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Barry Horne (March 17, 1952–November 5, 2001) was an English animal rights activist who died of liver failure in Ronkswood Hospital, Worcester in November 2001. His death followed a series of hunger strikes carried out while he served an 18-year sentence for planting incendiary devices in stores selling fur coats—the longest sentence handed down to any animal rights activist by the British courts.

Horne said he was willing to starve himself to persuade the British government to hold a public inquiry into animal testing, something the Labour Party had pledged but failed to do when it came to power in 1997. At the time of his death at the age of 49, he had not eaten for 15 days, but he had been left badly weakened by previous hunger strikes, the longest of which, in 1998, had lasted 68 days and had damaged his eyesight and kidneys.

Media reaction to his death was hostile, particularly in the UK, where he was widely described as a terrorist by journalists and politicians. Within the global animal rights movement, he continues to be viewed as a martyr.

Early activism

Horne as a young boy.
A refuse collector from Northampton, Horne became interested in animal rights at the age of 35, when his second wife, Aileen, persuaded him to attend an animal liberation meeting. After watching videos of animal testing, he decided to become a vegetarian and hunt saboteur. He became active with Northampton Animal Concern in the spring of 1987, which organized a raid of a Unilever laboratory, and picketed Beatties, a department store that sold fur coats.

Activism in the ALF and ARM

Rocky the dolphin

Horne first came to public attention in 1988, when he tried to rescue Rocky, a bottlenose dolphin captured in 1971 off the Florida Panhandle then kept for 20 years, most of the time alone, in a small concrete pool at Marineland, in Morecambemarker, Lancashire. Horne and four other activists planned to move Rocky, who weighed 650 lbs, 200 yards from the pool to the sea, using a ladder, a net, a home-made stretcher, and a hired Mini Metro.

Horne and his friends had already been visiting the dolphinarium secretly at night, getting into the pool with the dolphin in an effort to get to know him. On the night of the action, after arriving at the poolside with their equipment, they realized the logistics of the operation were beyond them, and they left without Rocky. A police car stopped them on the way back to their car, which contained a large dolphin stretcher for which, as one of the activists put it, "we had no legitimate explanation." After a five-day trial, they were convicted of conspiracy to steal the animal. Barry Horne, Jim O'Donnell, Mel Broughton, and Jim Buckner were fined £500, and Horne and Broughton were given an additional six-month suspended sentence.

Horne and the others continued with their mission to free Rocky, and in 1989 launched the Morecambe Dolphinarium Campaign, picketing the dolphinarium, handing out leaflets to tourists, organizing rallies, and lobbying the local council. Losing ticket sales, the management of Marineland eventually agreed to sell the dolphin for £120,000, money that was raised with the help of a number of animal charities, including the Born Free Foundation, and supported by the Mail on Sunday, which launched the "Into the Blue" campaign to free Britain's captive dolphins. In 1991, Rocky was transferred to an 80-acre lagoon reserve in the Turks and Caicos Islands, then released, and within days was seen swimming with a pod of wild dolphins.

Peter Hughes of the University of Sunderland cites Horne's campaign as an example of how promoting an animal rights perspective created a paradigm shift in the UK toward seeing dolphins as "individual actors" who should be viewed in the wild if tourists want to interact with them. As a result, Hughes writes, there are now no captive dolphins in the UK.

Harlan Interfauna raid

Together with Keith Mann and Danny Attwood, Horne was part of a small Animal Liberation Front cell that raided Harlan Interfauna, a British company in Cambridge that supplies laboratory animals and organs, on March 17, 1990, Horne's 38th birthday. The activists entered Interfauna's animal units through holes they punched in the roof, removing 82 beagle puppies and 26 rabbits. They also removed documents listing Interfauna's customers, which included Boots, Glaxo, Beechams, and Huntingdon Research Centre, as well as a number of universities. A vet who was an ALF supporter removed the tattoos from the dogs' ears, and they were dispersed to new homes across the UK. As a result of evidence found at the scene and in one of the activists' homes, Mann and Attwood were convicted of conspiracy to burgle and were sentenced to nine months and 18 months respectively.

Exeter College raid

Horne was one of a number of protesters who attacked an animal research conference at Exeter College, Oxfordmarker. They overturned tables and smashed 50 bottles of vintage claret, after fighting with police to enter the conference hall. Horne and five others were charged with violent disorder. Horne's attitude appeared to harden while in jail. In June 1993, he wrote in the Support Animal Rights Prisoners Newsletter:

Firebombing and arrest

After his release in 1994, Horne reportedly began to work as a one-man clandestine cell. Keith Mann writes that the nature of police interest in animal rights activists was such that working alone was safer, and Horne was anyway a reserved man, happy to go out alone and "do stuff," as he put it.

