Warmest wishes and motivational ‘Go Team Veggies!’
Friday 18th to Sunday 20th July
Peace in the Park – Oxfordshire
A Buddhist event at the Global Retreat Centre with a mix of music, talks and meditation pavilions. Events and activities will include ‘Mindset Talks’, new ‘One Question’ events, woodland activities for children and adults, story-telling from ancient lands, an open air chill-out meditation lounge, sacred music in the grounds, and the hugely popular ‘Meditation & Music for the World’ event.
Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th July
Northern Green Gathering
Derbyshire Dales, Nr Ashbourne, Derbyshire
A small volunteer-run environmental/educational gathering, a 4 day event on a beautiful new site, focussed around sustainable living and green campaigns. There will be environmental workshops & campaigns, permaculture, organic veggie cafes, stalls, healers & alternative therapies, kids space, theatre & circus workshops, and a showcase of environment living in action, including solar power and wind power.
Thursday 31st July to Sunday 3rd August
Green Gathering – Chepstow, Wales
At the Green Gathering you can rediscover ancient skills and explore
pathways to future sustainability; talk with key speakers from the Green movement and engage in lively debate at the Green Forum venue and inform yourselves about current issues and causes with groups in the Campaigns area, which will include a Co-ops Camp, co-ordinated by Radical Routes.
Thursday 31st July to Monday 4th August
Peace News Summer Camp 2014 – E.Suffolk
Event to help build a radical movement for the future by building a living community today, with local activists – top trainers – revolution – non-violence – learning from other movements – community – glorious countryside.
Thursday 14th to Wednesday 20th August
Reclaim The Power – location TBA
August will see thousands ‘Reclaim the Power’ and stand in solidarity with communities opposing fracking. Camp will be a hub for skillshares, workshops, entertainment and direct action. There will be a probable Veggies Cafe space & action catering.
Thursday 28th to Monday 1st September
Earth First Summer Gathering
The Earth First! Summer Gathering is the place where people involved in radical ecological direct action – or those who want to be involved – get together for five days of time and space to talk, walk, share skills, learn, play, rant, find out what’s going on, find out what’s next, live outside, strategise, hang out, incite, laugh and conspire. The workshops, networking and planning of actions at this low impact eco-living camp is organised non-hierarchically.
Debbie’s birthday is on the 12th January, please send cards to this new address:
Debbie Vincent, A5819DE, Hmp Send, Ripley road, Woking, Surrey, GU23 7LJ
We have long known that (parts of) the media can not be trusted to give fair and balanced reporting. It is clear that (some aspects of) the legal system sing to the tune of governments that are themselves working more for corporate interests than for the electorate.
This could not be more clear than in the case of Debbie Vincent.
17th April 2014: In a travesty of ‘justice’ Debbie was today sentenced to 6 years with a further 5 years Asbo, severely restricting her right and ability to campaign in any way for the concerns that she has supported for so many years. But she is resilient and her spirit of true justice will not be crushed.
We have known Debbie Vincent for over 20 years. She is a consistently kind and peaceful individual, with a commitment to making the world a better place for all, regardless of their species. She has dedicated a large part of her life to volunteering her time, knowledge and friendship to many grassroots projects all over the UK.
Her support for the work of Veggies, in particular in setting up networks for mutual support between those working for humans, other animals and the environment, was fundamental in establishing our role in the vegan outreach movement.
Her practical work, far beyond that expected of any volunteer, helped in the evolution of the Rainbow Centre into The Sumac Centre, which is now a base for a wide range of community projects in Nottingham and beyond. Debbie Vincent is a unique and special person and deserves all the support than can be offered to her.
Debbie received a six year custodial sentence plus a five year ASBO which will limit her rights to demonstrate to commence upon her release from prison.
Before handing down the sentence Judge Cutler said: “I come to a conclusion you are a lady of very good character. Indeed, if it wasn’t for your complete obsession with your cause and an inability to accept its limits within law, there was so much good you have been able to do for other people you have met in your life and for all the animal welfare work you have done.”
Stop press: Write to Debbie Vincent A5819DE, HMP SEND, Ripley road, Woking, Surrey, GU23 7LJ
Please send letters of support – make sure to include your name and address at the top of the letter and on the back of the envelope. Be aware that all mail can be read by staff.
