Rescues are actions that liberate abused animals. Often the animals are morally or illegally maltreated and their welfare is disregard by the authorities. Frequent target animals for rescues are hens and pigs at factory farms, dogs and rabbits at animal experiment laboratories, fur-bearers at fur farms, and then there are canned hunts, slaughterhouses and any place where people make animals suffer. Rescues can be open or clandestine. Rescues are open when the rescuers maximise publicity for their cause by revealing their identity to the police and public and by challenging the legal consequences of their actions. Rescues are clandestine or closed when the rescuers hide their identity, sometimes by wearing balaclavas, and evade the law.
Aim of Open Rescues
An aim of rescues is to save suffering animals by giving them veterinary aid if sick and either giving them to caring homes or turning them loose to fend for themselves. Another aim, especially of open rescues, is to make as much publicity as possible for the cause of animal rights. Open rescuers contact the news media and police about their rescue and thoroughly explain their reasons for doing it. Moreover, they are prepared to go to court to defend their actions and if necessary go to prison. Open rescuing goes back at least to the 1980's when Australian Patty Mark, in Melbourne, Australia, organised Animal Liberation Victoria to stage open rescues. Open rescues then spread from Australia to Sweden, Germany, the USA and other countries.
Staging an Open Rescue
Click for more free graphics
It is essential that you prepare in advance when going about an open rescue. First of all you need reliable knowledge of your target property and evidence of the illegal abuses perpetrated there. This you could get by wandering about unannounced, which might amount to a mild trespass, or, if security is tight, you could get a job there. Either way you collect sure documentary evidence with video and/or stills photos of the conditions of the animals (see Undercover Investigator and Video Activist, both in Chapter 4). Your evidence must be able to stand up in a court of law.
Duplicate your evidence and take it to the relevant authorities and demand that they prosecute the abusers for breaking the law. All is well and good should the law actually take effective action; in this case you win and can go and find another target. However, it is likely the law will not take action or be sluggishly slow and do nothing effective, in which case you carry out your open rescue. The aim of the rescue is twofold: to publicise the illegal abuse of the animals and publicise the lack of action of the authorities by not prosecuting the perpetrators.
You return to your target property and set free or take with you at least some of the animals when you leave. Then give copies (prepared in advance) of your printed personal details and why you carried out the raid, plus copies of your evidence to the police, news media and your lawyer. Moreover, demand that the authorities now take action to rectify the illegal abuse to the animals. Declare that you accept and welcome the prospect that you may be prosecuted in court (for trespass or burglary) and that you are ready to fight your case and serve time in prison if necessary in defence of the animals. Your legal defence is that the authorities would take no action (or no effective action) and therefore you had no other course but to bring the issue to public attention by steeling the animals for people to see. Squeeze out as much publicity as you can.
Video clips of rescues online: track them down via a search engine by keying "open rescue" into its search field.
What You Need to Be a Rescuer
For open rescues you should:
- Know how to operate cameras to collect the evidence.
- Understand the animal welfare laws of your state so that you know whether the animal abuse you see is legal or illegal.
- Be able to gather evidence of your target premises before you raid it in a rescue.
- Know how to handle the news media to make the most of the publicity you can generate. (See Chapter 3: News Media.)
- Be able to say goodbye to your family and job in case you spend time in jail.
For closed rescues some of the above also applies but in addition:
- You should also be good at evading the law.
For both open and closed rescues:
Some Good & Bad Points
- You need a burning desire to act as a rescuer and accept any consequences that befall you.
Open rescues have some good arguments in their favour:
- You do not physically harm anyone or destroy property (although some rescuers have taken it on themselves to damage property) and therefore no one can seriously claim that you the rescuers are animal rights ‘terrorists’ (see Chapter 5 under Terrorism and under Violence or Nonviolence?).
- When you do not harm anyone or destroy property the news media are likely to focus on the animals, their suffering and the reluctance of the authorities to enforce the law about animal welfare. If you cause harm then you will have thrown away your moral and legal advantage because the news media are likely to focus on that instead of the animals.
- You can get positive reporting for animal rights from the news media because you are open about your identity. Your honesty, candour and non-aggression encourage a sympathetic response to animal liberation from the public. People can see animal lib as a courageous and compassionate aim. Clandestine rescuers, on the other hand, can keep on freeing animals (provided they avoid prison) but tend not to win over the public or make the law on animal welfare more effectively enforced.
Of course there is always a down side to anything:
- Open rescues take up more time, money and effort than closed rescues because open rescuers may have to defend themselves in law courts and possibly go to prison.
- In prison you are not available to go on more rescues - although you could spend time profitably, such as publishing your experiences and why you are an animal rescuer.
- Open rescue is not a method for everyone; you may not want to jeopardize your career by going to prison or want a criminal record.
Rescuing abused animals is certainly worthwhile, especially for the rescued animals. Comparing open and closed rescues, the former may be more effective in that it not only liberates some animals but in the long-run can stimulate better welfare for more animals through making the law act against illegal animal abusers.
However, rescues have their critics. Some people take the view that you have a responsibility to abide by the law and therefore not engage in rescues, open or clandestine, but should pursue your goals by legal and democratic means. Alternatively, other people will see rescues as a moral good that exposes animal abuse and illegal operators. If you have tried every avenue without success then you may have no alternative but to engage in civil disobedience and direct action (see Chapter 3: Civil Disobedience, and Direct Action). The irony is that too often the law-breaking perpetrators of animal abuse get away with their violation while the open rescuers are nicked by the law and end up in jail - a socio-legal hypocrisy.
›› To Entries & Home