A number of night-time firebomb attacks, using home-made incendiary devices, took place over the next two years in Oxford, Cambridge, York, Harrogate, London, Bristol, as well as Newport and Ryde on the Isle of Wightmarker. The attacks targeted Boots stores, Halfords, stores selling leather goods, and stores run by cancer research charities. Some of the attacks were claimed by the Animal Rights Militia, a name used by activists unwilling to abide by the Animal Liberation Front's policy of non-violence. Mann writes that it "wasn't rocket science" to deduce that Horne had something to do with the attacks, because very few activists were willing to plant incendiary devices, and Horne was known to be one of the hard core who would. The police were therefore watching him closely. According to Mann, Horne knew he would be caught, but he saw animal rights activism as a war, and he was willing to become a casualty. He was eventually arrested in July 1996 after planting two incendiary devices in the Broadmead shopping centre in Bristol—one in a charity shop and the second in British Home Stores, set to explode at midnight. Police found a further four devices in his pockets.

Eighteen-year sentence

Horne's trial for arson began on November 12, 1997, six weeks after the end of the second hunger strike, at Bristol Crown Court. He pleaded guilty to attempted arson in Bristol, but denied involvement in the Isle of Wight attacks. Although there was no direct evidence to link Horne to the Isle of Wight incidents, the prosecution argued successfully that the devices used in Bristol and the Isle of Wight were so similar that Horne should be regarded as responsible for both. He was put through 14 ID parades but was picked out in none of them.

While the court accepted that Horne had not intended to kill or injure anyone, Judge Simon Darwall-Smith described him as an "urban terrorist" and, on December 5, 1997, handed down an 18-year sentence, the longest given to any animal-rights protester. Because of the similarity between the Bristol devices and others used on the Isle of Wight, Horne was also accused of having caused damage estimated at £3 million in 1994 by destroying a branch of Boots the Chemists in Newport, because the company tests its products on animals. He was further accused of having set fire to department stores on the island that sold fur coats. At his trial, he admitted the Bristol charges, but denied involvement in the Isle of Wight attacks, which had been claimed by the Animal Rights Militia. Robin Webb of the Animal Liberation Press Office writes that he himself narrowly escaped a conspiracy charge over the same incidents.

Hunger strikes

First: 25 days

On January 6, 1997, six months after being jailed on remand for the firebombings, as a Category A prisoner, Horne announced that he would refuse all food unless John Major's Conservative government pledged to withdraw its support for animal testing within five years. Because Labour was regarded as likely to win the next general election, due to be held in May 1997, Horne ended his action on February 9 after 35 days without food, when Elliot Morley, then Labour animal welfare spokesperson, wrote that "Labour is committed to a reduction and an eventual end to vivisection."

The hunger strike sparked an increase in animal-rights activism, including the removal of cats from Hill Grove farm in Oxfordshire, which bred cats for laboratories; damage to Harlan breeding center and the removal of beagles from Consort Kennels; the destruction of seven lorries at Buxted poultry plant in Northamptonshire; a blockade of the port of Dover and heavy damage to a McDonalds in the town; and the removal of rabbits being bred for vivisection in Homestead Farm.

Second: 46 days

The second hunger strike began on August 11, 1997. Horne's aim was that the new Labour government withdraw all animal testing licences within an agreed timeframe. There was another increase in animal-rights activism in his support. On September 12, 1997, protests were held in London and Southampton in the UK, in The Hague, in Cleveland, Ohio, and at Umeå Universitymarker in Sweden, where activists tried to storm the university's laboratories. Four hundred people marched on Shamrock Farm, a primate-holding facility near Brighton, 300 on Wickham Laboratories, a contract testing facility, and Labour Party offices were picketed, as was the home of Jack Straw, the Home Secretary. Activists set up a camp opposite Huntingdon Life Sciences on the A1 in Cambridgeshire, digging underground tunnels to make eviction harder. Newchurch guinea pig farm was raided in September and 600 guinea pigs removed.

Horne ended the hunger strike on September 26, after 46 days without food, when Lord Williams of Mostyn, then a Home Office minister and later Attorney-General, contacted Horne's supporters with an offer of talks between them and the government. This was the first time a member of the government had agreed formally to talk to the animal liberation movement, and it was seen by Horne and his supporters as an important step forward.