The sentence should serve as a wake up call to anti-capitalists of the need to offer solidarity to those who have been singled out for repression because of their involvement in effective resistance to corporate power.
Corporate Watch spoke to Debbie prior to the sentencing. She said: “What is scary in this world is oppression and injustice, when people hurt people, animals and nature. What is beautiful in this world is resistance, when people say ‘enough is enough’ and act. Oppression and injustice are everywhere, but so is resistance. Because some people know that if you fight you might lose, but if you don’t fight, you’ve already lost.”
Debbie regards the use of undercover officers against her as a “sting operation”. She said she believed that Adams was “clearly part of National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit”, formerly the National Domestic Extremism Unit, “who are just a re-branding of the Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit” and that “there is now a 25 year history of unaccountable practice by a secretive and unaccountable police unit”.
Specialised political police units aim to criminalise and imprison activists and neutralise political movements that pose a challenge to corporate power or other aspects of the current system.
When [Corporate Watch] asked Debbie if she would need any particular support from people if she got a custodial sentence, she replied: “Practically, I’m not sure what my needs will be in prison, it will depend to a degree to where I go. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to cope, but being isolated from nature and friends will be the worst part. I will try to make the best of the bad situation, it’s all a bit daunting and new. The whole charge and court case are still amazingly surreal.”
“Keep on campaigning against all oppression and capitalist domination. Don’t be afraid to speak out and never apologise for trying to make a difference.” – Debbie Vincent
So far their extradition to the UK has been suspended pending their Dutch appeal. Whilst the arrests, raid and case has not been easy, Sven says “I will keep my head up, stay positive and look after my loved ones.”
Animal rights campaigner convicted of HLS conspiracy
Debbie Vincent says she has been made a scapegoat and criticises the Metropolitan police’s use of an undercover officer.
An animal rights campaigner convicted of taking part in a conspiracy to blackmail the research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) told the Guardian she is a “scapegoat” targeted because detectives cannot catch the “real culprits” who have terrorised the company and its suppliers.
Debbie Vincent, who faces up to 14 years in prison when she is sentenced next month, insisted she is a lawful and peaceful campaigner who had been found guilty of “nebulous” charges that are increasingly being used to clamp down on legitimate protest against vivisection.
In her only interview since her conviction, Vincent also criticised the way the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, SO15, planted an undercover police officer in meetings she had with healthcare company Novartis over its relationship with Cambridgeshire-based HLS.
Vincent freely admits she carried out work for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac), which has long fought to close down the HLS animal testing laboratories. But she maintains she had never taken part in acts of terror. She said: “I have been persecuted by the police. I am a public, lawful campaigner. I am being scapegoated because the police have not been able to catch or identify many of the real culprits.”
During her trial at Winchester crown court the prosecution gave a string of examples of crimes carried out against HLS suppliers and customers on continental Europe, ranging from sending incendiary devices to falsely accusing staff of being paedophiles and even digging up the urn of the mother of a senior executive at Novartis. It claimed one of Shac’s main tactics was to publish the names of possible targets, laying them open to illegal acts of intimidation and violence by extremists.
The prosecution accepted that Vincent, 52, had not herself committed direct action offences, but the jury clearly believed she was part of a wider conspiracy that enabled crimes to take place. Vincent denied the suggestion that she was a leader of Shac, arguing her work there was just part of her campaigning. For years she has travelled around the UK taking part in demonstrations and helping out at animal rescue shelters and other charities. Vincent said: “I do strongly believe that all I did was be involved in lawful campaigning against HLS.”
She said the use of conspiracy laws was having a “chilling effect” on campaigning. It meant, she claimed, that legitimate protesters could be convicted just because they had links to those who carried out attacks.
She said: “A conspiracy is nebulous and hard to grasp. The issues go further than me and could affect countless campaigners and protesters across the UK.”
Vincent, who is based in Bristol, is angry at what she sees as a smear campaign by rightwing media, who she believes used her sexuality against her.
But the depictions of Vincent in the court and in the media do not tally with the woman who emerges in dozens of letters from people who have provided references to her legal team. Farmers, vets, bosses of animal shelters and leaders of community projects spoke of a gentle, peaceful woman who was kind to both animals and humans. One read: “I have never known her act without honest or integrity and believe her motive for all she does are in the interest of justice and the greater good.”
