Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Petulent protesters

Warning: another rant coming up. I do apologise for the perhaps excessive amount of moaning that appears here. It's not that I'm a particularly grumpy person, it's just that I rarely feel inspired to write about how everything's going know, isn't this average fineness, just, well, not bad really? If I'm really happy, I rarely want to jinx it by attempting to navigate my way round my rather temperemental computer, and if I'm in a less than ideal mood, this very navigation usually results in a full-blown rant.

Still, explanations aside, let the rant commence.

I remember the days when protests came in two forms. There were the quite serious, life-changing demos, like 1968 in Paris, or the suffragettes. These were idolised, hailed as human conscience taking a turn for the good and betterment of mankind. Then there were the students, the slightly smelly, slightly too hairy hippies waving signs around. You know, Save the Whales, Don't Cut Down The Tree on Campus, Rainbows as Prime Minister, you get the idea. They were tolerated; it was seen as part of growing up. Survive on a tin of beans for a week, go on a peace march, get worked, it didn't change the world, but photos and TV footage immortalised some excellent hair-dos and fashion disasters. Lessons were learnt, people moved on.

When I moved to Oxford, I expected similar. The well-meaning types on Cornmarket Street were encouraging, as were the odd bits of graffiti scrawled on toilet doors. What I wasn't expecting was the full-blown animal rights protests that seem to appear every weekend that I'm in town. 'Oxford - home of murderers' their banners say. 'Oxford University students should be ashamed'. Well, we'd better all move out then, and send all the students home. They're probably all the sorts who used to fry ants under magnifying glasses anyway. Heathens.

I wouldn't mind people protesting about something they believe strongly in, if only they didn't get in the way so much. I know that's kind of the point; a strike or a march is no good if it doesn't affect anyone, but what genius thought that blocking roads, using valuable police time and insulting pretty much every passing member of the public was a good way to win people over? They definitely need some help on the marketing side, but I'm sure not giving it to them. I don't know about you, but when I see mounted policemen, several squad cars and a riot van, I don't think 'Gosh, what sensible, lovely people protesting for a good cause; I should join then'. No, I think 'Arrrgh raving nutters who might hurt me if I tread on a bug!". When I see students who have spent three or four of the most intense years of their lives studying hard, their proud parents come to watch them graduate, and the once in a lifetime moment is ruined by a rabble of people calling them murderers, my instant reaction would have to be censored so much, it would be incomprehensible on here.

Regardless of how right or wrong they are in their claims, the Animal Rights group has claimed responsibility for vandalising building equipment and vehicles, for setting fire to Oxford college boathouses, for sending threatening letters, for having a 'hit list'. They seem to place animals above humans in their beliefs and their practises. Perhaps we should release them into the wild and watch the animals there gratefully thanking them.

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