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Guardian About Austrian Activists

Animals  (tags: Austria, VGT, AR, animalactivists, MartinBalluch, PeterSinger, animaladvocates, animalrights, animals, ethics, law )

- 3597 days ago -
"That this can happen in a European democracy is shocking" wrote Peter Singer professor of bioethics at Princeton University and author of Animal Liberation

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Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 11:15 am

Of great apes and men by Peter Singer 18 July

As Spain takes one great step forward for animal rights and liberty, activists elsewhere are persecuted.

n a historic vote last month the Spanish parliament's commission for the environment, agriculture, and fisheries declared its support for The Great Ape Project - a proposal to grant rights to life, liberty, and protection from torture to our closest nonhuman relatives: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans. Other countries, such as New Zealand and the UK, have taken steps to protect great apes, but no national parliament has declared that any animal could be a person with rights.

Keeping great apes in captivity will be allowed for purposes of conservation only, and then under optimal conditions for the apes. Moreover, the resolution recommends that Spain take steps in international forums to ensure that great apes are protected from maltreatment, slavery, torture and extinction.

Paola Cavalieri and I founded The Great Ape Project in 1993 to break down the barriers between human and nonhuman animals. Researchers such as Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey and Birute Galdikas have shown that great apes are thinking, self-aware beings with rich emotional lives, and thereby prepared the ground for extending rights to them.

If we regard human rights as something possessed by all human beings, no matter how limited their intellectual or emotional capacities may be, how can we deny similar rights to great apes? To do so would be to display a prejudice against other beings merely because they are not members of our species - a prejudice we call speciesism, to highlight its resemblance to racism. The Spanish resolution marks the first official acceptance of that view. The use of the term "slavery" in relation to animals is especially significant, for it has been assumed that animals are rightly our slaves, to use as we wish, whether to pull our carts, be models of human diseases for research, or produce eggs, milk, or flesh for us to eat. Recognition by a government that it can be wrong to enslave animals is a significant breach in the wall of exclusive moral significance we have built around our own species.

Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 11:16 am
While Spanish parliamentarians were sympathetically considering the rights of animals, in Austria 10 leaders of lawful animal welfare organisations were beginning their fifth week in prison. Police had roused people from their beds, put guns to their heads and seized computers and files, disabling the animal-rights movement on the eve of it launching a new initiative to enshrine the protection of animals in the Austrian constitution. The leaders are being held without charge under a law aimed at members of criminal organisations such as the mafia, and a court has remanded all 10 to be held until September.

One, Martin Balluch, has been given a 1,500-page police file to justify his arrest. In the file his name is mentioned only three times, all in connection with media interviews or articles. Ironically Balluch, a brilliant man with doctorates in both physics and philosophy, is one of the foremost spokesmen in the worldwide animal rights movement for pursuing the nonviolent, democratic road to reform. In recent years, Austrian animal welfare organisations have been remarkably successful in persuading voters and legislators to support laws phasing out cages for egg-laying hens, cages for raising rabbits for meat, and raising animals for fur. As Balluch writes: "A law banning a whole industry does far more economic damage to the animal abuse industry than anything else the animal movement could do."

The police persecution appears to be an attempt by the conservative party, which controls the ministry of the interior, and its animal industry supporters to strike back at a legitimate, peaceful challenge to the way we treat animals. That this can happen in a European democracy is shocking.

Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 11:23 am
it's good that he wrote about the austrian activists but he forgot about all the people who are in prisons in UK and in USA
(You can go to the site and post a comment)
anyway thanks Guardian for the article
Last week Independent published article about Sean Kitley

Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 11:44 am
Please sign the petitions if you haven't done it yet:
There are still needed signatures at thepetition site (45 left to reach the goal)

Joycey B (750)
Friday July 18, 2008, 12:09 pm
I agree with Professor Singer. How can this happen in a European democracy. Already signed. Noted with thanks Joanna.

Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 1:55 pm
From Hans:

Germany - Andreas Morlock, known as one of the stout European whale- and dolphin defenders, will hand himself over to the Austrian police on 20th July 2008 at around 14h00 in Bregenz / Austria, after a march crossing the German-Austrian frontier in solidarity for the 10 Austrian animal rights advocates. The ten are jailed under the provisions of a new and ill-drafted anti-terror and anti-organized-crime legislation. Without any proven evidence the activists are in detention on remand awaiting trial for allegedly having formed a "criminal organization" - a charge which endangers all political and social-chance work in Austria in the moment.

Morlock will hand himself to the Austrian police stating that he too is active to promote the protection of animals. He does this in protest against the outragious situation that an EU country can detain activist for their political engagement. Such atrocities he doesn't want to witness without standing up against. "Either they will detain me too without having any evidence for any charges or they will let me go again!", Morlock says.

The activist, who since years has won by non-violent and peaceful means many battles for the protection of whales and dolphins (see: ) surely hopes that the Austrian police will not arrest him, but especially after the last ruling by the Appellate Court of Vienna, which under an obviously biased judge Dr. Ingrid Jelinek confirmed the extended detention of the Austrian Ten, he can not be sure to be left in peace. However the outcome, Morlok proclaims: "Society must ask itself, if their justice system always imprisons the real criminals or if the "criminal organizations" are not the ones in government!"

