Campaigner Dies on Hunger Strike

" The fight is not for us, not for our personal wants or needs. It is for every animal that has ever suffered and died in the vivisection labs, and for every animal that will suffer and die in those same labs unless we end this evil business now. The souls of the tortured dead cry out for justice, the cry of the living is freedom. We can create that justice and we can deliver that freedom. The animals have no-one but us, we will not fail them. "

Barry Horne (Sept 1998)

Animal Rights campaigner Barry Horne passed away on Monday 5 November. This obituary (slightly abridged/editted for clarification) is from ARC News:

The news of Barry's death, resulting from a hunger strike, came as a great shock to us all and as I write, on the day of his death, most of us seem to be a bit numb. We don't know what to do or what to say to each other. We are in shock. This reponse is a far cry from the ready-primed wave of anger and action that was set to follow his death which had looked set to happen whilst he was on hunger strike over Labour's broken promises in September 1998.

Many of his friends associate his death with that hunger strike, which saw him go for 68 days without food - an ordeal which caused his body and mind such damage that he was never really able to recover. That was his third hunger strike. The first one in 1987, lasting 35 days, was called off after the Home Office promised a meeting with Barry's represent-atives. The second (46 days) ended after what turned out to be more broken promises from the Home Office. His death was during his 4th hunger strike, from 21 Oct until 5 Nov.

Barry embarked on the hunger strikes after a great deal of deliberation. He revealed himself to be a master tactician. He knew what he was up against - politicians, vivisectors, greed, dirty money, corruption etc. He went on hunger strike to highlight Labour's broken promises and in order to try and breakdown the institutionalised support that governments had always given vivisectors. We must never forget that. Tony Blair and his current regime have proved to be one of the worst on record for taking part in animal crimes, such as the constant support they have given to HLS.

The Third Hunger Strike

I want to go back to that third hunger strike because nothing was ever the same after that. Barry had gone on this hunger strike with more determination than ever. He'd recently been slammed with an 18 year sentence for a multi-million pound campaign of arson directed against Boots and the vivisection industry. I remember sitting in court and letting out a sigh of relief when the prosecution accepted that he had never intended to endanger or harm anyone, but the judge just carried on regardless with a savagely long sentence. Barry never took anything lying down and carried on fighting from within prison. He knew he had the strength and determination to take a hunger strike to its limits. There would be no backing down on this one unless the government delivered on its pre-Election promises. He set out to make a major breakthrough in the institutionalised support of vivisection and he was going to use his life as the bargaining chip.

This was going to benefit the animals one way or the other. For all the bull of the spin doctors he knew that at the end of the day most people would wake up to the fact here was someone who was laying his life on the line for something he believed in. Tony Blair had made promises and Barry was simply taking him to task for it. If they ignored his demand to hold a total review of the vivisection industry then his death would be on their hands, to add to the millions of animal victims - and that death would be taken up by the animal liberation movement as a symbol of all that we are fighting against - brutal injustice and a world of hidden atrocities.

For many it was a surprise to see Barry getting, in any way, involved with politics but once again it soon became clear that he had a much wider vision than that - he wanted to send a clear message out to us, his friends and "comrades", that in order to fight for animal liberation it was necessary to make sacrifices. He was showing that he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. By the time the hunger strike had reached day 60, and Barry's health was declining, the tension had reached fever pitch.

It was the headline story. Animal abusers were on war footing as they braced themselves for the impending backlash. Then came a truly shocking move - just as Barry began to lose his mental faculties due to the trauma of 65 days without food - Barry was moved from York hospital where he was surrounded by friends, back to the isolation of prison and subjected to normal "Catagory A" prison visiting conditions.

Two days later, the Home Office faxed to the prison an offer that, in January, there would be an investigation into vivisection by an all party animal welfare committee. Barry was in no fit state to deal on his own with the complex details of the offer that prison officers gave him, and any serious discussion on his time limited visits was impossible as he slipped in and out of consciousness.

The next morning when screws offered him breakfast he accepted. Immediately George Howarth, the then Home Office minister responsible for animal experiments, stepped in to tell the media that Barry's hunger strike had been a hoax and "We have not been negotiating with Barry Horne. Nothing has been offered. The Minister always made it clear the Government would not give in to blackmail. There has been no concession, no negotiation, no deal." Barry never recovered from the effects of that hunger strike and he died because of it. Nothing was ever heard from the all party animal welfare investigation.

The Man & the Animal Liberation Activist

For me there was no distinction between Barry the man and Barry the animal liberation activist. He had a wicked sense of humour, a mischievous smile, an incredible level of energy, dedication and sense of self-sacrifice. He had a kind and gentle heart but also a burning sense of rage towards bullies be they racist, fascists or animal abusers.

Barry he was always up there at the front, not one for hanging round at the back. He had that sense of urgency running through his veins. He was sensitive to the fact that animals are dying now. Barry was not always one for social pleasantries, but if you were to mention the magic phrase "animal liberation" his eyes would light up. He'd been done for attempting to liberate Rocky the dolphin, trashing a vivisector's dinner dance, for possession of incendiary devices near HLS and causing £3m worth of damage to other Boots stores. Then he went on to make the most powerful statement of all - he showed that he was prepared to die for his beliefs. He once said during that third hunger strike, as his health was failing, that he was scared of dying. That, to me, was a sign of his courage that he could face up to such a fear. Mike Hill, Jill Phipps and Tom Worby had no control over their deaths - they were murdered. Barry is our first true martyr. He didn't want to die, but now he is dead.

What are you going to do about it?

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© Networking Newsletter (December 2001)