Third: 68-days

Demands and negotiations

Horne's longest hunger strike began on October 6, 1998 and ended 68 days later on December 13. It brought the issue of animal experimentation to the forefront of British politics, while his deteriorating condition made headlines around the world, as activists threatened further disruption should he die, with some issuing death threats against several scientists.

This time, Horne's demands were extensive and specific. He asked for an end to issuing licences for animal experiments, and that no current licences be renewed; a ban on all vivisection conducted for non-medical purposes; a commitment to end all vivisection by January 6, 2002; an immediate end to all animal experimentation at the Porton Downmarker defence establishment; and the closure of the Animal Procedures Committee, a government advisory body that Horne regarded as a "Government sponsored front for the vivisection industry." He issued a statement, now quoted by the movement as a rallying cry:

The fight is not for us, not for our personal wants and needs.
It is for every animal that has ever suffered and died in the vivisection labs, and for every animal that will suffer and die in those same labs unless we end this evil business now.
The souls of the tortured dead cry out for justice, the cry of the living is for freedom.
We can create that justice and we can deliver that freedom.
The animals have no one but us.
We will not fail them.

Keith Mann writes that, this time, Horne found the hunger strike tougher going, perhaps because of the physical damage from the first two. He was in D Wing in Full Sutton prison to begin with, then was moved to the hospital wing on day 10 without food, where he was reportedly placed in the "hunger strike cell" with no toilet or sink and with just a cardboard chair and cardboard table. He was moved to a regular cell after pressure from supporters. He was read the Last Rites on day 43, having lost 25 percent of his body fat.

The Labour government publicly refused to give in to what it called blackmail, and said it would not negotiate with Horne or his supporters, but privately, it held talks with them. Horne's MPmarker, Tony Clarke, visited Barry in prison on November 12 to negotiate another meeting between Horne's supporters and the Home Office, which took place on November 19, 44 days into the strike. After the meeting, Horne released a statement saying there was nothing new on offer, and that his hunger strike would continue. He then reduced his demands to asking for a Royal Commission on animal testing, which the Labour Party had indicated that it would hold if elected.

On day 46, he was moved to York General Hospital, suffering from dehydration after having spent the week vomiting. By day 52, he was reportedly in severe pain, was finding it hard to see, and was danger of falling into a coma. According to Mann, his supporters were bringing him tape recordings of the talks with the government, which he was having difficulty concentrating on. Mann writes that Horne decided to take some orange juice and sweet tea for three days, in order to stave off the coma so that he could understand the negotiations. This later caused the media to refer to the hunger strike as a fraud.

Activism in support of Horne

Horne signals from the window of his room in York General Hospital in November 1998 to supporters keeping vigil outside.
There was an international response by activists in support of Horne. In York and London, protesters kept vigil outside the hospital, and opposite the Houses of Parliamentmarker in Westminstermarker, holding candles, placards, and photographs of Horne, joined at one point by Alan Clark, the Conservative Member of Parliament, who despite his support for the cause referred to the protesters in his diary as "dysfunctional."

On November 24, at the state opening of Parliament, activists dropped a banner in support of Horne in front of the Queen's official car as it drove towards the Houses of Parliament. Shortly after this, two activists parked a car at the end of Downing Streetmarker, slashed its tires, and used D-Locks to attach themselves by the neck to the steering wheel, while protesters demonstrated nearby.

Activists marched on BIBRA labs in southwest London and at Windmill mink farm in Dorset. In Finland, 400 foxes and 200 racoons were released from a fur farm. The offices of the Research Defence Society in London were raided. Demonstrations were held outside British embassies and consulates around the world, laboratories were raided, and government buildings picketed.

Death threats

When it appeared that Horne might die, the Animal Rights Militia (ARM) issued a statement through Robin Webb of the Animal Liberation Press Office, threatening to assassinate four named individuals and six unnamed scientists, should Horne die. The named targets were Colin Blakemore, a British scientist who studies vision; Clive Page of King’s College, Londonmarker, a professor of pulmonary pharmacology and chair of the animal science group of the British Biosciences Federation; Mark Matfield of the Research Defence Society; and Christopher Brown, owner of Hillgrove Farm in Oxfordshire, who was breeding kittens for laboratories.

Those on the ARM's list were given immediate police protection, which in some cases lasted years, and Special Branch stepped up its surveillance of activists, in particular of Robin Webb. Professor Clive Page told the BBC that he was in Italy when he heard his name was on the list. He had to return home to explain the situation to his family. "It's difficult to tell your children, 'Daddy's going to be murdered'," he said. The police wired his home up directly to Special Branch, he was advised to take different routes each day to work, and he had to speak to his children's schools about the possibility of abduction.