…Vincent told the Guardian: “In some ways I’m really not surprised I was found guilty as I don’t believe anyone can get justice when faced with a political conspiracy charge and the huge resources of the state and multinationals against me. I will always have hope and will continue to try to make the world a better place to all.”
Our location enabled us to highlight other activities in the Green Futures Field, such as the Speakers Forum, which featured the Lush Charity Pot Slam, and the main Green Information Point further up the track:
A special mention too to Zia Solar Systems that helped with the power to keep the foods as chilled as the crew!
Pulp Friction Smoothies
We were delighted to have been loaned a Pulp Friction bike to add d-i-y smoothies to the low-tech, low energy activities at Veggies at Glastonbury.
Goody Good Stuff sweets combine the highest quality blend of ingredients including natural fruit juices and extracts which create a beautifully clear consistency and a superior taste experience. The entire line is vegetarian, fat-free, meat-free, dairy-free, nut-free, Halal and Kosher certified.
Our crew are reflecting on ways to make this huge campaign outreach mission work even better in future. If you have and thought, please contact us.
- “Well, first and foremost, I think we should totally be giving ourselves a big pat of the back. Couldn’t really ask much more from a team. ”
- Campaign space worked better than it ever has.
- In spite of some fantastic contributions to the Veggies aesthetic, our frontage and customer lounge still looked like the practical marqueue of a not-for-profit, grass roots, campaigning organization, rather than a slick professional venue (IMHO).
- Campaigning: We need to have recurring activities to draw people in like the smoothy maker, taste testings and other good ideas. They need to be on all the time as well, we had a great campaign space and people came when they could interact in some way, but when there was nothing to interact with the space seemed pretty quiet apart from staff (its Glastonbury they’ll find other things to do). We need to properly brainstorm interactive things we can have inside the space and practice them before the event (maybe use at regular events as well) and have them running as long as the space is open and draw lots of people in and get them educated or at least give them a leaflet.
- One crew member in the multi-use space just didn’t really work in my opinion, you get pulled into a conversation about the badger cull, giving a milk taster round, prepping fruit for the pedal-smoothie, clearing up the space and sign-posting people to the trailer for their coffee. If you add to that trying to start a burger demo, re-organise the merchandise, checking the honesty pots, facepaint and clean up the relishes table, it makes it impossible for 1 person in a multi-use space to do any one of those things efficiently or effectively.
- People used the cafe space when trailer crew encouraged them to, same goes for campaign space. I think if trailer crew felt more joined up with the campaign space and had those quick conversations whilst burgers were waiting or coffee brewing, it would have got a masses more traffic. It’s the point of contact, if we miss that, we miss the person.
- Integrate not just the trailer into the campaign space but the crew and the whole approach – otherwise we really are just serving burgers to rich festival punters and raising funds for Veggies (which is valid but we can do more than just that):
- Trailer crew are resourced with whatever they need to make those conversations with customers possible
- The campaign period is shortened with 2 crew on it at all times or better seek funding or other support to be able to extend the campaigning for a full 12 hours each day.
- Much clearer continuity between the Veggies trailer and the ‘badger cafe’ – customers really didn’t get that it was the same space
- I also think we should have stayed open until 5am as between midnight and 4am everyone who normally camps out around the main stages is somewhere between Arcadia, Shangra La and the stone circle.
- An additional crew member might be be better used helping in kitchen rather than than trailer, so that more cake, bhajis, pizza, soups, meals etc could be made.
- Chrissy enjoyed cooking crew meals, and didn’t mind working through til 9pm most evenings. Surplus meals might be offered on an ad-hoc basis to customers, subject to availability.
- We absolutely should have had some frontage next to Groovy Movie. We were focussed so much on grabbing attention from the cross roads we were actually closing ourselves off from people coming back down from the stone circle, or in the Green Futures Field.
- We need to think about cake display – we should keep an eye out for a two or three tiered cake display with a cover. I also think we should have had cakes, pasties and cold drinks on a table in the marquee with an honestly pot for those who did come in asking.
- The Indian place down the track was already trading when we arrived so we must be open as early as possible. On the Tuesday evening we were the only people open and we were doing steady trade throughout.
- There were times before and after the main festival was running that crew were hungry and the conventional 3 meals a day hadn’t really been considered and planned in.
