The Dynamics of Restraint in the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty Campaign

Rune Ellefsen, Joel Busher

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    12 Downloads (Pure)


    This article examines the functioning and failure of restraint throughout the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign, from its start in 1999 to its end in 2014. SHAC provides an intriguing case for those interested in restraint within militant or radical social movements. The campaign comprised a range of lawful and unlawful activities. These often extended well beyond standard repertoires of nonviolent civil disobedience - surprising perhaps in a campaign that claimed to be rooted in a nonviolent tradition; but rarely resulted in interpersonal violence and never in the use of lethal force, even as the escalation of state-led repression and policing limited opportunities for peaceful protest. In this article we first identify three aspects of the campaign where a satisfactory explanation for the observable patterns of violence across the SHAC campaign appears to require an understanding of restraint: innovations away from more militant tactics at the outset and during the final stages of the campaign, and the maintenance of the outer limits of violence during the campaign peak. We then explain this restraint, and how it functions or fails. In doing so, we observe a difference between the processes of restraint described: while the innovations away from more militant tactics are to a large extent contingent on developments within the activists’ operating environment, the restraint processes associated with maintaining the outer limits of the action repertoire are more deeply inscribed within the basic logics of the campaign. We reflect on the implications of these findings for future research and analysis of restraint within radical movements, and on methodological challenges encountered during this analysis. The article is based on documentary evidence and qualitative data, including interviews and the observation of trials involving SHAC activists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-179
    Number of pages15
    JournalPerspectives on Terrorism
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access journal distributed under the terms of an implicit license.


    • SHAC
    • Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
    • animal liberation
    • internal brakes
    • limits of violence
    • political violence
    • restraint

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Safety Research
    • Political Science and International Relations
    • Law


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