Moved back to prison

By day 63, Mann writes that Horne was deaf in one ear, blind in one eye, his liver was failing, and he was in considerable pain. A meeting was arranged for day 66 at noon with his supporters to show him the documents that were being faxed through by the Home Office regarding offers the government might be willing to make. It was agreed that, if there was any substance to them, Horne would call off the strike.

Early on the morning of December 10, 1998, day 66, without notice to his supporters or family, Horne was moved out of hospital and back to Full Sutton Prison. The Home Office explained that, because he was refusing treatment, there was no need for him to be in hospital. Mann writes that Horne was hallucinating and could no longer remember why he was on hunger strike.

End of the hunger strike

There are two versions of why Horne ended the hunger strike. Mann writes that Horne called it off without explanation two days after being moved back to prison, and was promptly returned to the hospital. His friends suspect that something happened to him during the two days he was back in Full Sutton out of contact with them. Mann writes: "Whatever happened to him between leaving the hospital and returning to prison may never be known, but all those close to him suspect something did and he was never the same again."

The media reported that a Labour MP had arranged for Michael Banner, the chair of the Animal Procedures Committee, to agree to attend a meeting with Ian Cawsey, head of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare, to discuss animal testing practices in the UK. This was interpreted by Horne as a concession on the part of the government, and he agreed to start eating again on December 13, 1998.

The British media response to the end of the hunger strike was hostile. Newspapers focused on the period Horne had been drinking orange juice and sweet tea, writing that the hunger strike had been a fraud throughout. Mann writes that the media turned three days of trying to stabilize his condition with sips of sweet liquid into "68 days of feasting."


Supporters at Horne's funeral
Horne did not recover his physical health. Mann writes that he continued to go on countless hunger strikes in prison without any cohesive strategy and with little support. It got to the point, Mann says, where no one apart from the guards knew whether he was eating or not. He died of liver failure on November 5, 2001, 15 days into his latest hunger strike.

The hostile media response continued after his death. Kevin Toolis wrote in The Guardian: "In life he was a nobody, a failed dustman turned firebomber. But in death Barry Horne will rise up as the first true martyr of the most successful terrorist group Britain has ever known, the animal rights movement." He was buried in his home town of Northamptonmarker under an oak tree in a woodland cemetery, wearing a Northampton Town football shirt. Seven hundred people attended the pagan funeral service and accompanied the coffin through the town, carrying a banner that read: "Labour lied, Barry died".


  1. New Labour, New Britain, New Life for Animals, Labour Party, December 1996; Boggan 2001; Higgins 2008.
  2. Hernández Velasco, Irene. El Mundo, date unknown, cited in Portocarrero 2005, p. 211.
  3. Booth, undated.
  4. Lancashire Evening Telegraph, November 8, 2001.
  5. Arkangel (a), undated.
  6. Mann 2007, pp. 164–165.
  7. "No Dolphinaria in the UK", Born Free Foundation. The Bellerive Foundation (Switzerland) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals were also involved in the "Into the Blue" campaign.
  8. Mann 2007, p. 167.
  9. Hughes 2001, pp. 321–329.
  10. Arkangel (b), undated.
  11. Mann 2007, pp. 267–275.
  12. Mann 2007, p. 507.
  13. Mann 2007, p. 508.
  14. Mann 2007, p. 511.
  15. BBC News 2003.
  16. Mann 2007, p. 542.
  17. Webb 2004, p. 78.
  18. "Barry Horne",
  19. Mann 2007, p. 538.
  20. Mann 2007, p. 540.
  21. Mann 2007, p. 544.
  22. Barry Horne, cited in Best 2004, p. 91.
  23. Mann, Keith. From Dusk 'til Dawn: An insider's view of the growth of the Animal Liberation Movement. Puppy Pincher Press, 2007, p. 545.
  24. Mann 2007, p. 546.
  25. Johnston 2001.
  26. Mann 2007, p. 547.
  27. Alan Clark's Diary
  28. Mann 2007, p. 548.
  29. New Scientist 1998.
  30. BBC News, December 8, 1998.
  31. BBC Radio 4, 2002.
  32. The Independent 1998.
  33. Mann 2007, p. 551.
  34. Copley 1998.
  35. Mann 2007, p. 552.
  36. Toolis 2001.
  37. Vidal 2001.


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