- I would have liked to have a daily meeting/briefing during which ideally all crew members get together to:
… communicate the ‘extra-tasks’ and priorities of the day, and designate people to action those so everybody knows what to do and how to help
… raise any relevant issues (concerns, worries, requests for help, big-ups…) in order to facilitate communication and relieve any tension amongst ourselves as well as celebrate our hard work
- The festival officially finished on Sunday night. Some of the team arrived home late on Tuesday evening.
This year we are reshaping our ‘info for action’ activities by putting our popular and visual catering trailer right alongside the campaign space, such that the customers come inside the marquee to get their food and are offered shade from the sun, or respite from the rain, in a comfortable, carpeted action-cafe space, with tea and cake available directly from our kitchen in the marquee.
Not only will festival-goers attend as a result of being ushered in whilst buying their food from Veggies Catering Campaign, but by making the space fun, entertaining and interactive it will attract all kinds of festival-goers. This will be achieved by running discussion workshops, exhibitions, films, talks, cake baking skill-shares, and all kinds of vegan foods! All this will be supported by our team of experienced campaigners.
Ten groups been short-listed to pitch to receive £1000 funding from those wonderful people at Lush. Ten groups are presenting at 1.45 on Saturday at the Speakers Forum, just along from Veggies in the Green Futures Field. But only 5 groups can win the dosh!
The impending badger extermination is harrowingly cruel, farcically unscientific and frighteningly undemocratic. It must be fought on all fronts, but this cannot be done effectively without funding.
With the support of LUSH, activists would be able to travel to the cull zones to engage in legal, non-violent, direct action to protect the badgers. It would also enable street campaigners to keep the public fully informed of exactly what the government is unleashing in the countryside against totally unambiguous public opinion.
It is therefore a campaign that champions not only a harmless (and already endangered) species’ basic right to existence but also our own human right to be represented by our government, not dictated to by it. For the tens of thousands of badgers in the final countdown to a brutal massacre, it is now or never!
Activists will be engaging in legal, non-violent, direct action in the countryside where the killings are planned to take place.
Activists will be “working the streets” to keep the issue firmly in the public eye.
Please support the badgers by going along and casting your vote to Stop The Cull.
We are seeking support to maintain resources to provide campaign catering to a wide range of activist groups, from Peace News to Earth First, from direct action climate activists to animal rights campaigners. As well as supporting campaigns for positive social change this embeds within those movements the role that vegan outreach plays in tackling all the problems associated with the industralisation of the food industry, in particular for animal products.
In addition to those mentioned, this year resources will have been shared with the Stop the G8 mobilisation, an international anti-racist football tournament, the Stop the Badger Cull campaign, Calais Migrants Solidarity, Nottingham Green Festival, Radical Routes Network of radical co-operatives, and numerous vegan festivals.
We will be sending an action kitchen to the Calais Migrants Solidarity refugee camp and Reclaim the Power (in support of the No Dash For Gas climate actions). Our team of campaign volunteers run vegan free food give-aways, often on McDonalds doorstep, pitch up with free non-dairy milk tastings, for example at The Milk Race and do vegan outreach at over 70 events every year.
Please support all the groups that we support by going along and casting your vote for Veggies Catering Campaign
The other groups presenting there work are all equally amazing, and equally deserving of your support:
Stop New Nuclear Alliance
Green Gathering Speakers Forum
The Land Magazine
SEER – Sussex Extreme Energy Resistance
Feeding the 5000 – Gleaning Network UK project
UK Tar Sands Network
We’ll see you at 1.45 on Saturday at the Speakers Forum
Pulp Friction Smoothie Bar Project, from Nottingham, provides volunteering opportunities for young adults, taking their smoothie bikes to different community events – schools, youth clubs, playschemes, community festivals etc.
We are delighted to have been loaned a Pulp Friction bike to add of d-i-y smoothie to the low-tech, low energy activities at Veggies at Glastonbury.
170,000 people attend Glastonbury for headliners, left-field bands, workshops, talks, and stalls with many charities taking the opportunity of such a lot of people in one place to raise awareness about various worthy causes. But there’s a gap – that’s Animal Rights, and it’s a problem. Festivalgoers are in an openminded headspace, relaxed and receptive.
