was a relatively small group of animal rights activists. Nothing else. But what was their crime?
Those animal rights activists were accused of founding a criminal organization. Without any further justification, ten of the said persons, whose houses were searched at night, spent 100 days in pre-trial detention. Despite the fact that these people were continuously observed for more than 14 months, no real crimes could be proven. Complete surveillance meant attaching tracking devices to the vehicles, tapping phones, reading e-mails, being followed by civilian police officers and even smuggling spies into the club. All of these measures had only brought to light that the people involved organized and carried out information events, demonstrations and research. Except for aggressive flyers*, nothing defamatory could be determined. However, these legal activities may trick others into thinking that they are engaged in illegal activities. Could be. But unfortunately, it could not be proven, there were not even any real clues.
All these actions, which came to nothing and cost taxpayers a lot of money, were ultimately fruitless. As is to be expected, because animal rights activism aims to improve the situation of animals by legal means. This means that cooperation with politicians and business enterprises is sought. Fatalistic or even destructive actions would only damage the cause itself. Educational work is also based on understanding and not on persuasion. This is the only way to achieve a sustainable rethink. We were quite aware of that. But then what was the real background, the real drive?
In order to understand this, we want to turn back the wheel of history a little, to be precise, to the beginning of industrialization in Europe. Factories sprang up everywhere and workers were needed for them. These were mainly recruited from the rural population. Of course, there were no working time regulations or collective agreements, so that a working time of 14 to 16 hours per day was the rule rather than the exception. Some people were chained to the machines so they wouldn’t run away, because people first had to get used to the kind of discipline we’re used to today. And there were correspondingly brute means to achieve this. Resistance slowly arose. The beginning of labor disputes and the establishment of the first trade unions. Of course, the factory owners were anything but happy about it. Therefore, all levers were set in motion to put an end to these socialist machinations. To do this, capital allied itself with politics in order to be more effective. That was how it was then. It’s different today. Nevertheless, workers‘ rights could not be stopped in the long run. The same could be observed when women suddenly demanded their right to self-determination. Many of these early pioneers ended up in a madhouse. Nevertheless, the establishment of women’s rights was just as unstoppable. Exactly the same game is being repeated today in animal rights activism, as well as in ecological and economic activism. The process is always the same.
At first there are few. These can be ignored, without harm, without hesitation. Then there will be more, and it will no longer be so easy to ignore them, especially if the “normal consumer” notices them and – how fatal – begins to wonder whether there might not be something to it. Next comes the media, always keen to make headlines that outrage, outrage, and most importantly, increase circulation. As soon as the activities can no longer be ignored, one begins to fight them. Just as the animal rights process is a vivid example. The second strategy is to belittle the activists themselves, because they are all people who don’t work and are tolerated by the general public. This is the opinion that is widespread and also gladly accepted.
However, there is something completely different behind it, namely profit. When something changes in a society, there are always losers. When consumption of any good stagnates, someone makes less sales. When fur is no longer bought, fur traders, fur farms, middlemen and trappers have to find other fields of activity. You don’t like doing that because it would mean giving up something that has worked until now. Nobody likes to have something taken away, nobody likes to be told that their actions are not ethical, especially not by a few random activists.
*To clarify for those who are not quite sure what aggressive flyers mean. Here’s an example. Activists hand out flyers on the subject of fur. Now, if the activist is aggressive, he will say, „Do you know how much suffering your fur production causes?“ If he were not aggressive, he would say, „May I give you some information about fur?“ Alright?!