What we would like to share with you at ShameOnAustria is the Austrian animal rights trial story so far and keep you up to date with developments concerning the retrial.
Watch the short film for a summary of what happened so far. Listen to the interviews with the activists themselves talking about their ordeal. Take the ‘moral decency’ test and read up about the self-indictment campaign where nearly 3,000 people have already taken part!
It seems like such a long time ago that 10 of our campaigners were dragged away at gun point to spend a frightening and miserable 3 months in pre-trial detention. That moment was like entering a dark tunnel or being on a ghost train where at every curve the state horrified us again and again with just how far they were prepared to go with their attempt to stamp out the Austrian animal rights movement. What kept the wind in our sails was realising that our situation was making other people angry, people we didn’t even know, who lived all over the globe : )
Who would have thought that by using legislation intended to fight organised crime, an anti-mafia law, as the charge would be what would make it possible to attack us in this way! Who ever came up with the idea must have felt very pleased with themselves – but there is an obvious flaw in comparing the Mafia with our movement: one is intent on personal gain and the other on reducing suffering. It was this, coupled with a serious lack of evidence, that eventually led to a full aquittal, a non-guilty verdict in all counts after the longest trial in Austria’s second republic!
And since then? Well, it’s a mixed bag. The worst is that we expected an appeal against the aquittal to come and come it did. It has been upheld by the courts, which means that some of the original defendants will have to go back on trial. And what, you may well ask, will they go on trial for, if there was no evidence against them? It’s a good question and the answer is, by saying that informing a company of a legal awareness-raising campaign to start against them if they are unwilling to stop selling fur counts as coercion. The interesting thing is that in Austria, coercion only counts as coercion if it is seen by people generally as ‘violating moral principles’(Sittenwidrigkeit). A recent empirical survey asking Austrians whether this method of campaigning was a ‘violation of moral principles’ revealed a resounding ‘No, it’s ok for campaigners to inform a company of a campaign against them and their business practices. Given that the public feel like this, a charge of coercion seems hard to maintain.
In response to the news of a retrial, thousands of people sent a letter of self-indictment to the prosecutor’s office stating that they too had contacted the clothing store Kleider Bauer informing them of a campaign. To date there has been no reply from the prosecutor suggesting they are not quit sure how to respond perhaps?
Other developments since the end of the first trial have been that the judge who passed the not-guilty verdict has been demoted while the chief prosecutor has been promoted. The anti-mafia law has been changed to protect against its further misuse. General support for animal rights campaigners is high – everyone will tell you what a scandal the trial was. Veganism is booming in Austria, maybe a coincidence, it’s hard to tell.