Where are the animal liberation community in the anti-HS2 struggle?

HS2 Ltd Vs. Huntington Life Sciences

HS2 Ltd will injure and kill more animals than Huntington Life Sciences ‘laboratories’, with the same glib attempt at a justification: “human progress”. And this isn’t ‘incidental’, they actively use animals and flout laws to protect animals. Yet, despite being over 10 years into the anti-HS2 campaign, there is no unifying call to action in the animal lib world. Huntington Life Sciences, however, fomented such a sustained, international animal liberation campaign (SHAC) that some participants were convicted on trumped up terrorism offenses. So, the non-engagement so far is not for lack of commitment amongst animal liberation accomplices and yet this is an animal liberation issue.

Squeaks and a tale from the treetops

I remember sleeping in a treehouse in Jones Hill protection camp (AKA the Roald Dahl forest). Or rather, not sleeping because the glisglis were squeaking as they scurried over, under, and around my bed. My home was thrust into their home, and they had absorbed it—along with the biscuits the previous human occupier forgot—with enthusiasm. I was 60ft off the ground and intruding into the glisglis’ home because all that was around me was scheduled to be chewed up by a human vanity project and subsidy to the construction industry. And I felt so sad—for the tree, yes—but more for the glisglis and all the wildlife that awoke when the humans slept. Right now, people with chainsaws are taking minutes to cut through 200-year-old trees that hold the homes of my comrades, and before them, the homes of glisglis and the thousands of lives teeming along those branches. The carnage of High Speed Rail 2, perpetrated by HS2 Ltd and the State, isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s an animal liberation issue.

Habitats and natural homes; the inaction in animal liberation

High Speed Rail 2 is State-sanctioned violence on human and non-human animals, ploughing through and destroying the homes and habitats of both. And it’s not just this generation; for those that survive on the margins, future generations of humans, glisglis, foxes, birds, badgers, butterflies, bats etc. will suffer a harder life in a ravaged habitat. Although, deeply unjust, most humans will be compensated, will make another home, another life. In our structurally speciesist society, non-humans don’t receive even this, especially if, at a species-level, they’re not deemed endangered. It’s an animal liberation issue.

The animal liberation community are good at helping animals escape places of human use and abuse, and finding them new homes… but we’re not as good at protecting the natural homes they already have. Woods and trees are home to more wildlife than any other landscape in the UK. It’s also critical in limiting and mitigating against climate change—which is already trashing the habitats and homes of billions of animals, threatening the next mass extinction of non-human life. This is an animal liberation issue.

We are not ‘tree protectors’, martyrs, or XR. We are Sabs

This campaign must not be an outlet for our human-saviour complex. Animals are not passive recipients of abuse and dislocation. If given the opportunity, sometimes provided by human accomplices with wire cutters, non-human animals flee harm/self-liberate by escaping their traps, fences, farm and zoo prisons. But with just 2.4% of the UK containing ancient woodland, the destruction by HS2 Ltd of 19 ancient woodlands (108 woodlands overall) means many of the inhabitant non-human animals will have nowhere to escape to, from the jaws and tracks of HS2 diggers. We’ve smashed the steel jaws of traps—now we must smash the steel jaws of diggers. We are sabs. And we need to sabotage HS2 Ltd now, boldly, and unrelentingly. We are not ‘tree protectors’, martyrs, or XR. We are humans stopping human oppression. It’s an animal liberation issue.

We do not stop at speciesism

But we know oppression of one form begets oppression of another. So we do not stop at speciesism. We must actively challenge and sabotage patriarchy, sexism, capitalism, racism, transphobia, ableism, and authority—we fight against oppression for total liberation. And we do this without priority, recognising that they are all but manifestations of oppression. This is also an anti-State struggle—they are the primary sponsors of all forms of oppression and actively repress attempts to end that through co-option, incarceration, and economic and physical violence. This is, in fact, not an animal liberation issue, it’s a total liberation issue.

Learning and building treehouses and total liberation

It’s time for the animal lib community to join the fray… and learn. From local people who’ve been opposing this for the past decade, from environmentalists and anti-capitalists who’ve been living and breathing occupations and evictions, and from other occupations like la ZAD, Hambi, and the Kurdish autonomous zone. But the animal lib community also has an approach, ethos, and skillset to share. And we’ll share it by building a new anti-HS2 camp with an explicit focus on anti-oppressive action and learning—centring anti-speciesism in the campaign. We are not fighting for a return to the conditions that gave rise to HS2 in the first place. If that’s what we achieve, HS2 will be replaced by another manifestation of the oppression we’ll be fighting next, then another, and so on—and each time the State will make it harder and more punishing for us. No, we become a bulwark against all forms of State violence, challenging oppression in society, and making space and time to call in oppressions manifesting within this anti-HS2 camp. We build treehouses to oppose HS2 and hold the space to grow the anti-oppressive communities that’ll destroy the foundations of HS2, rooted as they are in the rot of oppression and State violence. It’s a total liberation issue.

A call to action

Take the fight to HS2. Stop humans trashing homes and habitats. Create communities against oppression. As a thorn in the foot of structural oppression, it doesn’t matter how big we are, it matters how we do.

From a member of the Animal Liberation Community

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