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The murder of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn: does left-wing animal rights activism lead to terror?

Introduction

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.
The press claims that before his death, Pim Fortuyn made some remarks about animal-unfriendly measures he planned to propose, and to have made condescending remarks about the environmental movement. This may partly have been what caused the suspect - in his stressed-out condition - to make a fatal decision. Maybe he thought that Fortuyn would reach a great electoral victory the week after, giving him a position in which to realize his plans. As do the followers of the dangerous Animal Rights Militia or ETA, he may have thought that the end (animal protection) justifies the means (murder).
One possibility that was put forward by the media, is that the suspect had secretly been a member of a sort of Dutch Animal Rights Militia for years. In that case, he would have had such fatal ideas for longer, and might even have put them into action earlier.
Some link the suspect's veganism to violence against people. This is strange, because veganism is a diet-plan shared by many very different groups. Veganists disagree amongst themselves about a lot of things. The rejection of terror may be one of the few things all veganists agree on.

     

Violent action

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.
But the murder of Pim Fortuyn and the Dutch democracy do not fit this model at all. Fortuyn, no matter how controversial, was definitely not a fascist or a dictator. Neither did he structurally violate animal (or human) rights. There would have been plenty of opportunity for non-violent action, such as voting during the election, to limit his influence. This murder cannot be justified in any way.

     

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.
Furthermore, left-wingers are said to tolerate extremist groups. Again, this accusation is unjustified. After all, the extremist group or cell the suspect may have been a member of, did not operate openly. One cannot condone something one has no knowledge of.
Fortuyn's followers, just as most of his opponents, are stricken by his untimely death and that is completely understandable. We should be careful not to project conspiracy theories on innocent people who have had no part in this terrible murder.
Let us hope that humanity and reason will soon return to our country.

author Titus Rivas

Titus Rivas, Msc, stated that veganism is a reasonable, moral choice that has nothing to do with extremism as such.
This is a collection of published articles which have all been written from this perspective: