The discovery of an undercover policeman embedded in a group of environmentalist activists is, of course, news; however, it should not be treated as such as it’s standard practice that all social justice movements, including the animal rights movement, be infiltrated by the police to gather information and operate as agents provacteurs. What is news is that the undercover agent was found out. Or, rather, confessed when confronted. As The Guardian reports,
The six friends present when [police constable Mark] Kennedy broke down and admitted he was a spy then asked him directly if the woman was also a police officer. “The six friends present when Kennedy broke down and admitted he was a spy then asked him directly if the woman was also a police officer. “He [Kennedy] nodded and said: ‘Yeah, but you know about that already,” said Craig Logan, 37, who was present. Kennedy is then said to have indicated that there were several other police officers living undercover in the protest movement. Logan said that while there was circumstantial evidence suggesting the woman was operating undercover, Kennedy’s former friends were highly suspicious of all the information he revealed that night. “This man was an extraordinary liar,” he said. “We cannot take anything he told us at face value.”
Not only was Kennedy pretending to be an environmentalist for seven years among this group of environmental activists but there were also several other undercover operatives.
All of this is reminiscent of the actions of the police and McDonald’s collusion in the events that lead up to the infamous McLibel trial. John Vidal wrote, “It led to inevitable farce at London Greenpeace meetings with spies spying on spies and being observed in turn by suspicious anarchists. Sometimes there would have been as many — or more — spies at a meeting as anarchists.” (McLibel, Macmillian, 1997, 194-195)
One notorious case of entrapment by animal researchers was in the US with the animal research laboratory, U.S. Surgical. It engaged the private investigation firm, Perceptions International, which, in turn, hired operative Mary Lou Sapone to help to persuade animal activist Fran Trutt to plant a small bomb by the car of U.S. Surgical’s chair, Leon Hirsch. (The Animal Rights Movement in America, Finsen and Finsen, Twayne, 1994, 173-174)
I recall in the 1980s, when I was responsible for organising a series of national anti-vivisection demonstrations for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, going to a police station after one of these protests. I saw one demonstrator walk past me, cross the public counter and stand among other policemen in uniform and unclip animal rights badges (Americans read: buttons) from his jacket. He was not a protestor at all but an undercover policeman.
So, what to do about it?
The lesson I learned is to trust only those whose values match my own. When anyone starts talking about animal rights and speaks in support of the necessity to lie (or even fudge) the truth. Or they speak with hate toward others regardless of who they are, including animal abusers. Or they advocate violence. Or they say they only care about animals. These are people who I watch with a sceptical eye. They may not be undercover police masquerading as animal advocates. But they sure behave like them. What’s more to the point is that they don’t embody what I believe are the four key values in animal rights: truth, compassion, nonviolence and interbeing, the interrelatedness of all.