Right To Protest (31 Jan 2005)

Our dear government has announced that there will be a crackdown on protesters in the new crime bill which is going though the motions at the moment.

This is clearly (and explicitly, in all but the wording of the bill) aimed at `animal rights' protesters who have, in recent times, stepped up their campaigning to include grave robbing, hate mail, vandalism, etc. The arguments are predictable and the animal rights `protesters' are claiming that this is an attack on their right to protest.

I believe that a right to protest should exist. Protesting gives a voice to those that cannot be heard another way. This may be because of financial limits, or because the media refuses to carry their story. As a firm believer in freedom of speech, I think that protesting is an important form of communication.

However, the right to protest is fairly limited. It's a communication mechanism, not a way to impose ones views on the world. What some animal rights `protesters' are doing has gone far beyond communication, into enforcement.

I'm slightly off-balance finding myself, as I do, in agreement with the government on this one. They are enforcing their monopoly on violence, which is right. We install a monopoly on violence in the government because we can (hopefully) control it via the democratic process. That democratic process then sets the limits on what the people can do. If it gets it right, the limits should be minimal.

Animal rights protesters are seeking to impose their own limits on what is already a tightly regulated sector. The government is right to slap them down.