Environmental and animal activists injured or killed

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Environmental and animal activists injured or killed. There have been a number of incidents in which environmental and animal activists have been injured or killed. Below is not an exhaustive list of fatal, generally unprosecuted assaults on activists and protesters (including the unprosecuted murder of a British 15 year old). However, it is enough to convey the rampant brutality and complicity of authorities, who all too often turn a blind eye to violence against activists. It is certainly a shocking contradiction to the shrill and hysterical portrayals of "violent" activism and so-called eco-terrorism.

Activists murdered & killed

Valmir Mota de Oliveira (Brazil)

October 2007 - Valmir Mota de Oliveira was shot and killed during a protest at a Syngenta farm in the southern Parana state of Brazil. According to the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), the farm illegally produced genetically modified crops (GMO)'s within a protected enviromental zone close to the internationally acclaimed Iguacu water falls. The Paraná State Federal Justice decided that experiments with GMOs in the surroundings of the Iguaçú National Park are illegal. According to Judge Vanessa Hoffman, the park has a a 10 km buffer zone and the company was fined R$ 1 million by Brazilian environmental authorities.

Syngenta is the world's largest agrochemical company. According to a company statement, it was "dismayed by the occupations" but denied any participation in the October shooting death. According to activists, the company's private security force at the farm were responsible. The MST and other groups frequently occupy farms, block highways, torch crops and stage rallies to pressure the government to give land to the poor. In response, landowners hire armed guards and hit squads to repel invasions. Landless militants have also blocked railroads run by Brazilian mining companies, interupting the flow of iron ore to foreign markets. [1]

Bartolomeu Morais da Silva (Brazil)

July 2002 - Bartolomeu Morais da Silva aka "Brasilia", was a Brazilian farmer who advocated against illegal logging, land fraud and destructive, large-scale infrastructure projects. He was found murdered from shot gun wounds with his legs broken.[2]

Bartolomeu Morais da Silva was a trade union official from the Regional Office of the Rural Workers Union of Altamira in Castelo dos Sonhos in the state of Para. He was kidnapped and brutally tortured before being shot twelve times in retrobution for his untiring struggle for the interests of rural workers against the illegal land seizure and violence. On a number of occasions, Bartolomeu had received death threats, which were ignored by authorities. The National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG) and Federation of Agricultural Workers of the State of Para (FETAGRI - PA) publicly protested yet another murder and absurd criminal omission of national and state authorities.[3]

David "Gypsy" Chain (United States)

September 1998 - David "Gypsy" Chain was an American eco-activist who was crushed to death after an irate logger fell a tree on him in California's redwood forest. On September 17, 1998, the 24 year old environmental activist was crushed to death by a falling tree at the Headwaters Forest in Northern California. Activists from Earth First! accused loggers of deliberately cutting down trees in their direction, part of escalating violence against activists condoned by the Pacific Lumber Company and the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department. Gypsy was part of an action to stop PL from destroying one of the last ancient redwood forests in the world. The logging operation was illegal as a survey had yet to be done for the marbled murrelet, am endangered species of bird. PL attempted to portray the death as a "freak accident" and even tried to blame the victim as well as Earth First! According to PL spokesperson, Mary Bullwinkle:

"Despite all our precautions, a trespasser was apparently killed by a falling tree at one of our logging sites on our private property."

On September 18, Earth First! released a videotape revealing that loggers not only knew that demonstrators were in the area, but were angrily threatening them shortly before Gypsy was killed. A logger shown shouting profanities and threats was, according to Earth First!, the very same logger who felled the tree that struck David. The video also showed activists scrambling up a steep hillside to escape falling trees. According to a witness statement:

"Gypsy's death is not an isolated incident of violence. In the last several months trees have been intentionally felled at nonviolent activists at the Luna tree sit and in the Mattole watershed in Humboldt County. This is part of an escalation of violence against nonviolent forest defenders in the Northwest and all over the world."

On September 18, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department issued preliminary findings concluding that the death was "accidental". According to an Earth First! activist speaking at a press conference, "Police have routinely refused to file charges against anybody who assaults a forest activist." [4] In 1999, Mr. Chain's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against PL. The company settled out of court in October of 2001, just three days before the trial was set to begin. [5]

Dr. Karel Van Noppen (Belgium)

March 1995 - Dr. Karel Van Noppen was a Belgium veterinarian who was assassinated in 1993 by hit men after exposing mafia connections to the meat industry. Dr. Van Noppen was the victim of a powerful, international mafia who violently imposing its rule on the meat business, ruthlessly bullying anyone daring to stand in its way. In 1995, few days before his murder, Van Noppen was explicitly threatened by people linked to the "hormone black mafia" underworld. [6], [7]

Jill Phipps (United Kingdom)

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February 1995 - Jill Phipps was a 31 year old British activist and mother, who was crushed to death under the wheels of a veal transporter. The driver of the transporter was never charged. At the inquest it was revealed that the driver, Stephen Yates, "might have been distracted". The Crown Prosecution Service decided there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute Mr Yates, even with a moving violation. The officer in charge told the inquest that she appeared to "slip or perhaps deliberately fall". However, Ms. Phipps mother believes her daughter's death was the fault of West Midlands police, who had taken over policing the regular demonstrations from the local Warwickshire constabulary the night before:

"Whatever happened they were determined to keep the convoys going. They had no contingency plan for people running into the road. That's why Jill was killed." [8]

At this demonstration, the police outnumbered the activists by more than two to one. The protests began in the winter of 1994 as terrified calves were flown from Coventry to end their lives in Dutch veal-crates. Jill was one of a handful of protesters at the airport gates. On February 1, 1995, there were about 76 police and about 32 demonstrators. As Jill and other protesters reached a transporter, the truck kept moving instead of stopping until it was safe to continue. She was crushed and and died on the way to the hospital. At the inquest, the police revealed that their actions had been planned by a specialist tactician and described the day as "very successful." [9]

Tom Worby (UK)

April 1993 - Tom Worby, a 15 year old British hunt saboteur was deliberately run over by a hunter during his first foxhunt protest. On Saturday, April 1993, Alan Ball drove straight into a group of hunt saboteurs. When they realized that he was not slowing down but was actually driving straight into them, they jumped aside into a ditch on the right. However, Tom was too far on the left and was caught between a hedge and the van. He was caught on the left wing mirror and dragged approximately 50 yards, while screaming and banging against the van door. After losing his grip, he bounced back against the hedge and his head fell under the back wheel. The hound van did not bother to stop as the wheel went over his head. Instead, the driver sped up, passing two other hunt saboteurs who had watched the even in a state of shock and disbelief.

By the time the van returned to the kennels, literally hundreds of police had arrived (to protect Mr. Ball). The saboteurs attempted to aid Mr. Worby, while screaming for help. A few nearby hunters laughed and proclaimed a "victory". They also managed to once again threaten the saboteurs who were expressing the urgency of calling an ambulance. Eventually, the one policeman who had been present from the on-set, called an ambulance. Mr. Worby died before it arrived. On a number of previous occasions, Mr. Ball had attempted to ram or threatened to ram saboteur vehicles. There were 27 reported incidents either with photographic or video evidence, of Mr. Ball using violence against saboteurs prior to this incident. [10] No action was taken against the driver, 53-year-old huntsman Alan Ball. [11]

Mike Hill (UK)

February 1991 - On February 9, 1991, 18 year old hunt saboteur, Mike Hill, was deliberately run over and killed during a meet of the Cheshire Beagles. Towards the end of the day's hunting with no kill under his belt, a huntsman boxed up his hounds in a small blue trailer being towed by an open-top pick-up truck. Allan Summersgill and another man, jumped into the pick-up. Three hunt sabateurs also jumped onto the back in order to prevent them from driving to another location to continue hunting. Mr. Summersgill drove off at high speed down winding country roads for 5 miles with the terrified sabs clinging onto the back. It is thought that Mike jumped from the pick-up as it slowed to take a bend. However, he failed to clear the truck and was crushed between the truck and the trailer.

He died in the road while Mr. Summersgill continued driving for another mile, ignoring the screams of the other hunt sabs. He only came to a halt after one of the sabs smashed a rear cab window. The sab was then hit with a whip as he tried to stop the truck in order to call an ambulance. Mr. Summersgill then drove off and later turned himself in to police. However, no no charges were brought against him. An inquest ruled that the death was "accidental".[12][13]

Chico Mendes (Brazil)

1988 - Chico Mendes, an environmental activist and union leader in Brazil's Amazon rain forest, was gunned down in his home after a rancher named Alves de Silva ordered him killed. Mendes fought courageously to oppose destructive practices in the Amazon. He advocated a return to sustainable agriculture and urged Brazilians to nonviolent protest against corporations robbing them of their livelihoods.

