Joining up our struggles: A call to anti-speciesists to join the Stop the Arms Fair week of action this September
This September, London will be hosting Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), the world’s largest arms exhibition. Political and military delegations from all over the world will come to shop for weapons, sold by thousands of arms companies. The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the US military, both of whom carry out military tests on animals, as well as causing untold suffering to those that live in the countries that they invade, bomb and occupy, will be participating in the fair.
This is a call to anti-speciesist activists to join the Week of Action against the fair, from 4-11th September. A coalition of activists, including anarchists, socialists, trade-unionists, Quakers, Catholic Workers and Buddhists are joining with communities who have been affected by the arms trade to try to obstruct the setting up of the exhibition. Activists will use direct action to prevent tanks, guns and missiles from being delivered to the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands. They are being joined by environmentalists, who want the government to invest in renewable energy instead of arms, and migrant solidarity campaigners, protesting the militarisation of Europe’s border regime. At the last DSEI, in 2015, anti-speciesists joined their fellow activists in taking action against the fair.
The Ministry of Defence uses animals in military testing at its Porton Down facility in Wiltshire. Some of the tests are outlawed by parliament, but the MOD has been given a ‘special exemption’ to do as it pleases. Animal testing at Porton Down is kept secret, but in 2015, Animal Justice Project revealed to British newspaper ‘The Mirror‘ that, over the previous two years, the experiments carried out included pigs being forced to inhale mustard gas, marmoset monkeys being infected with bio-threat diseases, rats being shot in the eyes with plastic bullets, burning mice with lasers and injecting guinea pigs with nerve gas. The MOD is named on the DSEI arms fair’s website as a key supporter of DSEI arms fair. MOD staff have, in the past, supplied an administrative team of military officers to support at the fair and provided MOD equipment such as warships to be used during the event. The ministry will, of course, also be sending representatives to the event to shop for weapons.
The US Department of Defence (DOD), who will also be doing their shopping at DSEI, abuse animals in cruel military experiments. Each year the DOD, its contractors and companies working for the Department of Homeland Security kill thousands of animals – mainly pigs and goats – as part of trauma training for army medics. The training includes, for example, the shooting of pigs with AK47s and the breaking of goats’ legs. These tests continue, despite evidence that they are ineffective due to the anatomical differences between humans and other animals.
The US army and navy also carry out thousands of other animal tests such as mounting sensor array equipment on the heads of seals and forcing rats to swallow toxic chemicals. The US military also uses primates in its studies of the effects of radiation.
The arms sold at DSEI are used to fuel conflict globally. War, of course, affects non-human animals as well as humans. According to Kirsten Bayes, an anti-speciesist activist and campaigner against DSEI, “Every year, animals are shot, burned and poisoned to test new weapons and battlefield equipment. The technologies tested in these brutal ways are on sale at DSEI 2017, incorporated into weapons but also available to be licensed for supposedly peaceful purposes.”
“Weapons sold at DSEI spark wars world wide. Animals are killed in the tens of thousands by war, through neglect and the effect of weapons. Thousands of elephants are killed for their ivory by rebel groups to fund arms purchases. War and weapons tests make animals’ habitats unlivable, driving birds from nesting grounds, causing the beaching of whales and dolphins, and putting pollutants into the water and air. If you want to save animals, stop the arms fair!”
The DSEI arms fair is of concern to all of us. It supports wars and repression globally, that affect all of our struggles, kills both human and non-human animals and devastates the natural world. According to Susannah Mengesha, one of a group of activists who were arrested at DSEI 2015 for blocking the entrances to the exhibition to obstruct the delivery of weapons, “The weapons sold at DSEI will be used to reinforce systems of inequality and oppression across the globe. They will be used in imperialist proxy wars over natural resources and to cut down, torture and imprison any voices for freedom that would threaten the current balance of power.”
“The arms trade does so much harms to so many. Its role is clear in perpetuating internal repression, apartheid and wars across the globe. It also has a catastrophic impact on the environment and practices extreme cruelty on live animals used for military testing of firearms, lasers and explosives. The same companies that are arming squaddies are also equipping the border regime, the prison industrial complex and nuclear power facilities. By joining up struggles we each have the opportunity to hear new perspectives, to gain a new overview as to how our struggles interrelate and learn how we might practically support one another going forward.”
The Stop the Arms Fair coalition is made up of diverse groups and individuals who oppose the fair. The coalition supports groups using a diversity of different tatics to oppose the fair. It is open for new people and new movements to get involved. Anti-speciesist campaigners are welcome to join the planned protests or to organise their own demonstrations and actions as part of the week of action from 4-11th September. Actions can also be organised against the arms fair itself, which will take place from the 13-15th September if we don’t stop it first! More details can be found at www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk.
Tom Anderson is from Shoal Collective, a newly-formed cooperative of independent writers and researchers, writing for social justice and a world beyond capitalism.