This project aims at giving Animal Rights a voice to the masses at Glastonbury through a variety of workshops in a dedicated space, benefiting from being annexed to, and sign-posted by, Veggies Catering (an old favourite at Glastonbury since 1987 & 3 times nominated for Glastonbury’s green caterer award). Not only will festivalgoers attend as a result of being ushered in whilst buying their food from Veggies Catering, but by making the space fun, entertaining and interactive it will attract all kinds of festivalgoers.
This will be achieved by running discussion workshops, films, talks, cookery demonstrations, and food sample giveaways.
Long-term, sustained change:
By highlighting this ever-present this educational component of Veggies Campaign Catering, it will entrench a change in thinking about vegan food, about our attitude to animals, and the consequences for the environment. This is the stuff that changes lives and an opportunity not to be missed. Whatever people learn here, they will pass on to friends and family, in casual conversations with co-workers and clients, and to strangers they get talking to over a meal. Enough of those people will repeat that information that awareness grows and grows slowly creating long-term change.
The impending badger extermination is harrowingly cruel, farcically unscientific and frighteningly undemocratic. It must be fought on all fronts.
Veggies Catering Campaign is running the Badger Action Cafe at Glastonbury Green Futures Field, to raise awareness of this issue and to raise funds to enable activists to travel to the cull zones to engage in legal, non-violent, direct action to protect the badgers.
We aim to keep the public fully informed of exactly what the government is unleashing in the countryside against totally unambiguous public opinion.
This is a campaign that champions not only a harmless (and already endangered) species’ basic right to existence but also our own human right to be represented by our government, not dictated to by it.
For the tens of thousands of badgers in the final countdown to a brutal massacre, it is now or never!
Activists will be engaging in legal, non-violent, direct action in the countryside where the killings are planned to take place.
Others will be “working the streets” to keep the issue firmly in the public eye.
Veggies Catering Campaign was set up in Autumn 1984 by four friends who were frustrated about the lack of vegetarian fast food available in Nottingham. Their intention was both to provide an ethical fast food stall in the city, and to take the veggie message to a wider audience by participating in demonstrations and gatherings. One of the first things the founders did was to take a giant veggieburger along to a Vegetarian Society protest outside the infamous Royal Smithfield show!
Veggies has grown and evolved a lot over the last  years, but the ethical message has remained the same. All food served has been vegan from the start, and as minimally packaged and locally-sourced as possible and practical. Veggies also compiles the national Animal Rights calendar and Contacts Directory, whilst helping run the Nottingham’s Sumac Resource Centre. Veggies has a tightly packed events diary with the co-op providing food in all sorts of situations, like carrying boxes of samosas and cakes on protest marches.
So we at Veggies went down to London yesterday (June 1st) for the National Anti Badger Cull March.
After a long and complicated journey, via trains and tubes (we will no longer be doing full catering in London) carrying as much as we possibly could of pasties and samosas, we sold out within the first hour of getting there!
“Compassionate folk made their destination London on June 1st to protest against the badger cull that UK’s government has despicably already given approval to in the South East of England. Brian May and Bill Oddie took part in the march with the former giving a speech before the march kicked off. He was joined by Kate of Animal Aid, Wasp of London Against The Cull and Born Free Foundation’s Virginia McKenna. Activists, young and old, dressed in black and white with face masks and paint to show their support for the badgers, who do not deserve to be killed. London Against The Cull are calling for badgers to be vaccinated rather than culled.” …more…
Funds Raised to Stop the Cull
By providing refreshments on the streets just for donations, over 200 Samosas for Social Change, over 100 pasties from Screaming Carrot vegan bakery and 100 drinks went in an hour. 250+ cakes soon followed. Thanks to generous support from ‘customers’ over £100 was raised to pass on to friends working to Stop the Cull in the field.
To stop as many badgers being slaughtered as possible during the culls, activists and hunt saboteurs are ready in the cull zones to take every legal effort to put themselves in the way of those engaged in killing badgers. You can support this work with a small (or large) donation, or support your local group.
Our friends at CAPS (the Captive Animal Protection Society) have asked us to pass on this opportunity to join their campaigns team:
Campaigns Officer (Full-time)
One of the most exciting and rewarding roles in the CAPS team has become available and we are looking for a dedicated, creative and hard working campaigner to fill the post.