Look for the site and original info:

Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 1:59 pm
Today a letter to president of European Commission has been sent:
Concern about Breach of Human Rights in Austria
Open Letter to Mr. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Copies to:
Federal Chancellor Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer
Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer
Minister for the Interior Dr. Maria Fekter
Minister for Justice Dr. Maria Berger


18 July 2008

In early morning of May 21st last, various apartments and offices were raided by masked Austrian police pointing guns at bewildered people. Computers and documents of some NGOs were seized, severely hampering or even paralyzing their future activities.

Ten Austrian citizens were arrested under the accusation of being members of what – under Article 278a of the Austrian Criminal Code - is deemed to be a "criminal organisation". So far no detailed charges have been brought against the detainees, no interviews have taken place and they and their lawyers are still being refused access to much of the alleged evidence against them.

Article 278 was enacted in 2002 to counteract drug smuggling, human trafficking and other such forms of serious organised crime. Yet, it is now being used for the detention of ten people against whom no such allegations have ever been made.

All in all, this raises some disturbing questions:

1. Since - after almost two months of poring through documents and computer discs - no real evidence has been produced by the prosecution to link the ten to any punishable activities, how can it still be argued that there is a case to answer warranting continued imprisonment?

2. Why is Article 278a, which was designed to fight far more serious crimes, being used in this instance?

3. Is it possible that the authorities are utilizing Article 278a because of the exceptionally long detention periods allowed under it as a means of keeping these activists locked up for as long as possible?

4. Did the fact that in the last few years in Austria, non-violent animal rights campaigners have - using strictly legal means - been winning increasing support in Austrian society and have scored some notable court victories in their fight against cruelty to animals lead to this shockingly harsh treatment?

5. The European Convention on Human Rights (Article 5) insists on the prisoners’ "detention [...] on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence" and on his/her being "entitled to trial within a reasonable time". Can anyone claim that the spirit of this article is being adhered to in this case?

There is serious and growing concern about the way in which in Austria the human right to freedom of expression is undermined whilst at the same time legal activities of non-governmental organizations are being choked.

Austria as member of the European Union has to respect European values; it must be prevented from eroding fundamental liberties.

Therefore, we urge the European Commission to take a position on this problem, in order to help solve it soon and restore the confidence of European citizens in a Europe where freedom of speech and trust in the highest institutions are fundamental values which cannot be deemed superfluous.


Dr Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP for SE England

Jean Lambert, MEP London, Green Party

Jens Holm, MEP Left Party, Sweden

Endorsements by
95 organisations
234 individuals


Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 2:10 pm
Thank you friends who signed the letter you are wonderful!!!!

laurel w (207)
Friday July 18, 2008, 2:35 pm
The basis of all animal rights should be the Golden Rule: we should treat them as we would wish them to treat us, were any other species in our dominant position. ~Christine Stevens

I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. All the scientific discoveries stained with innocent blood I count as of no consequence. ~Mahatma Gandhi

I had bought two male chimps from a primate colony in Holland. They lived next to each other in separate cages for several months before I used one as a [heart] donor. When we put him to sleep in his cage in preparation for the operation, he chattered and cried incessantly. We attached no significance to this, but it must have made a great impression on his companion, for when we removed the body to the operating room, the other chimp wept bitterly and was inconsolable for days. The incident made a deep impression on me. I vowed never again to experiment with such sensitive creatures. ~Christian Barnard, surgeon

When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. ~Ingrid Newkirk


Joanna D (216)
Friday July 18, 2008, 2:41 pm
He he maybe we all should start sending reports about ourselves to police - they would have hands full of work to check this all.
Something like: Dear Police I'm afraid I'm a terrorist: I'm a vegan, I'm signing about 10 petitions a day and I'm reading a AR news every day.

Past Member (0)
Friday July 18, 2008, 3:04 pm
Wow... Joanna, I was just thinking the same thing, well if they are now assuming that people are guilty until proven innocent, it’s only a matter of time before they come for us all…
I can’t help but think of Martin Luther King’s words that
“Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat To justice Everywhere”

And thank you so much Joanna and Hans for working so hard to keep us all informed about this unbelievable situation, we really do need to pull together on this now.

Anne T (286)
Friday July 18, 2008, 3:37 pm
Thankyou Joanna and Hans for all your work. Noted and signed petitions.

Past Member (0)
Friday July 18, 2008, 7:30 pm
Our prayers are with you all...

Morgan Griffith (225)
Friday July 18, 2008, 8:09 pm
Already signed. Thank you for your work and for bringing all the aspects of this case into one format. It is good that more people are coming on board to give light to this case. In an aside I hope that the action by the Spanish Parliament sparks a new day for the horrendous treatment that animals suffer at the hands of the citizens of Spain.

Jim Phillips (3257)
Friday July 18, 2008, 8:17 pm
Petition and letter signed.

TY, Joanna.


Sheila G (267)
Saturday July 19, 2008, 4:22 am
criminal to treat these people this way. I suppose they are getting ready to launch a full out assualt against ARA, just in case they lose their "rights" to mistreat animals. they will need someone to abuse, won't they?
coincidental: both of my sites in myspace were deleted, I ran many banners and comments and bulletin postings, protesting HLS and the abuse of the prisoners, last weekend. both pages lost this week, in two days of each other. just a coincidence, I am sure.
ty Joanna, Hans for your dedication, you keep us all motivated!

Suzanna van der Voort (271)
Monday July 21, 2008, 7:23 am
I signed, forwarded it and let my family signed tis too.
Thanks Joanna for all your good work.

Alf I (246)
Wednesday July 23, 2008, 7:54 am
Not a great fan of Springer but GREAT action by Andreas Morlock! Yeh maybe we should ALL hand ourselves in LOL!!!
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