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Locked Up For Being Too Successful

Letter to SchNEWS from SHAC campaigner Heather Avery written while serving a 12 month sentence at Highpoint Prison on the charge of 'Conspiracy To Cause A Public Nuisance'

Dear SchNEWS,

Well here I am at High Point. Imprisoned for daring to get off my backside and say "enough is enough, I am going to take action to stop this horrendous suffering." Locked up for speaking out, locked up for exposing Huntington Life Sciences, locked up for motivating others into action, locked up for being far too successful, locked up for caring.

I was part of the campaigns that closed Consort Kennels and Hillgrove Farm. Consort Kennels caved in just 10 months into the campaign. Over 200 Beagles were legally re-homed. Many were snatched to safety in the middle of the night. Others were grabbed in broad daylight and carried across country to a new life. Feelings were so strong at Consort that activists were openly tearing the walls down brick by brick.

People said we would never close Consort. We knew we would. They said we'd never close Hillgrove Farm. We knew we would. Hillgrove Farm gave in just two years into a relentless campaign. Success came from that important word-relentless. These places were hammered from every direction day in and day out (not to mention the nights). In short they didn't know what hit them and certainly didn't know which direction the next blow was coming from. Over 800 cats were re-homed when Hillgrove closed. More importantly the business was forced to close and they were unable to breed and sell any more cats for vivisection.

Huntingdon Life Sciences was our next target. We needed new tactics but the principles were still the same. Relentless pressure, actions, imagination and innovative tactics. Whatever the target we always try to stay focused and positive. We always have an unwavering certainty that we will win. We have to because it's not our necks on the line. Our motivation is always the animals who are suffering. A sense of real urgency runs through all of us with the knowledge 500 animals are needlessly killed at HLS everyday.... one at a time, each one an individual whose life is precious to him/her as ours is to us.

It was 5 o'clock in the morning when Laddie warned me that the police (about 30 of them) were creeping down my front path. He was up at the window growling and snarling. It was August 2000. The next thing I knew the police were up to their usual amateur dramatics shouting and trying to smash the front door in. I had my house ransacked and was arrested and charged with 7 outrageous offences (they do try it on!). By the time it all came to court a year later it was reduced to "conspiracy to incite a public nuisance" and we got 12 months. The whole operation took 42 police officers full time (we had been under extensive surveillance for many months) and cost in the region of 1.2 million. One Cambridgeshire cop was overheard saying in court when we were sentenced "we won't be trying that again!". Obviously the aim was to stitch us up for 3-5 years in prison and for SHAC to fall apart without us.

I have been fortunate enough to share a cell with Natasha (my co-defendant) and our stay in prison has been treated as a holiday. The rest has done us a lot of good. I have made the most of every single day here. I feel mentally and physically stronger than ever before. Of course it's easy to feel like that with such a short sentence. I have missed my dogs, family and friends but unless you can escape I've found it's best to be positive and do something productive every day.

I have read about other political prisoners around the world and realise that I have it easy here. The other prisoners here at High Point have expressed nothing but support for us in our fight to close HLS. Some of them have even turned vegan!. Even some of the prison officers have made comments such as 'I think it's brilliant what you're doing', 'you shouldn't be in here', 'I hope you close them down'.

It struck me when I first arrived at High Point how much it looked like HLS with the huge fences topped with razor wire. The big difference being that I would be released alive and well. Being in prison hasn't helped me to empathise with the animals at HLS because there is no comparison. I don't want to empathise with them I am going to save them.

With determination, belief and hard work I believe almost anything can be achieved. Whether you're fighting for people, animals or the environment don't be distracted or pushed off course. Keep at it. I know there will be many more victories along the way. Unlike most people, when activists and campaigners like you or I die we'll be able to say we did everything we could to end cruelty and fight injustice.

All I want to do now is get back out there and smash HLS.

Stay free and good luck with all your efforts.

Love and respect