As a long-term effect of the assassination of a striking political candidate shortly before the elections for the Dutch parliament in May 2002, both public as well as political opinions on the subject of animal rights activism have become an increasingly hot issue in The Netherlands ever since. Discussions cause much controversy, if not openly showed hatred. The -meanwhile convicted- murderer was a dedicated environmental activist, who also cared a great deal about animal welfare and who was a strict vegan.

The interplay of motivation, emotion, knowledge and perception, environment and behavior, often leads to a conflict growing from bad to worse. Parties grow more grim in their fight, they become more excited, the differences in their knowledge grow larger and their perceptions dissent more and more, people surrounding them become more and more mobilized in the conflict and the behavior gets rougher and rougher.

The escalation-ladder (Glasl, 1997) shows that in the consecutive steps in an escalating conflict, parties may show different behavior. Interesting is that these behaviors will develop in three phases, whereby the change-over to every phase means crossing a border. Parties are aware then that something is changing.

 
Phase 1 win-win
     
1 Greenpeace  
discussions harden 2  Sea Shepherd
impasse intellectual force 3
no mutual under-standing   actions speak louder than words
  feeling of superiority non-verbal communication
mask polarisation question of prestige
  debating manners inflexibility towards existing standpoints
cooperative solving of conflicts score decrease of empathy skills
mobilizing aid evoking irritation no joined responsibility
selective attention the laugh on ones side blocking solutions
     
 
 
Phase 2 win-lose
     
     
left wing media politicians  inspection service on animal keeping
cattle-breeders association right wing
media
 
4 chicken-breeders association  
stereo-typing 5 hog-breeders association
extension of conflict facial attack and loss of face 6
in need of sympathy foul play threat
getting people on your side demask panic reactions
coalitions mutual avoidance sanctions
black-and- white view immoral behavior stress
     
 
Phase 3 all or nothing
     
from    
  bad  
    to
    worse
   
illegal actions against lab's testing animals     
7 animal liberation front  
object / enemy image 8 manslaugther
violence systematical destruction 9
harming the other crushing the other perish together
     

It is remarkable that many organizations are missing on the ladder. That of course in the first place is a good thing. Yet an organization can tend to an escalation when it withdraws itself from resistance to a certain situation of abuse. A clear example are those private poultry keepers who uncritically co-operated with the culling of poultry during the recent epidemic. By their co-operative attitude towards the government and it's rigorous and drastic measurements, they contributed to a legitimation of a morally failing governmental policy.

On the escalation-ladder, industrial farming has over the years slided downwards to a position that must be seen as directly heading for misery. The sector does not listen (anymore) to critical comments from society and simply goes about it's business. The criticizing consumer could in fact correct the sector, but forms no collective and as an individual is little effective. Moreover the majority of the clients live abroad: "What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve about".

Harder to be fit into the processes of conflicts are large organizations such as the churches, the national society for the protection of animals, and some of the animal welfare organizations. These groups would like to show resistance, and do so in words and sometimes even a little in deeds, but often feel their hands are tied because they do not want to lose their members or supporters.

A very obvious and active resistance is shown by Compassion In World Farming (CIWF); the society against the (ab)use of laboratory animals and Furforanimals. However, they try to stay out of an escalation as much as they can. The aim of the leagues of vegetarians or vegans is mainly to offer alternatives in the first instance; they set a good example.

As for the rest official bodies can still be named that do play a role in the origin or lasting of conflicts, however their role is unclear. Examples are veterinary surgeons, the Society of Hunters, acquisition departments for chains of supermarkets, consumers and consumer leagues and so on.

A positive turn to the escalation of a conflict can be given by an organization when it clearly formulates the limits of it's handling. Vision, transparency and rules or codes of conduct and such make clear what has to be done or left out in order to prevent conflicts from developing.