Working with the Director, our supporters, fellow animal protection campaigners and partner organisations, the Campaigns Officer is a pivotal role which covers all areas of our work for captive animals.
Who are we looking for?
The successful Campaigns Officer will be able to demonstrate and give evidence of:
- Experience of working at organisational level within a campaign organisation
- Excellent communication skills, both oral and written, are key requisites
- Experience of writing news releases and campaign materials
- Ability to use database, word processing and e-mail packages
- Enthusiastic and self-motivated and able to work without constant supervision as a member of a small team
- Presentation and public speaking skills and/or experience
- Understanding of, and commitment to, the values of CAPS
- Clear understanding of captive animal issues
- Supporting the general philosophy of animal rights
- Willingness to work beyond normal working hours when required
- Be vegetarian or vegan
- Assisting with researching and writing articles, press releases and campaign materials
- Providing ideas for campaigns and co-ordinating some projects
- Assisting with enquiries from the public, media and others on all areas of our work
- Liaising with local supporters and campaigners
- Giving talks and media interviews when required
- Campaign administration, including dealing with correspondence and filing
- Recruiting and line managing volunteers
- Monitoring the media and responding promptly to new developments
Hours and pay:
The role will be based in our Salford office, Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm (37.5 hours per week).>
In 1985 Veggies helped establish Nottingham’s Rainbow Centre, later taking on the co-ordination of the running of the space. In 2001 the support generated over the previous decades enabled the purchase of the Sumac Centre, a collectively owned space supporting a wide range of interconnected initiatives, including being the home of Veggies Catering Campaign.
On Satuday 8th December 2012 there is to be a discussion on the future of the Sumac Centre noting, amongst other things, its role as “a meeting place for politically motivated activists, a resource centre and library. Meeting place for vegans and animal rights activists/campaigners and a tool for their propaganda.”
This role hasn’t just happened in isolation.
It is due to Veggies and others being centrally involved in the running of Sumac from 15 years before it even existed. We may feel this role to be carved in stone, and this may well be the case.
However Sumac is simply the sum of its parts so we, as ‘vegans and animal rights activists/campaigners’ must continue to play our part.
If you are free on Saturday 8/12/12 (11am-6pm) please consider supporting the vegan status of the Sumac Centre and its role as a national resource for the animal rights movement.
This Saturday is a Sumac visioning day, a chance for all of you who come to the Sumac Center to bring your excitement, enthusiasm and inspiration in order to help shape the future of the Sumac Centre.
- How is the Sumac used?
Meeting place, tat storage, music venue, peoples kitchen, food bank, a base for lots of varied campaigns/alternative cultures, bike project, fundraiser events, information and awareness raising events, film screenings, autonomous DIY infrastructure, ABC letter writing, gardening club.
- Is this the kind of useage we want to continue?
- What is the current purpose of the Sumac?
A meeting place for politically motivated activists, a resource centre and library. Meeting place for vegans and animal rights activists/campaigners and a tool for their propaganda.
This will include a conversation about whether the sumac is there to engage with the local geographical community or the activist community. It’s a stable part of infrastructure for ‘our movement’.
- Is this the purpose we want to go forward with?
There will be lunch in the middle and we’ll all have a big ole delicous peoples kitchen at the end.
The Sumac Centre is an independent community and activist resource centre. It is made up of a community cafe, social club, library, exhibition space, veggie catering campaign, filmnights, talks, meeting spaces and the residents. The centre is used by various campaign groups and collectives working towards social change and justice for all. Come and visit us!
Whilst this has for a long time been blindingly obvious, this position is now the ‘official’ view of the scientific community.
New Scientist says that “Now that scientists have belatedly declared that mammals, birds and many other animals are conscious, it is time for society to act.
“ARE animals conscious? This question has a long and venerable history. Charles Darwin asked it when pondering the evolution of consciousness. His ideas about evolutionary continuity – that differences between species are differences in degree rather than kind – lead to a firm conclusion that if we have something, “they” (other animals) have it too.
“In July of this year, the question was discussed in detail by a group of scientists gathered at the University of Cambridge for the first annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference. Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, spent the latter part of his career studying consciousness and in 1994 published a book about it, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The scientific search for the soul.