Chico Mendes grew up in a family of rubber tappers (seringueiros), practiced by generations of Amazon families. Rubber tapping is a sustainable practice, which involves harmlessly extracting sap from rubber trees. Rubber is used for car tires, pencil erasers and even Tupperwear. It is one of the many ways resources of the Amazon are exploited without permanently harming the eco-system. However, it is more profitable to tear down rain forests and replace them with pastures and strip mines, leaving a ruined desert in place of 180 million year old forests. Mendes encountered opposition from industrialists and corrupt government officials profiting from tearing down the Amazon. He was jailed, fined and threatened, but nothing could deter him from his mission to save his beloved jungle. The outcry following his murder was deafening and marked a turning point in the fight to save the Amazon. [14], [15]

Fernando Pereira (New Zealand)

July 1985 - Fernando Pereira was a Greenpeace activist killed in New Zealand when the French secret service blew up the ship, Rainbow Warrior.[16] In the 1980s, the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique was developing nuclear warheads for the M4 SLBM, which were tested in underground explosions in the French Polynesian atoll of Moruroa. Greenpeace was opposed to testing and planned to lead yachts to the atoll to protest. Immediately before the sinking, the vessel had returned from 'Operation Exodus', a Greenpeace led evacuation of 300 Islanders from Rongelap, an atoll that had been contaminated by radioactive fallout.

Agents had boarded and examined the ship while open to public viewing. Explosions were calculated to cripple the ship but not take people's lives. However, Mr. Pereira, a photographer, drowned in the rapid flooding below decks while attempting to retrieve his camera equipment. Two French agents were later arrested by the New Zealand Police on passport fraud and immigration charges. They were charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson, willful damage and murder. They pled guilty to manslaughter in a plea bargain and were sentenced to ten years. They served just over two.[17]

Dian Fossey (Rwanda)

1985 - Dian Fossey was an occupational therapist who, inspired by the writings of naturalist and conservationist George B. Schaller, decided to study the endangered mountain gorilla in Africa. After her favorite gorilla, Digit, was killed by poachers for his hands, she began a anti-poaching campaign. In 1985, she was found murdered in her cabin.

Her work took her to Zaire and then Rwanda, where she opened the Karisoke Research Center. After years of patient observation, the gorillas, she found that she could sit in the midst of a group of gorillas and even play with their young. In 1980, she returned to England to attend Cambridge University and obtain a PhD in zoology. She then took a teaching position at Cornell University in New York, where she wrote Gorillas in the Mist, published in 1983. The next year she returned to the Karisoke Research Center to continue her fieldwork. Her killer was never found, although it is suspected that it was a poacher.[18]

William Sweet (UK)

January 1976 - In January of 1976, British anti-bloodsports activist William Sweet was shot and killed during an altercation with a hunter. [19]

Other assaults on activists

The Ady Gil rammed and broken in two by a Japanese ship. BBC World News - January 6, 2010


In an attack captured on film, the Japanese security ship Shonan Maru rammed and sank the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's new high speed trimaran (a multi-hulled power boat), the Ady Gil, in January of 2010. Six crew members were immediately rescued by the crew of the Bob Barker.

The New Zealand-registered Ady Gil sank in Commonwealth Bay off the Adelie Coast of Antarctica. Sea Shepherd vessels were in the Southern Ocean for a fifth consecutive year to disrupt Japan's so-called "research" whale hunt and cut into whaling industry profits. The Any Gil and the Bob Barker were chasing the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru away from an Australian Whale Sanctuary in the Southern Ocean. According to Captain Chuck Swift of the Bob Barker, the attack happened while the vessels were dead in the water. The Shonan Maru suddenly started up and deliberately rammed the Ady Gil, ripping off eight feet of the bow:

"As far as I'm concerned this was at least criminal assault if not attempted murder."

Ady Gil skipper Pete Bethune, informed the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that one of his crew had broken ribs and that it was a "miracle" no one was killed:

"When they were about 40 meters away they suddenly veered to starboard and cut off the front three or four meters of my boat and sheared it in half. If anyone was in the forward sleeping quarters they would be dead. [20]

Hunt saboteurs

In a vicious October 30th, 2004 attack on British hunt saboteurs, a gang of hunting supporters at the opening meet of the Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent Hunt attacked a group of hunt sabs. One was knocked unconscious with an iron bar and run over. Six received cuts to their eyes, lips and heads and others received bruising. An ambulance was called for the saboteur, who was unconscious for several minutes. He was was examined but declined to go to the hospital. A witness described what appeared to be a planned attack of two vehicles racing across a field to reach the sabs. The assailants were armed with lumps of timber, sticks and an iron bar and were joined by other hunt participants in the attack. A saboteur recording the attack was targeted. According to the sab, huntsman, Mark Bycroft, shouted, "Get him with the video camera" and rode over him. The camera, which contained vital evidence, was stolen. In spite of the seriousness of the attack and the whereabouts of vital evidence likely being still in the area, attending police showed no interest. "Police had been warned at the start of the day that the hunt were notorious for their violence towards protesters." According to Nathan Brown of the Hunt Saboteurs Association:

