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.
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
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