Will This Man Be the First Martyr of Middle England's Animal Rights Movement? Hunger Protest: Firebomber Starving Himself to Death Has Become a Hero to a Rainbow Alliance of Environmentalists

By Ian Burrell, Jason Bennetto and Andrew Buncombe | The Independent (London, England), November 3, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Will This Man Be the First Martyr of Middle England's Animal Rights Movement? Hunger Protest: Firebomber Starving Himself to Death Has Become a Hero to a Rainbow Alliance of Environmentalists


Ian Burrell, Jason Bennetto and Andrew Buncombe, The Independent (London, England)


SLOWLY BUT surely, a militant animal rights activist jailed for arson and dismissed by some as an "urban terrorist" is becoming one of Middle England's most unlikely martyrs.

Barry Horne, 46, sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment, is starving himself to death trying to force the Government to outlaw experiments on animals. This morning, he will have gone 53 days without food.

Yesterday hundreds of animal rights campaigners around the country held protests supporting Horne. At York General Hospital, where he was transferred from Full Sutton prison, he receives up to 40 letters and cards of support a day. Friends have to read them to him as starvation has caused his eyesight to fail. One might suppose Horne's support comes only from extremists who try to force the issue without thought for those they hurt in the process. But the cards and messages that line his flower-filled room come from a cross-section of British society. Nancy Phipps, whose daughter Jill died four years ago when she was crushed by a lorry exporting live calves to the continent, is one who has visited Horne. "We are just one step away from Barry," said the scriptwriter Carla Lane, an animal rights activist who sent a message of support. "You get to the point when you cannot sleep at night because of the images of what you have seen. "You will never find people more committed or dedicated. And yet everybody in the media is so obsessed with what Barry has done rather than why he did it." For the record, what Horne did was this. Based in a Birmingham bedsit, the father of two launched a series of incendiary attacks on shops throughout the south and west of England. In 1994 he caused damage worth millions of pounds to stores on the Isle of Wight before detectives caught him two years later. At his trial last year the judge described him as an "urban terrorist" while the police said he was "dangerous, ruthless and absolutely committed". The sentence was the harshest ever given to an animal rights protester, despite the judge's acknowledgement that Horne had no intention of endangering human life. Held in one of Britain's highest security prisons, he continued his fight the only way he could: by refusing food. In his eighth week of hunger- strike, Horne has lost more than 25 per cent of his body fat and lies on an inflatable mattress designed to reduce the pain as his body slowly consumes his internal organs. Even if he resumed eating, doctors who recently visited him said his chances of survival would be less than 70 per cent. "Barry is very frightened. He is dreading that this might be the end,' said a fellow campaigner, Tony Humphries, after visiting Horne yesterday. "It is devastating. Those of us who have seen him regularly have seen him deteriorate, but for those who come every few weeks it is particularly hard." Horne, who has staged hunger strikes before only to call them off, appears determined this time to take his protest all the way. In a letter written in the hospital wing at Full Sutton, he said: "It's harder this time, but please don't read into it that my resolution is in any way not 100 per cent. In fact, the reverse is true... there is no longer any room for compromise. As such, my resolve to win is higher than at any time.

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Will This Man Be the First Martyr of Middle England's Animal Rights Movement? Hunger Protest: Firebomber Starving Himself to Death Has Become a Hero to a Rainbow Alliance of Environmentalists
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