"This was a serious attack and we are very lucky not to be reporting another death. Hunt saboteurs are on the receiving end of the violent backlash and campaign of intimidation against a possible hunt ban. This is the true face of the so-called respectable minority that the Countryside Alliance and their friends in the House of Lords are protecting. The Government should ensure that it does not appease these violent bullies and must use the Parliament Act to ban the animal cruelty that is hunting once and for all."[21]

See also Hunt Saboteurs Association chronological archive.[22]


According to a 1998 press release by Northcoast Earth First! in relation to assaults by the Pacific Lumber Company:

"In the last year, Earth First! protesters have been hog-tied and lowered from treetop perches and had their treesit safety lines cut by PL climbers. Loggers have cut trees in the direction of treesitters, and have threatened lives by cutting trees with activists in them. Logging helicopters have been used to harass and endanger treesitters, such as Julia Butterfly Hill, flying within feet of their platforms and whipping up forceful winds. Recently, activists encountered a `goon squad' of PL employees in the Mattole watershed who chased, threatened, and assaulted community members who were trying to stop illegal logging in their home. The escalating use of violence by Pacific Lumber has been ignored by Humboldt County law enforcement."

In 1997, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department applied used pepper spray against protesting environmental activists after which nine activists filed a federal civil rights suit for excessive force. During a trial that ended in a hung jury in August, the Department defended its use of pepper spray as "department policy" in dealing with protests. [23]

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles


  1. Raymond Colitt, Vicki Allen Brazil's landless peasants occupy Syngenta plants, Reuters, December 2007
  2. Andressa Caldo, Global Justic; Jax Pinto Ref: Arbitrary Execution of Bartolomeu Moraes da Silva, coordinator of the Altamira Rural Workers´ Union, in Pará state, Brazil, Pastoral Land Commission, November 1, 2002
  3. Official Notice from the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers in protest of the murder of trade union official Bartolomeu Morais da Silva , July 23, 2002
  4. The Headwater Killing of David "Gypsy" Chain, Revolutionary Worker #976, October 4, 1998
  5. Nicholas Wilson Settlement Ends David "Gypsy" Chain Death Suit, Albion Monitor, October 27th, 2001
  6. Jean-Paul Marthoz Hormone mafia in firing line, European Voice, March 1996
  7. Carlos Segovia El asesinato de un inspector veterinario conmueve a Bélgica, El Mundo, March 1995
  8. Mark Honigsbaum Woman who died in veal protest becomes martyr of wider cause: Ten years on and the tragedy spurs animal rights activists, The Guardian, February 2005
  9. John Curtain Memories of Our Fallen Comrades, No Compromise, Issue 26, accessed January 2010
  10. How Tom Worby, a hunt sab, was killed, NETCU Watch, accessed January 2010
  11. Tom Worby, Violenceinanimalrights.org (UK), accessed January 2010
  12. Mike Hill, Violenceinanimalrights.org (UK), accessed January 2010
  13. John Curtain Memories of Our Fallen Comrades, No Compromise, Issue 26, accessed January 2010
  14. Jeff Trussell Earthkeeper Hero: Chico Mendes, Myhero.com, August 18, 2006
  15. Remembering Brazil's Chico Mendes: Environmental Activist Still Inspires 15 Years After Death, National Public Radio, December 22, 2003
  16. Fernando Pereira, Wikipedia, accessed January 2010
  17. The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, Wikipedia, accessed January 2010
  18. Earthkeeper Hero: Dian Fossey, Myhero.com, July 4, 2004
  19. Fallen Warriors, Animal Liberation Front, accessed May 2009
  20. Japanese whalers sink Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessel, Environmental News Service, January 6, 2010
  21. Hunt Saboteur Knocked Unconscious With Iron Bar As Hunt Season Starts, Portland Indymedia, November 2004
  22. Archive, The Hunt Saboteurs Association, accessed January 2010
  23. The Headwater Killing of David "Gypsy" Chain, Revolutionary Worker #976, October 4, 1998

External resources


  • Alex Shoumatoff The World is Burning: Murder in the Rain Forest, Little Brown & Co, 1st edition, August 1990, ISBN 978-0316787390