It appears that an environmental and animal rights activist has shot and killed the popular Dutch party leader Pim Fortuyn. This is a great anomaly in the generally peaceful Dutch political tradition, and totally at odds with our democracy. Logically, all political parties, friend as well as foe, unanimously condemn this murder. And, most likely, almost every individual citizen has distanced himself from it. Such a barbaric crime leads only to great personal suffering and useless polarization.
On May 6th, 2002, the controversial Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered. As we write this, the suspect is a "left-wing" environmental activist who fights for animal rights, who is also a vegan. What does this say about animal rights and veganism? Can a murder like this ever be morally justified? Are left-wing organizations that stand up for animal rights partly to blame for the murder?
by Titus Rivas
These occurrences may cause many people who are unfamiliar with animal protection, animal rights activists or veganism to develop a totally distorted image of the kind of people who work for these goals. The consequence may be a terrible association between fighting for animal rights and violence against people. However, the large majority of these activists do not perceive a contradiction between animal and human rights, but rather a continuum. They are pleading for animal rights that come down to nothing more than applying (certain) human rights to animals.
It would be utterly absurd to deny people rights that we are at the same time trying to award to animals. There is just a tiny and isolated minority within the world of animal rights activists who think that human rights may be violated for the betterment of animal rights. The Animal Rights Militia and the Justice Department in the UK are small terror organizations that claim to stand up for animals. Animal rights activists in the UK and outside distance themselves utterly from this kind of blinded, terrorist groups.
An article in the Dutch newspaper Telegraaf of May 11th 2002 reports the Dutch Intelligence Service as having claimed that there are a few small groups of independently operating 'cells' of such eco-terrorists in the Netherlands as well. These groups are reported to have become ever more violent over the last few years, and to train in "summer camps". All this can be compared to the relationships in groups that strive to realize a major left-wing social turnaround. Most of these groups operate with zero violence, and respect human rights. There are just a handful of extremist groups such as ETA or the former Rote Armee Faktion (RAF) that are guilty of bloody bomb attacks and other acts of violence. Naturally, these groups are not generally associated with peaceful left-wing or liberal parties such as Dutch political parties "Green Left" or the "Socialist Party".
This heinous deed on May 6th has absolutely nothing to do with the general ideology of people who stand up for animal rights. They reject this murder just as unanimously as does the entire population. And besides, left-wingers usually represent solidarity and progressive change, and will have nothing to do with the violent ending of political opponents' lives.
The suspect's motives
As the media have reported, the suspect had been -
before committing his heinous act - an honest vegan
without violent tendencies. He devoted himself successfully
to court cases against the expansion of factory farming.
But on the other hand, he is said to have been overworked
and consequently emotionally unstable for some time.
Does this mean that advocates of animal and human rights
may never resort to violent actions? There are situations
in which violence seems justified. Ghandi, an advocate
of 'ahimsa' (non-violence) even said it was downright
cowardly not to apply violence under certain conditions.
He referred to situations in which the rights of people
or animals are structurally being violated, and there
is no possibility of non-violent action. Think for instance
of a dictatorship or violent occupation by an outside
- repressive - power. There will not be many people
who condemn the executions by the Resistance in WW II,
insofar as they were deemed necessary. Neither is it
seemly to morally reject the armed revolt by the Jewish
victims of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Are legal organizations that fight for animal rights partly to blame for the murder of Fortuyn?
Shortly after Pim Fortuyn's violent death, various
sympathizers directed emotional reproaches to "left-wingers".
Left-wing politicians and personalities were said to
have 'demonized' Fortuyn, and to have incited hatred.
I think this is totally misplaced and unjustified. Maybe
here and there people tended to typify too much, which
is always regrettable. But the same thing happens the
other way around. Fierce accusations and descriptions,
after all, go hand in hand with great contradictions
in politics and morality. This seems inevitable, and
the fact that it is possible even graces democracy.
Persons or organizations can only be deemed partly responsible
for the bloody tragedy if there was direct incitement
of physical violence and hatred. As far as I know, none
of that happened. Neither did I hear anything of the
sort from the field of animal rights activists.