“The upshot of the meeting was the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which was publicly proclaimed by three eminent neuroscientists, David Edelman of the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, Philip Low of Stanford University and Christof Koch of the California Institute of Technology.
“The declaration concludes that “non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
“My first take on the declaration was incredulity. Did we really need this statement of the obvious? Many renowned researchers reached the same conclusion years ago.
“The declaration also contains some omissions. All but one of the signatories are lab researchers; the declaration would have benefited from perspectives from researchers who have done long-term studies of wild animals, including nonhuman primates, social carnivores, cetaceans, rodents and birds.
“I was also disappointed that the declaration did not include fish, because the evidence supporting consciousness in this group of vertebrates is also compelling.
“Nevertheless, we should applaud them for doing this. The declaration is not aimed at scientists: as its author, Low, said prior to the declaration: “We came to a consensus that now was perhaps the time to make a statement for the public… It might be obvious to everybody in this room that animals have consciousness; it is not obvious to the rest of the world.”
“The important question now is: will this declaration make a difference? What are these scientists and others going to do now that they agree that consciousness is widespread in the animal kingdom?
“I hope the declaration will be used to protect animals from being treated abusively and inhumanely. All to often, sound scientific knowledge about animal cognition, emotions and consciousness is not recognised in animal welfare laws. We know, for example, that mice, rats and chickens display empathy, but this knowledge has not been factored into the US Federal Animal Welfare Act. Around 25 million of these animals, including fish, are used in invasive research each year. They account for more than 95 per cent of animals used in research in the US. I’m constantly astounded that those who decide on regulations on animal use have ignored these data.
“Not all legislation ignores the science. The European Union’s Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force on 1 December 2009, recognises that animals are sentient beings and calls on member states to “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals” in agriculture, fisheries, transport, research and development and space policies.
“There are still scientific sceptics about animal consciousness. In his book, Crick wrote “it is sentimental to idealize animals” and that for many animals life in captivity is better, longer and less brutal than life in the wild.
“Similar views still prevail in some quarters. In her recent book Why Animals Matter: Animal consciousness, animal welfare, and human well-being, Marian Stamp Dawkins at the University of Oxford claims we still don’t really know if other animals are conscious and that we should “remain skeptical and agnostic… Militantly agnostic if necessary.”
“Dawkins inexplicably ignores the data that those at the meeting used to formulate their declaration, and goes so far as to claim that it is actually harmful to animals to base welfare decisions on their being conscious.
“I consider this irresponsible. Those who choose to harm animals can easily use Dawkins’s position to justify their actions. Perhaps given the conclusions of the Cambridge gathering, what I call “Dawkins’s Dangerous Idea” will finally be shelved. I don’t see how anyone who keeps abreast of the literature on animal pain, sentience and consciousness – and has worked closely with any of a wide array of animals – could remain sceptical and agnostic about whether they are conscious.
“Let us applaud the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness and work hard to get animals the protection they deserve. And let us hope that the declaration is not simply a grandstanding gesture but rather something with teeth, something that leads to action. We should all take this opportunity to stop the abuse of millions upon millions of conscious animals in the name of science, education, food, clothing and entertainment. We owe it to them to use what we know on their behalf and to factor compassion and empathy into our treatment of them.”
Marc Bekoff is an emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has written many essays and books about animal emotions, animal consciousness and animal protection
Wednesday 1st to Monday 6th August Ecological Direct Action without Compromise
Workshops, skill sharing and planning action, plus low-impact living without leaders. Meet people, learn skills, take action.
The Earth First! Summer Gathering is the place where people involved in radical ecological direct action – or those who want to be involved – get together for five days of time and space to talk, walk, share skills, learn, play, rant, find out what’s going on, find out what’s next, live outside, strategise, hang out, incite, laugh and conspire.
The 2012 Earth First Summer Gathering will be held on the first weekend of August.
As ever Veggies will be co-ordinating the d-i-y cafe space and holding cake baking workshops.
The UK Animal Rights Gathering is to a great weekend not to be missed, with talks, discussions and workshops on a wide range of issues and activities related to animal rights campaigning, as well as a chance to relax with like-minded people and socialise and network with other campaigners from all over the UK.
The 2012 Animal Rights Summer Gathering on the second weekend of August.
As ever Veggies will be co-ordinating the catering, running a cafe space and holding vegan cookery workshops. More AR Gathering Details…