On April 28th, World Day for Animals in Laboratories, Italian animal liberation activists staged a daylight raid of the Green Hill Breeders complex in Northern Italy, freeing 25 to 40 beagles in the process. All but one of the dogs are puppies. Green Hill, owned by Marshall Farms Inc., is one of the largest European breeding facilities for nonhuman animals bred for vivisection. Green Hill, which sells “purpose bred” dogs for up to $1,200, keeps 2,500 dogs on site at any given time and harbors ambitions of expanding its facilities to contain 5,000. Green Hill breeds dogs to order for customers like Huntingdon Life Sciences, who can pay for extra “features,” like dogs with their vocal chords removed so they cannot scream when experimented upon.
Since the closing of Italy’s other laboratory dog breeding facility, Italian activists have gone hard after Green Hill. The campaign has employed a diverse array of tactics, ranging from letter writing and petitions to legal challenges and public demonstrations. Daylight raids like the one that occurred on Saturday are not in themselves unprecedented, but the sheer size of this one is a definite first. On the heels of this action, hackers acting under the umbrella of Anonymous have begun to take down and subvert websites owned by companies “who derive profit from the blood and the suffering of animals,” using the hashtags #OpItaly, #OpSaveAnimals and #OpGreenRights.
Activists scale the barbed wire fence surrounding Green Hill Breeders
It remains to be seen how the Italian government will respond to this escalation in the grass roots campaign against vivisection. 12 individuals were arrested at the raid on Saturday but it’s not yet clear how keen Italy is on following the United States’ suit on applying terrorism enhancements to a situation like this. Some European states have tended to tolerate occasional daylight raids as long as they don’t occur too frequently or stray too far from the symbolic. Four dogs would have been one thing, but forty? When activists in England began using open raids to great effect during the 1980s, the state began to apply “conspiracy to burgle” charges to as many activists as possible in order to drain energy and funds from the movement (chronicled in Against All Odds).
An interior view of Green Hill’s kennels
It will be interesting to see how the campaign against Green Hill continues to play out. The story has only just begun to escape Italian news services and into international social media, blogs and online petition sites (1, 2). Wider coverage will not be far behind and this bodes poorly for a company like Green Hill. The discussion of animal rights as they pertain to food politics has been forced into the mainstream of late, but vivisection is an industry with a history of desperate resistance to public visibility. The brazenness of this raid is captivating and the images that have come out so far are profoundly moving. Perhaps we will be seeing more of these daylight raids moving forward, particularly given how easy it has become to organize a flash mob using social media. It is to be hoped that Italian animal liberationists will be able to both weather the state’s response to their act of mass conscience and to leverage the ensuing global attention to close down Green Hill once and for all. Whatever happens next, I’m pretty sure it’s already worth it.